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Mind Control

Romans 12:2 ...be transformed by the renewing of your mind...

2 Corinthians 10:5 ...we take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ ...

Philippians 2:3 ...with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself...

Philippians 4:8 ...if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, let your mind dwell on these things...

1 Peter 1:13 ...gird up your minds for action...

The title, "Mind Control", is not meant to convey some idea of hypnotic trances or communist brainwashing. It has to do with the responsibility of all growing Christians to control their thinking. The Bible indicates that our thought life is an extremely important and vital aspect of being a Christian. What we are is determined largely by what and how we think. Proverbs 23:7 says, "As a person thinks within himself, so he is." Scripture not only gives us the responsibility of mind control, it also gives us some definite guidelines to follow in order to have a thought life that is controlled and pleasing to God. Let us look at a few of the many biblical passages dealing with mind control.

In Romans 12:2 we are exhorted to change perspectives. We are not to be conformed to this world's way of thinking, but to be transformed to God's way of thinking. Understand that "the world" is not just a label for trash or a list of taboos. "The world" is basically a system of values which is contrary to the biblical set of values. Our thought patterns must be brought under the control of the divine value system. For example, the world says that if you want to be great, then get to the top...go for it...be number one! But God says that if you want to be truly great, then "serve one another" (Matthew 20:25-28). Are we conformed to the world's system of values or transformed to God's set of values? Do we serve one another or manipulate one another? What is our real motive for wanting a leadership position? We can see how easy it is for Christians to operate on the basis of worldly standards rather than biblical standards. We may not have a problem with drinking or drugs, but we are still worldly if we are trying to be great by some means other than serving one another! This is just one example which points up how diverse the world's value system is from God's value system. Look at some other biblical values such as Matthew 6:32-33 and Luke 6:38 and see how different they are from the value system of the world. Growing Christians must constantly evaluate their motives and judgments and persuasions, because Satan is a master at deceiving the naive into thinking that the two value systems are not all that different.

Romans 12:2 also tells us that the continual renewing of our minds is the only way for our thinking to be transformed from conformity to the world's value system. Renewal of our thinking involves a steady diet of feeding on the Word of God. The constant "digestion" of biblical standards will renew and control our minds. Our thinking, and thus our actions, will no longer be conformed and controlled by the values of the world, but will line up more and more with the values and will of God--"good and acceptable and perfect".

Another principle of mind control is to capture preoccupations. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 we see that we are to make every thought an obedient captive to Christ. Immoral thoughts and selfish thoughts must be brought under control just like enemy captives in time of war. Notice that spiritual warfare is the context of this Scripture (10:3-5). Now it is almost impossible for us to keep sinful thoughts from flitting through our minds, but we can prevent ourselves from being preoccupied with such thoughts. As Martin Luther said many years ago, "You cannot keep the birds of the air from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building nests in your hair!" We can stop fantasizing. We can stop reading certain paperbacks. We can stop watching the kind of movies that will pollute our minds--and maybe certain TV shows, too! In short, we can prevent our minds from becoming preoccupied with thoughts that are not honoring to the Lord Jesus. We can control a lot of what goes into our minds and we can certainly control the preoccupations of our minds. Let us not allow any harmful thoughts to begin to take control of our thought life.

A humble mind is also an important part of mind control. Although the responsibility to check pride is far more easily talked about than practiced, Philippians 2:2-4 gives us some definite guidelines on how to obtain humility of mind. Verse 3 gives us some very practical advice on how to start the pride-checking process. Never thinkof yourself as better or greater than the person with whom you are dealing--even if you're smarter or richer or older or nicer-looking or more athletic, etc., etc. In fact, always consider the "other guy" as more important than yourself. Although God created all men equal, God still tells us in this Scripture that the key to mind control in the area of pride is always to think of the other person as more important than "ME". Remember that these verses were addressed historically to fellow-believers. Certainly some of the Christians in the church at Philippi were more gifted than others, and some were carrying more of the work-load than others, and some were more "spiritual" than others. And yet God's directive in that situation was for everyone to regard everyother fellow-believer as a more important person! You can be sure that if we were to follow this line of thinking, the problem of pride would be checked and we would have minds more in control. A proud Christian may look like he has it all together, but unchecked pride always ripples out to other people in hurt waves and is a sure sign of a mind out of control before God.

We must also conquer prejudice towards others in our program of mind control. This responsibility emerges from Philippians 4:8 when this verse is seen against the background of the entire letter to the Philippians. One of the reasons why the apostle Paul wrote this letter was that a little rift was beginning to take place in the Philippian fellowship. The cause is unknown, but it was not a major doctrinal problem. Apparently it was a minor matter on which the church could not agree--maybe a financial decision! In any case, it seems that the friction was causing personal rivalries and bad feelings among the Philippian believers. Two zealous women named Euodia and Syntyche were particularly involved (4:2-3). Paul knew very well that molehills can become mountains and therefore throughout the epistle he urged the Philippians to show unselfish love to one another. (Look, for example, at the context of the well-known Christological passage in 2:1-11.)

In Philippians 4 the exhortation toward unity continues. The Philippian Christians were to work at forbearance (self-restraint when provoked) with all the members of the fellowship (4:5). They were not to get uptight about present circumstances--even when things in the fellowship were not going their way (4:6). Peace of mind and heart through prayer (and not through manipulative persuasion of others!) was the way to go (4:6-7). And now in verse 8, a final "suggestion" is given to the Philippians to help them along the road to greater unity. They should think positively about one another! And so should we! Let us not fix our thoughts on the faults of fellow-believers but on their good points. Let us focus on whatever is noble and honorable about the brother who rubs us the wrong way. There must be something true and right about him! Let us think about whatever is pure and lovable in the sister who talked behind our back. She must have some admirable quality! If there is even the faintest glimmer of some excellence or even the smallest item worthy of praise, then let our minds dwell on these things. Every believer has weaknesses as well as strengths--even you! But if we make a definite effort to think about the strengths of the person and not focus on the negatives, we will find that we are able to conquer our prejudices about our fellow-believers. Try drawing up a list of positives for every person that is bugging you right now and see how this results in greater control of your thoughts about other people. This type of mind control brings not only peace to your fellowship but the presence of God to your soul (4:7), because to conquer prejudice is to please the God of peace (4:9).

A further principle of mind control, seen in 1 Peter 1:13, is to cultivate priorities. To gird up the mind for action means to be disciplined in thinking. This expression comes from Bible days, when the people gathered up or girded up their long garments for unimpeded activity. Too many side interests can impede and interfere with our thinking priorities as growing Christians. In view of our great salvation (1:3-12), we should "therefore" discipline our minds to set our priorities accordingly. How much time do we waste thinking about things that are not going to matter 100 years from now--or even one year from now?! Why not control our minds to think more about eternal realities as this verse commands us? The point here is not that we are never to think about styles or stocks or superbowls or other temporal things, but rather that we need to cultivate the habit of thinking more about what really matters. Maybe we should start by cultivating the priority of spending some time alone with the Lord every day--reading His Word and speaking to Him in prayer. A regular quiet time with God is not the easiest habit to maintain, but such disciplined control of our minds is of primary importance because it leads to practicing all the other principles of mind control. Remember--your mind matters! Keep it in control!
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