Tomorrow Begins Today
A devotional by Isaac Stone
The cosmic potential of the believer’s mind introduces the great scandal of today’s church: Christians without Christian minds, Christians who do not think Christianly.
-R. Kent Hughes (Disciplines of a Godly Man)
As a high school student I heard often that God knows the things I think about. (Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!”) However, I mentally responded by saying, “I will fix it when I am older” or “It won’t effect the rest of my life–I’m only in high school.” The truth of the matter is that the things we do when we are young significantly affect who we become.
Quick Biology Note: The brain is composed of billions of little cells called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters connect together and carry impulses that, when combined together, produce the thoughts and actions that we have every day of our lives. The bulk of the growth of these neurotransmitters happens when we are young, playing with siblings, learning the American culture from our parents, and studying the basics of the complex language called English. By the time we reach the age of 25, brain development is coming to an end, meaning that the basis on how we live the rest of our lives is already set heavily into motion.
Over the last several weeks I have embarked on an in-depth study of the brain and the interworking of the complicated mechanism that powers our everyday lives. It becomes easy to learn something in school and store it as a memory to get a grade but not apply that new knowledge to life. As I concluded my brain study, I began looking at places in the Bible that mention our brain or the focus of our thoughts and applied my new understanding of the brain to the passage. For example:
“’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ and he [Jesus] said to him, ’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
This passage mentions the mind as being something we should be loving God with. Jesus saying this as part of the great commandment means that this is something very important for us to be doing. Paul also emphasizes the significance of our thoughts and the importance of them to be honoring to God:
2 Corinthians 10:4-5:
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
Our minds are to be focused on Christ and honoring him with EVERY thought–not just thoughts on Sundays.
One of the things that was a slight shock to me upon entering into college is how much larger the number of temptations is than in high school. Being raised in a Christian home, I did not have to choose God over something very often because God was always the focus of activities we did as a family. Now, I am the one making my own choices and it is up to me whether I put God first in my thoughts and actions or not. Matthew 7 talks about building a firm foundation on the solid rock of Christ so that when temptations and trials come (the wind and the waves) you will not be shaken:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rains fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the foods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.’”
Matthew emphasizes building on the solid rock of Christ our homes. James 1:22-25 complements Matthew 7 by saying,
“But be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
In 1 Samuel 17: 34-37, right in the middle of the story of David and Goliath, David talks about some of the things that he faced throughout his time as a shepherd boy.
“But David said to Saul, ‘your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.’ And David said, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’”
David, still just a young boy at this point in his life, had trained within him a response to things that were bigger than he was capable of handling by saying “But God”. Yes, David was going to face the champion of the philistines. A man who scared the men of the army of Israel into hiding. David was not capable of defeating the giant on his own but he admits that he was not able to defeat the lions and bears on his own either but God delivered him and he will do so again.
There is a country song called “Watching You” by Rodney Atkins. The song talks about how his son watches and learns from the things his father does because he wants to one day be like his father. Of particular interest to me is the beginning of the song where the son’s McDonald’s meal spills in his lap and his reaction is to swear. The reaction was one that had not happened randomly but was the result of a connection that was made within the boy’s brain between things that happened to his father and the reactions that take place afterwards. Our brains do not, by nature, make up random reactions, but rather copy or morph reactions that we have seen, learned, and practiced for different situations. As Christians we learn our Father’s response to situations through reading and studying the Bible. In building our neurotransmitter connections on the solid rock of God’s word, we train ourselves to respond to all situations in a way that honors God.
Yes, there are going to be challenges in life that are beyond what we are capable of doing by ourselves. While in those times it is important to be relying on God for strength, wisdom, patients, and energy, it starts right here, right now. It starts with honoring God in the small things and making a daily commitment to being in His word and applying the word to our lives so that when we have to pick between honoring God or going with the flow we will be like David and say “But God”.
Starting the change:
Take some time this week to identify the areas in your life that are being done without a mind focused on Christ and begin to change your mindset. There are three ways that have helped me change the way I view things. First, I study the Bible for passages about whatever I am wanting/needing to change. I focus in on those passages and every time I think about whatever I desire to change I also think about the scripture associated with it. The reason I started practicing this is because in Matthew 4 when Jesus was being tempted he responded to every temptation with scripture.
The second thing I find helpful is telling someone. If you have an accountability partner or a close Christian friend, let them know what you are focusing on this week and how they can be praying for you over the course of the week. For me, this gives me someone that can ask me throughout the week how I have been doing and hold me accountable to pursuing a mind of Christ even when life starts to get busy or the change starts to get tough.
Thirdly, do not underestimate the power and importance of prayer. If you have accepted Christ as your savior, you have a relationship with Him. No relationship that I know of grows deeper without any conversation taking place. Tell God what you are struggling with and trying to change this week.