Have you ever stopped to think about how your mind works, especially when you’re not thinking about anything in particular? It just throws out random thoughts, or brings back memories that you thought were forgotten, or ideas begin to bloom. This is the time when our minds are fascinating.
Have you ever seen a brain that’s been removed from the skull? It’s just this wrinkled mass of gray matter. It’s not like a muscle. It has no moving parts; it’s just a big gray lump. Yet, this is the machine that controls our thoughts. It interprets our senses like smell and touch. It makes sense of the images that come through our eyes. It controls those autonomic systems, like heartbeat and respiration. It controls deliberate movements, like the muscles that must move in sequence so that we can walk or scratch our heads. Our brain is the thing that controls our ability to reasonable thought. This is our ability to reason things out, to solve problems and create tools. Our brain is the place where our intelligence and personality come from and yet it is just a big gray lump.
Our brains function through chemical reactions that cause electrical impulses to travel across nerve endings. But because of that we can think and form ideas that can cause changes in our environment. The problem is that our minds, which are constantly working, come up with bad ideas far more often than they come up with good. We must learn to discipline our minds so that we are able to control ourselves and limit our behavior.
Today I want to post a message from a very familiar portion of scripture, that we have always looked at as a picture of the longsuffering love of God, and examine it in terms of the minds of those who are living out his will in day-to-day life.
Luke 15:11-24 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons.12 “And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.13 “And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.14 “But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.15 “Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.16 “And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!18 ‘I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,19 “and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.21 “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.23 ‘And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;24 ‘for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
Prodigal Living Wasting our Inheritance
The younger son wasted his possessions with prodigal living. The words translated into English as prodigal comes from the Greek word Aosotos which is literally translated as riotous. In fact, the American Standard Version uses that word riotously. Se we get a picture of a reckless and extravagant lifestyle. But how does that apply to our minds?
Here is a young man who took all that he had for granted: The wealth, the probability of inheritance and threw it all away in order to live a life of wild abandon and excess. This is a problem of the mind. He is sure that he’s missing something. He’s sure that there is more to life than what he’s already got and he’s looking for the excitement that he thinks this kind of lifestyle will provide.
We, as Christians, also have an inheritance that is set aside for us. An inheritance thatwe will see as we continue to live the will of God for our lives. But how many have known people that have behaved in the way of this prodigal young man and lost the inheritance that is to be theirs?
We sometimes look at our salvation and think is their all there is to life? I knew a man who at the age of 35 looked at his life and his career and said exactly that, “Is this all there is to my life?” The problem was that he was a good Christian, living out the will of God for his life. But he was tired of the job that he had. He was tired of his “boring” Christian lifestyle, so he threw away his inheritance looking for some excitement. He calls it, “a midlife crisis.” But it was really a thirst for prodigal living.
He felt like he was not experiencing all the things he should have experienced by that time in his life. We’re told through television, movies and music that life is to be experienced. That somehow we must pass through certain rites of passage to be satisfied adults: Rites of passage like fornication, drunkenness, drugs, whatever it is. I believe this is the same thing that the prodigal son felt, that he was missing out on life, because as soon as he received his inheritance he went out and lived recklessly.
Ephesians 5:55 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
In living that type of lifestyle he wasted his inheritance and when we live that way we also waste ours.
But is it only the things we do that waste our inheritance or is it also what happens in our minds?
Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Jesus is saying that it is a thing of the heart. We think of the heart as the center of our emotions; as the center of who we are. But the heart is only a muscle that pumps blood, through our bodies. It is no different than the muscle that causes your diaphragm to flex and your lungs to inflate. It is really the mind that is the center of our emotions, our attitudes and the things we believe. It is our mind that determines who we are.
The things that we allow into our minds are the things that will make us or break us in terms of our salvation. What we allow into our minds will focus our thoughts.
Matthew 6:22-23 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.23 “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
I read recently of a video of a fourteen-year-old girl engaging in oral sex on Youtube. What would cause a young child to engage in this type of behavior in a place where others could videotape it? What we look at shapes our thoughts. Movies, television, magazines, the Internet, these are the things that bring visual images into our minds. These images suggest ideas into our minds. For example, television reality shows depict lifestyles of recklessness and debauchery. Young people see these things, and the money and privilege that these people enjoy through the showing of things that should be secret and private in their lives to millions of viewers. Flesh draws viewers, but it also stirs the hearts of young men. They begin to look at women as objects. Young women begin to feel that in order to attract a young man that hey must be sexy and provocative: That sexy is everything. These things begin to gain access to our minds and draw us toward prodigal living.
