Thursday, April 29, 2010

R12: Could your mental diet be killing your soul?

Before I move on to the next chapter, I have to cover some more ground from last time. The post was pretty long as it was and I neglected a few points that tie us into today's topic.

While I spent a lot of time describing those things that compete with God for our affection, I didn't talk much about us being lovers of God. If our faith is weak or nonexistent, or if we've been hurt by the religious (and often blame that on God) why would we choose to love God over the pleasures of this world? 1 John 2:17 touches on this, "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." Even if we don't believe in God, we know that our lives are going to end. On one hand, that means that our pleasures in this world are all we have and we should chase after them exhaustively. On the other hand, it means that whatever pleasures we enjoy in this life are meaningless since we're just going to die anyway and we will have no memory of those pleasures. God offers a third option, an eternity with him where the pleasures of this world are insignificant in comparison to the joys of being united with our Creator in heaven. Now, that's hard to wrap our minds around. God could just as easily be the Flying Spaghetti Monster with a promise such as this. So we need to establish why we should take God at his word.

Remember that Romans 12 begins with "Therefore, in view of God's mercy..." after following a crash course of Jewish history and theology in chapters 1-11. We have to know who God is and what he has done, both throughout history and personally in each of our lives. Then the opening paragraph of Romans 12 ends with "Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." There's a promise at the end and we have to trust that God has our best in mind.

But the world wants us to think differently. This is the focus of Chapter 9- the battle in our mind. The world fools us with its pleasures into thinking "to feel, to have and to be" are ends, not means. So our goal should be those pleasures instead of experiencing those pleasures as our goals are of a higher calling. Take sex, for example. Sex is great! Sex is fun! Sex feels good! (How many more times do I have to type sex for my blog hits to triple?) And sex was designed by God for us to enjoy. But he gave us the context of marriage, or for the more liberally minded (though I do not agree) the context of a monogamous relationship. Here the "joy of sex" is not the ends, but the means to emotionally and spiritually bond with your spouse. It can be effectively argued that the best sex is when you are most giving (verbally, emotionally, or physically) and the worst is when you are the most selfish. There's a reason for this. It is not the ends, but the means to an end.

You could describe any of yesterday's temptations the same way. We need to eat and food tastes good, but food is not an end, but a means to nourish our bodies. And so on, and so on.

So there is this battle in our minds that tries to convince us that these temporary pleasures are worth sacrificing eternal joy. And we are easily duped. "I'm sad right now, what good does eternal joy do me now when who knows how long I will live or if heaven is even real?" So we give into wordly pleasures to satisfy the right now.

So we need our thoughts to be eternally minded. We need to "take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:15) and "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." (Philippians 4:8) We need to win the battle in our minds.

But how? By feeding it spiritual thoughts. Think about a 40 hour workweek, 6 hours of sleep every night, and two hours of church on a Sunday. The balance is filled with errand-running, TV watching, bill paying, and if there's enough time you might actually sit down for meal. And if not, you can always get something on the road. What dominates your attention? What is filling your mind during these times? So you need a steady diet of spirituality to overcome the diet of the world that dominates our time. We can't read our Bibles 24/7 or lock ourselves away in a monastery or convent. But we can read the Word every day, we can surround ourselves with spiritual people every chance we get, we can listen to spiritual music, we can "pray continually" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) by guiding our thoughts towards seeking God's will- asking yourself WWJD.

But we have to build strength to overcome. Like I said, just based on time, the world dominates. So we need to train our thoughts. We can't just open the Bible randomly and be encouraged by a Proverb. We need to study something specific, otherwise we're just spinning our spiritual wheels. Likewise, we need to train our minds to always be thinking about God's will by filling our thoughts with Scripture. This comes from memorization. I admit I'm not good in this area. But Chip gives a very compelling example of why and how this benefits.

We also have to cut out the junk. I love Doritos. I can't get enough when I eat them. But they don't satisfy any craving. So when I eat them, I want more and more and more. Junk food is like that. I can't live off of Doritos, I need real sustenance. Likewise, the world feeds us junk. We can't live off of it and it doesn't satisfy. So we need to cut back on TV, music (most of what fills the Pop charts is moral filth), gossip in the workplace, etc.

In encourage you to find the junk in your life and cut it out. Feed yourself some real spiritual nourishment that satisfies. And "be transformed by the renewing of your mind"

(Not going to do TRUST ME yet. This subject demands another post. Look for it later today.)

Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.

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