This is number ten (10) in the "Back to Basics Series": this link leads to an index post that will direct you to the rest of the series. The first six mainly had to do with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in our lives and the ways the Spirit enables us to live out the Great Commandment. The seventh examined why love is the Great Command. Now, Carl examines the Great Commandment itself in detail.
Carl Palmer, Pastor-Teacher; Mark 12:30; November 20, 2005
God never says to leave our brain outside; or to check our minds at the door. What God tells us is what we are studying in these days - the Great Commandment:
Mark 12:30 " 'and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’ "[Deuteronomy 6:5]Carl has found it helpful to separate and examine each of these four parts of us separately - although they really cannot be separated. We are one being that has heart, soul, mind, and strength. God in His wisdom did divide these up in this passage; and it has been useful, if difficult, to look at them separately. Loving God with all our heart meant to love God first - and to relate to all things through our "first love" for God. Our heart is our control center, and with it we decide who we are going to love first. Loving God with all of our soul meant to love God with a real and passionate whole–life love. The soul as the part of human nature that integrates our inner nature into one being. This is a real love; and a passionate love. So, loving God with our heart is about "first" love; and loving God with our soul is about "life" love. This brings us to:
Even apart from God, the human mind is an amazing gift from God; and it can be everything from fairly feeble to an incredible genius. We get this amazing gift from God with its varied abilities; and then God says it must be made new. That is because there is a problem in the world: that problem is called sin - the whole creation has experienced a fall (a descent, an impurity). That descent has even filtered into the human mind; and that is why, for instance, you do not have to teach a 1 to 2 year old child to say "no" - they just do it naturally.
God says He wants His Holy Spirit to come into our life and begin to change us from the inside. The Holy Spirit unites together with our spirit and begins to renew our mind:
Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.Our human mind, our natural mind, must be renewed - made new. That is pretty amazing if you stop and think about it.
Ephesians 4:23 ". . . and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind . . ."Have you ever thought about that one? We have the mind of Christ. That is not for a few Christians - it is for every believer. That is why there is a battle going on in your mind because along with the mind of Christ we still have our natural human mind as well. So, our natural human mind is gradually being taken over and renewed; and the Spirit of God gives us the mind of Christ. Jesus, if He is in you, is talking to you - and your mind - all the time. The entire thrust of these 10 sermons so far is that we need God to do this new thing in our lives - including the renewing of our mind.
1 Corinthians 2:16 [Start with verse 10] For 'who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?'[Isaiah 40:13] But we have the mind of Christ.
Carl has said that we "know so much" - at times in opposition to what we do. Carl has not said we "know too much". He has not said we use our minds too much; or that we know all the things we need to know. What he has said is that what we do know does not seem to change our lives as much as it ought to. We will continue to think and know - and learn more - until the Lord takes us home. What has to happen is that what we know must move from our mind to our heart, then into our will and out of our hands - move from our minds into living out that knowledge.
You may think that sign is a rather extreme example; but Carl sees that everywhere in our society and culture - and even creeps into the church of Jesus Christ to some extent. We live in a culture that could easily be described as anti-intellectual. It is based on the idea of subjectivism - the idea that what is true is whatever is true for the person viewing it. Another way to say this is that our own personal experience determines what is true and what we will follow. At root it says that we as individuals - the subjects - are the best ones to evaluate what is true.
We live in a culture that is very opposed to critical thinking. By critical thinking, Carl means carefully examining something to see if it is true or not. We are so bombarded with lies that (since we have lived in a culture where we are told we determine what is true) now people no longer know how to think very well. That should not be true of followers of Jesus Christ. We should be leading the way in the right use of the mind.
Some Christians in America have also become anti-intellectual. They will say things like:
What do all these mean? Does that mean God is not logical? That His logic is different from ours? That He would say 2+2=15; but we cannot understand that so we just have to believe? If you hear something like that you should hear a large warning horn going off somewhere - these things are not true.
- "Do not try to understand this with your mind - just believe"; or
- "Faith is not really a reasonable thing"; or
- "Faith is not intended to be logical"; or
- "Faith is a leap in the dark".
- "God's thoughts are above our thoughts".
The message of God - the Bible, the Cross, the blood of Christ, salvation - is logical. It is reasonable. It is coherent. It is consistent. It is sound. It is true. It is not true because someone says it is; or because you believe it - it is true because it is real. There is such a thing as an absolute objective reality. God has said He wants you to know; and He has given you a mind with which to understand the truth. Our faith is not based upon a leap in the dark - it is based on eyewitness testimony. Our faith is a reasonable, logical, coherent, consistent system of truth that is understandable.
