Closing the Gap – Week 28 Sermon Notes

By July 15, 2018Sermon Notes


Gen. 3 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

What does it mean that Eve “saw the fruit?”

It doesn’t mean she just now noticed it.

It doesn’t mean she simply “looked at it.”

When we say “I saw that being honest was the best way”

Or “I saw that I could no longer stay in that job.”

The use of the word “saw” means a mental “sight”…a thinking process leading to a conclusion, with actions.

It means that Eve thought a thought that was in opposition to what God had told her was actually true…and then she took action based on her belief in what she thought.

You have the power (ability) to select what you will allow or demand that your mind dwells upon and thinks about.

This power is profound and is of ultimate importance in how your life turns out.

The focus of your thoughts affects everything else that happens in your life and brings about the feelings that frame how you see the world. (Willard paraphrase)

Closing the gap on faith and love must not be turned into a merely hopeful approach to our lives…I hope I change, not sure if I can or will.

We cannot think that we have little real impact on how our lives turn out.

God, in his sovereignty has made us in his image with minds and with wills…both of which he intends for us to direct towards him.

Who we are to become, what our lives are to count for is not random, it is not outside of our control…and it is not a mystery.

It is something God has given us to decide…and it something God has made clear to us as to what it is to look like.

To experience the life God has for us is not like trying to win the spiritual lottery…we hope we will win, but we know the odds are against us.

We must see how this actually works.

Spiritual change, growth…living the life God intends for us.

Begins with thinking about what is actually true and real and consistently holding those thoughts in your mind so that they shape your actions and your life.

Moses spoke to the people and reminded them of all God had done and said to them.

He then told them…

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,

Deut. 11:18-20

This can be turned into symbolism without substance…and it often was.

What is going on is Moses is telling them to do everything possible to keep the truth of who God is and what he has done and said at the forefront of your minds.

Then, as you “do” what God has said to do and remember how God operates…then God will show up in your lives in powerful and meaningful ways.

It starts with…fix these words in your minds.

If you were to apply this practically to your parenting, for instance…it would not be merely plying your kids with Bible verses…or merely putting them in frames on their walls…both are okay.

It would be to enter into meaningful and relevant discussions (age relative of course) of how the reality of God touches on technology, gender issues, sexual desires, struggles with friends…and wonder woman, batman…whatever it is that is in their world…and that is shaping their hearts and minds.

It would be to talk about the reality of God as you eat, play, deal with illness and report cards…this approach would not drive your kids crazy or drive them away…it would demonstrate the reality of God in the real world.

This is what Moses was getting at.

How do we harness and use electricity? Do we hope it will light our cities, do we seek secret spiritual knowledge of the light bulb.

No we first understand it (adequately not exhaustively) with our minds…then we act on that knowledge to engage the power and use it in our lives.

The same is true for every other aspect of our lives…including our interaction with God.

We understand who God is with our minds (minds he has given us, minds that are similar to his)…then our actions are based on that understanding and then we grow relationship as a result of those actions.

But it starts with using our minds…to think what is true.

There is nothing mysterious here…the mind, and what we turn our minds to is the key to our lives.

If you think I am being “unspiritual” by talking so much about the mind…then you have moved into two-story thinking in your mind.

The mind is designed by God, and is to be used to access truths about all that is real and then to direct our physical selves (our bodies, the vehicles for our souls, what our souls walk around in) to act on that truth.

Sound weird? Not all…it is with our bodies that we serve and love others and demonstrate God’s love.

Let’s think practically as we look at some verses that demonstrate the importance of the mind.

Think about how you think about other things in your life…and how if what you “think” is actually what is real…then things go well or better, if not they don’t.

Think about a time when your thoughts were wrong…you took a wrong medicine, or a wrong turn, you made a business decision based on wrong data, you misunderstood what a person said and responded according to that misunderstanding.

Now think about the many times your thinking aligned with what was real…you ate foods that were good and felt good, you responded to others in line with what is true, you studied what was actually on the test and passed the test and completed the course…on and on it goes.

So with our minds set on the “practical” realities of thinking.

Let’s do a sprint through a Biblical survey of the mind and its impact for good or for evil on our lives.

You will notice that thoughts and hearts are often intertwined in the Scripture.

Because the “heart” in the Bible is the “thinking, choosing you, feeling you”…not simply the emotional “you” of contemporary culture.

3 principles in regards to our minds:

  1. We are responsible for what happens in and to our minds.

Col. 3 “Set your minds on things above” (“set” is a decisive and ongoing action)

-You don’t merely pray for it to happen, or hope it happens (you can, but that’s not what is being said here)…you make it happen, because you can.

1 Peter 1 “Prepare your minds for action”

-How do you prepare a meal, or a yard to plant grass, or for a battle?

-You take intentional, decisive, specific steps

-We are to do this with our minds.

