Monday, December 11, 2006

An Amazing Means of Change - Excerpts from Piper's book 'A Godward Life' 2/4

Here is the second of the four articles from Piper's book that I would like to share with all of us. The second article is entitled An Amazing (Unused?) Means of Change — Considerations on the Power of Considering.

One of the most remarkable capacities of the human mind is the capacity to direct its attention to something it chooses. We can pause and say to our minds, "Think about this and not that." We can focus our attention on an idea, a problem, or a hope.

It is an amazing power. I doubt that animals have it. They are probably not self-reflective, but rather governed by impulse and instinct. Humans have the amazing ability to think about thinking and to choose to dwell on an object of thought.

This is a gift of God part of His (sic) image in us. It is an immensensely powerful means of becominmg what we ought to be. Have you been neglecting this great weapon in the arsenal of your war against sin? The Bible calls us again and again to use this remarkable gift. Let's take it out, polish it, and put it to use.

For example, Paul says in Romans 8:5-6, "Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace."

This is stunning. What you set your mind on determines whether the issue is life or death!

We have become too passive in our pursuit of change, wholeness and peace. In our therapeutic age we have fallen into the passive mind-set of simply "talking through our problems" or "dealing with our issues" or "discovering the roots of our brokenness in our family of origin." As helpful as these may be from time to time, I think we tend to slip into a passive way of thinking about change — that change may simply happen to me one of these days as I talk through my problems.

I see a much more aggressive, nonpassive approach to change in the New Testament. Namely, "Set your mind..." "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2). "Enemies of the cross," Paul says, "set their minds on earthly things" (Philippians 3:18-19). "Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh" (Romans 8:5)

Our emotions are governed in large measure by what we "consider" — what we dwell on with our minds . For example, Jesus told us to overcome the emotion of anxiety by what we consider: "Do not be anxious... Consider the ravens ... Consider the lilies" (Luke 12:22, 24, 27).

The mind is the window of the heart. If we let our minds constantly dwell on the dark, the heart will feel dark. If we open the window of our mind to the light, the heart will feel the light.

This is what Paul meant in Philippians 4:8, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

Above all, this great capacity of our minds to focus and consider is meant for considering Jesus: "Holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus... Consider Him who endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 3:1; 12:3).

This is the path toward change. We are called to take it and not wait passively while our minds are drawn with all kinds of passions that wage war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11). It is when we focus our minds on the glory of Christ that we are transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). Take this moment to resolve that you will be intentiontal about what your minds considers. It will dwell on something, and what it dwells on, it becomes like.

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