Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)
Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect. (NCV)
As Christians we must demonstrate a way of thinking that is not molded or shaped by the world. We cannot copy the thinking patterns of the world for our hearts will never be transformed into the living image of our Savior. The truth of the Word of God must be the solid foundation of our thought life. There is life-changing power in the partnership of truth and the Spirit of God. When these two pillars of transformation are at work in our thought life, we will think, act, and be just like Jesus. We will shine brightly to the world the inner reality that Christ lives in us.
Each day we walk in this way of thinking, more of the glory of the Lord will be manifest in our lives. We will know Jesus more intimately as we press into truth in our thought life, for He is the truth. The more we think according to truth and walk by the Spirit in our thought life, the more Jesus can burn the chaff of selfishness, fear, unbelief, and every other attitude that dishonors God from our hearts.
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4, NASB)
The words “set your mind” come from the Greek word phroneo, which means thinking to the point it moves the will, reasoning and emotions. It is thinking with a purpose and a direction. This verb is in the active voice in the Greek, which means we must choose by a decision of our will to think this way. It is in the imperative mood, which means this is a command of God Almighty. It is also in the present tense, which means that this way of thinking should be our habit and way of life.
Are your thoughts a dwelling place for God Almighty? Are your thoughts like a little bit of heaven? Do your thoughts reflect the pattern of the majesty and glory of heaven, or are they entrenched in the things of this world?
God wants the habit of our thought life to be the spiritual things of His kingdom, not the temporal things of this earth. We choose whether our thoughts are directed upward or focused downward. Our spiritual position in Christ is that we have been raised with Him and are seated in the heavenlies. Why would we want our thoughts to be consumed with the trivial things of this earth instead of the eternal truths of heaven? We have died to our old ways of life. Our new life is centered with Christ in God. For Christians, Christ is our life now, and this should be reflected first and foremost in our thinking.
A.T. Robertson, in Word Pictures in the New Testament, says:
It does matter what we think and we are responsible for our thoughts. Paul does not mean that we should never think the things upon the earth, but that should not be our aim, our goal and our master. The Christian has to keep his feet upon the earth, but his head in the heavens. He must be heavenly-minded here on earth and so help to make the earth like heaven.[i]
God commands us to think from a heavenly perspective, with eternity stamped on our thoughts, and to no longer allow the temporal things of this earth to control our thought life. Our new life in Christ demands a new way of thinking. Our vision is to be uplifted to where our Lord is seated on the right hand of God. We must keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, looking full in his beautiful face. The glory and holiness of our Lord bursting forth from his heavenly throne should be the image we frame our thoughts around. How could anything on earth compare to this?
The illusory reality of the world of material things produces uncertainty and emptiness at every turn in life and ultimately enslaves the heart in bondage. If our thoughts are centered on the things of this world, we will be plagued with defeat, frustration, and despair.
Bishop K. C. Pillai, in Orientalisms of the Bible: Volume 1, has an enlightening translation of Matthew 6:19-21.
Let not your thoughts be centered in material things where fears and worries breed defeat and frustration, and where doubts break through and steal your thoughts. But let your thoughts be centered in the Spirit, where neither fear or worry breeds defeat or frustration, and where doubts do not break through and steal your thoughts. For where your thoughts are, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19–21)[ii]
If we stake our thought life on Him who is unchangeable and forever faithful, and whose goodness is from everlasting to everlasting, then the thieves of doubt, worry, and fear will never break through and steal our thoughts. God should be the solid rock and firm foundation of our thought life.
When worldly thoughts become the focus of our thinking, they dim our spiritual vision and cause us to lose our sense of eternal value. James Alexander Stewart, in Opened Windows: The Church and Revival, describes the tragic consequences when worldliness dominates our thinking:
Worldliness robs the Christian life of its radiant dynamic character. Worldliness is anything that takes the keen edge off my spiritual life and dims my vision of the Lord. Worldliness is anything that robs me of my deep inner love-life with my glorious Redeemer. Worldliness is anything that takes away my burden for souls. Worldliness is anything that hinders my spending time in the closet in earnest intercession, by the power of the Spirit, for the church and the world.[iii]
One day in the future, we will reign with Christ for all eternity. This wonderful truth should always be in our thoughts. Barclay, in his Letters to the Colossians, states:
From now on Christians will view everything against the background of eternity and no longer live as if this world is all that mattered … Christians will no longer worry about things that the world thought important. Ambitions which dominated the world will be powerless to touch them … They will set giving above getting, serving above ruling, forgiving above avenging. The standard of values for Christians will be God’s, not the world’s … In the light of that cross, the world’s wealth and ambitions and activities are seen at their true value—and Christians are enabled to set their hearts on the things which are above.[iv]
Oh, how life changes when we begin to view things from a heavenly perspective. Things above should be the center of our thought life. Then all the problems and worries of this world will fade and lose their grip on our hearts. Everything we think about should be filtered through the lens of eternity.
