Purpose of Guarding the Treasure

The purpose of this blog is to encourage readers to invest their time into the Word of God and "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you." Paul wrote these words to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:14) in his presumed last letter before his execution. May we be those who see the word of God as a treasure, guarding it with our lives, investing in it with our hearts and minds, and reaping the fruit of an abundant life while getting to know the God who loves us and created us for His marvelous pleasure and glory.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Mind of Christ

Statistics say that less than half of all Americans are satisfied with their jobs. However, in light of the recent economy, I think most people are satisfied with simply having a job!

Stop and think about your job approval ranking when it comes to your spiritual life. How would you rate your satisfaction level at present in your Christian life? Would God approve of where you're at right now? Are you moving toward Him or have you settled in to a comfortable place?

I grew up in typical American Christian home. My family went to church each Sunday. We said our prayers before mealtimes and at bedtime. I always tried to live a good moral life. But honestly, my relationship with God was very shallow and consisted mostly of a few hours on Sunday mornings. My childhood was consumed with competitive sports and most of my heroes were athletes. At the age of 18 and nearing the end of my junior year in high school, I was a straight A student, playing high school basketball, a leader in the youth group and living a life that by most standards was very successful. I believed in Jesus, but Jesus was not at the center of my life. Through athletics though, I became involved with Fellowship of Christian athletes. I remember one night hearing the testimony of a girl I really liked. To hear her talk so passionately about Jesus being her Savior struck me to the core of my being. I realized in that moment that the way she knew Jesus was not at all the way I knew Him. For her, Jesus was her life, but for me, He was just the hero of Christianity who died on the cross so I could go to heaven when I died. That night God began to work on my heart and change the way I thought about Him.

In reading through the Bible, we find out everything we need to know about ourselves. First and foremost, we learn that God is personal and loves each and every one of us. He is also actively involved in the lives of His creation. We were created intentionally, for a specific purpose and our lives have meaning and value. We are God's workmanship. But we also read that as a people, we do not want to have anything to do with God. Isaiah 53:6 states, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way." Now from everything I've heard about sheep, they are not the brightest of God's creation and that analogy holds true when it comes to humanity intentionally straying away from the very God who created us. We openly rebel against the God who made us and this is sin. The Bible plainly states that all are guilty of sin and the problem with sin is it always yields death and separation from God. Paul describes very candidly the plight of all humanity (Ephesians 2:1-3), "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest." We don't like to hear or think that about ourselves, but it is true. We live in a world that says that humanity is essentially good, but the Bible does not teach that at all.

The good news for all of us is that God did not leave us without hope. He reached out to us in love. The very next verse provides this hope with two beautiful words -- "But God." He writes, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)." While humanity had its back turned on God, God in His love sought us out, seeking to reconcile all of creation back to Himself and restore what was lost by sin. He made reconciliation possible through the sacrifice of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the penalty of sin, for all people, for all time with His substitutionary death on the cross, and then rose again from death, proving Himself to be a trustworthy Savior. The response to this good news is to believe it, namely to trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life. As Paul continues in verses 8 and 9 of Ephesians, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast." His gift of eternal life is available to all who believe in Him. There is no distinction. "It is the power of God for salvation to all who believe." This is the good news known as the gospel of Jesus Christ, a message each of us who have believed it are responsible for sharing with others within our sphere of influence.

Now, I'm afraid that in American Christian culture, we conveniently like to stop here. We like the idea of receiving the gift of eternal life and definitely want to spend eternity with God in heaven after death. You'd be a fool not to, right? But the Bible has so much more to say about our new life in Christ and much of what is said makes the old self uncomfortable. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states, "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." Before Christ, we only knew the old things, but after regeneration in Christ, new things have come alive. We are a new creature.

Now here is where the rub comes. We have been set free from sin by the work of Christ on the cross. But how will we use this new found freedom? The truth is we get to choose how we live, and oh and by the way, we are held accountable for our choice. We have two choices -- we can continue to pattern our lives after the old things, which is natural to us but continues to yield death and or we can begin living as new creations in Christ which is supernatural to us and yields life. The second choice is obviously the best, but it is the most costly choice to us personally. It means we must die to ourselves and the life we want to live. It means that we decide to do things God's way and not our way anymore. It means we choose to live life differently than we have lived it before we knew Christ. Paul wrote about the expected Christian response after salvation, "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." The Christian is compelled by the love of God to live out the new life, a life that is characterized with daily dying to self and giving up our life in exchange for living a new life of living sacrifice for His bidding and His will. Jesus clearly communicated what was expected of His followers, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."

How are you doing in this? Are you willing to make such a sacrifice in light of the sacrifice Christ made for you? Fortunately for us, Christ does not ask us to do anything that He didn't already do and in fact, He modeled the kind of life God expects each of us to live. We were meant to live a life completely dependent upon God.

Now, I want to turn our focus to one specific aspect of our lives that we often don't think about enough -- our thought life. It doesn't get more personal than this. Ask yourself -- What dominates my thought life? What am I putting into my mind most often? Who or what do I think about most often? Who controls my mind?

Paul wrestled with the two selves in Romans 7 and arrived at this conclusion in verse 24 and 25, "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin." Paul purposed to serve God with His mind, knowing at the same time his flesh naturally served the law of sin. The truth is that the flesh craves sin. To resist sin is to suffer in the flesh. When you intentionally deprive yourself of sin, you are suffering in the flesh. Peter said it this way, "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God." The exchange is the lusts of men (our will) for the will of God. But just depriving ourselves of sin is not the answer. We must also intentionally feed ourselves at the same time. Jesus offers us daily bread and living water! But how specifically do we feed our spirit? One key way is by daily feeding our mind and consuming regularly the things of God.

Read carefully through these words of Paul in Romans 8, "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh--for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

Whether you realize it or not, we are at war -- there is a spiritual war within us as well as a spiritual war in this world for the souls of humanity. Satan is the ruler of this world at present, manipulating the world system to appeal to our fleshly desires. Without proper nourishment, Christians are just as susceptible to satisfying the desires of the flesh with the things of this world. We must be satisfied and if we do not find our daily satisfaction from God, we will naturally seek it out from the world. Satan wants Christians to be ineffective in the furtherance of gospel and is very effective in keeping us distracted and self-centered. Too many Christians today consume a spiritual fast food on Sunday morning, neatly packaged and convenient, but hardly enough for the spiritual life in and of itself. Just as we need daily physical food to give us energy, keep us healthy and strong, we also need daily spiritual food for effective Christian living. John gives us hope, "Greater is He who is in you then he who is in the world." God expects more of us and has given us everything we need for life and godliness. We have the Holy Spirit within us, the power to live in righteousness in the midst of a dark and fallen world. Paul implores believers to "Set [their] mind[s] on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:2) Philippians 4:8 states, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."

So take inventory. What do you think about most often? Are your thoughts centered on God? Are you comfortable talking to God in prayer? What are you allowing into your mind? Are you feeding your mind daily with the word of God? Do you meditate on God's word regularly? Are you finding your satisfaction in Him or the things of this world? Anything other than God will never satisfy you. Accept no substitutes!

I'll close with two passage that are still applicable today and sums up the life God has called us to life in Him, "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:1-2)

"This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." (Ephesians 4:17-24)