9.22.19 With All Your Mind: Discipline, Taking Thoughts Captive
What do the Lego Movie 2 and the crisis among military special forces members failing in catastrophic moral ways have in common?
You might say “Absolutely nothing Terry.”
Okay…but since I’m making up this introduction…I say…they have something in common.
I’ll start with the gloomy example first…then the one that is much more fun.
In June of this year a Marine special operator was sent to Jail for his part in the death of Green Beret Logan Melgar.
Three other Navy Seals…were involved.
There has been somewhat of an epidemic of moral/ethical failures in the special forces community.
These are not merely lapses in judgement in combat…but choices that flow from a deformed character.
This deformed character is showing up in people who are supposed to be exemplary in character…and in mental and physical discipline
This is of great concern to our national leaders…as it should be.
Now…to the more fun example…then I’ll ask what they have in common again.
Lego Movie 2…I won’t give the whole plot but there is a key song that is thought to be part of a brainwashing plan…the song is called “The catchy song.”
*PLAY “CATCHY SONG: 32 SECONDS”
My grandkids say “G…that song does get stuck inside you head!”
Yeah…I wake up with it in my head some mornings.
What do they have in common?
Things can get stuck inside our heads…these things are thoughts (songs are melodies and lyrics designed to get into our heads and stick)
The consequences of the special forces moral/character failures began with stinking thinking that these disciplined men either knowingly or unknowingly embraced.
The consequences may have shown up suddenly and publicly…but the root cause was running silently in the background of their minds…like a computer program
The invisible battle for the mind…was being lost inside their heads for a long time.
The thoughts we allow to stay in our minds are the thoughts that we are allowing to shape our lives.
Catchy song…not a problem…wrong thoughts…big problem.
The actions of these elite military members…who had learned to discipline their minds and bodies in extraordinary ways…began with ongoing failures to choose the thoughts that would shape their character over time.
The great irony is that these men had learned to push their minds and bodies to extreme limits to obey their will.
Yet for all their discipline…they allowed rogue thoughts in…then those thoughts betrayed them and destroyed them
Why? Because they probably didn’t think they were rogue thoughts…they did not take thoughts captive to Christ.
You can predict the future “you”…by looking at the thoughts you are nurturing, holding on to in your mind…today.
Change the today you…impact the future you
*Let this thought get stuck inside your head…and it will shape your life.
Those inner thoughts may not represent the “outer” you yet…but unless they change…they will be you…it is inevitable that they will.
*This morning I was praying for some people I know…whose thoughts have shaped them in ways that are making their lives unbearable.
**I’m not just talking about immoral thoughts or clearly wrong ones…but more subtle thoughts can be more dangerous…some thoughts look like enemies but it is the ones that come to feel normal to us that are most dangerous.
Anger, bitterness, jealously, pride, fear, greed, selfishness, impurity, discontent, complaining, insecurity…you name it…the thoughts we harbor…will someday become who we are.
The good news is…God has given us the capacity to choose our thoughts…the ones we allow to stay and shape our lives.
- In his word he has given us the actual thoughts that should shape us.
- By the power of his spirit we have the capacity to hold these thoughts and be shaped by them
- In community we have the power of positive peer pressure to maintain these thoughts…and to apply what these thoughts represent.
Motivation= life transformation
This month we are looking at loving God with all our minds…from the great commandment of Jesus.
Today we look at loving God with all our minds by taking thoughts captive for his glory.
2 Cor. 10:3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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.
Paul is using a military metaphor here…but the battle is real not theoretical.
It is an invisible war with real consequences when we lose it and real freedom as we win it.
2 Cor. 10:3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
How does the world (meaning: human culture in opposition to God) wage war? What are their weapons?
Paul says we don’t wage war like those who don’t submit to Christ do.
Specifically that we don’t use their weapons
In this invisible war what is the difference (at least ideally) between the weapons of Christ followers and those who do not follow him?
In 1980 a movie was released called “The Final Countdown”
In the movie a modern Air Craft Carrier, was caught in a mysterious storm and taken back to in time to just before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor…1941.
When I saw the film way back when I was excited to see history changed(on the big screen at least)…one carrier from 1980 could have destroyed the entire Japanese fleet…won the war.
But it was enormously dissatisfying because just as we were about to stop Pearl Harbor from happening…the storm appears again and takes the Carrier back to 1980.
But the idea of having advanced weapons that will allow us a strategic advantage over an enemy force is a reoccurring theme in movies.
Avengers…human weapons systems that allow us victory over dark forces.
But it’s not just sci-fi:
The Army Futures Command began a year ago with 12 people…now it has 25,000.