2Cor. 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

-How do you demolish an argument or a pretension (a thought that appears to be true, but is just pretending)…this not about debating with others.

-You demolish pretenders and take every thought captive…by actively throwing off wrong thinking and actively holding on to right thinking.

*Again be practical…this is real:

-Last week I held a thought about a situation with Christy in my mind…it caused me to feel (negative things), to act by pulling back from her in unhelpful ways. I was less happy, less effective, as was she.

-Then I realized that was a rogue thought…it was wrong. My thinking was wrong.

I replaced it with a right thinking, a true thoughts, better ones. I felt differently immediately, I moved towards her in love actiions. We were happier, more effective.

*What we hold before our minds as real and true…is of enormous importance to our lives.

Col. 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

-Two things here:

  1. Wrong thinking (hollow and deceptive philosophy (system of thinking)) enslaves you…how?

-By getting you to think, believe, and act on things that are not true.

-Puts people into real forms of bondage…relational, physical, mental, spiritual.

  1. You are to “see to it” that this doesn’t happen to you

-You…not God, not the church, not your parents, or the government…you are to see        to it

-You are responsible to not be enslaved with thoughts that are untrue and not real.

Matt. 9:4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?”

-Jesus knew what was in their minds and held them accountable for “entertaining evil thoughts”

-Entertain means to host, to treat as a honored guest…they were showing great hospitality to wrong thinking…and were rejecting Jesus…the eternal truth of God standing in front of them.

  1. What we allow to stay in our minds we allow to direct our lives.

Rom. 1:21 For although they knew(not relational, informational…they knew some true things) God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

They knew the truth, but rejected it and their “thinking” became futile (means “empty, meaningless, wasted) and them their hearts went dark…the lights went out inside them.

Jump down to verse 28…

They did not think it was worthwhile to continue think God’s thoughts(all truth is God’s truth)…so he let turned them over to their own thoughts.

From these broken minds…they did what ought not be done.

Then a terrible list of destructive actions follow…but these actions started with their minds.

Jesus told the story of the man who “thought to himself”…but he thought wrong.

It’s the parable of a man whose business prospered…

Luke 12:17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”

This wrong thinking here is not his business planning…it is his autonomous thinking…he did not include God in his thoughts of the future.

He built his business bigger and bigger…and dreamed of the day when he would not have to work and he could just live to serve himself.

That night as he lay thinking thoughts of the future(void of thoughts of God)…he died.

The problem was not in thinking of the future…it was doing so without including thoughts of the reality of God.

From the story of the “wrong thinking man” Jesus launched into a well-known passage…that is actually about thinking what is true…rather than thinking what is false.

He gives some truth that we are to hold before our minds…in contrast to the wrong thinking of the foolish rich man.

He says “don’t worry about the future…your life…clothes, food…your are more than those things.”

Then he gives them some “hooks” to fasten these thoughts in their heads…look at the birds, look at the flowers, look at the grass”…you can read it in Luke 12

He’s giving them mental hooks…to fasten their thinking to truth.

Then in contrast to the Rich man’s thoughts that were void of God…Jesus said…all your thoughts must center around God.

“But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

king is the ruler of a kingdom…Kings do not occupy second or third place in the lives of their subjects…seek his kingdom means think first of him, live him first.

How to you learn to trust God and not worry?

By holding these truths consistently before your mind so that you will more consistently act and feel in line with the reality of God in your life.

Jesus is giving practical, tangible things to think about it…to train our minds to trust.

Look at another positive example of this principle…Abraham in contrast to the rich man in Jesus’ parable thought of the future, but his thoughts were full of God.

Abraham was, by the way, also a rich man…but he was not a foolish one.

John 8:56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

How did he “see” it…it was in the future?

It wasn’t through a vision…it was through his mind…he heard and believed the promises of God that pointed to Jesus…with his mind, he believed.

His mind understood the reality of God, this brought him joy…this impacted his feelings and his living.

Abraham rejoiced at the thought of the gospel (something that was to be beyond his own life and death) and this thinking brought him joy.

  1. We can and we must determine to think thoughts that align with the reality of God

Heb. 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

We have a clear guide to distinguish between right and wrong thinking (feeling as well)(I used to think we had no or little control over what we feel…I was wrong)

We may not at the moment that we are “feeling” have control over them..but we do train ourselves how and what to feel over time…and how to express them.

*For instance…good parents are always trying to teach their children to express feelings in more appropriate ways…they do not have to be controlled by them.

God has given his word to us…it judges thoughts and attitudes…thinking and feeling.

Before he died Dallas Willard completed most of the chapters in a scholarly book entitled “The Disappearance of Moral knowledge.”

It is an important topic because we have lost confidence in the ability to know the good.

It’s not just that people don’t know the good, its that they don’t believe you can know it…or that it even exists…moral knowledge has disappeared.

