Let us turn in the Word of God to St. Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 22. On this tape we are considering the overall topic of rebuilding our thought lives. There is a theme that runs through the whole Bible. It is found in the Law, it is found in the Prophets, it is found in the Gospels and in the Epistles. Matthew Chapter 22 Verse 37: ‘And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” ’.
I believe that the Christian Church for the most part has emphasized the fact that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart. But very few people seem to understand that the commandment also says ‘and with all your mind’: love the Lord your God with all of your mind. There are many words in the New Testament for ‘mind’, and this one that is used here is speaking of that whole thought process. As all of our thoughts are passing through our minds, we are reflecting on life. We are looking at ourselves from the outside, and at all the things that happen to us. We are looking at other people; we are looking at our God; we are looking at the whole of life in that process that we call ‘thinking’ or ‘meditation’ — the process of turning our thoughts over and over. You will recollect that this verse of Scripture was stated to be the great commandment, the one that summed up all the others: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’.
I do not believe that we ever really begin to live the Christian life properly until we love God with our minds. Somehow into much of our Christian teaching there has come the idea that the less you think, the better Christian you are. Have you noticed that? Do you remember when you came with all your doubts and your problems and your questions, and you were told that it does not matter whether you understand it or not but that you should just take it by faith? Now you begin to build up the idea that to take something by faith is to be slightly insane. It is as if a thing does not need to be rational but just accepted by faith. Romans Chapter 12 Verse 2 says that we are to be transformed in our lives by the renewal of our minds. To listen to some Christians you would think that it was by the removal of their mind that a person is transformed.
Our lives are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, by the renewal of our thought processes. So that we begin to think what God would have us to be, and then we begin to talk it and live it. Our problem has been that we have tried to live it, we have failed completely, and we have tried again. We have not realized that the problem is not in our actions but in our minds. We are today the result of what we thought yesterday. The fact that you are listening to this tape now is the announcement that some time ago you thought and decided in your thoughts that you would do this study. The whole of our life is the concreting of thoughts; we are thoughts in action. We can try our best to live the Christian life in our actions, but unless that Christian life begins in our thinking we shall have nothing except failure and frustration. Most of our tension is that we want to do one thing but we are thinking another, and the two will not work together. If we are going to put our lives into the mould that the New Testament speaks of as the way, the truth and the life, then we need to learn to bring our minds under the subjection of the Lordship of Jesus.
You know that your dog does not think. Your dog is a very wonderful creature, as are all animals and insects. But you are different. You did not grow out of any animal. You were made a unique creation of God, the peak of His creation. And as we have said so many times, you were made in God’s image. We will never understand the end until we realize the beginning. We need to go right back to the beginning to ask ourselves ‘who am I?’ When we understand who we are, then we will understand how we are supposed to function. We have bodies that are machines, very wonderful machines; that fact we share in common with animals. But inside the human machine there lives a person, and that person is made in the image of God. God is to be seen in man. That is how it was planned to be. In order to find out who we should be we have to look at God. When we look at God we shall see what man was made for.
We are conscious of ourselves, and we know that we have volition. We do not just ‘happen’ or drift along with the wind. We make very definite decisions. We are creators because we can use our imaginations. We can imagine something that has never been before, and we can then take those nebulous thoughts and make them into something.
You are a creator. Animals, you understand, cannot do any of these things. Animals do not sit down and reflect upon life. Animals cannot think of yesterday as opposed to today, and decide what they will do tomorrow. Animals are run by God’s computer, which we call instinct. You are not a computer; you are a free being. You are made in the image of God. You are a person, a spirit, a finite copy of the infinite God. When we look at this God in whose image we are made, we find that He is a communicator. Even before there was a world He was in communication. Before the world began there was the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the Father was ever communicating in love to the Son. God is the eternal Communicator, the eternal Lover, the eternal Fellowshipper. And we find in ourselves the desire to reach out and communicate and fellowship. Animals do not do that. Only man can love, only man can fellowship. These things are unique to man because they are originally, eternally found in God.
When God made man, God made him a communicator. God came and talked to man. Adam did not have to get spaced out in order to hear God speak. Adam did not find a little weed growing under a tree and grind it up and drink it and get stupid in the head so that he could say that God had spoken to him. Adam was perfectly normal, and he had been doing the gardening. And then God walked with Adam and talked to him in the cool of the Garden. God talked in language that Adam understood. God was addressing Adam’s brain, and Adam’s brain could understand what God was saying. He turned it over in his head, mulled it over, and reflected on it. All other creatures in the Garden received instinct from God. They were programmed to do God’s will. God came to this man and said ‘this is my will’. And this man could take God’s will, turn it over in his mind and choose to do it. He acted his will after he had reflected upon what God had said.
