Ephesians 4: 17-32
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Philippians 4: 6-8
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
As we come to the end of a week where we have been thinking about what we think about, it’s important that we understand that the goal is not simply to avoid negative or unhelpful thoughts. Rather, it is to fill our minds with thoughts which are life-giving and lead us in the direction we want our lives to go.
Notice when Paul puts a prohibition on a certain behaviour or attitude, he often then immediately follows it with a positive alternative we can replace it with. For example:
…put off your old self…(v. 22) …put on the new self…(v. 24)
…you must put off falsehood… speak truthfully to your neighbour… (v. 26)
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer… ….but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. (v. 28)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths… ….but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (v. 29)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (v. 31) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (v. 32)
Paul is communicating that the goal of the Christian life is not sin avoidance. Rather, it’s living a Christ-like life. We replace the vacuum left from rooting out old behaviour and mindsets with new ways of living and thinking which reflect the Kingdom of which we are now a part.
He conveys the same idea in his letter to the Philippians. After giving instructions about avoiding anxious thoughts, he encourages them instead to focus their thinking on whatever is pure, lovely, noble, praiseworthy etc.
Your mind can only hold a single conscious thought at any one time. If it is holding a positive thought, it can’t hold a negative one at the same time, and vice versa. Businessman W. Clement Stone said, “Keep your mind off the things you don’t want by keeping it on the things you do want.” The most effective remedy for bad thinking is good thinking.
God wants us to partner with Him to fill our minds with all that is positive and productive and overcome the negative and destructive thought patterns we may have succumbed to. That will involve actively recognising, rejecting, and replacing wrong thinking, as well as in retraining your mind to keep them from returning.
In Colossians 3: 2 Paul says: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” If our minds are focused and fixed on what God says and thinks then there will be no space left for worry, fear, discouragement, insecurity, impurity, and the like.
We look forward to seeing you this Sunday at 9.30 am, 11.30 am and 7.00 pm.