By Jim Cymbala | First Published: May 01, 2014
A few years ago I received a most interesting letter. It was from a woman who at one time regularly visited our church.
Here is her story: “Pastor, I know you are aware of me (I wasn’t) and felt it only right to inform you that after two and a half years absence, I will be visiting this Sunday’s worship service. I’m sure you know why I’ve stayed away all this time. I was standing with two other women in the lobby when you passed by on that summer Sunday. You greeted the first two warmly and smiled at them but when it came to me, you never made real eye contact and your handshake was weak and insincere. And I knew all too well what that meant. You think you’re better than me and I don’t meet your requirements as an important person. Oh yes, I discerned the real meaning of the way you casually said hello! But now I’ve forgiven you, and I’m ending my years of staying away from any church. I know you don’t care about me or this letter, but I felt I should write it anyway.”
Wow! I quickly had my assistant track her down so I could personally meet this woman, who I had no knowledge of at all. After that Sunday’s service, she visited my office, where I apologized for any personal hurt but also informed her that I didn’t know her, had no recollection of that distant Sunday and hadn’t intended to reject her in any way, shape or form. We prayed together, and she left seemingly satisfied.
As she departed, I was once again reminded of the power of negative thinking and the tragic consequences of a mind not renewed by God’s Word and Spirit. Imagine the mental images playing over and over for years in that poor lady’s mind! How else could such a negative, rejection-filled personality develop without her mind being constantly bombarded by harmful thoughts that eventually settled in and took up residence?
That’s why the Word of God directs us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Unless the Lord helps us change our thought patterns, what hope is there for real-life transformation? The Word of Christ has been given to us so that we can have it dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16). That means reading and meditating on it slowly and unrushed. The Spirit of God then works with the Word He inspired and gradually our minds are filled with the true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable things that God wants to dominate our thought life (Philippians 4:8).
The world, flesh and Satan exert their own influences in an attempt to control the atmosphere of our minds. This is why the Apostle Paul orders Christians to put on “the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17) in our spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness. No Roman soldier would go into battle without his helmet because head shots kill.
New York City police officers are trained to “aim at mass”—the larger part of the body—when discharging their weapons in the line of duty. But snipers and SWAT team members look for “head shots” because they are invariably fatal. This is also true in our daily experience of living for Christ. If the enemy can infiltrate our minds and subsequently control our thoughts, we will be at great risk.
God’s thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8), but we can have His pure gracious, loving thoughts controlling our minds through salvation in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit was sent to us so that God’s words, thoughts and will can possess us to the point that we can experience the reality of “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
Start today with the goal of yielding your entire life to Jesus, but especially your mind. Ask God to protect your mind against an invasion of ungodly, impure and negative thoughts. They may knock on the door and seek entrance (that’s the essence of temptation), but by God’s grace, you can refuse admittance and divert your thoughts to some precious promise or truth from the Word of God.
Jesus will help us since He gave Himself on Calvary’s cross to purchase not only our salvation but us—all of us! This includes the vital part of us called the mind. A mind controlled by God’s Spirit and Word will result in godly emotions, including peace and overflowing joy.
Thank God that in Jesus we can daily put on the helmet of salvation for protection and also be transformed by the renewing of our minds. ©2014 Jim Cymbala
Scripture verses taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version.