God and man are in a class by themselves. Then there is a great gap, and then there are the animals. But man was made to walk with God. Man was made to hear God talking to him, and to turn over in his mind and reflect upon whatever God said to him. Then man could order his will to act accordingly. Man is spirit made to walk with God. Man has the ability to hear God speaking, and also to speak himself. St John, in the first chapter of his Gospel, gave God a title. He said ‘In the beginning was the Word’. God is the speaker; He is the Word. At this moment I am expressing my spirit. My spirit is coming out to you in words. That is how spirits communicate and join themselves together: with words. God is Spirit, and God spoke. We are spirits, and we are talkers. The way I speak is the way God speaks. I am a spirit made in the image of the everlasting Spirit. When God speaks I shall expect to understand Him. And just as I can communicate with you, God can communicate with both of us, because we are in His class.
So Adam walked in the Garden with God and they talked in ordinary language. God told Adam things that Adam would never have known otherwise. To start with, He told Adam that He had made everything in the Garden. Adam would not have known that. Everything looked as though it had always had been there. Adam looked at the animals, at the birds flying, at the trees already in full bloom, and he did not know that it had all just been created. God walked with Adam and gave him a conducted tour of the Garden, and communicated to him knowledge that he would never have known otherwise. And then God told Adam about his life: about what he could do with his life, and about the devastation that would happen if he did not do as God said. All of this was put into Adam’s head, his mind, his thought life. God’s words were communicated to Adam’s mind, and Adam turned them over and orientated his life according to the words that God spoke. Adam’s understanding of what was happening; his understanding of why it was happening; his understanding of how it was happening; his understanding of who he was and of who God was; all that knowledge came from God. Without God he would never have known it all.
God told Adam that he had dominion over the whole of creation: he was king of every animal, insect, leaf, blade of grass, even the water. He was a vice-god, with dominion over the whole earth. Adam would not have known that unless God told him. And then he ordered his life according to what God said. He began to think about the trees as God told him about trees. He began to think about the universe because God told him about it. He began to think about himself and his relationship to God according to what God told him. All of Adam’s thoughts were governed by what God said. All that Adam did in the Garden, and all that he did in life, was based on how he thought about it. And those thoughts came from God. He had to make choices based on how he thought about God, about himself, about his universe.
Now, think about this: man is not truly a man until he has made a choice. If you just drift along led by your feelings, you are not really a man; you are only half-human. Human beings are not really all that God intended them to be until they choose. Man has to choose to have a mind that is controlled by God’s thoughts, rather than by his own feelings that are quite other than God’s thoughts. And the only way that God can teach man to make that choice is to put something in his path that makes him make the choice.
So, because Adam had to learn to make choices, God put a tree in the Garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was not a poisonous tree, with poisonous fruit. Nor was it an apple tree — it might have been a cherry tree for all I know. But that is not the point. The dilemma facing Adam and Eve was not what to eat, but what would happen to them when they made a choice. If they chose to think God’s thoughts and to be governed by God’s thoughts, then they would learn true goodness. If instead they chose to be governed by their feelings and to reject God’s thoughts for their thoughts, then they would find the most hideous understanding of evil and would eat of it. It was the choice that made the tree what it was, not the fruit. God gave them the choice either to be governed by His thoughts and live, or to be governed by their own ideas about life and die.
That was the choice, and you know the story of Eve’s deception. You can follow it through all the way from what she saw, her feelings and then the desire to be wise. Then came the devil’s suggestions: ‘Has God said…? Are you sure? Those thoughts that He gave you, are you sure? Maybe you feel good, don’t you? Why don’t you do your thing, do what you feel? You know more than God does.’ Eve’s fall and the fall of Adam were brought about by the deliberate choice to do what they thought instead of what God said. They chose to be governed in their thought life by their own feelings and desires, rather than by God.
Now Adam was number one, and he thought to himself, ‘I will do what I will. I know what I know, and I don’t need God.’ And he began to reinterpret his understanding of the universe and of himself and of God. That was total darkness. Romans Chapter 1 Verse 22 says, ‘Professing [themselves] to be wise, they became fools.’ And man began to push God the Creator out of his thinking. ‘We can’t have a God around’, says man. ‘It’s very threatening to think that God made it all.’ Man could not bear to have a science that began with religion. He had to have a science that began with chance, which was a lot easier to live with. And so like an absolute idiot, man said that he came from a monkey. The absolute insanity of man! He cannot stand having science that begins with God.
Man looked at himself and decided that he was not much better than the animals. He looked at the universe and said, ‘It is all chance. I don’t know where I came from, or why I’m here, or where I’m going. I don’t even know who I am. But I know what I want.’ And man became self-centred, and all of his thinking became self-centred, and so his whole world fell apart. There was no longer any meaning to life. That is called darkness, blindness, ignorance. Everything in life had to refer back to him. Now he was ruled not by God’s Word but by his own words. He was master, and his own captain. He was the only person in his universe; everybody else had to circle around him. But I want you to notice that man was still capable of understanding what God was saying. And when God came to him in the Garden and spoke to him, man understood.
