What’s On Your Mind?: A Mind at War
The redeemed mind is still at war.
“So, then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” — Romans 7:26
First, let’s review previous principles:
- The mind of the flesh is death; but the Spirit gives life and peace. We have a choice to make.
- The call of God on our mind, as believers, is to worship the One True God above all other ‘gods’, and to keep His commandments graciously given us in His Word.
But here we have a problem. I can’t keep this up. My mind is like a boomerang, whistling back through its processes to its former loves, like a dog to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11). The repulsive analogy is intentional and accurate.
We know that we have the promise of a different way of thinking that leads to life and peace. Jesus broke the chains of death on the cross and in the Resurrection. He calls us to follow Him in this victory with His power so graciously given to us. But–we are not able to remain in the Spirit for long. Our mortal frame is insufficient to carry the holiness of God in a sustained fashion, though this is surely our aim. Romans 7:26 says, “So, then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
In other words, as a believer, my mind is now addicted to God’s Word; but my sinful nature also has a pre-existing addiction to pleasing itself. My mind still wants mental heroin. I want escape, I want freedom, I want pleasure, I want justification, I want, I want, I want! I need, I need, I need!
If you struggle with warring thoughts as a new believer, or even as a mature one, take comfort that every believer struggles, too, including Paul, the Apostle to the Nations.
When I was without Christ, I was satisfied and at a temporal peace that lulled me to sleep. I was happy in my blindness. Until the Light shone and revealed truth in me, truth around me. It was ugly! The gospel of Christ woke me up with a jolt! I found that my mind, my gift from God, is my worst enemy, accusing and rationalizing and lying to me.
Missionary With a Past
Paul cries out, “What a wretched man I am! Who can save me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
This is the missionary to the world speaking. But we remember that he had a past.
Before his own enlightenment on the road to Damascus, he had spent his education and keen intelligence and civic training in the opposite direction from love and purity. He had persecuted Christians, stealing family members from each other, robbing them of their economic lives and personal peace, sending many to cruel deaths. In fact, God met him on his way to do even more of this. He had a lot to remember, all his life.
The Pleasure of Sin
It is not only the memory of our sin that hurts us. It is the fact that we still like a lot of it. We are drawn by the memories of when we enjoyed our sin. There were triggers that spurred us to sin, and when we meet with those triggers today, we are drawn to our old modes of coping. Self-pity. Drink (or any other substances inhaled, injected, ingested, absorbed). Self-pain. Hedonistic pleasure. The wind in our hair!
Dropping the guard-gates can be so freeing!
- “Finally, I can start being “me” and stop living such a restricted life!” we say.
- “I just want to check out for a bit,” we say.
- “Just this once,” we say.
- “It isn’t what it used to be; this is smaller, less visible, less controlling, mild,” we say.
- “Heck, everyone else is doing it, why should I stand out like a goody-two-shoes, holier-than-thou holy roller? I’m being too intense; lighten up!” we say.
- “It’s no use. I can’t do this anymore; I can’t keep it up. I’m tired and I never was cut out to be ‘good’ anyway,” we say in dejection and loss.
These are only a sampling. All are calls from the old nature of sin, from the Deceiver of the Nations. We are addicted, and we now know that addiction = slavery. So we have two analogies: slavery (addiction) and warfare (struggle between opposing loves).
The Hard Work of the Soldier of Christ
When I was a young girl in my middle school years, I longed to be wise in the Lord and to be ‘good’. I longed to combat my sin and be found approved in God’s sight. Hit hard with my ongoing failure, I had a horrible one-on-one with God. “If you want me to be good, then why don’t you just MAKE me good?”
It was then that I heard the common-sense answer ringing through my conscious mind. It was the whole of scripture coming to me through the Spirit: “I AM making you good, and this is the process: that you get up and yield yourself to me again. The work of it is your responsibility. But you can, because I am with you.”
There is something of a carelessness in that phrase “brush yourself off and start again” that doesn’t speak well of the grueling work involved in it. Sin is a VERY LOW pit and getting out of it, even if only mentally, is like starting at the bottom of a mountain-sized rappelling cliff. You have to get up to the top, but you’ve never rappelled before! How much harder it is when you’ve acted out your mental struggle and have failed yourself and others.
True, not all mental faith struggles are that monolithic, but if you’ve ever struggled with sin before, you’ll recognize it. Paul certainly did. Just know that the struggle is God’s way of helping you work out your salvation in (yes!) fear and trembling.
The Answer is still Christ
Paul’s answer was still the same; it will always be the same: Apply Christ!
“Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” — Romans 7:25a
“Yes, but I have believed in Jesus already and I still fail!” Apply Christ again. What do I mean by that?
“My precious children in the faith, whom I love as the Father has loved the Son and loves us all, I am writing this letter to you to warn you ahead of time of the temptations so that you will not sin in them. HOWEVER, if any man does fall into temptation and sins, be aware that we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One! It is He who has favor with God and He only has made atonement for our sins; and not only our own, but those of the whole world!” (1 John 2:1-2, my paraphrase).
In other words, we do what we did when we first came to Christ. We bowed our heads in confession and we laid our guilt at the Lord’s feet, so to speak. We can’t hold it. Only God can take the weight of it, and He did on the cross.
From there, we watched the Lord bring Resurrection and life to our souls! Our lives have been changed. We are not what we once were. We know that He knows our frame, that we are but dust. This is why Christ came to begin with!
Christ doesn’t have to be crucified again and again for my sin. He already paid the price for my NATURE of sin. Each sin after that, must simply be confessed and turned from. We accept the Lord’s forgiveness, we make any restitution that is needed to “make it right” before our fellow man, and then we follow up in worship of our loving, sovereign Christ. In a way, we really do “brush off” and walk on, just not in our own power.
But how many times can I be forgiven?
How does the Lord see forgiveness? Matthew 18:22 tells us that the disciples wanted to understand this, too. Maybe they were thinking of difficult people (oppressors) in their lives and wondering just how far this “Jesus love” thing was supposed to reach.
Or maybe they were also a little afraid that Jesus’ forgiveness of them would peter out, that their sin would be too great for God, or that God would finally become exasperated with their slow minds and hearts for not ‘getting’ this whole grace thing.
Jesus basically replied that forgiveness can’t be counted. It is a lifestyle of grace. And if Jesus said this to show us how we are to forgive, we can bet that Jesus’ forgiveness is far greater and consistent. He cannot be inconsistent within Himself.
Trust Him in this: You are always forgiven when you turn to Him, each and every time. It’s when you turn away from Him that brings you problem. Don’t.
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite spirit you, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
“So then, with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Romans 7:25b
Paul understood that the matter of our earthly existence is settled in this truth. This doesn’t excuse us, nor are we eliminated from God’s grace. It means that we are in a war with many battles, but the war has been won. We will one day find ourselves relieved of duty and enjoying the benefits of our service if we do not give up. Don’t. Give. Up.
© March 2019 by ReadPsalm119.com
“25 Encouraging Scripture Verses for Facing Struggle”,January 22, 2014,on Lynn Dove’s Journey Thoughts at https://lynndove.com
“Higher Ground”,uploaded by SE Samonte, Aug 6, 2009. [YouTube; 3:23 min.]. Ana cappellarendition of this old hymn.
I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.
I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still Ill pray ’till Heav’n I’ve found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.