You can understand salvation: why we have to be saved and how it works. How would you do that? Study the book of Romans: read it and understand it through the power of your mind - and through the power of the Spirit of God - and you will understand salvation. Again:
The truth about God, and the truth about the cross, and the truth about the blood of Christ, and the truth about our salvation - are logical, understandable, they are sound, consistent, and are to be appropriated with the human mind through the power of the Holy Spirit.Your mind matters very much to God. Carl believes we live in a time that is opposed to a critical use of the mind; and we, as followers of Christ, have to oppose that. We are in a war: objective absolute truth does exist; and our minds have been designed by God so we can grasp it. Someone once said that "ideas have consequences" and indeed they do. People like Francis Schaeffer have watched the decline of our culture; watched the new ideas that arose; and predicted where we would be in this day. We are in a war: not fought with bullets but with ideas. We are the people that need to understand that we must love God with all of our heart, and all of our soul, and all of our mind. Our minds are a critical part of what God has given us so that we can understand and believe in God.
If you turn away from God, then you turn away from God first in your thoughts - that is where it starts. If you return to God, then you return to God first in your thoughts - that is where it starts. As we accept ideas and thoughts that lead away from God; those ideas and thoughts lead to action - action which takes us farther and farther from God. We start to say things are okay even if we know God has said otherwise - because we have become the determiner of what is really true, and not God. When Satan came to tempt Adam and Eve in the garden, he did not hit them with a stick: Satan hit Adam and Eve with the idea that you really cannot trust God to give you what you really want so you must take things into your own hands and go a different way. That is the same idea that has been promoted down through history; and it is the same one we struggle with now.
We, as followers of Jesus Christ, are in the process of transformation: we are being renewed in our minds and turned into different people. That is what we want. We have been satisfied with tiny, incremental steps of being changed. God wants to transform us on the inside: in our hearts, our souls, and our minds - so that it moves out into our strength and the rest of the world benefits from it. For this to happen, your mind has to get engaged with this and you must say: "I need to think rightly - my mind must be engaged with loving God." We can reason with God; and in fact He wants you to:
Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool."What God wants is for our minds to be a place of love for Him. Our minds are to be like a tool - an instrument. It is part of our abilities as human beings to love God with our minds. How are we going to do that? Carl suggests [the obligatory] three things:
First, we must give our minds to a determined pursuit of truth. We must come to God with our minds "fully in gear". If you have been indoctrinated with the idea that your mind is not part of your faith you have been falsely taught - your mind is to be part of your faith for you are to love God with all of your mind.
The question we must be asking is: where do we find what is true? When Carl says true, he means real absolute truth: if everyone got up tomorrow and didn't believe it - it would still be real and true. It is fascinating that we even have to talk like this today; but it is part of the culture we live in. People now believe that there is no such thing as objective absolute truth - something that is going to be true regardless of what anyone believes. Regretfully, when they come into churches and take polls they find that Christians believe the same things as everyone else by the same percentages. Forty percent of Christians in evangelical Churches in America no longer believe in the concept of absolute truth. Was Jesus really taken outside Jerusalem and nailed to a cross; or did that happen because you believe He was, or you wish He was? Is it part of your religious system of belief, or did it really, objectively happen?
That is the struggle we are in today. We are in a struggle for truth and the authority of that truth. We go to school and learn "the truth"; our parents teach us "the truth"; we open books and read "the truth" - and it doesn't take us very long to realize these are different stories. They conflict and so we started seeking authority - some way to know what to really believe. Children start to say "well, everyone believes this"; so the authority is what everyone thinks; or "we voted on this"; "the teacher says"; "I think"; or "I cannot believe in a God that would do that" That is why we study the Bible - because around Cedar Mill Bible we believe it is true. That is why we have a written book, with the Spirit of God to help us understand it. We can see Him in creation and all the miracles; but He had to write something down because He knows the way we are. That is why we read and study the Bible and seek to apply it.
So how are you doing with the Book? Isn't it easy to start living life without believing the authority anymore; and putting all sorts of other things from other sources into our mind instead? God intends to change us by His truth and power. Our mind is engaged by His truth; but the world tells us all sorts of things, the devil has a way to whisper things to us - he gets his lies in, and our own human flesh says things to us. Have you ever heard any of this:
Ever heard any of this - whispered to you in the darkness when you are alone? God says: "You are my beloved" Who are you going to believe? What is true? It is primarily with your mind, and not your emotions, that you have to deal with this one. You must figure out which is the voice of authority; and which is absolutely true. Are you the beloved of God, or are you something less? Carl's mind goes back to an objective little song he learned in Sunday school:
- "You're worthless"
- "You will never amount to anything"
- "You are unforgivable"
- "You are hopeless"
- "Nobody really loves you"
Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
How do we trust the authority of the Bible? Christians are famous for circular reasoning: we believe the Bible is the word of God and study it because in the Bible it says it is the word of God. So, how do we know it is the word of God (without circular reasoning)? This is a question we should be able to answer. Carl went through a period of time in his life during his teenage years when he really began to wonder if it was true or not. He spent about a year and a half trying to figure out whether the Bible was trustworthy or not. People say: "It is full of mistakes - there are errors everywhere". Ask them to show you one; and they might show you one that looks like a mistake or an error. It was here that Carl did his investigation: Has it been protected for 2000 years - is it true to what was written long ago? So he studied the ancient manuscripts and how the canon was set. There are huge, incredible books written on that. There is the internal evidence that it is the word of God; and there are great books written on that. There are books written on questions that skeptics ask - so you get and read some of those.
