Mental Focus of Spirituality
1 Peter 4:1–4
1 Peter Lesson #117
January 25, 2018
“Our Father, we thank You again for this beautiful day, this opportunity to serve You, this opportunity to enjoy our relationship with You, opportunities to read Your Word, to study Your Word, and to learn to think as You would have us think.
“Father, above all, we’re thankful for Your grace that has given us the salvation that is free, that is at no cost to us, though it cost You Your Son. Father, we thank You for the rich, incredible spiritual life that You have given us, an opportunity to walk with You by means of God the Holy Spirit and to learn Your Word and learn to think biblically, learn to think Your thoughts after You.
“Father, we pray that as we study tonight, we will be strengthened and encouraged by the Word and by God the Holy Spirit as we focus on what You’ve challenged us to do. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles to 1 Peter 4:1. We’re continuing to look at the emphasis here on the mindset of the believer, the mental attitude, the mental focus of the believer, which is a vital part of our spiritual lives.
One of the things that has become, I think, obvious to a lot of people in our country is a real weakness in the thinking of a tremendous number of people. It seems to characterize the millennial generation that is coming up. We hear terms such as “snowflakes” from those who can’t stand to, or abide to, hear an opposing viewpoint or be challenged on the veracity of their own opinions or ideas. They can’t handle being around somebody who thinks differently from them.
We also see a lot of Christians who just fold under pressure, who fold in difficult circumstances. Whether those difficult circumstances arise from the temptation to sin that comes from our own sin nature or whether it comes from external circumstances doesn’t matter. The solution is always the same. Scripture uses a term again and again called “stand firm.” ANTHISTEMI in the Greek means to stand firm, to stand in the Word, to stand in the full armor of God. That is an emphasis.
One of the aspects of our standing is our mental discipline by means of the Holy Spirit, our mental focus. There’s an emphasis over and again in Scripture on the mindset of the believer in Jesus Christ, of the way in which we think, and the importance of thinking over against emoting.
There’s nothing wrong, inherently, with sentimentality and emotion in their proper place, but when we are working through life and life’s significant issues and challenges, it’s not about how we feel. It is about what God says to do and how we are to respond to those circumstances and those situations. In fact, you’ve probably discovered this, as I have, that many times in life that which feels good is not the correct solution. That which feels worse and is the most difficult to do, that may not be the criteria, but that is often the correct thing to do.
We’re looking at the mental focus for spirituality in 1 Peter 4:1–4.
I’m going to review quickly what we covered in the last lesson.
Peter reached a conclusion in 1 Peter 4:1. “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves”—that’s the key command here, “arm yourselves”—“also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”
As we look at that, there are several questions. What does “arm yourselves” mean? How do we “arm ourselves with the same mind?” Because it’s an imperative and appeals to the volition, we are to choose to do something. We either arm ourselves with the correct thinking, or we arm ourselves with incorrect thinking. We’re going to arm ourselves with one of those two options.
Often in the Scripture, when we have a command, it’s basically a binary solution. We’re either obedient or disobedient, one or the other. Here, we are to “arm ourselves with this same mind.” What is that?
Then, there’s this statement that is somewhat idiomatic the way it is translated in the English: “For he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” Who is it that is suffering in the flesh, and who is it that ceases from sin? What exactly does that mean? That is the challenge.
What we see and I pointed out last time is that this is structurally related to the thought of 1 Peter 3:18, which states, “For Christ also suffered once for sins.” As we look through this section, suffering for doing right is the focal point because that honors and glorifies God. 1 Peter 3:17 states the principle: “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
The illustration comes from Christ and His suffering on the Cross when He was put to death on our behalf. The standard is Christ’s focus on the Cross. We’ve been studying this on Sunday mornings in Matthew. Think through what happened to the Lord from the time He was arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane, the times that He was mocked—eight different times. We’re going to see that this Sunday—eight different times He was mocked, ridiculed, spat upon. He was beaten. He was flogged. All these things worse than anything that any of us can possibly imagine, took place during four to five hours, maybe six hours, before He was taken to the Cross and crucified on the Cross.
