ESSENTIAL #4: Transforming Your Mind

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Colossians 3:16: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."

Why do you believe what you believe - about God, about family, about friends, about life, about love, about yourself? There are things you have chosen to believe - conclusions you have come to because you've been affected in some way.

What are some of your biggest influences?
Do you find it easy to change the way you think?

Culture is a huge influence on our thinking whether we like it or not. For example, what are your views on dating? If someone told you they were not going to date until he was ready to get married, what would you think? If you think it is weird, why? If you think it is cool, why? What are you basing your opinions on?

Korey Cooper relates a life experience:
"My conviction throughout junior high and high school was not to date. I felt like Paul clearly stated that it is better to be single. When you are single, your interests are undivided. I wanted to live "…in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord" (1 Cor. 7:35). I felt sure that at some point I would be married, but I wanted to make the most of the time I was single. I knew that when the time was right, I would meet my husband and he and I would both be ready for the next phase of our lives together. I was also certain that we would be more effective together rather than if we were apart. I will say that many of my friends thought I was strange. Now that all the desires of my heart have been fulfilled in my husband and in my marriage, they do not think I am so strange anymore. I am not saying this is for everyone. However, I am saying that you need to know why you believe the things you do and develop your own convictions based on the word of God."

Family and friends also have a huge influence on the way you think. Maybe your family does not trust people. They have taught you to always look out for yourself and never give because you will be taken advantage of. This kind of thinking is so engrained in you it seems normal. What does the word of God say about this? How should you be according to the Biblical standard?

Religion/tradition may also influence your thinking. What do you think about dancing in church? What about dressing gothic? What about tattoos or piercings? Again, what are your opinions based on?

Experience is another thing that can affect your thinking. Maybe someone in the church has really hurt you. Maybe he has tried to shove his beliefs down your throat and it has turned you off to everything related to what he teaches. Many people completely throw out messages of truth after being part of a bad experience. It is important to remember that no matter how negative an experience you have with a peer or church leader, the truth is always found in the scripture, and you can always go there when in doubt.

These and other influences are the glasses through which you view things, tainting the way you see everything and everyone. After lining up your beliefs with the word of God, the ultimate question is this: "How do I justify what I believe?"

God wants you to see with His eyes and perspective. This is scary because we are so used to what we know and understand. However, reality is sometimes much different than how we perceive it. Our perspective must be eternal and based on truth. Lies rob us of our fullness in God and of how awesome He is. Sometimes we are influenced by so many lies for so long that we begin to believe them - at least in part. That is why it is so important to know the Word.

2 Samuel 22:31a: "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless..."

Over the past few weeks, we have been discussing God's initiative for our lives. He is the one who pursues us, blesses us with His presence, and changes us into His image. His Spirit equips us and gives us everything we need to live victoriously over sin. This "Essential" will deal more with our responsibility and action. Just as a natural army continually trains, so must we as the alien race. The reason why great spiritual men and women have an amazing impact on the world and the church at large, is because they have developed strong spiritual habits

Natural discipline has obvious effects. If one were to work out and eat well, it would be reflected in his health. However, in our culture, we all want the easy way out. We want to sit, do nothing, have no discipline, eat everything we want, and still lose weight. We have developed weight loss pills, metabolism boosters, etc. - anything besides actually changing our lifestyles. We can be the same way with our spiritual lives. We all want to grow in God, but many times we are not willing to do what it takes to make that happen. We are easily satisfied with someone spoon-feeding us from the Word once a week, feeding off of his relationship with God instead of really developing our own.

1 Corinthians 3:1-2: "Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly -mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready."

Hebrews 5:12-14: "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."

It is time for us, as the alien youth, to put our faith into action and discipline our life with the Lord. It is time for us to grow up in our faith and train ourselves to be godly, for anyone who draws near to God can know Him intimately.

Romans 12:2: "…Do not _____________ any longer to the _____________ of this world, but be ___________________ by the renewing of your __________."

In the last lesson, we studied the verse just prior to this one, which alluded to the burnt offering and worship. This verse continues, showing also that part of our worship is renewing our minds. If we fail to do this, we fail to worship God in truth and merely worship our own ideas of what God is like. This can easily be a modern form of idolatry - worshipping a god whom we have created versus the true God of the Bible. This verse makes it very clear that as we take action and renew our minds, our lives are transformed. I have heard many people pray for God to renew their minds. However, it is an action we take, and not just something that just happens to us.

The way you think is a major part of your makeup. It affects your emotions, actions, heart, and soul. With so many things determining the very essence of what you are, don't you want to be sure that your life is grounded in the word of truth? There is absolute truth, and it can be found and defined in the Bible. Much of the spiritual warfare against you is a battle for truth in your mind.

What practical things can you do to renew your mind?

Psalm 119:9-11: "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."


Exercise #1 - Bible Study

One of the most obvious training tools is to study the Bible. The word of God will build up your spirit. It will strengthen your faith and cause you to dream beyond the possible. It also contains the reality we should be living in, and within it, contains the key for the fulfillment of all of your life adventures.

