A Battle of the Mind

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, June 24, 2015 0 comments

by Logan Ames

If you ask just about any of the countless famous preachers or evangelists who found themselves in a place where sin was taking over their lives and causing them to lose their positions, good reputations, and in some cases their families, they might talk about how they were not guarding their hearts and minds and were trapped by the devil and their own flesh before they even knew it. While the struggles of those individuals make the headlines, the same thing is true with pretty much any believer there is. We are not “safe” even when things seem to be going well. As a matter of fact, when we are relying on a spiritual high to keep us going and keep us out of sin, that may be when we are most vulnerable because we expect things to keep going well and are not prepared for the enemy’s schemes.

As believers, we must remember that we have the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus, to guide us along the way. This is an ongoing process, not something that only happens when we feel good. One of my favorite country songs is by the singer Josh Turner and is called “Me and God." The one particular line that I like says, “Early in the morning talking it over, me and God. Late at night talking it over, me and God." It’s the idea of starting and ending your day by a conversation with the Creator, which can happen at ANY point thanks to the presence of his Holy Spirit in our lives. When we forget to take advantage of this gift God gave us to guide us each day, we leave our minds vulnerable to whatever the devil might throw our way. As James tells us, “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” (James 1:14). Reading the verses that follow show you that the end result when we give in to sin is always death.

Paul shares the same thing but takes it a step further in Romans 8:5-8. Paul’s focus here is definitely on the mind. He states very clearly that “the mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (v. 6). So, what does it mean to have a mind that is governed by the flesh? Your gut reaction may be to say, “That’s not me” or, “I go to church and I follow Jesus." You may even be thinking about all the things you DO for the Lord. But I’m here to tell you that those things don’t keep your mind under the authority of the Spirit. I am a pastor, have led youth groups, have taken mission trips, have served every age group of people there is, and have worked at a homeless shelter. But I can honestly sit here and tell you that there are times every day that my mind is still governed by my flesh.

On the very day that I am writing this post, I had a meeting with two Christian brothers that I respect very much. They are wonderful fathers, friends, and mentors. We are involved in ministry together and meet for accountability and prayer. Today, we shared some of our struggles in the flesh. I talked about my battle with anger and how I handle a situation when things don’t go the way I believe they “should." All three of us talked about how we faced our struggles on basically the same night within the past week! It just so happened to be a night where we had gotten together to discuss ministry, which you would think would make us MORE focused on the Spirit rather than less. And yet, we recognized that our different struggles all had the same thing in common - a selfish need for control. In each of our struggles, our minds were set on what WE wanted or needed, not what God desired for us. Ours were minds governed by the flesh in those instances.

Paul explains in verse 5 that our minds are set on the flesh or the Spirit. It’s either one or the other. There is no middle ground, and Paul’s words show that they are direct opposites. He goes on to say that “the mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God” (v. 7). I asked you earlier what it means to have a mind governed by the flesh. One obvious way to notice this about yourself or in others is when you see hostility toward God. This comes in many forms. I know a man who is a very pleasant and decent man to be around. He gives generously to others and makes it a point to try to improve the lives of those around him. However, he lost his daughter tragically many years ago, and this has caused him to have hostility toward God. As much as I can sit there and say I might feel the same way in his shoes, the reality is that such a mind is governed by the flesh. It’s our flesh that tells God what WE think is best and right. It’s our flesh that says we would never allow the things that God allows to happen if we were him. It’s our flesh that tells God that he was wrong and made a mistake in a given situation. This also applies to other areas where we tell God that he made a mistake, such as a person’s gender, issues of sexuality, and an unborn child’s right to life. Our flesh decides that we are better at making those decisions than God. But, a mind set on the things of the Spirit trusts God and surrenders to his commands and his design.

The Apostle Paul wrote another letter in which he addresses the difference between the flesh and the Spirit. In a passage well-known in the church still today, Paul talks about the “acts of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit." Go ahead and look at the list of each in Galatians 5:19-23. The acts of the flesh, which Paul says are “obvious,” include things that I’d say would be consistent with hostility towards God and even towards others. These acts are driven by selfish desires and a need for control. But the fruit of the Spirit collectively represents someone who is in right relationship with God and at peace with the fact that he is NOT God.

You don’t have to think very hard to determine if you are being governed by the flesh. Since Paul said the acts of the flesh are obvious, take a look at what dominates your time and your thinking. Are they things like impurity, hatred, discord, fits of rage, selfish ambition, and drunkenness? If so, you’re probably not spending much time in conversation with God and you’re not letting the Spirit lead you. Those things won’t change on their own. On the other hand, if your life is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, that likely didn’t happen overnight. It has been and still is an ongoing process for you. If you are in the first group of people but want to get into the second group, understand that you can’t just focus on trying to DO the fruit of the Spirit. As a former pastor of mine would say, it isn’t YOUR fruit. Your responsibility is to be in communication with God so that your mind is led by his Spirit, so that HIS fruit is what shows in your life. The important thing to remember this week is that it is definitely a battle, and that battle begins in the mind. Make decisions today that will put your mind in surrender to God, for nothing else can truly bring peace and cast out hostility from your life.

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