So we have a schizophrenic culture…where you better not judge anyone’s behavior or beliefs…and then every belief and behavior is being judged.

If it all feels random out there…its because it is…there is no set standard…thus the loss of “moral knowledge”

But we have the living and active word of God to judge our thoughts…this is not a burden this is a great gift.

God’s law is seen as a burden…a bummer, a downer…it is a great gift.

John wrote…

1John 5:3 “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome…”they are freedom

So Paul can tell us…

Phil. 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — THINK about such things.

Because we can actually know what is true, noble, right…to think about.

We can, and we must hold thoughts before our minds that are in alignment with God…these thoughts must shape our character and behavior and emotions.

Today we finish the Lord’s Prayer…it is shaping prayer.

Not merely “what to pray” but “how to pray”

Prayer is like an extension cord…there is no inherent power in it.

But if it is connected to a real source of power, then power flows through it to something (or someone)

So if pray to a false God, or to the universe…its like plugging an extension cord into a tree or laying it on the ground…you may feel better by the action…but there is no power available to flow into your life.

We come together each week to worship…to think what is true and real…to be shaped by these thoughts…so that we respond to the God who is actually there…we want to plug into the power of the reality of God.

Let’s read this prayer together one more time:

Matt. 6:9-13 This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Today we focus on that last line, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”

Some translations say “evil”…not personalizing it into Satan, the evil one.

But there is good reason from the text to believe this should be translated “evil one”…but either way…the evil one is the source of evil.

An important question to ask up front is about whether this is “Tempting” or “Testing” that Jesus had in mind here.

“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone (James 1:13-14).

The question then is why pray for God to not deliver me into temptation when God never does this?

One answer is that this word translated “Tempt” can be also “Trials”…God keep trials from me.

Like Jesus prayed in the garden.

But James also says we are to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds…so why pray for God to deliver us from trials, when they can clearly be good for us?

There are no doubt many nuances here but for our purposes this morning let me give you my take on this.

God does not tempt anyone to sin, but God certainly does turn people over to it.

Listen to this…

Although they claimed to be wise (people who rejected truth about God), they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God(the truth of who he is) for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles(this could be cars, power, physical beauty, prestige). Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful behavior (Romans 1:22-26)

So here he gave them over to wrong thinking and feeling

Then to wrong living

So “Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from the evil one.”

Maybe this could be “Do not deliver us over to the evil one…do not deliver us over to our to his lies, to his deceit…do not let us become people who want what we should not want…keep our minds, hearts…fixed on you”


The extent of pain and suffering and evil is the world is so immense, that it cannot be entirely of human origin.

And it is not…there is a real enemy behind all this evil.

The reality of Satan does not excuse human evil, but it does help explain it.

Individual humans do horrendous evil…then they are discarded by Satan as one discards a broken tool.

Ted Bundy…was arrogant, wicked mass murderer who was executed in 1989 for destroying a number of people.

He did horrific harm to human lives…those who knew him said he was super arrogant and absolute evil…but then he was dead…then he met God face to face…and his little bit of arrogance and power was gone.

By his own account it all started with his thinking…the thoughts he allowed to stay before his mind…shaped him into the thing he became.

Behind these thoughts is the Adversary, the Deceiver, the Enemy…as he is called in Scripture.

Satan is the adversary…he is hates God, he hates you.

Satan is the originator of lies (John 8:44)…he invented lying, it is his heart language.

It has been said about some people the way to know if they are lying is to see if their lips are moving….this is certainly true of Satan.

He is the father of lies.

He deceives people away from the truth of God through lies.

So…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one…is not about putting crosses on our doors, or reciting some magic incantations….it is primarily about God delivering us from his lies through truth.

There are people who have gone so deeply into his lies…that that are demonized…surely Bundy was one of these.

But the starting point is always a lie…that is believed.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. (Eph. 2:1-3)

Satan is a spiritual being whose domain is “around us”…”He is the ruler of the kingdom of the air”…unseen but a real force in human affairs.

Like radiation…unseen but powerful and deadly.

We are to pray for God’s kingdom to come in our lives…his power and authority…to be surrendered to and to direct our lives.

But for much of humanity they are operating under the power and authority of the enemy…the ruler of the kingdom of the air.

This sounds strange…but that’s only because we are not used to thinking about reality as it is…we need to.

Let’s continue with his strategy:

Satan’s primary weapon is deceit.

Satan does not have direct power over our wills…so he has to fool us.

He cannot make us do what we don’t want to do (perhaps except for those who are fully demonized…but even then they can become free).

He cannot make us do what we do not want to do…but he can deceive us into wanting to do what we should not want to do.

In military vernacular this is “psychological warfare.”