He was innocent of all charges. He never did anything wrong in His life, never committed a sin, never did anything wrong. He suffered for doing right, and that is the standard for the believer.
As I pointed out last time, one thing that fortifies our thinking is to understand that God is in control. God has a plan, and God has a purpose as we’ve seen in Romans 8:28–30.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God.” That refers to every believer because every believer loves God at the level of his maturity. An infant loves his parents as a baby loves. A two-year-old loves like a two-year-old loves. A 10-year-old loves like a 10-year-old. As we mature, we develop a greater and greater capacity to love.
It’s clear that those who love God are those who are foreknown, predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” That involves every believer. There’s nobody who’s left out.
Now, the key thing that I’ve underlined there in Romans 8:29 is that “whom He foreknew” is a function of His omniscience, knowing all things simultaneously, knowing all things comprehensively, knowing all things including all options from all eternity. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” People often get the wrong idea about predestination. They think that it is fatalism. Predestination is God having a plan and saying, “Here is my goal. Here is the destiny. Here’s the plan I have for every believer.” That destiny is “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” That is another way of talking about maturity.
God’s plan for every believer is to go through the same processes, to grow from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity so they can glorify God in whatever area of life God has gifted them and provided for them. God has set a destiny for every one of us that God the Holy Spirit is working toward whether we’re going along with His plan or not. Rebellious believers are dragged kicking and screaming along the way, and sometimes they’re only dragged about that far—indicates a tiny amount with fingers—because they don’t care. They’ve rejected the Lord.
Others are focused on their spiritual growth. The focal point is that we are conformed to be like Jesus, that when people look at us, they’re going to get a glimpse, more and more as we grow, of who Jesus is, of Jesus’ character. Those character qualities are defined as the fruit of the Spirit. As we mature, we are to reflect the character of Jesus Christ in our lives. That’s God’s destiny for you, to conform you to the image of Jesus Christ.
I’ve pointed this out now because we’re going to circle around, hopefully, by the end of the session tonight. We’re going to come back to see how this verse connects in several ways to our passage in 1 Peter.
1 Peter 4:1 says that we are to be armed “with the same mind.” This is mentality.
The main command here on this slide is HOPLIZO, a verb that is related to the noun that described the foot soldier. The basic individual soldier in the Greek army was called a hoplite. The Greek word is the verb HOPLIZO, which describes becoming a soldier, to be armed, and to be trained.
We are to arm ourselves and to be trained. It’s not just enough—if you live in Texas as most of us do—to own a firearm, to have a carry license, and to have that sitting on your nightstand or in a safe under the bed. You need to learn how to use it so that in a situation you know exactly where the weapon is, how to draw it, how to get it out of the safe, how to use it in an instant under pressure.
That’s the same kind of thing that we are talking about here in the spiritual life. We are to be armed with the spiritual skills. We are to constantly train and practice and be prepared to use them because when we get in a battle situation, it’s too late to learn what we’re supposed to do and to acquire the skills to use those spiritual techniques at the right time. That’s the idea, arming ourselves.
Here, we’re arming ourselves with the “same mind,” that is, a way of thinking.
This whole concept of arming, as I pointed out last time, relates to warfare. All through the Scripture, we have various terms. I put this slide up last time. We have this word group based on the noun POLEMOS, from which we get our word polemic—argument, debate—that has to do with “war, battle, strife, conflict.” The verb POLEMEO means “to make war, to fight.”
We also have the whole word-group based on the word STRATEIA, which is the basis for the English word strategy, and this develops into various military campaigns, soldiers serving in the Army, serving in certain positions in the Army. All these different words are used. The Scriptures use the military and the warfare metaphor to describe the spiritual life over and over again.
