- Romans 8: 1-11
We read this morning:
Romans 8: 5-6 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
This reminds me of Proverbs 23:7 **
As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.
As we have been studying Romans over the past few weeks, we have looked at various aspects of humankind, of Christians, and our character and habits. For example, last week we read how Paul said:
I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
Somewhere, in Paul’s subconscious mind, there was still something that was more important than doing the good that he decided to do. The week before that we looked at living in the freedom of God versus the slavery of sin or simply ego: choosing whom you wished to serve. Where is your focus? We have also studied the difficulties of rejoicing in our sufferings, choosing discipline even when it’s not an easy path. In that sermon, we considered resilience – the quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever – they rise from the ashes, rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve. And we especially looked at how resilience forms character. There we read Romans 5, verses 3 to 5:
… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
And so I want to talk, this morning, about your mindset. What is your mind set on?
I want to invite you all, for just 30 seconds, to clear your mind of every thought – and then see what thoughts wander in? Where does your mind take you, when you have nowhere to go and nothing to do?
What did you think about? What is «on your mind»?
Now, I want us to take a few minutes, and I ONLY want you to think about the picture on the front cover of your bulletin this morning. Focus on this and think only about this!
How many of you thought about other things? What happened with your focus?
And now, one find experience: whatever you do, do NOT think about the image on the front cover of your bulletin. You can think about anything, just don’t think about that!
How many of you thought about the image on the front cover of your bulletin? This is what happens when something is worrying, and you tell yourself, I’m just not going to think about «that», guess what your mind thinks about? When you say «I’m going to trust God and I’m not going to worry about ‘this'», guess what your mind thinks about? Usually not about trusting God: in fact, it starts worrying about ‘THIS’! It’s especially the same thing when you are upset about something that someone else said or did, you mind just plays it over, time and time again. You try to focus on something else, and it the anger or frustration or hurt bubbles back up to the surface and you replay once again the whole scenario!
«Well, I’m just not going to think about that right now!»
How’s that workin’ for you?
The mind can be so fickle – it has to be trained to focus! We’ve only spent a couple of minutes looking at what is on your mind, and I hope that you’ve been able to get a feel for what you are thinking about, what weighs on you, and how much effort it takes to focus on one thing or NOT think about that one thing.
In order to set your mind on Christ, and have a Christ mindset, you need to have the daily discipline and practice of focusing on God, the way that Jesus showed us by his example. Let’s take a moment and look at the example that Jesus gave us in the gospels:
How many times do we see Jesus quoting scripture in the Bible? I am pretty sure Jesus wasn’t carrying around with him all of the scrolls of the Pentateuch and the prophets everywhere he went. He probably didn’t have an iPad or a mobile app with the Bible. That means, every time that Jesus quoted scripture in his sermons, his teachings, his parables and his responses to the Pharisees or Scribes, he was quoting a scripture he had memorised already!
Deuteronomy 6, verses 6 to 9 says:
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Those would be the verses that you memorise, that you have on a post-it stuck to your computer screen, it would be the daily verse App that you have on your mobile phone, or the email you sign up for to receive a verse daily, it would be a screen saver on your computer, or a bracelet or prayer beads that you wear. It would be simple, daily reminders of promises of God that you focus on, at all times, so that when you are in the middle of a difficulty these verses come to mind as easily as they did for Jesus.
It’s your prayer life
Luke 5:16 reads, «But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.» I would like to highlight two things in this verse: the word «often» and the word «lonely places». Your prayer life should be often, and is many times best when you are alone. You can be alone in the middle of a mall on Christmas Eve, but I am sure that your prayers will fill more stillness if you were on the top of the lookout at Parque Metropolitano or Cerro Ancón or the Causeway. Luke 6:12 says, «One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray …» He could have gone to a home, a synagogue or if He were near Jerusalem he could have gone to the temple to pray. But we see that many times Jesus used nature for his prayers. Psalm 46:10 reads, «Be still, and know that I am God.» Sometimes it’s important for us to «be still» before God, but the only way to do this, especially in our hectic culture, is to do so alone with God.
How is your prayer life right now? How disciplined is it? Do you often take time to withdraw from your hectic life and spend time in prayer.
It’s in your service
Philippians 2, verses 5 to 8 explain to us the attitude of Jesus.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant… he humbled himself and became obedient…
We find a Jesus that served others, picking up a bowl and a towel, washing the feet of his disciples. When we are focused on others, as Jesus was, we have less time to think about «I want» or «I deserve».
Staying plugged in
Another important point we learn from Jesus is that he stayed plugged in, each and every day. He spent time alone in God’s presence each day, reminding himself of his purpose. This lead him to say to us, in John 15:5 :
Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those that remain in me and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing.
Living a purpose filled life
We read in John 17:4, Jesus says in prayer:
I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
Are you living out your purpose filled life? Have you identified the purpose that you are on this earth for? Think, for a moment, about the legacy that Jesus left here on earth! Two thousand years later, and we are still trying to live up to his example! 2,000 years after he said «greater things than these», and we still struggle to live according to the Sermon on the mount. In 2,000 years time – what will people be speaking about YOUR legacy?
Can you say «I have completed the work the Lord gave me to do»? If not, where is your mind set?
If every thought in your head is a prayer, how’s your prayer life? Every thought is part of the reality you are creating, it is where you are spending your focus and energy: what are you praying? If you remember, we read in Romans 6:16 a few weeks ago:
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin… or to obedience…
Is you mind set on Christ and God within? Have you set your mind on the Spirit, which is life and peace?
Our challenge, as Christians, is to have the discipline to set our minds on «things of the Spirit», as expressed in Romans 8.
As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.
This verse is so strong and persuading, that James Allen wrote a book in 1903 title «As a man thinketh». This book dealt with the power of your thoughts: In James Allen’s own words «It shows how, in his own thought-world, each man holds the key to every condition, good or bad, that enters into his life, and that, by working patiently and intelligently upon his thoughts, he may remake his life, and transform his circumstances.» The book starts with the statement:
Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.