A.W. Tozer, in Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in Christian Life, states:
We who live in this nervous age would be wise to meditate on our lives and our days long and often before the face of God and on the edge of eternity. For we are made for eternity as we are made for time, and as responsible moral beings we must deal with both.[v]
A spiritual revolution and earth-shaking revival can be birthed when the body of Christ allows eternity to grip their lives and drive their thought patterns.
Leonard Ravenhill, in Why Revival Tarries, says:
Oh that believers would become eternity conscious! If we could live every moment of every day under the eye of God, if we did every act in the light of the judgment seat, if we sold every article in light of the judgment seat, if we prayed every prayer in the light of the judgment seat … then we would have a Holy Ghost revival that would shake this earth and that in no time would liberate millions of precious souls.[vi]
All of the desires for our lives dramatically alter when we think about eternity. The judgment seat of Christ has nothing to do with obtaining salvation, as we are saved by grace because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ paid the price for our salvation, and we have eternal life as a gift of God’s grace. Christian believers will already be in heaven with the glorious new bodies we received after the Rapture, when we stand before Christ’s judgment seat. This judgment will determine our eternal rewards and our positions of responsibility in His kingdom. God will examine the fruitfulness of our lives and the pattern of our conduct while we were on the earth. God will bring to the light the plans, purposes, and motives of our hearts and give amazing rewards for those works of goodness that pass His test.
Do you see why a thought life that is focused on eternity changes everything? I have in my house a poster from the movie Gladiator that says, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.[vii]” Eternity never ends. Eternity is forever. How can we compare seventy or eighty years of life on this earth to eternity? Where should our priorities lie: the pleasures of this temporal life or eternity?
The judgment seat of Christ will issue forth the final verdict as to our eternal rewards and our destiny in His kingdom. Will we be decorated with rewards and victor crowns, and given great responsibility before God and His Son, Jesus Christ, in the future kingdom? Or will we barely get through the door and only by the grace of God?
Our lives are the testing ground for eternity, as each day we are either making or marring a destiny, winning or losing a reward, and securing or losing a crown. Will our motives, plans, purposes, and works withstand the test of fire at the judgment seat of Christ?
As Christians we need to set our hearts on eternity and adjust our motives and hearts accordingly. It is never too late to begin to accumulate and earn future rewards in the service of our Lord.
God has equipped us with everything we need to walk in obedience to His Word. Our thought life is the critical component to the final verdict that Jesus Christ issues about our eternal responsibility in His kingdom. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” We cannot allow anything in our thought life to cloud, mar, or dim the vision of eternity. We must set the GPS of our hearts on eternity and judge every thought, action, and motive in the light of this heavenly vision.
Romans 8:5–8 says:
“Those who are habitually dominated by the sinful nature, put their minds (phroneo-think) on the things of the sinful nature, but those who are habitually dominated by the Spirit, put their minds (phroneo-think) on the things of the Spirit.” For to have the mind (phroneo-think) dominated by the sinful nature is death, but to have the mind (phroneo-think) dominated by the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind (phroneo-thoughts) dominated by the sinful nature is hostile to God, for it does not marshal itself under the command of the law of God, neither is it able to. Moreover, those who are in the sphere of the sinful nature are not able to please God. (WUEST)
What nature is driving your thought life? Is your thinking habitually dominated by your old sinful nature inherited from Adam or by the new nature, the Spirit of God that was birthed within you when you were born again? Our thinking is never neutral; it is always being dominated by either our old or our new nature.
The consequences are monumental, the implications are staggering, and the repercussions are life-changing in regards to which nature controls our thought life. The most important consequence of our thinking is the effect it has on our relationship with God. The Bible is clear on this significant truth. If our thinking remains in the sphere of our sinful nature, we can never please God. If our thinking remains under the control of our sinful nature, we take up a hostile position against God. We will build in our hearts a pattern of hating the things of God.
Pleasing God Begins With Your Thought Life
Pleasing God begins with our thought life. Do you want to please God? Do you want to live a life that is well-pleasing to Him? Then you must take control of your thought life. The way we think determines the quality, intimacy, and depth of our relationship with our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Carelessness in our thought life, by allowing the sin nature to control it, is dangerously destructive to our walk with God.
Do you want to become an enemy of God in your thinking? Do you want your mind to be classified as a rebel to God, and hostile to the purposes of God in your life? Do you want your heart to be branded as the property of your spiritual enemy? If not, then you must habitually renew your mind to the Word of God and walk by the Spirit in your thought life.
Sin must not be the slave master of our thought life. Through the overwhelming victory of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection, sin no longer has a right to reign over our thinking. Our old way of thinking was nailed to the cross and died in Him, so our thought life no longer has to be an instrument of sin in our lives. Our thinking should be dead to sin and alive to God. Our thought life should be rooted in God’s love, grace, and mercy. Our thinking life should be rooted in holiness. We must keep our thinking pure if we want to have our hearts transformed into the image of Christ. This is the demand of the lordship of Jesus Christ.