Those of you who are here Saturday when Dan Crenshaw is here, just ask him, “What is the significance of mental attitude in your training as a SEAL?” It’s that you don’t give up! You’re not willing to give up. You are going to push through anything. You set your mind ahead of time that this is what you’re going to do. You make certain decisions ahead of time that you carry through with, no matter how difficult it becomes. It is a mindset.
We have different Scriptures that emphasize this concept of the mind and the thinking. For example, Romans 12:2 says that we are not to be “conformed to the world.” That is not the word KOSMOS, which normally is translated world. It’s the word AIONOS. It’s a time word, referring to that which dominates the thinking in the era in which you live. Zeitgeist is the German word, a spirit of the age. If you are a millennial, you are influenced by a certain spirit of the age that is much different from your grandparents. Your grandparents were coming up probably in the 1940s or 1950s and were influenced by a worldview that was more influenced by theism and/or modernism. Now, it’s more influenced by the relativism of postmodernism.
Every human being grows up within a certain age, a certain time period, and is being molded into the norms and standards, into the thought forms, of that era. This is so much a part of each one of us that we don’t really think about it. It’s like a fish swimming in water. The fish doesn’t think about water as the environment in which all his actions take place; it’s just second nature to him.
That’s the way this worldly thinking is for us growing up as unbelievers under the control of the sin nature, which has a Velcro strip on it that is attached to the zeitgeist. Whenever you hear the ideas and opinions and the values of the spirit of your age, your sin nature just Velcros itself right to those ideas, and you suck them into your soul. The only thing that can change that is not politics; it’s not education though that can help in some ways; it is spiritual. Ultimately, it’s a spiritual battle.
We have to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. There’s a metamorphosis. That’s the Greek word here for “transformation.” We renew our minds.
The word that is important in our context is this word NOUS. It’s the root for many different words in the Greek that are compounds, that are made with different prepositions. It has to do with that part of the soul that is the seat of thinking, the seat of reason, the seat of understanding, the seat of knowledge, where we work our way through various things in terms of knowledge and understanding and application.
Here, the values, the ideals of the spirit of the age, reside. The role in the spiritual life is to exorcise these views that we have absorbed from the world around us through peers, through professors, through teachers, through parents. We have to exchange them for biblical truth. I often refer to this transformation as human viewpoint being replaced by divine viewpoint.
The problem with the believer is he can almost feel like he has a dual nature. Part of you is a sin nature with all of its wonderful comfort zones in terms of ideas, values, attitudes, emotional responses, those things that make you feel warm and fuzzy, because that’s how you learned to respond to life’s problems. You have a totally different—often just the opposite—nature when you’re walking by the Spirit.
We have to renew our minds for a purpose, to demonstrate something. We are exhibit “A” as Church Age believers in the angelic conflict, and our job is to grow to spiritual maturity, to demonstrate that the will of God is “good and acceptable and perfect.”
I want you to notice that as Paul was developing his thought in Romans 12:2, he talked about renewing the mind.
He talked about those thought processes down in Romans 12:3. In the next verse, the word for “to think” is the infinitive of PHRONEO. Now that’s an important word.
We have several words that are related to thinking. NOUS is the mind, the seat of the thinking. Then, we have this word, PHRONEO, which has to do with having a certain mindset, thinking a certain way. We’ll run into another word a little later, LOGIZOMAI, that is based on LOGOS for words and has to do with logic or reason, the process of—using a big word—ratiocination, the process of thinking; it comes from the same root as rational. That’s the idea of the thought processes of the mind. LOGIZOMAI has a broad meaning, as we will see, that not only refers to counting. It’s an economics term, an accounting term that also has to do with imputation. Some places it’s translated “impute something,” or “reckon something,” or “counting something as true.” It’s thinking through logically and coming to conclusions.
Another word, HEGEOMAI, is also used, and that’s one you’ve seen translated as “count” in James 1:2. “Count it all joy.” These are all thought words related to analyzing something and working it through step-by-step on the basis of logic and reason and coming to a conclusion.