Such is the importance of having the right weapons to fight the next war…they are tasked with figuring out what the future of war fighting will look like…what weapons do we need to develop now for then.
So what weapons does the world use to fight the invisible war for the mind and how is it different from what we have?
First…we have to understand that many don’t even believe there is an invisible war…they trust everything they think.
Others think the war is against the faith of Christians…gospel thoughts are the enemy thoughts.
- Human wisdom is the number one weapon system for the world.
–Though human wisdom, in regards to the important questions of humanity, continually fails to produce good results…we seem to never lose confidence in our own wisdom.
-As I’ve said multiple times this month…human reason is good for discovering AC, iPhone, and antibiotics…but it cannot tell us things that only God can.
-So human wisdom regarding: how to raise children, marriage, sexuality, morality, mental health, spiritual health…on and on…has been wrong with often disastrous results.
- Human effort is weapon system number two
-We believe…that we can, by ourselves, make a life that will prove to be whole and satisfying.
-But it’s just not so.
Again…human wisdom and human effort are both enormously important…they are just inadequate by themselves.
What are our weapons as opposed to those who do not follow Christ?
- The word of God (not merely the wisdom of humans)
*This is the main theme for year…confidence in the Bible to speak with authority to all the real issues of our lives.
-God has revealed to us things, important things, that we cannot discover on our own.
- The power of God (not merely our own efforts)
-God empowers through his spirit, effects that could not happen by mere human efforts alone…his Spirit empower human will…so it is collaborative.
*For instance it is often believed that people cannot change who they essentially are…nature and nurture are so powerful…we cannot really change.
But yet…we can
Many people have been transformed in spectacular ways…because the weapons of their change were divine not merely human in nature.
Word of God is vital but the Word of God…left unapplied by the collaboration of our will and the power of the Spirit of God=no effect on our lives.
- The People of God (The church, the Body of Christ)
*If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to far, go together.
God has provided a people (local, specific church)…to plug your life into.
No surprises there: Word of God, Spirit of God, People of God.
Let’s go on:
On the contrary, they (our weapon systems) have divine power to demolish strongholds.
On the contrary(as opposed to the weapons of those who do not know God)…our weapons have divine (God’s power) to demolish strongholds.
A stronghold is a fortress, a heavily fortified and defended position that is very difficult to defeat.
Sometimes the idea of strongholds has become a bit weird…as if they are entirely “spiritual” things…whatever that means…and not also real mental thought processes.
Again…we tend to see human mind/emotions/will/soul as a plate where the food doesn’t touch: peas, potatoes, chicken, bread there.
Rather than a sort of stew…where they are distinct realities…all of which interacts with the other parts.
You might hear a TV preacher say…”You have a spiritual stronghold…of pride, or fear, or impurity….you need to pray it down.”
“Stronghold of fear…come down in Jesus name!”
Okay…that may be true to a point…I am not making light of the reality of demon possession…or any types of strongholds.
But “praying” is not the only form of warfare available to us…it is important…but we need to fight on all fronts.
Conquest of Canaan: As Israel marched through enemy occupied territory they encountered many strongholds…fortified cities.
The city of Jericho was the first stronghold they encountered…it came down by the hand of God as the army marched around and shouted and blew horns.
That’s not normally how it works…didn’t really work that way again.
At Jericho God was establishing the fact early on that victory was in him not in military might.
But after Jericho, Israel’s army used strategy, and effort, and for the most part…plain old hand to hand combat to win battles…there were other exceptions
But the norm was “win battles through personal action…while relying on God for victory”
If there is a stronghold in your mind…a fortified place where wrong thoughts, emotions, habits reside…you certainly need to pray…but you must also take decisive and consistent actions against it.
Some say: “I am a Christian and I have surrendered to Christ and prayed for years…this stronghold remains.”
Have you used all the weapons of God…Word, Spirit, and People…fully and consistently?
God may choose to bring down some mental/spiritual/emotional stronghold in your life in the stroke of a single prayer…I have seen it happen.
But it is unlikely…I would recommend you plan on doing the hard work to see these strongholds come down…if you want to live free.
And even if he brings it down in a single day of prayer…it will not stay down apart from ongoing hard choices to take thoughts captive.
Let’s go on…
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.
Be careful to not turn this into something mushy and strange and unreal as well.
He is talking about actually demolishing specific arguments and pretensions that are in opposition to the revealed knowledge of God.
What does this mean?
Well what is an argument?
An argument is a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong.
What is a pretension?
