Tag Archives: Sin

What to do with your mind

6 Jul

I never understood, until now, how important the mind is in the Christian life.  Yes, I know, that sounds STUPID.  But have you ever read any of John Owen’s books?  I’m on book 2 in an Owen trilogy, this one named, The Power and Efficacy of Indwelling Sin.

John Owen book cover

Owen’s main point is that our minds, once we are believers, have the crucial role of guarding our souls.  That is their job. They stand sentinel, keeping watch over potential influencers.  The battle against temptation and sin starts in the arena of the mind.  If Satan can deceive our minds into thinking OTHERWISE about reality, then he can get the mind to draw a false (and dangerous) conclusion.

And here is the scary thought.  Whatever the mind believes and settles on, the soul (our will plus our affections) follow.  The battle is in the mind.  I should know this, having read Joyce Meyer’s book years ago.   Joyce Meyer

Given the life and death nature of our mind’s assignment, to keep out lies and deceit that lead to sin, training in logic and clear thinking is crucial!

Here are some thoughts gleaned from Owen’s book (quote marks to indicate taken from his writing verbatim) that have sobered me into thinking about thinking:

  • Our minds can only default to one reality – earthly or heavenly.
  • Where the mind goes, what we set our minds on, the entire soul (our will + our affections) will follow automatically.  The mind opens the gate and the soul rushes in.
  • We CAN retrain our minds to default to things above (for we have the Spirit of God permanently ingrafted in us.) The FACT in 2 Tim 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. – Holman Christian Standard Bible) reminds us of God’s gift.
  • “The principal care and charge of the soul lies on the mind.”

By the way, and this nugget was WAY helpful to me, John Owen explains that ‘spirit’ is often used interchangeably with ‘mind or thoughts’  For example, Paul refers to God, “…whom I serve with my spirit.”  Romans 1:9, meaning he serves God with his mind.  How cool is that!  We are to walk with God, fueled and motivated by means of our thoughts, our mind!!!!

With that idea of how to understand the human spirit, look at this Pauline prayer:  I pray that God, who gives peace, will make you completely holy. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept healthy and faultless until our Lord Jesus Christ returns.  1 Thess 5:23  (Contemporary English Version)

Here is an example of how the mind can easily fail to do its appointed duty.   Owen explains that our minds can be so deceived by the ‘law of sin’ or Satan’s influence, that we can reason falsely and arrive at a conclusion that does not correspond to reality.  He writes: The deceived mind imposes on the will to obtain its consent unto sin by proposing unto it the advantages that may accrue and arise thereby.  It renders that which is absolutely evil a present appearing good. (page 338).

Owen uses Eve as an example.  Her mind did not hold fast to God’s law, nor to the consequences of disobeying Him. She stopped contemplating/thinking about the sweetness of fellowship with her Creator and how good He was.  Instead, she shifted her mind to consider the benefits of such pretty, delicious and ‘beneficial’ (per that serpent) fruit.

Why did she start contemplating this dangerous tree?  Because she shifted her thoughts from God’s truth to the statements coming out of the serpent’s mouth.  And she concluded they were more true.  And once her mind shifted its weight to this dangerous reasoning that she would benefit MORE from eating the forbidden fruit, her will and affections followed with nary a peep.  Imagine her thinking looking like this:

Thought 1: This fruit does look attractive, tasty and full of good consequences

Thought 2: This garden creature assures me that no harm will come to me, unlike what God has said.

Thought 3:  These potential benefits outweight what I can get from God.

By turning her back on God’s truth and listening to another source, Eve opened the door for her will and affections to side with her mind and almost ‘compel’ her to disobey God.

So what are we to do to strengthen our mind, since so much rides on it?  Much.  But that’s another post.  So I’ll leave you with this starting point.  Observe your thoughts.  And evaluate them through the grid of God’s Word.  Are most about God or about circumstances? Do you tend to say, “I feel that….” rather than “I think that…”?  That might be a clue that your mind is flabby.

And what would I advise if you wake up a weak state of mind?  Read a good book, one that makes you think. Read with pen and paper in hand.  That will slow you down.  The good news is we CAN retrain our minds.  With God’s help.

 

 

Self-exhortations to think and feel correctly

7 Jun

I continue to be absorbed by the Triune God’s commands to trust Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding! Proverbs 3:5a

Why do we hesitate to actually do just that?  It certainly isn’t due to a paucity of evidence in Scripture.  David repeatedly recommends confident reliance on Yahweh as the way to experience joy.

Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord!  Psalm 40:4a

Looking inward I can only speculate that our reluctance is due to that universal insatiable hunger to control our lives!

Jesus’ counsel to His disciples in the upper room was:

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  John 14:1

I re-read that verse this morning and then thought through to some ‘crunchy’ encouragement:

  • If Jesus tells me to do something, then as a Spirit-indwelt Christian, I CAN and MUST set myself to obey Him.
  • I am indeed a gal in union with Jesus, host to His Spirit
  • Therefore, not only am I capable of trusting God, I am obligated to.