PHRONEO is used here.
We will see it in places like just further down in the chapter. In Romans 12:16, Paul wrote, “Be of the same mind toward one another.” That is a command. We are to think the same. When we’re walking by the Spirit and our desire is to grow spiritually and glorify God, we can work through any kind of problem or conflict together. What causes conflict is a sin nature. What solves conflict is submission to God and walking in humility. That’s what Paul told them here.
The opposite of being of the same mind is being divided. “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things”—He was going back around to pick up that principle of “thinking more highly of yourself than you ought to think”—“but associate with the humble.” You humble yourself by submitting to the authority of God.
This is picked up in Philippians chapter 2. Twice, we have this in the beginning of that chapter where Paul said, “fulfill my joy by being like-minded”—it’s a different word here—“having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” PHRONEO is used here.
And then, “Let this mind”—PHRONEO again—"be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” We are to think like Jesus Christ thinks. Then, we will have the character that Jesus Christ has, and we will be conformed to the image of Christ. That’s how this works. God has a plan, to mold us into a reflection of the character of Jesus Christ.
The mentality is being thought through here. It’s not about you anymore. The sin nature says, “It’s all about me.” When you become a believer and understand who you are in Christ, it’s all about Christ. It’s all about letting the Holy Spirit work in us to create the character of Christ in us, to get rid of those sin nature hard edges that are part of our “old man,” and to “walk by the Spirit” so that we can learn to reflect the character of Christ.
It involves volition. It’s not passive. You don’t just say, “I’m going to confess my sins. Now that I’m in fellowship, it’s going to happen.” No! It’s like going to the gym. When you’re out of fellowship, when you sin, you’re not at the gym. You’re at home, and you’re eating junk food. You’re sleeping late, and you’re doing all the things that are unhealthy.
When you confess sin, that is going back to the gym; it puts you inside the gym. Once you’re inside the gym, you’re just at a place where you can work out. You can exercise; you can do the right things to develop a healthy body and to build your muscles and all the things that go along as a result of a good, hard work-out. All confession does is put you inside the gym; it doesn’t exercise you. You don’t grow by being in the gym.
I don’t know where you go to the gym, but at most gyms they have a place where you can sit down. If you go into the gym and you just sit there and drink coffee, you may be in a right relationship with the gym, in the right place, but you’re not growing. We have to exercise— that’s obeying Scripture. You can do it at home, but that’s in the flesh, in terms of the analogy. You have to be in the right location, which is walking by the Spirit. Only when we have that mentality developed by the Holy Spirit are we going to grow together.
In 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul talked about the Corinthians, who were very divided, very arrogant—all kinds of divisions. He prayed that they would be “perfectly joined together in the same mind.” There, he used the word NOUS, the same thought forms. You only get that if you are studying the Word and letting the Word of God wash through your soul and inhabit your soul.
In Philippians 3:16, Paul again used this same imagery. “Let us walk by the same rule”—that is the Word of God, the standard of divine viewpoint. “Let us be of the same mind.” Now this phrase, “let us be of the same mind,” isn’t in the Nestle-Aland text. If you have a New American Standard or NIV or ESV or one of those, you’re not going to have this phrase in your Bible because it’s in the Majority Text, which is a critical Greek text, which is similar to, but very different from, the King James or New King James. There are a lot of similarities because the Textus Receptus, on which those two translations are based, is a subset of the Majority Text. I tend to go with the New King James because it picks up these differences. It’s the same word; it’s being “of the same mind,” PHRONEO.
We’re to arm ourselves by being “of the same mind.” Here, Paul used a different word, ENNOIA. EN is a prefix; it’s a preposition. The letters NOI come from the noun NOUS. It’s “with thought,” as it were. Adding that preposition changes the nuance.
I’ve put up some dictionary definitions that are rather rudimentary, that talk about thought or knowledge or insight or the content of mental processing. But it’s more than that. This is why looking at other places where a word is used is insightful.
