This week, I want to talk about your thoughts. What you think about deeply affects how you speak, respond, worship, make decisions, and more.
On one level, we know this to be true. But on another level, we pretend our thoughts don’t affect us nearly as much as they actually do. Let me vulnerably illustrate this for you...
After moving to Waverly in 2012, we tried meeting people, inviting anyone who didn't have a church home to help us start Riverwood. We had a few show interest, some choosing to actually get involved.
However, almost everyone who helped pre- and post-launch left before our first anniversary of public ministry. Some left because their jobs relocated them, but many left for personal reasons. As one by one, the majority of our launch team left, I became very depressed, taking each departure personally. I knew these people didn't leave Riverwood because of our focus on Jesus. Rather, it felt like they left because of me.
This thought crushed me. I felt like a complete failure. I lost sleep. I avoided people. My mind constantly swirled with negative thoughts, sending me into my first-ever deep depression.
However, when I was out in public, I felt pressure to pretend these departures didn’t affect me. I tried to write my sermons like nothing was wrong. I attempted to talk about Riverwood like everything was great. Yet things weren’t great! I wanted to believe my constant negative thoughts didn’t affect me, yet they were deeply affecting my family, my neighbors, my church, and my faith.
You can be like 2014 me, trying to pretend your thoughts don’t really affect you. Yet I think you'll discover just as I did, your thoughts affect you and those around you far greater than you may want to admit.
This is why Romans 12:2 tells us that to be healed through the gospel requires a change of mind. We need to shift away from thinking about the things that keep us in our brokenness to thinking about the things that will bring healing.
The Apostle Paul makes this clear in his letter to the church in the ancient city of Philippi...
“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 (ESV)
While your spouse might be lovely, your children seem pure, and the MVP of your sports team worthy of praise, let’s be honest: is there anything (to the Christian) more lovely than the gospel? Is there anything more honorable than the willing sacrifice Jesus made? Is there anything more excellent than the resurrection of Christ? Is there anyone worth more praise than the One who redeemed us?
No! The gospel is the purest, truest, and most excellent ideal to which anyone could hold. And when we treasure the gospel, letting it fill us with awe of God, the "importance" of the things of this world will fade.
The problem is, we’ve lost an awe of God. We are so much like the ancient Israelites who stood in awe of a God who parted the Red Sea, yet walked away to be in awe of Baal. Likewise, we have "witnessed" a greater miracle than parted seas – the cross and the empty grave – yet are more likely to be in awe of our sports team or a talented musician.
So to have our minds transformed, we need to recapture an awe of God.
But how do we do that? Well, let me ask you: what are you letting into your mind?
If you only eat junk food, your body will suffer. Likewise, if you consistently consume violent movies, misogynistic music, pornographic material, or demeaning humor, your thoughts will be affected. This is where so many of us fool ourselves. We like to believe these things don’t affect us. Yet they probably aren't helping you dwell on that which is lovely, pure, or commendable.
Rather than consistently consuming mental "junk food," fill your mind with "nutritious" things that are true, honorable, and excellent. Things like Scripture, Christ-centered books, God-exalting music, or conversations with Jesus-loving friends.
Please realize I am not calling you to legalism. Rather, my primary goal is to encourage you to take a moment to think about what you think about, and figure out ways to let your mind by transformed by the Gospel. Your thoughts deeply affect you, those around you, and your walk with God. So find ways to put your mind on the cross (which shows God’s love) and your thoughts on the empty tomb (which shows God’s power) so you might be in awe of Him and be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
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