Oct 23 2022 Ways to Get Control over Our Thoughts
23rd October 2022
Today, I will begin a discussion on the important role that our thought-life plays in our spiritual growth and transformation.
This is a great verse regarding thought-life – and many of you may have it memorized. Many of us memorized these in college – I’m going to use the New Living Translation – because I want to shake up the way we listen – it is good to have multiple translations for a better understanding of God’s word.
Phil 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
That says it all!
When we talk about thought-life, our thinking goes to areas of temptation – lust and desires, be it sexual, or money, or food – whatever area you are taking pleasure in and probably shouldn’t – but today, I am going to talk about 3 other areas that may be even more important in this time in our lives.
How our thought-life affects these three areas:
Here, in Phil. 4:8, Paul is telling us what a good thought-life looks like. How do we get there when our thoughts are filled with anxiety, fear, and anger – and then, think about what caused you to get there and how to get out of it. None of us has this one down. This is hard stuff.
We are at a point, especially now, there are a lot of people trapped in these emotions and thoughts.
I’d like for you to be thinking about this -and if you would like to share your thoughts, that would be excellent.
There is a principle worth mentioning – the put on/put off process – Colossians 3: 8 But now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
The first step of the three is to put off – stop thinking about unhealthy stuff. Easier said than done.
All of us have unhealthy thought patterns – becoming ruts – hard to get out of.
Have you ever driven on a road where they have paved a portion of the road – and there is a slow truck in front of you – and you catch that edge and it feels like it is controlling your car?
To get out of it – you have to put off – stop!
Now, for us, living in 2022 – putting off is going to mean turning off! There is stuff we are going to have to turn off if we are going to want to put off stuff.
Media – name your own that needs to be turned off –
Conversations – that need to be turned off
And there are people who need to be turned off.
No, there is not a switch…
But there are outside influences that are constantly bombarding us with unhealthy thoughts.
Yes, there are things we shouldn’t watch or read or look at – and those are easier to identify – but there are conversations with certain people where we need to stop and say – this is not a healthy conversation and it would be best to not get into that type of conversation.
Col. 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Back to Phil 4:8 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Yeah! You get that feeling. But I would say – these thoughts are not happy positive thoughts – but true, honorable, lovely.
The reason I say that – grief and sorrow can be a helpful thought – but not happy positive.
3 ways and places to apply this verse
First – to people – the way you think about people – husband, wife, kids, coworkers – would these words describe the way you think about them? Would these be the thoughts that come into your mind?
What is admirable? What is excellent and worthy of praise in them? That can be hard!
Another thing would be – beyond family and friends – even those who have a negative impact – even people we struggle with.
I think we think that if we believe someone is evil, we have the right to think evil thoughts about them. I don’t think that is what the Bible teaches at all.
Jesus said – love your enemies, pray for those who mistreat you – bless those who curse you.
He is not denying that there are enemies – He is simply telling you to love them! Sure, there are enemies – what is your response? Love! There are those who mistreat or harm you! Pray! Curse? Bless.
The second place we can apply these is to circumstances and events – where things are difficult. Which will come this week? We don’t deny that that stuff is there, but we can learn to bring these things into these circumstances. Say your workplace is dysfunctional? There may be some honorable things about some of your coworkers.
Let’s take the War in Ukraine. Is there anything we can gather out of it? We can pray. We can support organizations who serve – trying to help the victims. Getting into that may help your thoughts.
Third – apply these thoughts to God!
Think about God this way. Of course, God is this way – we may read that God is that way – but we don’t always believe and think that. I will talk more about this later.
Phil 4:8 is in a context. 100% of the verses in the Bible are in a context. Zero percent should be pulled out on their own.
Philippians – written to a comrade – conflict in the church and how to handle it – interpersonal – two influential women in the church that are causing division.
First – He tells them – rejoice in the Lord. This is a hard situation – causing discouragement and stress – first – get joy from God. Be patient – and then, in v. 6 –
6 Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
What we have are the put-ons and the put-offs. Put off worry – easier said than done – put on prayer.
7 Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
A second thing to do – other than reading a different translation – ask what the verse does NOT say!
Put off worry. It does not say – “You are a lousy sinner because you are anxious” – IT does not say that! We tend to think it does.
Paul is saying – these types of situations cause anxiety – it is natural and normal but not healthy to stay there.
Then PRAY – how? It tells us – but it does not say – if you pray, your circumstances will be resolved the way you hope!
It simply says you will experience His peace. Even in circumstances that are not resolved –
…which exceeds anything we can understand.
This is not magic. It would be nice if it were a pill. Here’s my request… and now, PEACE. This is a practice learned over many times of doing this.
Anxiety is a product of fixing our thoughts on things we do not control
This is telling us – you don’t control this situation – to pray is acknowledging that this circumstance – potentially harmful to me – I have no control over.
Anxiety comes from thinking we have power in a situation.
When it tells us to pray – He is telling us – give it over to the One who has power in the situation! We are experiencing inflation. Have you noticed?
How much control do you have over that? Zero. We have no idea if it will ever end. It is creating a lot of anxiety for people.
Today, we bring many anxieties upon ourselves – by the things we watch, talk about, and think about. It is very serious – and crucial that we get control
We can control what we watch, think about and read.
We say – it is important, true stuff that I am watching! That is fine – it may be necessary and important stuff – but then, we need to learn how to get that necessary stuff from sources that don’t make us fearful
Cindy and I were talking this week – on her social media – there are Christians who cover church and social issues – so she follows them – but she reads the comments - and there are trolls and pharisees (I think those are the same) so she has to cut out the comments!
I read this – I hope I can communicate it well –
Many of us may be trapped in ideological captivity – it is an ideological loop that we reinforce in our brain – and we get in this loop in its resources and stuff we pay attention to and it feeds the loop. It creates anxiety, fear, and anger.
I googled – will the federal reserve break the economy?
This is interesting to me and something I would read about. There were 69M results! Page after page of YouTube videos – all of it may happen – I don’t know – but that kind of stuff – if you were watching 1 or 2 or 3 of those videos a day and reading a few articles per day – your anxiety would be out of control!
I use this because it is less offensive. Not controversial. But there are so many things that could be.
Thomas Merton – was a catholic monk – I used him in my dissertation some – he wrote for Christians – he is one of those Catholic writers who bridges the gap with protestants. His thoughts and opinions about what was going on in the 60s – Vietnam and Civil rights – were very influential. Many have not heard of him – but people have read him.
In 1966 he decided to no longer comment or write opinion on political events.
“When I comment on the thing that just happened in the news, it puts me above the event – it makes me the person with the moral high ground, the correct answer, and the only biblical viewpoint on the event.
I need to be more like Jesus – the first thing I must do is put myself beneath the event to feel the weight of the grief and sorrow of the event first and to feel the condemnation of the event.”
Every time there is an event – a police shooting, a mass shooting, someone has a comment – but we need to put ourselves under the weight of the event – to mourn with those who mourn… -
Luke 13 - 13 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
Here is a public event brought before Jesus – His response?
2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?
3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
This deep need we have to have moral high ground on issues – that does not mean there isn’t truth, but humility that undergirds all of it. And it is hard to do.
One last verse to launch us into next week – just to touch on fear:
Hebrews 13: 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So, we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"
There are so many things we can fear that might happen to us – either from politicians or bullies or other nations – and Jesus says – what can man do to me?
The Lord is my helper – He will never leave nor forsake us.