The Greek of the New Testament isn’t a whole lot different from the Greek that the Septuagint, the Old Testament, was translated into somewhere around the mid-second to early-third century BC. If you go back and see what Greek words were used in the Septuagint to translate Hebrew words and how the rabbis thought in terms of understanding, that really helps open up some of these things.
One commentary, Baker’s Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, is sometimes excellent, sometimes not so excellent. The theology at times in some commentaries is weak, but sometimes they have brilliant insights on grammar and words. Karen Jobes, who wrote this commentary, states that, “In the Septuagint (LXX) Proverbs the noun ENNOIA often refers to that mind-set or disposition that issues in right moral action.” Then, she lists verses from Proverbs. She says, “Therefore, Peter exhorts his readers to have the same resolve that characterized Christ.” Having the right mindset that issues in right moral action is what she later makes clear when she says it’s resolve. It is a determination toward a right course of action. It is making a determination ahead of time that, under such and such circumstances, this is how I’m going to think; this is how I’m going to react; this is how I’m going to respond.
Proverbs 2:11 is one of those examples and reads, “Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you.” Now the word “understanding” in Proverbs is a translation of the Hebrew word biyn, which means to make a choice between two options. We have two different scenarios when we make a choice. We make a choice between that which is good and that which is wrong, that which is right and that which is wrong. Many times the choices we have in life are that which is good and that which is better, that which is part of walking by the Spirit, and that which may be moral or right but it is not part of walking by the Spirit.
The idea is that ENNOIA was used to translate this because the rabbis understood that this understanding was a predetermined resolve to apply knowledge and truth. These terms, knowledge, truth, understanding, wisdom, are all used in Proverbs. Understanding and wisdom are the application end. Wisdom is how to apply the truth, how to apply the knowledge that you learned in a way that is skillful. The only way you learn to be skillful in anything is to practice. Proverbs 2:11 uses it that way.
Proverbs 3:21 says, “My son, let them not depart from your eyes.”—that is, the words of wisdom that he’s been taught.—“Keep sound wisdom and discretion.” Wisdom is application; so is discretion. It’s related to continuing to apply what you have resolved to do.
Proverbs 16:22 says, “Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it.” This is talking about the application of your resolve, that you are going to apply the Word no matter what. The result is that it’s going to give you “life!” It’s going to give you a full life, a capacity for life. It’s going to give you life as Jesus promised when He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” This wellspring of life comes from knowledge of the Word and the resolve to apply it. Growth only occurs through application.
In Proverbs 23:19, we read, “Hear, my son, and be wise; And guide your heart in the way.” Most of the time in the Old Testament in Hebrew, heart is a term for the core of your soul, the thinking at the core of your soul. It’s usually not a synonym for emotion. In a few instances, it relates to decision-making or volition, but about 98% of the time it relates to thinking, to what controls the mind.
“The way” is that path that the wise person has chosen to go down. We often see that “the way” translates different terms in the Hebrew, but here it’s translated this way because the rabbis understood this as focusing on the resolve to go down the path no matter how difficult it may be.
That’s the idea that we have in 1 Peter 4:1, that we are to arm ourselves with discipline and training, learning the skills related to each of the different weapons that we are given as part of the spiritual life, learning about the armor of God, and “putting on the full armor of God.” We are to be armed with “the same thinking,” with that resolve that we see in the Lord Jesus Christ as He set His face toward Jerusalem. Across the Kidron Valley, soldiers were coming to arrest Him. He had just finished the struggle of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and now He was facing His destiny. He was facing the soldiers, the multitude, the crowd that was coming to arrest Him.