His three primary weapons that derail our experience of God’s sufficiency are found in 1 John 2

Do not love the world or anything in the world. (Satan is called the god of this world…not the planet…but the drive of human affairs in opposition to God) If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:15-17)

  1. Cravings of the sinful man
  2. Lust of his eyes
  3. Boasting of what he has and does

Compare those three things with the temptation of Eve in the garden.

She “saw” (thought, believed) that the forbidden fruit was

  1. Good for food
  2. Pleasant to the eyes
  3. Desirable to make one wise

“It is the appearance of something being good that is at the center of temptation’s power”

This is true for every single sin…a wrong word, thought, action…we believe this is the “good” path…best path.

Even if it is take revenge, or stay bitter, or cheat and steal, boast, take pride in ourselves…it appears to our “minds eye” to be good…”we see it as best”

We “see” that it is…Good for food, pleasant to the eyes, desirable to make us wise.

Satan, is said to come as an angel light…his temptations offer us a false “good”

Put them side by side:

Eve:                                                     Satan’s strategy:

Good for food                                   the desire of the flesh

Pleasant to the eyes                       the desire of the eyes

Desirable to make one wise         the pride of life

Satan comes in these three forms to deceive us away from the good of God to that which is not good.

The result of Adam and Eve’s fall led very quickly to a murder…Eve’s own son murdered another son.

Then to the catastrophic disaster visited on humanity in the flood…where…

Gen. 6:5 ” The LORD saw (there is that word again) how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, every intent of the thoughts (and that word)of his heart was only evil continually.” 

It got that bad. 

Satan governs through images, ideas, feelings and fear…complex psychological warfare.

All dictators and tyrants do this…God, in contrast to Satan always tells the truth…and never forces belief or attempts to manipulate through deceit.

Satan wants to destroy human hearts and minds…God wants to restore them.

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else guard your heart (mind) it is the wellspring of life”

Everything else flows from it.

Now we are back to where we began:

The evil one’s strategy is deception…what is the counter strategy?

To think God’s thoughts…to have our minds on what is true so it will shape our lives into what is good.

Let me read a verse that is often turned into something that is so “spiritualized” that it is no longer practical or useful.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:4-5) 

By spiritualized I mean, “turned into something unreal and unuseful.”

With all we have discussed this morning let’s look at that verse again.

We have weapons at our disposal that the world doesn’t use…what are they?

Truth of God.

There is power in knowing true thoughts about God…Like an extension cord has power, because it can be plugged into electrical grid and power can flow.

When we pray, when we think…we must pray and think in line with the God who actually exists.

What are the strongholds in people’s lives? Largely they are lies.

Fortresses of believe systems that have embedded in individuals and cultures and shape destructive behavior.

These things (lies) have set themselves up against the knowledge of God.

So how do we demolish these strongholds?…truth.

Consistently held in our minds and acted on in our lives.

By taking rogue thoughts prisoner and making them submit, yield their loyalty to Christ.

“Thought…do you submit to Christ?”

“No…then you must go…out.”

It is sometimes said that we “over spiritualize” things.

What is more likely to happen is that we “under spiritualize” things.

Like our minds and our thoughts.

We look for a spiritual “experience”…a “word from God”…and special “unction” to power us to ready obedience.

Meanwhile we have this powerful thing, that is made in God’s image…called a mind.

We have been given subordinate authority by God to take charge of our minds…and in so doing our wills…so that our lives, over time resemble the things we hold in our minds.

Crystal: Vacation

-Pictures of their vacation.

-The pictures were normal…cousins playing, brothers and sisters, brother in law and sisters in law…together…eating, talking, enjoying each other…nothing cosmic…but wait…it was quite “cosmic.”

-I sent Crystal a text and said…”These are pictures of the gospel.”

This is the kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is heaven.

She said “she was thinking the same thing.”

How so?

A couple married (Wanda and Jim) and imperfectly loved each other for a long time, they raised children who learned to love God and others.

They went to work day after day…they went to church…imperfectly, but consistently they ordered their minds around the truth of God and their lives aligned with those thoughts.

Now, summer of 2018…after cancers, and difficulties, and challenges of all kinds…a family experiences the sweetness…right now…of kingdom life.

Peace, joy, love, fellowship…imperfect…but real…a foretaste of what is to come.

The cake is future…but this summer…then ran their fingers through the icing…they tasted and they saw that God is good.

Do not under spiritualize what God has given you…a mind and truth to fill that mind with, and a will that empowers your life to resemble the truth of God over time.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”

“Oh God, deliver me from what I should not want, deliver me to what I should.”

“Deliver me from what is not good, but looks good…to what is good.”

“Deliver me to a heart where the good, more and more looks good.”

*Keep me wise, the enemies lies…do not me believe him when he says I cannot trust and love you.

*This is a pray to pray…but even in the praying of this prayer…you are putting truth in the front of your mind and holding it there.

Do this and experience the kingdom right now.

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