Today brings us to our third installment in our series on preparing ourselves for Advent. This series is about more than just preparing ourselves for the yearly Advent Season; it is about preparing our lives for the Advent of Jesus when He is coming back for His People. Two weeks ago Pastor Todd taught us about Preparing Our Hearts. He reminded us of the importance of Surrendering Our Hearts to God as they are. When we do that God can do the most with us our lives because we come without any ideas that we are good to enough to make it on our own. God wants us to come to Him when we are broken and hurt. His Grace is perfectly displayed in our brokenness. Last week Pastor Steve taught us that as we seek God, honor God and worship God it prepares our soul. When we desire after God, when we learn to be obedient to God and when we surrender our all to Him our souls spring to life, we find our fulfillment, our purposes and our passion. It’s like turning a dimmer switch that is connected to the sun, the more we follow after God the more the dimmer switch is turned and God’s power ignites our souls and it shines God’s love to all of those around us.
Well, today you’re stuck with me. Today we are going to quickly look at Preparing Our Minds for Advent. But before we start looking at the mind let’s look at one of our main scriptures for this series:
Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT)
"Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses?" 37 Jesus replied, " 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."
So, according to Jesus we are to love the Lord our God with all of our mind, so how do we do this? First let’s take a look at what is our mind:
In Hebrew the word that is most used is “לֵב - lebh” and it refers to the idea, to set your heart upon, to have understanding or to think about.
In the Greek the word is “phroneo) and it means to : think, judge, give one’s mind to, to set one’s mind upon, thinking, mentality, way of thinking, intelligence, etc. Part of thought here is our disposition or outlook on life and our moral attitude.
So, if we are to love the Lord with all of our mind, it would entail to set our minds and thoughts upon God and His truth. It would be to surrender our thoughts to His desires and purposes. It would mean to allow His ways to become our way of thinking. Well doesn’t that sound easy-peasy! But before we dig into the “how-to’s” of doing that we must first determine one thing:
The only one who has ever existed without a brain! And since you do not appear to be the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, then you must have a brain! So, there are no exemptions from the truths of today’s message, we all need to hear it!
A moment ago I said that it sounded so easy that all we have to do is to turn over our way of thinking to God and then we could fulfill Jesus’ teaching about loving God with all of our mind and if it weren’t for the fact that we have a fallen nature and live in a fallen world it would be easy. But the truth is, His ways are higher than our ways, and His ways of thinking goes against most everything we see, hear and experience in this world we live in every hour of every day. We get bombarded every day with hundreds of things that go against God’s Truth and His Law and we are surrounded by people who are wholly given over to the word’s ways of thinking and doing things. Paul had this to say about it in Ephesians 4:17-24 (NLT),
“With the Lord's authority let me say this: Live no longer as the ungodly do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They don't care anymore about right and wrong, and they have given themselves over to immoral ways. Their lives are filled with all kinds of impurity and greed. But that isn't what you were taught when you learned about Christ. Since you have heard all about him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus, throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception. Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God's likeness-- righteous, holy, and true.”
Paul is saying here that the ungodly live their lives with their minds shut and closed off to Him and His ways. And that they are hopelessly confused and that because of this they live far away from the life of God, far away from His peace and hope. Paul is also telling the Christians that we should no longer live this way, that we don’t have to live this way. We should live differently because we have the truth in Christ. We should throw off the old nature, the old way of thinking and live differently, live better. Paul states that there should be a spiritual renewal in our lives, a renewal of our thoughts and attitudes, a renewal in the way that we think and act.
So we have talked about what we need to do, turn our thoughts over to God, cast off the old way of thinking but we haven’t really looked at how this is accomplished. Well in Philippians 2:5-7 (NKJV) we get our first key into how this is done:
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.”
To prepare our mind, to love God with all of our mind, it takes humility. Jesus, who is God, who came in the flesh and dwelt among us, took on our human flesh and as He came He surrendered His will to what the Father wanted. We must come to a point in our lives where it is resolved within us that God is our Lord. That He knows best. He has a plan for us and we need to surrender our own plan to His. If we do not humble ourselves in this way we will always struggle with our minds being prepared. And it will be quite a struggle; remember Paul’s description of his own life in Romans chapter 7? The thing that I want to do I do not do. The thing that I do not want to do is what I wind up doing. There is war inside myself! Yeah, this is all connected to the process of putting on the mind of Christ. But, when we humble ourselves then we allow God to impute or instill His ways, truths and thoughts into our lives and we can live out His plan for us.
I know that you may be thinking that this is impossible but listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:15, 16 (NLT),
We who have the Spirit understand these things, but others can't understand us at all. How could they? For, "Who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who can give him counsel?" But we can understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.”