He was the One Who asserted His authority. Remember, when they were coming to Him, He spoke. When they said, “We’re looking for Jesus,” and He said, “I am here,” they all fell down. He was asserting Who He is. He was not ending the situation or taking control of it, but from that point on, He really was the One in control no matter what they did. They beat Him. They flogged Him. Jesus was still the One in control. “Like a lamb before its shearers is dumb, He uttered not a word.” He didn’t cry out. He didn’t whine. This is the mindset that should characterize a believer. When we face difficulties, we’re not going to whine.
That doesn’t mean you don’t talk to your friends about it. There’s a difference between talking through things with people who are fellow believers who are close to you so you can encourage and strengthen one another. Whining and complaining about what is going on in your life and how unhappy and how miserable you are and that God just doesn’t understand you, and blah, blah, blah happens when the sin nature’s in control.
We’re to arm ourselves with the same resolve that Jesus had. “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross,” we’re told in Hebrews 12:2.
This is the idea that Jobes points out, which I thought was an excellent understanding of this word. A lot of times, in technical commentaries, you’ll find these brilliant little insights into different words.
We have these admonitions in Scripture. We talked about this last time. Philippians 4:8 says, “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.” The word for “think” there is not PHRONEO. It’s not the word ENNOIA, which we just said. It’s the word LOGIZOMAI, the same word we saw earlier. It has to do with working our way through something, taking it apart and putting it back together in our minds, looking at life’s situations and understanding them from the framework of what we’ve learned about the Word in Bible class, taking the Word, taking our understanding of God, taking our understanding of the Holy Spirit, taking our understanding of the spiritual life, and relating it to what is happening in the situations and circumstances that we face so that we’re thinking about the things that God wants us to think about and not focusing on our self-absorbed arrogance and how we don’t get what we want, how bad this is, how difficult the circumstances are, and that kind of a thing.
This comparison in 1 Peter 4:1, as I pointed out last time, concludes, “Why do we have this same mind?” It doesn’t come across in the English translation “for he who has suffered.” The “for” here in the Greek represents what’s called an epexegetical use of the word, and that means it’s telling us in this way or in this manner.
“In this manner, the person who has suffered in the flesh.” The person who has suffered in the flesh is the person who is in his mortal body. He is suffering for doing right. Back in 1 Peter 1:17, he is suffering for doing good rather than for doing evil. He has suffered in the flesh for doing the right thing the right way and has ceased from sin; that is, he has stopped using sin as his problem-solving device. He has stopped using sin as the way to handle his problems. He’s not going to worry about it. He’s not going to get angry. He’s not going to pout or whine or cry about it and have a pity party. He’s not going to use slander against people who may have gossiped to cause the problem. He’s going to put it in the hands of God, which is what Peter said in the next chapter, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
He’s resolved that he’s not going to handle the crisis with sin. That was the mindset of Christ. He was not going to handle the pressures that came at the Cross by being independent of the Father.
That brings us to 1 Peter 4:2, “that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh ...” That’s parallel to Paul’s words in Galatians 5:16—“Don’t walk according to the flesh.” Romans 8 talks about that, not walking according to the sin nature for the lusts of men but for the will of God.
This is a major theme that Peter had been hitting. In 1 Peter 2:11, he wrote, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims ...” That’s a term we’ll get to in 1 Peter 4:3, which talks about Gentiles. Gentiles are not unbelievers. They are Gentiles. Being Gentile means you’re not Jewish. It doesn’t mean you’re an unbeliever. In this context, because this is the early church, most Gentiles were not saved. We’ll see why that means Gentiles and not unbelievers when we get there.
We are to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”
We’re driven by lust patterns. I talked about this on Tuesday night, the power lust, the approbation lust, that dominated Joab as well as Abner and other men around David. You often find this in politics. This is a great threat to any politician. It’s a great threat to many different leaders. It’s a threat to many church leaders, and you find this with pastors. You find this with deacons and elders and Sunday school teachers and all kinds of people who get involved in leadership just to fulfill their own power lusts or their approbation lusts.