One pattern of thinking produces death: death in our relationship with God, death to the fruit of God in our lives, and death to God’s deliverance being manifested in our lives. The other pattern of thinking produces life and peace: the life of the Christ flowing through us, which produces the beautiful fruit of the Spirit in our hearts. The peace of God mends our broken and agitated hearts, giving us a godly calm and assurance even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.
Which pattern of thinking is going to control your thought life—the fleshly pattern of death or the spiritual pattern of life? Choose this day what god your thoughts are going to serve and what nature your thoughts are going to bow to.
Depending on when we became Christians, most of us have had decades of practice where our thinking was controlled exclusively by our sin nature. Thus it is a radical departure from our normal thinking patterns to allow the Word of God and the Spirit of God to become the center of our thought life. I never said this was easy. Thinking rightly is a growth and training process. But we must approach our thought life with the same discipline as an athlete in training for the Olympics. We must approach our thinking with the same intensity as a cyclist training for the grueling Tour De France. We must approach our thought life with the same relentless dedication of a prizefighter’s training for a heavyweight boxing championship. But the stakes are much higher and the reward is much greater.
The urgency of our times demands discipline, sacrifice, and commitment. Who would make such a ridiculous demand of us? Who would require that type of dedication? God!
Sin is relentless and is always crouching at the door of our thought life, ready to infiltrate it and turn it as a rebel against God. The Devil wants to take the fight out of you. He wants to brand your thought life with apathy for the things of God. He wants to make you lazy and spiritually asleep so he can come as the thief in the night and sow tares of fear, doubt, and unbelief in your thinking. We have been asleep at the switch for way too long. Wake up and exercise discipline and eternal vigilance over your thought life!
Approaching our Thinking with the Discipline of a Spiritual Athlete
More than any other Christian who ever lived, the apostle Paul understood the importance of discipline in the Christian thought life. He used God-inspired images and words to illustrate the truth that the Christian is an athlete of the Spirit and must approach the Christian walk with the discipline and training of an athlete.
Train yourself for godliness. (1 Timothy 4:7, NIV)
I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7, KJV)
The desperate, straining, agonizing contest marked by its beauty of technique, I like a wrestler have fought to the finish, and at present am resting in victory. My race, I like a runner have finished, and at present am resting at the goal. The Faith committed to my care, I like a soldier have kept safely through eternal vigilance, and have delivered it again to my Captain. (WUEST)
We must fight the good fight of faith in our thought life and train our thinking for godliness. The Greek word translated “fought” is agonizomai. It was a familiar term in Greek writings concerning military and athletic endeavors. It was used to emphasize the discipline and effort needed to win in both arenas. In the athletic sense it means to contend in the games for a prize with great physical exertion and intensity. It is an all-out push for victory with every ounce of physical and mental strength. It was used of a runner straining every muscle to reach the finish line. Nothing is left on the sidelines. Nothing is left in the locker room.
The root of this word comes into English as the word agony. These Greek athletes were engaged in the intense competition of the games even to the point of physical agony. This Greek word is in the present tense and imperative mood, which means that God is commanding this level of spiritual discipline as a continuous, daily habit of life.
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!
All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step, I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24–27, NLT)
Should we have any less intensity and passion for God than the Greek athlete had to win a prize? Should we labor any less fervently for Christ than the Greek athlete labored in the games? We should make it our aim as Christians to fight the good fight and finish the race God has called us to with everything we have. No half-hearted, weak effort is acceptable. We are at war! So fight the good fight!
This fight begins with our thinking. If the battle for the thought life is lost, the heart is lost. We cannot let our hearts be a casualty of war because we were lazy and undisciplined in our thinking. God has given us everything we need to fight the good fight. God is our team captain, and He urges us to get into the spiritual arena to wrestle for His purposes. We should accept nothing less than an all-out effort in this fight with the rigorous discipline of an elite athlete or top soldier.
Unfortunately, the majority of Christians have been too undisciplined, entangled, apathetic, and soft to fight with the intensity of an athlete. Are you willing to lay everything on the line for the Lord Jesus Christ and change the way you think? Or is your Christianity a convenient Sunday show for an hour that does little to wake up your thinking to Christ.
We are in an intense fight for our thought life. It is the ultimate contest, the supreme event, and the final championship match for control of our hearts. We can either get into the ring and fight for our thinking or stay on the sidelines, never adventuring to take the hand of God as our team captain. It takes courage, conviction, and tenacity to stand for Christ in our thinking.
Are you willing to make the sacrifice necessary to take control of your thought life? Are you prepared to push yourself to the point of physical and mental exhaustion for the purity of your thinking in your walk with Christ?
[i] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2000), 499.
[ii] Bishop K.C. Pillai, Orientalisms of the Bible: Volume 1.
[iii] James Alexander Stewart, Opened Windows: The Church and Revival, (Ashville: Revival Literature, 1958).
[iv] William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 171-173.
[v] A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1961), 42.
[vi] Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1959), 47.
[vii] David Franzoni, Gladiator, Movie, directed by Ridley Scott, (Los Angeles: DreamWorks, 2000).
Excerpt from The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life