Mind Games

DAY 26

I’ve never been one for stuck-ness. While some pastors’ wives have a favorite seat in a church full of pews owned by specific families, I tend to move all over the place to keep people on their toes. (Quit glaring at me, honey lamb—that is Jesus’ chair, not yours.)

In that playful spirit, let’s mix things up a bit just for fun, shall we? We’ll start with the day’s assessment and then talk about it afterward. Note all that apply to the way you think:

__ I often jump to conclusions.

__ I think others are talking about me behind my back.

__ I assume others are out to trap me.

__ I watch for the mistakes of others and am glad when I see them fail.

__ I don’t listen to both sides of the story.

__ I tend to dwell on the other person’s bad qualities.

__ I am quick to assume that others are wrong.

__ I often think the worst.

__ I exaggerate my problems or successes.

__ I exaggerate the faults and mistakes of others.

__ I often wish I was someone or someplace else.

__ I often feel sorry for myself.

__ I often don’t see the sense in trying to change or improve.

__ I often think about how others don’t like me or don’t appreciate me.

__ I often reflect on how others have abused me or mistreated me.

__ I frequently think about how much better off others are.*

Before you start bullying yourself—or just as bad, praising yourself—for your answers, let’s take in some truth to provide a filter for thinking about how we think.

Any items you mentally checked are directly attached to the old life (as opposed to the new life we have in Christ). This is both bad news and good news. Bad news: we still think according to the flesh. Good news: we don’t have to. According to 1 Corinthians 2:16, we have the mind of Christ. Not we will eventually obtain it; not we hope and pray and try really hard to get it. We have it, all of it, right here and right now. Whether we choose to live out of that mind or return to our old thought patterns is the issue.

If you were given a brand-new convertible, why doggedly choose to drive your sputtering hoopty to town every day? What’s familiar to us isn’t necessarily what’s best for us. God is always up to something new.

Each moment we surrender, rejecting our worn-out negative mental tracks, picking up the cross, and following Christ, we create fresh neural pathways for our thoughts to travel down. The more often we submit, the easier submitting becomes. So while the destructive roads (like those mentioned in the list above) fade by disuse, the steps behind Jesus turn relatively smooth and more natural. It’s living according to the truth of who we are instead of forcing our souls to operate out of the lie of who we used to be. As I let the gospel wash over me, increasing my awareness of the depth of my sin and the extent of God’s mercy toward me, the unforgiveness that used to own me releases its hold. This is the process of cooperating with God to become who we are.

There’s a really cool story in Luke 4 that I morbidly love. It’s about the importance of not only kicking out the enemy but replacing darkness with light once he’s gone. The mind games will multiply if we don’t intentionally dwell on Jesus. Your thoughts are an appropriate arena to be ruthless in weeding out what’s not of God. Fear, pride, shame, unbelief, self-absorption, rage, mockery, shallowness, apathy, and a hundred others will strangle the life out of you if you don’t yank them up by the roots and plant the gospel in their place.

For each item you checked on the list, find its opposite. (One of mine is jumping to conclusions; the corresponding truth would be that with the Spirit’s help, I’m invited to be patient, merciful, and humble in my thoughts toward others.) Each time you’re tempted to sprint down that old road, stop and consider how the mind of Christ empowers you to walk as a new creation. Philippians 4:8 is a marvelous verse to camp out in and ponder some fresh ruts worth making. If it is for freedom we’ve been set free, let’s shake off the familiar mental habits that have played the captor for much too long. Only then can we think like Jesus and take this world—and ourselves—by surprise.

*From Wayne Mack’s Homework for Biblical Living, Vol. 1

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