There are many other different kinds of lust, sex lust, materialism lust, money lust, all kinds of pleasure lusts. You have various lusts that relate to whatever area of life you are involved in, and you want that power, that recognition, or whatever it may be. You also can get involved in a lust for revenge, a lust to get back at people, a lust to hurt people who you think have hurt you.
The lust patterns in the sin nature drive you, motivate you. Think about the people in your life, and the lust patterns that motivate them. That’s a great way to understand the dynamics in any organization. Who’s being driven by what lust patterns?
Some have trends toward asceticism or legalism, which is morality without spirituality. That leads, like it did with the Pharisees, to moral degeneracy.
Or we may have trends towards licentiousness and antinomianism, which are moral lawlessness. Lasciviousness leads to immoral degeneracy, a lot of what we’ve seen coming out in the news about different people in Hollywood. Many people there are moral. Some are believers, some are conservative, but they have to keep a low profile because in many areas there is just a lot of licentious and immoral degeneracy.
This is the sin nature. We all have these lusts. They’re part of every sin nature. They don’t go away when we become Christians; they’re still there. In fact, if you become a Christian when you’re little, sometimes later on you may have real problems because you didn’t realize these lust patterns were going to come around the corner and hit you.
In 1 Peter 2:11, Peter warned that these fleshly lusts war against the soul. They are destructive. They eat away at your character, at your mentality, at your emotions. Over a period of fifty or sixty years, they are quite corrosive and corrupting.
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When we look at the soul, the Bible talks about us as made of three components. One is the physical human body. Our immaterial soul is made up of four parts. Our self-consciousness says, “I know who I am. I recognize who I am.” You look in the mirror and you know, “That’s me.” You can distinguish yourself from somebody else. When you get a little older, you may look in the mirror and say, “I’m looking at my dad.” That’s what I do. You may say, “I look like my dad or my mother,” but you know it’s you! Till you get Alzheimer’s, and you think you really are your dad. My dad used to look at a picture of me and go, “That’s me!” I’d say, “No, that’s me; that’s not you!” That happens when you get into dementia.
That’s self-consciousness. Animals don’t have that. You’ll see a bird outside of a window or a glass door fighting its reflection, thinking it’s another bird. You’ll see a dog see a reflection of itself, and it will bark at it, thinking it’s another dog. Animals don’t have self-consciousness.
Your soul also has a mentality, the thinking part of the soul where you reason. You have logic. You have knowledge. You have understanding.
Your soul has a conscience that stores your norms and standards, the things that you ought to do.
Then, your soul has volition, where you make decisions. This is the decider of the soul.
In this diagram, I’ve overlapped these four parts because they intersect in the soul. We can take them apart for analysis, to think about them, but, in reality, that combination of these four things makes up your person, your soul, who you are, your identity.
When you trust in Christ, you are regenerate, and you receive a human spirit. Adam was created with a body, soul, and spirit, but when he sinned, he lost that human spirit that gave him his self-consciousness, the ability to relate to God; his mentality, the ability to think God’s thoughts after Him; his conscience, the ability to have God’s norms and standards as part of the determiner in his soul; and his volition. All were directed toward God.
When Adam sinned and died spiritually, all he had was a body and a soul. He was still physically alive, but that which gave him life—real life—was gone. It was like pulling the plug on a fan. It still looks like the fan is on. How many of y’all have gone into a room with a ceiling fan. You pull the cord two, three times and say, “Is that still on, or is it just slow?” You reach up to see if you can slow it down, and all of a sudden it hits your hand, and you realize, “Oh! It’s still on!”
When you pull the plug, it may keep going and look like there is life there, but it slowly winds down. That’s the spiritually dead person. They’re physically alive, but they’re spiritually dead.
When you trust in Christ, that human spirit comes in, and you can orient the elements of your soul toward God. These are the elements, the mentality portion of the soul.
