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Spiritual Thinking

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Spiritual Thinking
“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind  controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”
Romans 8 : vi


In tackling the whole subject of Christianizing our minds, let’s consider one indispensable aspect; spiritual thinking or Spiritual mindedness. We have heard people say; “ Some people are son heavenly minded they are no earthly use.” But I believe it could be said of some Christians; “They are so earthy minded that they are of no heavenly use.”

In this subject of thinking spiritually it’s important to remember that the Holy Spirit is like an eye surgeon who opens our eyes so we can see and so understand God’s Word. In the Word we see God and Christ and heaven. He not only opens our eyes but keeps them open. We must do our part, applying the eye drops of God’s Word and using the means He’s provided. Only then will we be able to begin to think spiritually.

“But to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”  Romans 8 : vi

God says you and I are to think spiritually. This is an important part of what it means to be a Christian. How are we to do this? Here are some suggestions from God’s Word.

1. What is the meaning of our text?
2. What spiritual thinking is not
3. What are hindrances to spiritual thinking?
4. Why are you to think spiritually?
5. What then is spiritual thinking?
6.  What are some strategies to thinking spiritually?

1. What is the meaning of our text?

It’s important to notice that the writer of this letter is suing a similar statement to another letter. In Colossians iii:1 “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” What Paul commands is that you focus your mind by intellectually regarding and meditating on heavenly truths and realities.

The N.I.V has an excellent translation of our text, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” It literally means you are either minding the things of the flesh or minding the things of the Spirit. You are either a carnal or fleshly person or you are spiritually minded controlled by the Spirit. Depending on our thinking the fruit of it will either be death or life and peace. We are either carnally minded or spiritually minded.

Lets look firstly at carnal or fleshly thinking.

Verse 1  “…they walk according to the flesh.”
Verse 5  “…they set their minds on the things of the flesh.”
Verse 8  “…those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

What is the fruit of sinful thinking and therefore sinful living?

Verse xiii For if you live according to the flesh you will die…” We need to ask ourselves is this a picture of my thinking,
it is carnal and fleshly? Or am I spiritually minded and controlled by the spirit v5 “But those who according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

In the context of our text the author is writing about what life in the spirit will look like for Christians. If you have been born again or regenerated by the Holy Spirit you are a Christian. You have experienced the work of God’s Spirit changing you. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John iii:vi This is the powerful life of the Spirit within you enabling you to live for God.

2. What spiritual thinking is not

It is not outward things like Hearing the preaching of God’s Word
It is not outward things like praying to God  


What are some hindrances to spiritual thinking?

There are real hindrances we face in seeking to think spiritually. As Christians we are constantly at war with the world, the flesh and the Devil. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. “ Ephesians vi:11

1. Being worldly is a hindrance to spiritual thinking.
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4 “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” 1John 2:15  “For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world.” 1John 2:16
To summarize  
Being a friend of the world means you’re an enemy of God
You can’t love the world or it’s things
The desires of the flesh, eyes and pride of possessions is from the world

2. Being fleshly is a hindrance to spiritual thinking.
Rom 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh…
Rom 8:6 To set the mind on the flesh is death…
Rom 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.
Rom 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
To summarize
Living according to the flesh is because you think that way which leads to death, hostility to God, not submitting to God’s law or being able to please God.

3. Other things that can hinder spiritual thinking

* Unconfessed sin to God will hinder spiritual thinking because we out of relationship with God and are guilty. We need to confess our sin and receive Christ’s forgiveness.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9

* Evil thoughts will hinder spiritual thinking.  “How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you.” Jeremiah iv:xiv
Planning to commit sin will hinder spiritual thinking. Cf. “Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When        the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand.” Micah 2:1

* Committing adultery with your eyes will hinder spiritual thinking.  "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Matthew 5:27-28

* Thinking of your self to highly will hinder spiritual thinking. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3

* Take great care what you watch you see on television, what DVD’s you watch, on the Internet, in magazines, in life

* Take great care what you watch read: Books, magazines – avoid material that contains adulterous behaviour and pornography.

In all the above it is important to know yourself and the particular weakness of the flesh, what company corrupts you and what circumstances you should avoid.


4. Why are you to think spiritually?

1. Because God commands you to;
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

2. Because setting you mind on heaven will prepare you for being there
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:1

“For unless the affections are set on them, they will never be sought after in a proper manner.  The word signifies to mind them, and think on them, to favour and approve of them, to be affectionately desirous of them, and concerned for them; for where the treasure is, the heart should be; and as the saints' best things are above, their minds and affections should be there likewise; their contemplation should be on those things, and their conversation should be in heaven; nor should they regard anything but what is there, or comes from thence, for they belong not to this world, but to another and better country: their citizenship is in heaven, and there, in a short time, they must have their everlasting residence; and therefore should seek after, and highly prize and value heavenly things, and set their affections on them.” John Gill on Colossians 3 : 1a   

3. Because by it you are being transformed into the image of Christ;
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  Romans 8:29

5. What then is spiritual thinking?

It is both the activity of God and man where by your mind is changed and renewed by the work of the Holy Spirit so you are continually acting and influenced by thoughts of spiritual things, resulting in your experiencing the life and peace of God.

6. What are some strategies to thinking spiritually?

Repent of unspiritual thinking
Often our thoughts are not focused on spiritual realities like the gospel and our position in Christ. You may be prone to daydreaming or sexual fantasying. These need to be repented of and put off. Cf. “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Eph 4 : 23-24  

Pray for the Spirit’s help
Ask God the Holy Spirit to help you learn to think spiritually. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. . 1Jo 5:14-15  

Ask Christ to give you spiritual understanding into you inheritance in Christ & his saving work.
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”  Ephesians 1:16-23

Use the private means God has provided
Personal prayer, mediating and study of God's Word, and self examination.

Meditate on these things;

1. Meditate on God’s Word
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2

2. Meditate on Christ – some examples
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:3-5

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him.
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
Colossian 13-15

3. Meditate on God
We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple. Psa 48:9

4. Medtiate on Heaven
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:1-2

Start to include spiritual thinking in your daily routine
Obviously we have many responsibilities during the day which require the use of our minds. But also there are times when we are free to think our own thoughts.These are ideal opportunities to engage in spiritual thinking. They can range from driving in the car to going for a walk. You may even want to set aside a regular part of your daily schedule for spiritual thinking, mediating on a gospel reality like Christ’s intercession for His church.

If you aren’t a Christian, how are you to respond?
But maybe you don’t know this life of spiritual thinking  and all you know is that your heart is so wicked and your flesh so weak that you are continually living in rebellion to God. Then cry out to God now to change you. Meditate on the gospel and the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “…As a man thinks, so he is.” Proverbs 2 : iii:7  

Confess your sins to God, turn away from them in godly sorrow and cling to Jesus Christ as the only sacrifice for your sins and the one who soaks up the wrath your deserve for your sins. Then you will know your sins are forgiven and a new peace and a  new power filling your mind with spiritual light, wisdom and knowledge. Cry to God now, He is calling you to surrender and become His child.


The author has received much help in preparing this study from  Spiritual Thinking – John Owen, an abridgement by John Appleby, Grace Publications Trust 1989, London  - available from Evangelical Press

The unabridged version is On Spiritual Mindedness, Vol 7 in the works of John Owen available from the Banner of Truth Trust


Paul Thompson


 

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