Lesson 3

Lord of Our Thoughts

(Matthew 5, Exodus 20, James 1, Colossians 3, Philippians 4)
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Introduction: Have you heard it said, "I don't want to be a Christian because it is all a bunch of 'don't do this and don't do that?'" People who say this kind of thing know almost nothing about God's desires for our life. Christianity, as we will learn this week, is mostly a battle for the heart and not the hands. Let's dive into our study!

  1. Jesus Raising the Stakes


    1. Read Matthew 5:21-22. Where is it said "Don't murder?" (It is one of the Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:13.)


      1. When you think of things that a Christian should not do, how high on the list of "do nots" is murder?


      2. Jesus equates being angry with murder. Is that fair?


        1. Is Jesus just adding to our list of "do nots" in a way that is going overboard?


      3. Jesus goes further than just being angry. Notice Matthew 5:22 where He says if we call someone a fool we are in danger of the fire of hell. The Ten Commandments forbid murder, Jesus now elevates anger and even calling someone a fool to the same level. Does that seem appropriate to you?


        1. Two weeks ago, I was visiting another church and the Sabbath School class was studying this part of the Beatitudes. I had my Palm Pilot with me to use as my Bible. It has the New Living Translation on it. To my great annoyance, the NLT translated "fool" as "idiot." I rarely call anyone a "fool," but I often positively identify other drivers as idiots. Bird watchers identify birds. What is wrong with identifying drivers?


    2. Read Matthew 5:27-28. Where is it said "Don't commit adultery?" (Again, this is part of the Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:14.)


      1. Is Jesus equating looking lustfully with committing adultery?


        1. Or, is committing adultery in your heart something that is not as serious a sin as committing adultery?


        2. Again, Jesus is raising our thoughts to the level of very serious sins. Is this fair?


  2. Mind Crimes


    1. Read Mark 7:20-23. What does Jesus mean when He says "from within" comes all of this sin? (He is speaking of the mind - what Jesus calls the "heart.")


    2. Read James 1:13-15. What is James talking about when he writes when "desire has conceived?" (He is speaking of the mind, our thoughts.)


      1. If you asked James whether he believed that our thoughts are the key to life or death, what would he say? (James points to the natural progression from our evil desires to death.)


    3. What do these two texts (Mark and James)teach us about the origin of sin in our life? (All sin begins with the thoughts.)


      1. What is the logical conclusion then about how to deal with our thoughts? Is it okay to think about something if we just don't do it? (No. Jesus' instruction to us is that the true source of murder and adultery is our mind. If we want to avoid adultery we need to avoid thinking about it.)


    4. With this background, why is calling someone an "idiot" ( Matthew 5:22) a problem? (I think Jesus is telling us that moving to the act of murder is a process. Calling someone a name like this decreases your respect for that person. It is the first step on the path towards murder. Being angry with a person is the next step. Most people do not complete this path, but Jesus tells us to avoid getting on the path at all.)


    5. When I was a young man, I knew of a minister who left his wife and children and ran off with another woman. The speculation was that something just snapped in the mind of a good man and he changed. Do you think this is true? (No. I would be willing to bet that he played this through in his mind hundreds of times before he actually did it. Sinful actions are the result of a mental process. These things do not happen overnight.)


    6. Read Exodus 20:17. What does it mean to "covet your neighbor's wife?" (Here, right at the end of the most famous "do not" list, is proof that these sins begin in the mind. If you do not want to commit adultery, don't covet the spouse of someone else.)


  1. Cut It Off and Pluck It Out


    1. Let's go back to Jesus and the Beatitudes. Read Matthew 5:28-30. Does Jesus' statement make any logical sense after what He said about the mind and what we have learned?


      1. If you gouged out your right eye because you had a habit of looking lustfully at women, would it address the root of the problem?


      2. If you cut off your right hand, because you had a habit of stealing, would it address the root problem? (The answer to both of these questions is "No." When Jesus taught us not too look lustfully, not to call names and not to be angry, He taught us that the source of sin is in the mind. It is not your hand or your eye that causes you to sin. It is your brain. You would need to pluck out your brain for this to work!)


        1. Why, then, is Jesus giving us instructions that He knows will not work - instructions which are contrary to what He just taught? (We obviously cannot gouge out our brain - and still live for Christ. At the same time, no want wants to lose an eye or a hand. Jesus is simply telling us to consider the seriousness of this problem. If you could give up an eye or a hand and be sure of heaven, you would do it, right? Thus, Jesus is saying that if we would be willing to lose an eye or a hand for heaven, how about losing the sin? Why not take the sin problem in your life very seriously?)


  2. Mind Relief


    1. Read Colossians 3:1-2. We are told to set our minds on "things above." How, as a practical matter, would you go about doing that?


    2. Read Colossians 3:5-8. How many of the items on these two lists are issues of the mind? (Quite a few.)


      1. When Colossians 3:7 tells us that we used to "walk in these ways," what does that mean?


      2. How can we avoid "walking" in these mental sins? ("Walking" would refer to our usual practices. It would refer to the direction of our life. God tells us that we need to make a mental decision to avoid these things that cause our minds to be involved in impurity, lust, evil desires and greed.)


      3. These days private viewing of pornography on the Internet is a very big business. What if you are looking at a picture of a woman (man) who you do not know, will never have the possibility of touching (much less anything else), and you have disciplined your mind not to think about having sex with the person in the picture. Is that okay or is that sin? (If you say this is okay, you are missing the point of the lesson. Sin begins with a walk on the wrong side. When Colossians tells us to "put to death" "impurity, lust, evil desires" and not "walk in these ways" it is teaching us that we need to completely avoid those things which promote evil desires.)


    3. Read Colossians 3:12-14. When the Bible tells us to "clothe" ourselves with these mental attitudes, is this the practical answer to how we set our minds (Colossians 3:1) on "things above?"


      1. How would you go about "clothing" yourself with the right mental attitude?


    4. Since we have been looking at the practical side of making God the Lord of our thoughts, can we change our thoughts? Can we switch our mental "clothing?"


      1. What is our most critical step for changing our thoughts? (Read Philippians 4:8. What we put into our mind has a terrific influence on the nature of our thoughts. If you are spending more time reading Stephen King than reading the Bible, there is no doubt you have on the wrong mental clothing - period. This is not rocket science.)


      2. What is the ultimate source for making God the Lord of our thoughts? (Read Titus 3:5. We are responsible for the decision that we want to set our thoughts on things above and walk in God's ways. We make the decision on what we put in our mind. But, the change in our mind is a matter for the power of the Holy Spirit.)


    1. Friend, your Christian walk begins with your thoughts. Will you determine to make God the Lord of your imagination?


  1. Next week: Lord of Our Desires.

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