Man can still understand God’s voice. He has absolutely no problem understanding God’s voice. The trouble is that we do not want to do what God tells us, because His voice now contradicts our thinking. While we are in the centre, we do not want to hear God. It is very threatening to hear God. There is no problem knowing the will of God; it is doing it that is the problem. We say that we are seeking the will of God, but we are not. We are seeking ways of how not to do the will of God.
The good news is that God is putting man back together again. He who began the good work will not stop until He has finished it. God is working on us, putting us back together. That is where we come under the reign of Jesus Christ the Lord. What do we mean when we say that Jesus Christ is Lord? It is a tremendous saying, and it makes us feel good. But what does it mean? ‘Lord’ means ‘absolute ruler’. Where is Jesus the absolute ruler? In our actions, the things that we do. But if He is only Lord of your actions, He is not Lord over you. Your actions are the things that you do. But that is not you, it is only what you do. If Jesus Christ is Lord, He has got to be Lord of your spirit and of your thoughts — the whole you. ‘As a man thinks in his heart, so he is’, says the Scripture.
If Jesus Christ is not Lord of your thought life, He is not Lord at all. If your thoughts are not in line with God’s thoughts, if you are not ruled over by the Word and the will of God, then all you have is a lot of words on your mouth. I am not interested in which church you were brought into. I am not interested if you have raised your hand or signed a card. All those things are so ridiculous. I can remember a time when they seemed so important. The question is, Who rules in you? Who is the boss? Do you think His thoughts after Him? That is the whole point of Christianity. Does God govern your attitudes and your meditations? Do you think about people and yourself and life and Him as He has told you to do? Or do you think of yourself in the centre, as the boss and the lord?
That was the whole issue of the New Testament. The people lived in the Roman Empire where everybody said ‘Caesar is lord’. They thought as Caesar told them to think. But a small group stood up and said, ‘We don’t. Jesus Christ is our Lord. We think what He tells us to think’. That was the whole issue, and that was why people were thrown to the lions. It was a confession that really and truly cut to the heart of the matter. They confessed that Jesus Christ was Lord of their attitudes, and that by making Him Lord they would automatically lead a certain way of life.
It is the whole thought process that is in question. Christianity does not begin on your tongue; it begins in your mind, where you think about yourself and about life and about God. And so the very first call of the gospel was ‘Repent’. Do you know what to repent means? To repent does not mean to be sorry; lots of people are sorry when they are caught. Nor does repentance mean crying; there are many people who can cry and think that they have repented. The Greek word for repentance is metanoia, which means a change of mind. To repent is to say that you no longer think about yourself as you used to think about yourself. You no longer think about God as you used to think about God. You have changed your mind. You acknowledge that you are a self-centred sinner, and that you need God to save you because you cannot save yourself. It is a radical change of mind. You thought you were at the centre, and now you see that you are at the edge. You see that you are only a creature and that you are not God.
You were on the run from God, and you did not want Him around. Now you have changed your mind and you have given yourself away to Him. You thought that Jesus was just an interesting man, a very wonderful man. Now you have changed your mind. He is the Son of God, and He died for you. You thought that the death of Jesus was just a pathetic end to a marvellous life. Now you have changed your mind. By His death Jesus took your sin away. Now He is alive. Repentance in the New Testament is always linked to faith. You change your mind and you give yourself. You respond to what God has done for you in Jesus Christ. You have changed your mind and have let yourself come under the rule of God. When you look around, you see that what you thought was light is really darkness. Once you were part of that darkness, but now you are not. You think differently.
And always the New Testament says ‘Repent, believe, be baptized’. As far as the world is concerned, you are dead. You have died to the world’s way of thinking, and you have come under new Lordship. As far as God is concerned, you have come alive, and baptism is your statement to the world. Only when you can say that, and can intelligently understand it, does baptism have any meaning or make any sense. Anything that was done to you when you were not stating your repentance and faith in Christ was an extra wash. But when it is an intelligent, rational statement of who you now are in relation to Jesus Christ, then it is a tremendous act of faith whereby your relationship to the old way of thinking is buried and you rise again to a new life.
And then Jesus says that you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will come flowing through your entire being, including your mind, and will cause you to know with your mind and with your intelligence that the new life is real. So many of us were born again long before we were baptized with the Spirit, and so many felt how unreal it all was. We knew that we were born again, but it seemed unreal. And then when the Holy Spirit came and overflowed and flooded through our minds, it all became so real. Do you relate to that? It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to worship spontaneously, and who makes the Word of God come alive to us.