Sometimes, when you read the Bible, it comes alive. Sometimes it can seem tedious and dry. Just keep in mind that even in these times, it is fruitful for your spirit, soul, and mind. When an athlete goes into training, some days are exhilarating. Some days are routine workouts. However, this discipline every day is the difference between an average athlete and a champion. We do not always feel like our study is fruitful or life changing, but we must persevere. Everyday we become a little more like Jesus. Everyday we become that much stronger. Everyday we are transformed if we allow God to speak to us through His word. Feed your spirit this good spiritual food.

Korey relates: "As a child, I was told that I could actually fellowship with God - that God was interested in a relationship with me and could use me even at such a young age; that excited me. I used to wake up in the middle of the night just to read the Bible and spend time with Him. I wanted to be like all the great men and women I read about. I sought to know and understand the truths that I read about, and if I found my life did not measure up to these truths, I pressed in to God until they became reality for me. To this day, I still function this way - feeding myself the truths of the word of God and making these truths the reality for my life."

Don't let yourself be ruled by your emotions, cultural norms, religious tradition, or anything else that can stand up against the truths of the word of God.

"On dark days when the only song we feel like singing is a dirge, we can pray, 'Let the music of thy promises be on my tongue' (Ps. 119:172). This is no tear-jerking ballad of how I'm feeling. The promises of God will lift me right out of sad sentimentality and put music in my mouth if I will think steadily on them. Here's one to sing: 'Unfailing love enfolds him who trusts in the Lord' (Ps. 32:10). Do you feel nothing of the kind? When did the validity of the Eternal Word rest on the mood of one of His poor children? Let the promise be the song you sing. He will hear it and make it true for you" (Elizabeth Elliot, The Music of His Promises).

Suggested exercises for your own study:
Get with a few friends and do the following:

01. Memorize scripture - It may seem like something you used to do in children's church but it is amazingly fruitful. In past experiences helping with youth, we used to memorize whole chapters of the Bible together. I know many young people who have memorized whole books of the Bible. It is a great work out for your mind, soul, and spirit.

02. Go through a book of the Bible together and meet to discuss it. (If you are unable to get together, discuss via email). Skillet is currently studying the book of Acts together, and it has really sharpened all of us.

03. Meditate on the Word. Don't just breeze through it to finish the reading to say that you read it. Think about it and ask questions. Dig deep into it. God will reveal new things to you every time you read. You can then discuss these revelations with each other.

Psalm 119:105: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."

Exercise #2 - Intimate Fellowship & Prayer

Jesus had the most intimate relationship with the Father that we have ever seen. One thing Jesus did to maintain this intimacy was to wake up early in the morning and sneak away to spend time with Him. We should learn from His example and develop this discipline: intimacy with God, learning to hear His voice more clearly, learning to pray effectively, and learning how to love Him better. It is good to simply spend time in His presence, with no other agenda but to be with Him. Too many times we can be quick to tell him what we want and then go away, never waiting for Him to speak to us. What if you only asked your friend for things you wanted and talked about yourself? You would never let him speak; you would never fellowship. What kind of a relationship would that be? That doesn't sound too attractive, does it? We can be this way in our relationship with God. We are always talking and asking instead of fellowshipping and sharing life together.

Many people wonder what to do when they are trying to have a relationship with God. We recommend reading the Psalms, then begin to write your own. Within this book, we see the author pouring out his heart to God. Sometimes his focus begins with himself and his own circumstances. Sometimes they begin and end with praise. Sometimes they are questioning, but they always end with hope. You will find as you begin to walk in closer fellowship with God that even in the direst of circumstances, there is always hope because God himself is hope. In this way, learn to pour your heart out to the Lord, with your focus always on Him. With this focus you will always find hope, no matter what comes your way.

The most famous prayer in the Bible is Jesus': "the Lord's prayer." This prayer started off with, "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." This persuades us to begin our prayers by praising God. One is never in a better relationship with God than when he is worshipping Him. This can be a cure for not knowing what to say to God. It also is a cure for constantly asking God for things instead of enjoying His presence.

At the risk of seeming methodical or legalistic, we would like to give some examples of how to speak praises to God, realizing that there are many people who don't know what to say. Here are some easy examples:

"God you are awesome! You are wonderful in every way and I love you."
"I worship you with all of my heart, and you are my one true passion."
"Thank you God for saving me from hell and from my sin. I worship and exalt you."
"There is no one righteous but you, and there is no one good but you. You are perfect and your mercy lasts forever!"

For the last year, Skillet has enforced the "Mandatory 20". This is time specifically set aside to simply fellowship with God - not bible study, but just time to be with the Lord. We do this every morning before we see each other, regardless if we are leaving at 3 a.m. or 12 p.m. We have found this discipline to be very fruitful and invite you to join us.

Ephesians 6:18: "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests…"

There are many other disciplines that we can develop to help us become more like Jesus and to help us renew our minds. These were just two that we believe to be the best starting place. As you learn to discipline yourself, the most important thing to remember is that the ultimate goal is to know God better and to be more like Him. He is the desired end and reward.