Here is it a truth claim that is untrue
So we are to actually, practically set about destroying the thoughts in our heads that aim to persuade us towards an idea or action that is in opposition to the revealed truth of God.
We are to battle with ideas in our heads…that are out of line with the Bible
How do we demolish these arguments and pretentions?
What are the weapons?…they are the Word of God and the Spirit of God and the People of God.
But some thoughts will survive as we bring down the strongholds(establish new thinking patterns)…they scurry away into the recesses of our minds…they might put on a disguise and look like civilians, blend in…what then?
We continually aim the weapons of Truth and Spirit at the ideas that dwell in our minds and we take them captive to Christ…”Will you submit to Christ (friendly) or will you be thrown out(enemy)?”
You cannot stay in my mind if you do not submit to the Lord of my life…he rules heart, soul, and mind.
The language Paul uses is symbolic…but the actual practice described here is practical.
Like a person in a war zone…we guard the gates our minds…we don’t want some idea wearing a bomb…to walk around in our heads…it can blow up important things in our lives.
We don’t live with the gates wide open…”Come on in friend…to everyone thought that passes by.”
“Wait, that thought is not your friend…that thought means to destroy what is most precious to you. It may take years but that thought is very patient…and evil.”
Again…the obvious ones are not the most dangerous ones…the most dangerous ones are the ones that are unbiblical but have become normal for you.
“Moodiness, pettiness, feelings easily hurt, blaming others, judging others harshly, feeling sorry for yourself, living in fear, shame”…these thoughts/feelings seem sort of normal and not that harmful…but behind them are very destructive thoughts in the long run.
To take something captive…a person, animal, thought…means you take away its ability to move and act as it chooses.
Thoughts do not get to roam at will through our minds…our minds belong to Christ.
Close the gate, tear down the stronghold, take the thought captive…all kinds of figures of speech to describe the reality of this important invisible war.
You Love God with all your mind…by choosing carefully and consistently what you allow to stay in your mind.
If you are surrendered to Jesus as Lord…you cannot harbor rogue thoughts that are in rebellion to him.
It may seem I am making a bit too much of the power of thoughts…but I don’t think so.
The Bible is written words…historical narrative, instruction, laws, Gospel, poems, proverbs…that give us the correct view of the world we live in…it shapes us first through thoughts.
When you read a word your mind turns symbols, we call letters, into mental images…C.H.A.I.R.
The reason God gave us the Bible is so that we will have our minds shaped by his thoughts…what he thinks is right.
Words, images, symbols…being turned into thoughts…are coming at your mind all day every day…some are not true, some are enormously destructive.
It can be hard to tell friend from foe sometimes.
This is why the Bible…believed with confidence and accepted as authority is so important.
Because passivity in this invisible war is a terrible decision…we must fight this good fight.
But not even knowing what right thoughts are…is equally bad.
The reality is…we must do the hard work to continually take thoughts captive or rogue thoughts will cause great harm to our lives.
But again…the good news is…we have the Nuclear Air Craft Carrier against 1940’s airplanes…we have the weapon system to win in this fight…we need to employ it every day.
- Information: The Word of God
- Application: The Spirit of God collaboration with human will
- Motivation: The People of God
- The Word of God
“Don’t believe everything you think”
I’ve used the analogy of a gate guard at secure locations before…checking the ID of people wanting in in order to keep the enemy out.
We don’t choose every thought that enters our minds…but we can and must choose the thoughts we allow to stay.
*I woke up one morning last week with a 1977 Kenny Rogers, song playing in my mind… “You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille with four hungry kids and crop in the field…”
-No, I don’t know why I woke up with it playing in my head.
-No, it’s not on my Spotify playlist…No I didn’t hear it on the radio
-No, I don’t know why it wasn’t some song like…”Great is thy faithfulness” or “Holy, Holy, Holy” or even “Catchy song”
*Yes…I was very disappointed with my mind that morning
My point is…don’t choose every thought that pops up (though I did choose to listen to that song way back when)…but we do decide what stays.
I didn’t want Kenny Rogers in my head during my QT so I played some music I did want in my mind first.
We don’t choose all the thoughts that enter…but We must learn to ID thoughts that are wrong.
How do you know if they are wrong?
*”Well it’s obvious”
Again…“Not really…not always”
Rogue thoughts can come across as being right thoughts.
“I deserve a break here…it is about time I took care of me for a change.”
“I am unworthy of God’s grace or the love of others.”
“I’m not going to forgive that person…I am justified in holding this grudge.”
When you hear them in this setting…they don’t sound all that good…but when we hear in them in our heads, out there…in the “fog and friction” of the invisible war they can make perfect sense.