We are to set this resolve so that we no longer live the rest of our time in the flesh according to the sin nature, letting these lusts war against the soul. Instead, we live for the will of God. That tells us that everything is a binary option. We are either choosing the will of God or our own will. We are either walking by the Spirit, or we’re walking by the sin nature. We are either walking in the foolishness of human viewpoint or in the wisdom of the Word of God.
We’re reminded of 1 Peter 2:15, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” 1 Peter 3:17 says it’s the will of God to suffer for doing good. That good may silence the ignorance of foolish men, but you may also suffer some negative consequences for doing good rather than evil.
This is our job, remember? We looked at this in Romans 12:2. I told you we would circle back around, that we are to demonstrate in our lives that the will of God is “good and perfect and acceptable.” We are exhibit A in the angelic conflict, and we are to demonstrate that God’s will is right—even if it destroys our lives.
That’s what happened with Job. He lost everything, and he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” That’s the mentality of the believer who is focused on spiritual truth. The issue, the important issue, is that we have to learn to think. We have to strengthen that mental attitude of our spiritual life.
A lot in life is affected by our thinking. It involves our presuppositions about life. Much of it is shaped by who we understand ourselves to be. We have certain basic beliefs about who we are as individuals, our identity.
Before you were saved, you may have thought you were just the accidental result of an electrical charge and a mass of protoplasm, but after you were saved, you realized that you were created in the image and likeness of God. Every one of us has value. That’s why life is important. It doesn’t matter if you were born with a birth defect. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances. If you have a human soul, you are in the image and likeness of God, and your life matters. Your life has value.
We may not understand why God has allowed some of these things to happen. It’s a test, to trust Him that we will come to an understanding at some particular point in the future. We are transformed by what we learn.
In our culture, we have a human viewpoint counterfeit to that biblical truth, and this is the whole doctrine of self-image, which has its roots in pagan psychology, in secular psychology. Elements of it might be true, but why go to secular psychology when most of it is just garbage surrounding a few things that are true. You only know if it’s true if you have the Word of God in your soul to evaluate it. Just stick with the Scripture. You don’t need self-help books.
The human viewpoint counterfeit is this concept of self-image. We’ve seen where that goes in some of the radical things that came out in education policies in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s that destroyed a lot of people’s understanding of competition and growth and understanding and learning how to properly challenge themselves to overcome obstacles.
The bottom line is that no matter who you are, you have certain beliefs about who you are that involve your identity as well as your destiny, your purpose in life, and where you’re going. The Word of God transforms all of those.
If you have garbage in your soul, if you have false thinking in your soul, if you have wrong beliefs in your soul about who you are and where you came from and what your destiny is, all of the tools that you use to make life work are going to be wrong.
Scripture says in Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” At the very core of your thinking, right thoughts are going to change who you are and how you interact with people and the issues of life. If you are thinking on the basis of lies, on the basis of arrogance, on the basis of the sin nature in rebellion and autonomy (independence) from God, or idolatry, then they will shape your life in a different way.
This word translated “thinks” is only used twice in the Old Testament, and it means to calculate, to reckon. To my knowledge, it’s not translated by LOGIZOMAI, but it’s that same idea. It is the idea of calculating, of reckoning something in your life. That presupposes a certain knowledge about life.
We have various passages in Scripture that talk about the importance of mentality. I want to start here next time in terms of continuing to understand what the Bible says about our thinking and thinking as God thinks.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to be challenged by the truth of Your Scripture, to focus on our thoughts, the content of our thoughts, and the methodology of our thinking—how we think—that we’re to think Your thoughts after You.
“We are to think with the mind of Christ, which is Scripture. We are to think objectively, which can only come from understanding truth, which is located outside of us, a truth that is revealed to us from Your Word. We are to believe it and let it transform us from the inside out to change our lives so that no matter what we might face in life, we can have stability. We can have hope. We can have joy. We can have happiness in the midst of the greatest trials because we know You have a plan and a purpose for our lives and that all things work together for good.
“Father, we pray that we will realize these things in our lives. In Christ’s name. Amen.”