In Acts Chapter 2 Peter told the people on the day of Pentecost to repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Spirit. He further exhorted them to save themselves from the corrupt generation. He was saying in effect,
- Save yourselves; put yourselves back together again! You’ve left this world and its influences. As far as they’re concerned you’re dead. But as far as God is concerned you’re alive. Now let’s start getting you back together. Bring your whole lifestyle under the rule of what God says as opposed to what you’ve been saying.
First Corinthians Chapter 10 tells us that there is a picture of redemption in Israel’s history. Remember that the people had to kill a lamb. Blood was shed, and it was put on the two doorposts, and every member of the family had to walk between the two walls of blood. That was the ‘blood covenant’, where the people walked between two walls of blood and ‘cut covenant’. And God, the Israelites’ covenant God, said that He was redeeming them out of Egypt. And so through the walls of blood they walked, and then they sat down and they ate a blood covenant meal called the Passover. And that night they were taken out of Egypt.
Then they went down to the Red Sea. You will recall that on their way there was a grey cloud by day, and by night a blazing fire. That was the presence of God among them, and it led them down to the Red Sea. What happened at the Red Sea according to First Corinthians Chapter 10 was that they were baptized. They went down to the bottom of the Red Sea and up the other side. Verses 1 and 2:
- For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
They did not go through the Red Sea until they had been through the blood of the Lamb. They were first of all redeemed by blood, and then they were baptized in the sea. What happened then? Egypt, that environment that had enslaved them, was left at the bottom of the Red Sea. The Israelites came out on the other side completely free from Egypt. And on the other side there awaited them the cloud of glory — the glory and presence of God among them. In fact they had two baptisms. They were redeemed by blood, were baptized in the Red Sea, and then walked into the cloud of God’s glory baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Then God told them that He had business for them. They went down to Sinai, and God told them that He had something to give them, called The Law. The Law told them how they would have to act. (There is nothing wrong with the law; it is what man does with it that is wrong.)
They had been living in Egypt for so long that you could not have distinguished them from the Egyptians. Israel was in Egypt for 400 years before Moses took them out. They had lived with Egyptians; they dressed like Egyptians; they spoke Egyptian. Everything about the Israelites was Egyptian. How were they going to be God’s people? It was one thing for them to get out of Egypt; it was quite another thing to get Egypt out of them. So God wrote them a book. It is the book that very few people ever read. There are five parts to it: Genesis, Exodus Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. It is known as ‘The Law’, or sometimes ‘The Book of Moses’. [Its Hebrew name is Torah; and the five parts are collectively called in Greek Pentateuch.] In that Law God told the Israelites how to think differently, and how they were to think when they approached Him.
He gave them laws that would in effect cause them to re-think their Egyptian mould. He gave them laws concerning sanitation. He gave them laws about marriage and the bringing up of children; about the celebration of death; about the treatment of slaves, remembering that they themselves had been slaves of the Egyptians. He laid down the most humane group of laws. For example, when the Israelites harvested their crops, they were to leave some for the poor to pick up.
In all of this, God was rebuilding thought structures. He was telling the Israelites to get rid of all their old ways of thinking and to start thinking in a new way — God’s way. In Deuteronomy Chapter 6 Verse 7 He told them to think in this new way even as soon as they woke up in the morning. And they were to teach their children these new ways too, adjusting their little heads to the way that the universe really was, and to who they really were. When they sat down at the meal table, and also last thing at night, they were to adjust their thought patterns to God’s law. They had been redeemed by blood, baptized in the Red Sea, plunged into the glory of God. Now God was telling them to get Egypt out of their heads and to start rebuilding their thought processes.
God is building His nation. He is teaching His people His thoughts, and is teaching them a new way of thinking and therefore a new way of living. Now there arises within the world a new nation made up of all nations who think the same, and who live the same way, because they are thinking God’s thoughts. This is the new nation of God. It is not enough to make endless promises to God that you are going to be different. It is not enough to start telling God that you are sorry and that you will try better next time. Your actions are only your thoughts clothed in flesh. You need to find out what made you do them. It is your way of thinking that needs to be changed. You have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, you have been baptized, you have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Now your thoughts need to be replaced. Or as Paul said in Romans Chapter 12 Verse 2, ‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’.
We cannot help what enters our minds, but we certainly have complete control over what we choose to keep there. God calls upon us to change our whole way of thinking, to think His thoughts after Him, and to begin to say them and begin to practise them. And so we shall see an actual coming and doing of the kingdom of God on earth. Then shall that prayer be answered ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. That is not a prayer for the dim future; it is for the present. It is a prayer for the Church. The Church is that place where God’s thoughts, God’s will, God’s purposes are done on earth as they are in heaven.