The people who say the Bible isn't reliable and has mistakes have never investigated carefully. It is fascinating the number of people who have gone to the Bible to prove it is false; and ended up being followers of Jesus Christ. When we do our own investigation, and engage our minds, we can pile up huge amounts of evidence to prove the reliability of the word of God. Most people do not do the work - they just believe what they hear - and that is not the proper use of our minds.
So, if you are one of those people who do not know whether they can really trust the Bible - then you need to deal with that first. Do not primarily read the Bible if you do not trust it. Carl has spent time in the Bible for 30 years preparing to teach others - and he has yet to find a mistake. There are a few things he cannot quite understand and a few things that are beyond him; but he has yet to find proof that the Bible is full of errors - that is just not true. So, for those that are not certain, this is where you need to do your work and engage your mind. If your faith is at the place where you just do not know if the Bible is true or not - that is where you need to focus. Carl has six books (or at least one) he would like you to read [coming by separate post]. If you approach it with an open mind, God will meet you there. He will establish the Bible as the word of God in your heart and your life; and then you will go forward with confidence.
The second thing: we must bring our minds under the Lordship of Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh [sarx. NIV="world"], we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing [uyoma. NIV="pretension"] raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,This world is full of pretensions set out against God; and if we look for them we will see them everywhere. What God wants is for His people to realize we are in a war; and that we do not fight like those that fight physical battles - we fight with ideas and truth. God wants every thought in our minds to be taken captive for Christ.
Think about that for a second - that is why God gave us a mind. Some of us know that our minds are just running rampant with all sorts of really dumb stuff. Maybe it is because we give ourselves to other things: for some it is fear, for some it is fantasy, for some it is sex, and our minds are just full of these other things - because they have power. God wants your mind to glorify Him in the way in which you think; the clarity with which you think; and the purity in which you think.
This is why pornography is just stupid. It has a power to distract us and defile us to the point where we just do not want the purity of God's word - it dominates us. So many other things are like that too: fantasy, fear, anxiety, and worries can all distract us from the ability to glorify God with our minds. What we must do with the many forms of revelation in this world that come to us, and disagree with each other, is to engage our minds and ask: "what is the truth?" We must learn how to distinguish truth from error - as Christians particularly. There is somebody at the very center of this who will help you; and His name is Jesus.
It is not just that there is truth "about" Jesus - Jesus is the truth. He said that about Himself: "I am the way, the truth, and the life". If you are going to become a wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ then you must focus on the truth - Jesus. When you hear an idea that competes with what you believe about God; then you say: "Jesus help me" and it is fascinating how many times Jesus will help you. You do not close your mind; or refuse to face the difficult questions - you ask for help.
God's way of changing us is for our minds to be deeply committed to knowing more about Jesus; and to use our minds to resolve the questions God wants us to resolve. Ask Christ if He wants you to spend time on something; and if He does then spend time there.
Finally, the third thing: I must pursue having "a mind on fire" – with love of God!. Some of the most wonderful people to be around are those who realize that their intellect and their passion go together. Jonathan Edwards said that the "intellectual life and the passionate life are friends and not enemies". Our passion for Christ and our intellect go together: the deepest thinkers should be the deepest lovers.
We live in a world that says you cannot really love an unseen God if you are very smart at all. If we are really smart, then we should understand and love Him so deeply. God wants people on fire for Him; and that is not lodged primarily in the emotions - it is lodged in the mind.
The fire God wants for you is in your mind; and it works its way out through the emotions. The passionate emotional love for God Carl talked about under loving God with all our soul is fueled by the fire in our mind. If you feel cold toward God do you try to correct that by "feeling" warm toward God? No, you feed your mind with God. You investigate, you work, and you try to discover more about God. You get a book like A.W. Tozer's Knowledge of the Holy; or spend more time reading the word of God. What you need is a constant supply of fuel to stoke the fire for God in your mind.
As we learn day-to-day about Jesus' love, faithfulness, His incredible mercy, His amazing patience just to endure us as His followers - the more our minds should be filled with a deeper knowledge of Him and that should act as fuel for our love for God. If you have walked with God for 30 years and your heart is cold; then something is wrong. This is the same way that if we have had the same spouse for 30 years and our love is cold - something is wrong. We need to fix this.
This may be the most important thing we need to fix; and firing up our passion for God must start in our minds. All of those people telling us it is not about our brain and understanding are lying. The Bible must be engaged and digested with our minds; and we must engage our thinking and ask if this is the truth. Once we learn how wonderful God is then our feelings will follow; and our actions must follow that.