Fog and Friction of war means that in actual combat things harder than we thought they would be.
Fog: things are never as clear as you hoped they would be
Friction: things are never as easy as you hoped they would be
The Battle is more confusing and more difficult than expected…when you are actually in it.
So…is the right response fear?
We are going to be killed in this war…this invisible war…we can’t win!
I can’t win over impurity…too strong!
I can’t beat anger…too strong!
Not true…you have divine (From God) weapons in this fight…you have to deploy them.
We must Read, study, hear, talk with others about the Bible(and our thoughts)…commit some important verses to memory…With the aim of application.
The aim of application not merely gaining information…changes how we read and understand the Bible.
*I’ve ignored dozens of pre-flight speeches about life vests, oxygen masks, and exit doors..
But what a flight attendant stood at the front of a plane out over of the ocean with engine trouble…and started talking about emergency procedures…”Wait, what…how does that work?”
Suddenly this information becomes super pertinent…we wake up because it applies, it matters.
If this is not true already…what would it take for you to see the Bible as essential for right thinking and right thinking as essential for successful living?
How would that change how often you read, study, talk with others about the Bible?
- The Spirit of God empowering human will.
The other weapon system that God has given us in this invisible battle in our minds is his Spirit indwelling us.
The Spirit of God is faithful to bring conviction regarding our sin…when our thinking and living veer off God’s path.
We want to remain tender in our hearts and minds to God’s loving conviction…so we can hear him.
The word Repentance…comes from a Greek word that means “change of mind…leading to change of action”
Eph. 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Watch your mouth, get rid of hurtful actions and attitudes…don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
He dwells in you if you are a Christian…he empowers you towards long term change.
We must be careful about not submitting the Holy One in us…to unholiness in thought and action.
God’s spirit is a powerful weapon in this fight…but instead of Him helping us take thoughts captive…we can shut him in a cell of our own sin.
Our hearts can become hardened to his gentle voice.
Repentance is a gift…but we can drown out the Spirit’s offering of this gift by the noise of our own rebellion.
- The People of God
“Believe the people you should trust.”
We will talk about this at length next year because it is a key theme in the book of wise thinking and living…Proverbs.
Stinking thinking doesn’t want to be told it stinks by others.
When we refuse to listen to others who lovingly suggest that what we are believing, thinking, doing is wrong…we are foolish.
We can become people who are running towards a cliff that can kill or maim and when friends shout “stop”…we become impatient and angry and proud…we continue to run towards harm.
This is so unnecessary.
If you are not living in connected community…you are not safe in this fight.
If you fail to engage community…people…and trust them when they speak to you in love…you are not safe in this fight.
Loving correction…because it is such a good gift is a hallmark of the wise person getting wiser.
All three three weapons systems together…because they are all from God.
Are all God’s provision for us to have his mind in our minds…the more we think like he does…obviously the better for us.
We will spend the rest of our lives continually getting back on track…it is not a necessity that we get off track…it is ongoing reality.
It is God’s continued gift that we can get back on track.
When we have let our minds embrace folly…when our hearts have become hard…when our choices begin to reflect the folly in our minds.
God calls us back to himself…
Romans 2:4 “God’s kindness leads you to repentance.”
Repentance=change of mind leading to change of direction
In his kindness God continually offers us the chance to return to him…to turn from the folly of our minds back to the beautiful wisdom of his…repentance.
Repent has been given a bum rap…it is seen as largely negative thing in culture.
It is often seen as “Go feel guilty you scum bag!”
In reality it is…”Leave your guilt my beloved son, daughter…come be forgiven…leave folly and embrace my wisdom.”
We are going to enjoy God’s gift of repentance this morning.
Think correctly about this…if thoughts of facing your sin and guilt cause your heart to race…or self-justification to set in…take a deep breath…God wants you to thrive.
We are all deeply insecure people in different ways.
Repent is not “feel guilty scumbag”…it is “leave your guilt and be forgiven.”
But we must face and acknowledge our guilt…before we are positioned to be forgiven.
Worship team is going to sing a song and during the song we will worship by reptening where needed.
The song is …”Oh Lord your beautiful”
It’s not “Oh sin, your ugly.”
We glance our sin (repent) and gaze at Jesus (restored)
*Change of mind leading to change of action: Confess the sin to God. Write the correct corresponding action on the card.
-Then show it to a trusted friend by next Sunday.
-How is that for specificity?
*Repentance is specific…”Child turn from sin, turn to me”
Turning from Sin and toward God are very specific…they involve real thoughts and actions.