I looked up ‘don’t let your heart be troubled’ in the Greek to see the original text.  ‘Troubled’ is rendered like this:  don’t suggest doubts to yourself.

What an apt description of how I feel when I am anxious and troubled.   I busy myself, imagining fears and ‘what-ifs,’ all the while discounting GOD!!

Here’s an example:  the other day I was called into my principal’s office.  My mind raced to think of a possible reason.  I’ve had ‘problems’ in the past when my ‘outspoken proselytizing’ was criticized and I was placed under scrutiny for a while.  I catalogued and scrolled through recent days seeking to locate any ‘event’.  I finally settled myself down by reminding myself that I have the Lord constantly with me, no matter what the trouble.  And I chose to trust Him.

That was relatively easy.  What is tougher to halt has been wrestling or ‘agitating my mind’ over something I said that I now regret.  As I thought about that episode, I spun out a ‘worst-case’ scenario in vivid color.  Enough to put a damper on my mood.  The ONLY way I could handle it was to confess the sin of betraying a confidence and to remind myself that God IS sovereign, even over my sin and mistakes.  Though I couldn’t undo what I had revealed, God could handle the outcome. Yes, there might be consequences that would be painful, but He would still be with me.  I confessed to God again and then sought relief in 1 John 1:9 and God’s promise to forgive confessed sin.

Three more times, I replayed the ‘regrettable’ incident and wondered what would happen.  True heart-troubling behavior. But Jesus’ word to His brothers is: DON’T!!!

Instead, trust God.  And remember that for those who belong to Jesus, there is NOW no condemnation.

I had confessed my sin and Jesus had already paid for it on the cross.  Settled.  This is how I talked about to Satan who seemed to fling the event back into my face.

This is the logic battle we fight.  And let me assure you, logic is not cold and analytical and disconnected from feelings.  I’m a thinker, but I’m also a feeler and I see the power in logically, REASONably applying God’s Word to my heart so I hold on to Truth and tame those emotions.

Brothers and sisters, logical Joes and Janes, we MUST harness our minds.  And if God says we can, then empowered by Jesus’ Spirit, we can and must. But it’s a daily, hourly battle.

Martin Luther’s Beer Argument – Final Test

22 Jul

Martin Luther and beer

Last week we extrapolated and analyzed Luther’s premises to see if he had aligned them correctly into a valid chain argument or syllogism.

“Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!”

 You can check out that ‘step one’ explanation and follow our reasoning on the post dated 15 July 2015.  We showed that indeed, this church reformer applied his logic equally well to the merits of beer.

With the validity of the argument confirmed, we turn next to verifying the truth of each premise.  For if an argument is both valid AND true, then we can admire the reasoning and say with some degree of awe, “That’s one ‘sound’, airtight argument!” (or, ‘I’ll drink to that!’)

Toasting Beer Glasses

In order to see more easily whether a premise is true or false, it’s best to write or ‘translate’ informal statements into their logical form.  A crucial step is to decide whether the subject pertains to ALL ‘members’ or just SOME.  Luther has used the pronoun ‘whoever‘.  That is a universal pronoun, so we replace it with ‘ALL’ without changing our former monk’s intentions.

P1 – All those who drink beer are those who are quick to sleep

P2 – All those who sleep long are those who do not sin

P3 – All those who do not sin are those who enter Heaven

C – Therefore, all people who drink beer are those who enter Heaven. 

Logical Joes and Janes know that if any of the premises of the syllogism are false, then there is a problem.  So let’s just start at the beginning with Premise 1.  Is it true that ‘all those who drink beer are quick to sleep’?  What do we have to do to test that statement?

Quite simply, if we can find ONE counterexample where that is not the case, where a beer drinker is not someone quick to sleep, then Premise 1 is false the way it is written. (to ‘fix’ it, changing it into a true statement, Luther would simply substitute the ‘particular’ quantifier of SOME for the ‘universal’ quantifier of ALL.)

I, for one, can drink one beer and not fall asleep quickly. The premise does not mention HOW MUCH beer Luther had in mind.  And there’s no point second-guessing him.  All we can go by is the premise as Martin Luther allegedly uttered or wrote it.

Therefore, just by a quick glance of the first premise, the syllogism breaks down.

We could have started with any of the premises, testing their truthfulness. Take, for example, Premise 3 that ‘all those who do not sin are those who enter heaven.‘ From everything else Martin Luther wrote, I know for a fact that he did not believe that statement himself.  For he was a Biblically-based theologian.  And the Bible does not teach that one must be perfect to enter heaven.  No one is perfect. Those who are welcomed into heaven are those for whom Jesus died as a substitute, who have renounced their rebellion and gratefully accepted the gift of forgiveness.

