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Keep Your Mind on Jesus Christ by Jeffrey Ludwig, July 23, 2019

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For men shall be lovers of their own selves….having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  1 Timothy 3: 2, 5

My next door neighbor of 23 years died last week from pancreatic cancer.  At his signed request he was made comfortable in a special cubicle in the hospital prior to dying.  He chose to be there rather than undergo a last ditch, but probably futile, effort to treat him in the ICU unit.  His last wish in the comfort section was that he might be lifted up and dangle his legs over the side of the bed.  Just hearing this from his sister tore my heart to shreds.

Many of the neighbors on the block came to view our neighbor as he lay in the casket at the funeral home.  They all dressed impeccably in black – black ties, black suits, black dresses.  Every single one was either an atheist or a non-practicing Roman Catholic.  They dressed in black to express their mourning and their desire to dress for the occasion.  They were one and all people who want to be appropriate, but do not want to be godly.  Holy Scripture tells us, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3: 3)  These mourners had their minds set on “lower things” – their clothing as expressions of grief and sympathy for the relatives of the deceased.    

In order to keep our minds on things above – meaning thereby Jesus Christ, not angels as the Book of Hebrews reminds us -- and thereby experience true (powerful) godliness, we need of course to be born again. Once we are born again, we endeavor to walk on a path of holiness with Christ and following Christ.  We are told by the Holy Word of God “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind to that which is the acceptable, good, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) We renew our minds because we know from Proverbs 23:7 that “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” The more we think about God and His Word, the more we will act godly, be godly, and speak godly.

Our thinking sets our minds and whole persons going in the right direction – our hearts, our behavior, and what comes out of our mouths.  In Colossians 3, Paul presents eleven don’ts and eight do’s regarding our behavior/heart implementation of the Word. The lists, as are so many of the Biblical lists, are so comprehensive and so far reaching that the hearer or reader of those lists should feel overwhelmed and give up before beginning to even try.  However, Christ is our vicarious atonement.  He is our perfect sacrifice. He is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.  Therefore He is the perfect embodiment of all the do’s and is in no way guilty of the eleven don’ts.

The don’ts include fornication (outside of marriage), uncleanness (homosexual expressions and acting out of lust), passion, and covetousness “which is idolatry.”  Covetousness here is not meaning mainly greed for someone else’s material possessions. Rather, it is the yearning for “more” outside of Christ that will somehow provide “more” spiritual fulfillment.  This admixture of faith in Christ with other systems is a form of “wanting more” that is covetous. 

Thus, Paul was thinking of Judaism since some Jews continued to insist on circumcision and the Noahide rules for converts to Christ, stoicism which Paul rejected in Acts with its emphasis on self-control (self-control is its “god” – not Christ – and it’s making a comeback in our own era), Gnosticism which was a mystery religion where mystical knowledge attained by only a few (not faith available to all) is the basis of connection to the godhead..

This writer was at one time, for ten years, in a cult that combined Catholic practice and theology with Hindu/Yoga meditation, with these two “religions” held together by the esoteric writings of the cult leader, The Professor (this was the gnostic element of secret knowledge).  Only when I left the cult and found complete satisfaction in Christ Alone through Scripture Alone by Grace Alone through Faith Alone, for the Glory of God alone did I find the spiritual conviction, the simplicity of true hope, the foundation of eternal love, and the peace given by God’s only Son, the second person of the Trinity.

On the positive side, through Christ, we can embrace our suffering.  When we emerge from our times of suffering, the glory of God shines more fully in our lives.  William Shakespeare’s famous character Hamlet asks “Whether tis nobler in mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take up arms against a sea of troubles. And, by opposing, end them,”   he means we “end them [our troubles]” by dying.  However, we are called to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” with and in Christ, and thereby He, not we, gets the victory over suffering and death!  This is a wholly different answer than that envisioned by Shakespeare’s character Hamlet.

Further, on the positive side, in Colossians 3, we are called to demonstrate “tender mercies.”  A young Christian woman known by this writer entered the busy New York City subway system and saw a homeless beggar crying out for food.  She asked him if he would wait for her, and told him she would go back to street level, buy him some food.  She walked to the end of the lengthy platform, back out to street level, and went to a restaurant to buy the man a meal. Then she took the long walk back to the man underground, and gave him the meal.  Who got the glory?  Of course, that is a wholly rhetorical question. Christ got the glory.

In our daily strivings and repentance, we move towards Christ even as we are led by Christ.  He and He alone gets the glory, and He and He alone is the source of the strength and hope that leads us to implement the lengthy do’s and don’ts of Holy Scripture.

Our minds, hearts, and behavior should be oriented towards and flowing out of Christ. Lastly, our mouths should be oriented towards Colossians 3: 16 “wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”  We should, as much as possible, be sharing verses with each other, communicating the wisdom of God (perhaps people will start to avoid us or shun us – each person will decide how much he or she can take – even fellow-Christians often avoid the Bible thumpers – you and I need to ask the Lord how far we can take this).  God always saves us from disgrace and defeat.

In jr. high once when the students chose up sides in gym class, I wasn’t chosen for either side.  But instead of just standing on the side as a reject, the gym teacher said, I should just come and sit on the bench beside him.  I was very comforted by that invitation. Seated next to the teacher, I was not overwhelmed by self-pity and self-abhorrence.  We always have the same powerful overcoming in Christ that I experienced seated next to that teacher, plus a sense of victory even when we experience discouragement, depletion, defeat, or death.

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