It is our mind that begins to stir us. The thoughts that we begin to entertain are directly influenced by what we see, read and hear. As Christians, do we allow only those things that would strengthen our relationship with Jesus? Or are we allowing ourselves to be influenced into prodigal living and the wasting of our inheritance, by the things we allow into our minds through media.
The Prodigal Son left Home Before He Ever Walked Out
It’s obvious to me that the prodigal son left home in his mind long before he ever demanded his inheritance and walked out of the house. He’d thought it through. He had plans and ideas for when he was off on his own. He knew the things he wanted to do. He was sure of the image he would project. He thought about what he would need in order to do those things. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that he’d calculated the amount of his inheritance and had finally determined that he now had enough to make happen.
There was a popular comedian an number of years ago, Steve Martin, who in the middle of his stand up routine would suddenly stop, sigh and say, “Aaaah! Sorry, I went to the Bahamas for just a second.” It’s an illustration that we can be one place physically and yet our minds are thousands of miles away. As a high school student I spent countless hours on backpacking trips and other exciting adventures while never leaving my Chemistry or History class. How many times have you been at church and thinking about what was happening at work.
This young man pictured himself in that far away place before he ever approached his father about his inheritance. I have seen people with my own eyes sitting in church services with their minds in a far away place, no doubt some of them thinking about sin and wasting their inheritance.
Nobody suddenly backslides. Nobody is sitting in church, thinking about the will of God, and desiring more of him in life, and suddenly backsliding. People backslide in their minds long before they ever leave the will of God.
There is a subtle shift in perceptions. They begin to struggle with prayer. They lose the desire to be involved in what the church is doing in the community. They begin to have problems with their brothers and sisters in the church. They begin to rebel against the things preached and emotionally distance them selves from the church and finally from God.
Titus 1:15-16 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
This can happen even while they’re still filling a pew at church. On outreaches we have run into these people. They talk about how God has moved in their life. They talk about their relationship with Him and yet they continue to sin. A young man, on drugs and homeless, walked into my office one day, talking about his relationship with God; his desire to have more of God in his life; how much he loved God and served God by praying and worshipping, and then asked for the money to get him and his pregnant girlfriend a hotel room. He had no idea of who God was or how opposed to the will of God his lifestyle was.
This is a sign of the times we live in. Even though they’re physically in the church, their minds are far away and their lives are riotous. Jimmy Swaggart was preaching he Gospel with conviction the whole time he was consorting with prostitutes?
2 Timothy 3:2-5
For men will be self-lovers, money-lovers, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (3) without natural affection, unyielding, false accusers, without self-control, savage, despisers of good, (4) traitors, reckless, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, (5) having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it; even turn away from these.
When He Came to Himself
Luke 15:17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
When he came to himself, that is, when he entered once more into his own mind. The foundation of our relationship with Jesus is in our mind. When we don’t see him here, physically. We can’t reach out and touch him. We can’t speak to Him and hear His voice like we hear the voice of other people. When those things aren’t possible our relationship with Him is based in faith. On what we think and believe about Him and those things are a part of our thoughts, which are a part of our minds.
But the end of all things has drawn near. Therefore be of sound mind, and be sensible to prayers.
In order to be of sound mind we must guard our minds and allow only those things that edify our minds to enter into them. We can only protect our inheritance through the protection of our minds. We must be careful what we look at: What things we allow to color our thinking. We need to concentrate on the things of God, looking to Him for wisdom, looking to His word for guidance.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
We must begin to come to church with an ear to hear from God. This is wha will strengthen out faith. Strong faith will result in a strengthened resolve to serve God. Faith is what keeps you.
One of the interesting things in this scripture is the reference to the servants of God having bread enough to spare but yet he says he is starving. Those of us that are servinfg God have the, “Bread of Life.”
John 6:33-35 “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.Placing our hopes in Jesus Christ, not our own strength, but Him and His word strengthens us. By submerging ourselves into our relationship with Him we will be shielding ourselves from the influence that will draw us away.
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
What the Bible calls Mammon, we can call the things of the world.
During the Viet Nam war,the generals talked about winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people. The thing that was supposed to turn them from communism and turn them toward the US was the winning of their hearts and minds. In fact that is a sound strategy, “for where your heart is, your treasure will be also.” We failed to win that battle and lost Vietnam to Communism. This is also the strategy of the devil, to win the hearts and minds of those who serve Him.
Guard your heart. Protect your mind; shield it from the influences and images that destroy. Don’t allow the devil to win your heart and mind. Don’t allow yourself to be turned away to prodigal thinking or living.