Surrender to Jesus

That’s it! We have finished our analysis – quickly, too. Do you see how easy it is to determine the truthfulness of an argument just by taking a careful look at one premise? Looking over this exercise of taking seriously what Luther surely meant in jest, we have reviewed that a sound argument has two parts.  It must be correctly formed (that is: ‘VALID’) as well as formulated with true premises.

Practice yourself, especially in this season of much political and cultural rhetoric, where little clear and reasoned thinking is evident.

Logical Gal and category challenges

1 Oct

Category Management

The idea of category errors is useful.

I don’t know if it’s an urban legend, but Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel in space, supposedly proclaimed after his return that he had searched intently and never once did he observe God while in space.

If it’s true, then the statement reveals a category error in his thinking for the following reason:

Humans can observe MATERIAL stuff, but God is NOT material.  He is IMMATERIAL.  It’s akin to asking questions like:

  • How much does blue weigh?
  • If you had to pack your Mom’s love for you to take on a trip, how many suitcases would you need?

The faulty thinking is revealed by simple facts such as:

  • Blue is a property that has no mass, so it cannot be weighed
  • Love is not something that can be measured physically nor can it concretely fill a suitcase

What occurred to me this morning as I listened to a podcast during my walk, was the wonderful Greek word tetelestai  (Strong’s # 5055).  It means: It is finished.

Jesus uttered that word when He finished suffering the punishment for human sin IN OUR PLACE.  His action of redeeming us from hell made it possible for us to be transferred from the Kingdom of this World (under Satan’s rule) into God’s Kingdom.  His work on the cross also guaranteed that not only can humans be freed from the power and punishment of sin, but they can be GIVEN/ASSIGNED a new identity.

Tetelestai

Notice that I did not say, that humans can be given the opportunity to craft their own identity.  Never once do we have that possibility.  There are only 2 possible identities for every man, woman and child who has ever lived OR will ever live.  We are either grafted into Christ and have HIS forgiveness and flawlessness applied to us…….

  • or we are left to face the just judgment and punishment for our works on our own – the imminent next events for those who live according to the outworking of the Fall  (sinful nature) which they have inherited

Here’s where the concept of category error comes back in.  Since Christians have been given a new identity when they are born again,

Identity in Christ

they are treated the same as though they had been born a citizen of a country:

  • NO exam to study for
  • No application process to undergo
  • No appearing before a judge to swear fidelity

So it is STUPID to spend any effort and time trying to craft an identity, right?

Yet that is what I still find myself doing:

  • I angst about what others think of my teaching
  • I angst about whether I’m ‘doing enough’ as a neighbor and as a member of a church family
  • I angst about whether I’m loving my husband in the ways he wants/needs to be loved
  • I angst about whether I am being a good-enough grandmother (whatever THAT means!)
  • And when November arrives, I angst about whether I will select the right kind of presents for family members

And that’s just off the top of my head.

And why?  All because doing ‘it right’ has to do with the identity I WANT to think is ‘me’.

But when I realized this morning that my identity has already been established and is in fact fixed and secure, I suddenly saw that working to shore up my identity (even if just for myself) was not only futile but stupid.

These insights are why I love logic!  Clear thinking can bring freedom.

Question:  Where has thinking through carefully about an issue led to a breakthrough that has impacted your life? 

 

Logical Gal delights in a new Fallacy

10 Feb

I never knew the Etymological Fallacy existed! But when I read about it yesterday, I saw exactly what it was and how helpful this category is going to be.

Take “sin” for example. The Greek word is ‘hamartia’.  Many Christians have glibly defined this Greek word as ‘to miss the mark’.  How tame can you get? What’s the big deal about lack of skill or lack of practice or ‘woops! – guess I missed’?

But I now know that relying on the original meaning of ‘hamartia’ commits the Etymological Fallacy.  So what if the term originally referred to shooting an arrow off course?  The way it was employed by Jesus and the apostles to teach about sin is what counts.  In that context, sin resulted in death, not the counsel to get more coaching!

So here is how the Etymological Fallacy works.  It doesn’t MATTER how a term was first or originally used at one time, what counts is how it is understood in the current context. A striking example of that is the adjective ‘gay’.  When I was growing up, the jingle for the Flintstones used it in its then-current meaning of merry or happy.  But to cling to that original definition today fails to communicate.  Contemporary usage guides the proper use of terms.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Peter Boghossian’s disingenuous retooling of the term ‘faith’ to mean unwarranted belief or wishful thinking.  So, too, can we err in the opposite direction and stubbornly claim that we ought to be able to use a definition from times past that is no longer part of the common vernacular.

The whole point of any conversation or written essay is to communicate to others what is in our minds. We have to be careful in how we use a term.

Next Step: What words have YOU puzzled?  Maybe the first step is to consider other possible meanings.  You might be as tickled as I was to find a way to distinguish among the definitions, thus clearing up a concept that has puzzled you for years.