The sermon entitled “We are what we think” can be heard here. It was presented on March 19th 2017.
What we think is really who we are.
One of the things that distinguishes us from the rest of Creation is our ability to think. We are the one part of Creation created in God’s image. Of course, we understand that that does not mean we are physically like God but like Him in spirit. We are a spiritual being in a physical body and when you try to identify that part of us that makes us “us”, it comes down to our ability to think. What we think is the reality of who we are.
Do not take the food of him who has an evil eye, or have any desire for his delicate meat: For as the thoughts of his heart are, so is he: Take food and drink, he says to you; but his heart is not with you. (Pro 23:6-7)
From this passage, the proverb writer teaches us that just because a person says one thing, it does not mean he is being sincere. However, it also shows us that it is what we think rather than what we say that is truly able to reveal our character.
The Bible records the thoughts of many individuals and does so for our benefit. If it weren’t for God knowing the hearts and thoughts of His own creation and choosing to reveal them to us on occasion, we would be unaware of the need to be cautious and also might fail to realize that our own thinking needs to be reviewed and controlled.
As an example, let’s look at Hezekiah. As King, his reign was not perfect. He had done good and he also did things that were not so good. In one case, Hezekiah showed representatives of Babylon all the riches of his kingdom. God sent Isaiah to share with him the consequences of his action.
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2Ki 20:16-19) Emphasis mine.
From the outside, one might think that Hezekiah was very righteous and accepting of God’s word. However, seeing his thoughts gives us a different picture.
Our thinking is very important.
We all know that our words are important. The Scriptures teach that we will be judged by every idle word (Matt. 12:36-37) but the context for that teaching started with the “thoughts” of the Pharisees who said Jesus was using the power of Satan to cast out demons.
But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. (Mat 12:24-25)
Jesus also spells out the relationship between our heart/thoughts and words in the following two passages:
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person….” (Mat 15:18-20)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mat 5:27-28)
If we are are able to be condemned for our thoughts and not just our words, it would be good for us to know how to control our thoughts!
How can we control our thoughts?
First, the passage we all know but sometimes misuse is what Paul wrote in Philippians 4.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Php 4:8-9)
The way we misuse it is by thinking or saying that all I have to do is think good thoughts and everything will work out. (Sort of like Peter Pan singing “Think of a wonderful thought, any merry little thought”) I don’t mean to imply that passages like this will not make us more optimistic but the Bible does not teach that being a Christian and maintaining optimistic thoughts will keep us from troubles or persecutions.
As Christians, we are not dwell on the things the world would have us to dwell on or meditate and contemplate about. Most of those things are anything but true or lovely or just or commendable. How could they be? They come from the world.
So the first thing is to think about those things that have the characteristics Paul mentioned.
Second, there is the passage in Mark 4 which advises:
And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Mar 4:24-25)
We need to pay attention to what we think AND we need to pay attention to what we hear. While Jesus was undoubtedly saying to pay attention to what He had been teaching, one can also see how we need to pay attention to what is being presented to us from the world with the view of not listening to it.
What if we judged what we heard by the standards of Phil 4:8. Is it true? Is it lovely? Is it commendable? and so on.
What if Cain had used this standard? What if he had paid attention to what was spoken to him and we know that God’s word is TRUE. “If you do well, will you not be lifted up?” If only Cain had listened and thought on those words rather than his bruised ego…
What would the effects be in your life?
The effect of such a standard would affect many areas of our life. It would affect our motives, our entertainment, our speech, and our actions. All of these areas would become more God-like and more like Christ.
It isn’t easy to control our thinking but one thing is for sure, no one else is able to do so. Many will try to influence your thinking. (Even I am trying to influence your thinking in this post.) The only one who can control it is you!
How has controlling or not controlling your thoughts affected your life?
For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (Jas 2:2-4 ESV)
So James continues to show in these verses, and the ones to follow, the sin of partiality. Those who have a faith that is called Christian should not be partial based on superficial means.
It is not entirely clear from the text if James has in mind a rich Christian who might be passing through or simply a visitor who happened to wander into the assembly. Paul makes mention of visitors in I cor 14:23 so such a thing is possible. However, in either case, paying attention to the richly dressed rich man and shunning the poorly dressed poor man puts those who do that in a bad spot.
First, James says that distinctions have been made among yourselves. A class warfare so to speak and possibly similar to what happened in Corinth. Paul addressed this in the first chapter of I Corinthians concerning those who made distinctions based on names of preachers . Second, he asks, in what I think is a question obviously designed to be answered “yes!”, if they have not become judges with evil thoughts?
It is bad enough to make yourself a judge and he will have more to say on this in the book but this judge is one with ‘evil thoughts’. A quick consult of a concordance and you can see ‘evil thoughts’ appearing in Matthew 15:19 and Mark 7:21. At the end of a discussion on Corban (a scheme by which the pharisees enriched themselves in so-called service to God), Jesus says that from the heart proceed evil thoughts. I would suggest that covetousness would be included in that context and this one.
Maybe they just were hoping that this rich man would drop a Talent or two into the collection plate. I am sure no one expected more than 1/2 a shilling from the poor man if that much. After all, they had buildings to build, salaries to pay, programs to fund…oh wait, once again I am getting a few centuries ahead of myself. Maybe they saw him as a potential business partner, client or someone who had connections that would help them out. In either case, the fact that they were well dressed became an enticement and their own lusts brought forth sin. (mmmm, heard that somewhere! 1:13-15) James says “don’t let the sin grow up!”
Another danger to this would be that the rich man might fall for this partial treatment and consider himself to be somebody special. Jesus was subject to this kind of flattery and yet did not succumb to it. Still, who is to say that this person might not think “wow! I must be someone.” Of course the truth is ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female and let me add ‘black nor white, rich nor poor’ we are all one in Christ. Gal 3:26-29
Still another danger would be that the poor man in seeing this might become discouraged and fall. Sure temptations will come and even the poor must endure them (1:3 and 9) but woe to the one who puts the stumbling block in his way.
I am sure that the person showing partiality had a logical reason for doing so. However, let me suggest that if the President of the United States (pick your favorite, Obama, Bush or Reagan) were to come into your assembly and a poor man from the poor side of town were to choose that day to visit also. The best you could do is say “Mr. President…Welcome. Please go find a seat. Sit where you like.” and to the poor man. Sir, welcome….please go find a seat. Sit where you like.”