We can have the mind of Christ when we humble ourselves and peruse His truth. We can come to know His truths and His ways. We can know His plans and begin to pursue and fulfill His purposes for our lives. These things are possible when we humble ourselves and determine to Prepare our Minds. But we must have it settled that He is in control and we need to surrender our will to his. We must be humble.
Now let’s take a look at Romans 12:1, 2 (NLT) and see three more things that we must do to prepare our minds for His Advent:
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-- the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? 2 Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.”
The first in these verses but the second thing we must do to Prepare our Minds is to present ourselves to God. We have mentioned this before but now we have a verse that is actually saying that we should do this, also there is no way of doing this if we are not humble first. We must surrender ourselves to Him. He has purchased us with a great price and as a believer we belong to Him. In this verse here it even asks the rhetorical question of, “Is this to much to ask?” considering all that He has done for us. It is not too much to ask, it is our reasonable service.
The next thing that we need to do is stop conforming to the world’s way of thinking and doing things. How many of you in here remember the Christian band Petra? On their album “Beat the System” they had a song called “Computer Brains.” This song talks about how all that we see day by day programs our minds to react and act a certain way and that we really are being programmed by this world’s thoughts and philosophies. The song refers to this as “garbage in, garbage out.” This is so very true. Jesus said that good things spring out of good hearts and evil things out of evil hearts. So, this is very important for us, we have to watch what we are allowing into our minds. We must stop conforming to this world and it’s ways. We will have the word’s ways of thinking shoved down our throats a hundred times a day, but we can decide to swallow or not.
The next thing that Romans 12: 1 and 2 tells us is that we must renew our minds. Once we make the choice to reduce the amount of the world’s influence on our thinking we must engage in the process of renewing our minds to the things of God. God gives us some instruction on how to do this in Philippians chapter 4:8 (NLT),
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
We need to fix our thoughts on things that are true, honorable and right. We need to think about the things that are pure lovely and admirable. We need to consider the things that are excellent and worthy of praise. We find all of these things in God’s word. What does God say about what is true honorable and right. What does Jesus says is pure, lovely and admirable. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your thoughts to what is excellent and worthy of praise. A great place to start for all of this is the Word of God. David had this to say about it in Psalm 1:1-2 (NLT),
“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers. 2 But they delight in doing everything the LORD wants; day and night they think about his law.”
Day and night we need to think about what His Word says. That way when the thoughts and distractions of this world come down on us we have His Word inside of us and we can instantly distinguish between what is the good and true and what is the evil and a lie.
So for a review, the four things we need to do to Prepare our Minds are:
1) We must Humble Ourselves.
2) We must Present or Surrender Ourselves to God.
3) We must Stop Conforming to the World.
4) We must Renew Our Minds.
Jesus also let us know that we will have helper to be able do these things,
“But when the Father sends the Counselor as my representative -- and by the Counselor I mean the Holy Spirit -- he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you.” John 14:26 (NLT)
"Oh, there is so much more I want to tell you, but you can't bear it now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not be presenting his own ideas; he will be telling you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by revealing to you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that the Father has is mine; this is what I mean when I say that the Spirit will reveal to you whatever he receives from me.” John 16:12-15 (NLT)
This is why the Holy Spirit is in our lives, to help us to be able to remember and know God’s truth and His plans. The Holy Spirit helps us in the process of doing all four of the things that we must do have a Prepared Mind. And this is an important part for us to know as well, it is a process, Preparing our Minds (or Hearts or Souls) is not something that happens instantly, it is a lifelong journey.
“I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT)
Paul, states here that we are “being saved”. This verb in the Greek is “sozomenois” and it’s tense is present passive participle. That means the verb is ongoing present action that is happening to the subject. “We” the subject are “being saved” the action. There is a process to this action of “saved.” Likewise in 1 Corinthians 15:2 (ESV) we have,
“and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you- unless you believed in vain.”
The Greek word here is “- sozesthe” and again it’s tense is present passive which means, “being saved”. Now I want to be clear about something here, once you have believed in Jesus and have trusted in His sacrifice for your sins you are as forgiven at that moment as you will ever be. There are no degrees of being forgiven of your sins. Once you accept Jesus you are completely absolved of your sins. But the process is this: How many of you became exactly like Jesus the moment you started to believe in Him? Yeah, that’s what I thought. How many of you have made some progress in becoming more like Jesus in the time that has past since you first believed? Yes, many of us have made some progress and also have had some setbacks, but this is exactly what Preparing our Mind is all about; the learning of God’s ways and beginning to walk in them. When we engage in this process our Minds will be Prepared for His Coming.
Closing Prayer – Please Stand
Pray - Lord help us to
1) Humble Ourselves.
2) Present or Surrender Ourselves to God.
3) Stop Conforming to the World.
4) Renew Our Minds.