Interference and Choices

car radio-tagged

This week I was listening—or trying to listen—to one of my favorites, the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. Evidently, however, the power lines nearby created enough interference that another station began to override what I wanted to hear. It was so annoying that I turned it off.

Life can be like that. The mundane so often pre-empts the sublime. The mediocre, if we let it, prevails over the excellent.

While there wasn’t much I could do about the radio interference, what can we do to keep our focus on what matters most?

Life: a series of choices

Once we make up our minds to obey Christ, then we must subject even our thinking to His Lordship. “Finally then, brethren, 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” (Philippians 4:8).

This implies that whatever is not true, honorable, right, pure, etc. is off-limits for us.

God made our wonderful minds. The greatest commandment, Jesus said, is to love the Lord with all our heart/soul/mind” (Matthew 22:37).

So what will we choose?

Since so much of what we think about is affected for good or bad by what we see and hear, then how will this affect our choices regarding entertainment, computer use, reading, friendships, etc.?

It is both naïve and foolish to think we can watch and listen to garbage and not be affected by it (1 Corinthians 10:12; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17).

“Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).

How Satan works to persuade us that good and evil are the opposite of what God says (Genesis 3:1-6; Isaiah 5:20).

Satan is the ultimate source of interference. With God, the signal is clear.

Hallelujah!

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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How God Stretches Our Understanding

Moving beyond what we know

God designed our minds so that we can absorb new insights much more easily if we can connect it with something we already know. In other words, we move from the familiar to the unfamiliar.

So often Christ taught this way. He drew parallels between common things in everyday life and not-so-familiar spiritual concepts. He used figures of speech such as simile (“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . . .”) and metaphor (“I am the good shepherd . . . .”) (Matthew 13:31; John 10:11).

It’s remarkable how many different ways Jesus describes Himself. Jesus is too big for any one single comparison to be adequate. Jonah, for example, is quite unlike Jesus in some important ways, but in at least one narrow sense there is a parallel, and in that one respect Jesus draws an analogy  (Matthew 12:38-40).

The New Testament compares baptism to a birth (John 3:3-5) and to death (Romans 6:3-7). These are not contradictory but each comparison sheds light on a significant aspect of baptism. In one way baptism is an end (death to the old life of sin). In another sense it is a glorious beginning (a new birth).

Moving beyond what we’ve experienced

The Bible shows us how to have fellowship with the God who is both like us and not like us. The Bible prepares us for life beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. And so God uses His word to help us make that challenging transition from the physical world we are so familiar with to a life that far exceeds anything we’ve ever known.

God uses Scripture to develop in us a whole new way of seeing so that “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

What exciting vistas God lays out before us! Are we willing to move beyond the familiar here-and-now to the less familiar but far more wonderful then-and-there?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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“I Think . . . .”

During her last semester before graduating from high school, Amy took a course in the New Testament. Probably not too many public schools offer Bible classes, but hers did.

Opposite approaches

At various times during the semester the teacher would ask what the Bible says about such and such. One male student tended to respond by saying, “Well, I think . . .” and he would give his opinion.

Among the issues discussed were whether one can fall from grace and whether baptism is essential to salvation. This student did not offer much if any Scripture as the basis for his assertions.

About once a week Amy responded to his “I think . . .” by saying, “The Bible says . . . .”

Good for her! She knew that what we believe must be Bible-based—and she had studied enough to be able to say, “The Bible says . . . .”

How many people twice her age can do that? Or three times her age?

Why we believe what we believe

Many people simply inherit their beliefs from parents without question, or they uncritically accept what some preacher says.

Bible study takes effort. Are we prepared to invest the time and energy required?

Also, if we discover we’ve been taught wrong, will we change our thinking to conform to Scripture?

What if we discover from our study that God expects us to make a major change in our lifestyle? Are we willing?

Or what if accepting biblical truth means we will face opposition from family and friends? Will we go with the truth, regardless?

What Bible study involves

To be effective, Bible study requires that we: 1) love the truth, and 2) diligently search the Scriptures (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12; Acts 17:10-12).

The goal of Bible study is not simply to accumulate knowledge but: 1) to learn what God expects us to do so we can do it, and 2) to share what we’ve learned with others (James 1:22-25; Ezra 7:10; 2 Timothy 2:2).

People like Amy are in the minority. Many don’t know what the Bible says. Many don’t care.

So, Amy, keep on saying, “The Bible says . . .” and you’ll enlighten those who love the truth as you do, but who also need your help to find the Way.

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Where Repentance Begins

Thinking at its best

“And when he came to himself . . .” (Luke 15:17). The Prodigal Son was now tasting the bitter fruit of his foolishness. Having hit bottom, he made up his mind to go home.

Honest self-examination is one of the hardest but one of the best things we can do. Since repentance involves a change of mind, thinking is critical.

We must make time to think.

Thoughtless living

To be saved we must repent (Acts 17:30-31). But how can we repent if we don’t think?

Satan knows that. If we let him distract us with entertainment, pleasure, or busy-ness, when will we ever get around to reflecting on our sins?

Have we, like the Prodigal, come to ourselves?

Like him, our story can have a happy ending.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

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Think So?

Thinking reconsidered

The bumper sticker caught my eye. It said, “Don’t Believe Everything You Think.”

If it’s unwise to believe everything we hear, isn’t it also unwise to believe everything we think?

‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Our thinking is shaped by our upbringing, peers, the media, and our own desires and prejudices.

Thinking corrected

Initially, Peter’s audience thought Jesus was an imposter. Many changed their minds when convinced by the evidence (Acts 2).

It is humbling, but good, to admit, “I was wrong about that.”

God’s word is the standard for what to believe (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

We can’t afford to assume we’re right if we’re wrong.

That’s why we mustn’t believe everything we think.

man thinking-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Day He Changed His Mind

Speaking to King Agrippa, Paul recounts his own conversion (Acts 26).

“I thought”

“. . . I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus . . .” (v. 9).

Point: What we think may contradict what God thinks.

“I saw . . . I heard”

“. . . at midday, O King, I saw . . . a light from heaven . . . . I heard a voice . . . saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (vv. 13-14).

Point: Painful truth is far preferable to sincere ignorance.

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“I obeyed”

“. . . I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision. . .” (v. 19).

Point: Truth learned must be truth lived.

Have we made sure what we think is really the truth?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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From the Inside Out

Seen on a stairway at a Burger King in Oxford, England: “Mind your head.”

Thinking about what we’re thinking about

Aside from taking care to avoid getting a knot on the noggin, there is another good way to mind one’s head: by cultivating the habit of monitoring our thoughts.

On one occasion Jesus rebuked Peter, “. . . you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matthew 16:23). In time, Peter learned to think in harmony with God’s interests. What he did, we all can do, with God’s help.

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The place to begin

Since every word, every action starts in the mind, if we can get our thinking in line with the will of God, the rest will follow (Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8).

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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