O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Spirit of your Mind
"Spirit of your Mind"
Based on Eph.4:17 - 5:2
Preached on August 12, 2012
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
Fellow baptized saints, we're going to try a little experiment that one of my professors in seminary pulled on us in class one day. It requires you to picture something in your mind. Are you ready? What is the first thing that comes into your mind when I say, "Do not think about a big purple elephant"? Did you see it? That big purple elephant has been haunting seminary students for decades. It seems like no matter how hard you try, that big thing just shows up in your mind. And purple elephants don't even exist!
This little exercise is meant to demonstrate the way our human minds' work. They are not as easily controlled as we might like. In the words of a young boy in confirmation class, "it's like my mind has a mind of its own." But isn't it true? How do you completely control what you think about? Why do you think the way you do? Take worrying for example. Put up your hand if you lay down in your bed at night and say, "Now, I choose to worry." No. The mind meditates on the things we put in it - whatever they may be, even purple elephants. You do not control what your mind meditates on - you only control what goes into your mind. St. Paul alludes to this in the epistle reading when he says, "be renewed in the spirit of your minds." It is like your mind is alive, and it needs to be fed the right food.
So why don't we take a moment and ask ourselves, what sorts of things are going into my mind? What is the spirit of my mind being shaped by most? Advertisements? The Evening News? The conversations I have with the people around me? What words and images are framing the way I think?
The truth is our minds are absorbing the words and images of the world far more than they are feasting on the Word of God. They are being shaped more by the slippery words of the world than by the firm foundation of God's Word. Is this what we want, to be slowly lulled off to sleep by the Evil One, as he redecorates our minds to be his living room?
But it has already happened, hasn't it? Look at Canada. What used to be a Christian country has become a place where Christians are afraid to stand up and be Christians, because they don't want to offend anybody. Canada has been reframed, and this reframing has happened in our minds. In the minds of Christian people. We have been tricked, worn down by the messages of the world - messages of tolerance and multiculturalism - that teach us to be happy for people who do not know Christ, when in reality it is terribly sad. They teach us that all religious ideas are equal, when Christ Himself says "I, alone, am the truth." Christian minds have been reframed so they are not Christian, so that they do not help lost people, but tolerantly leave them to suffer and and die alone. Look how loving we are.
But what should we expect? What would the human mind be like naturally? What spirit is our mind born with? St. Paul tells us. He says, "you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them." Futility of their minds? Darkened in their understanding? Ignorance is in them? Someone check with the government to see if St. Paul can speak this way. God has made it perfectly clear. Our mind cannot be left alone. Our mind is dark and ignorant of God on its own. A radical intervention must take place or it will stay alienated from the life of God.
St. Paul's description doesn't end there. He says, They have become callous and their hearts are hard. This means their consciences aren't working anymore. They don't think they are doing anything wrong. They have become used to impurity. Used to the filth of sin. Unclean things no longer concern them. Paul says, They have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. Can you believe this is St. Paul speaking to the early church? It sounds like a detailed description of today. Sex sells everything these days. Pornography is mainstream, taking up 12% of all websites, 8% of all emails, 25% of all search engine requests and 35% of all downloads. There are even 116,000 searches for child pornography every day. Divorce is the norm. Homosexuality is commonplace, and every one of our minds is being shaped by these things.
Well, every mind in the world may want to go this way, "But, as St. Paul says, that is not the way you learned Christ!" That is not the way you are to think. For Christ has called you to be His own in baptism, and He calls you to live your Christian baptism, even when no one else is - just as the early Church did.
So he implores you, "Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, put on the new self." Let God shape the way you think with His living Word. Make Him first in your day. Let His Words and His images reframe your mind each day to the mind of Christ. Drown the old self, the old way of thinking, and put on the new self. This is why Luther's Small Catechism teaches us, "In the morning when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then, kneeling or standing repeat the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Then go joyfully to your work." This is not child's play. It is a way to have God frame your day. To renew the spirit of your mind for your walk of faith that day. To put His Words in your mind first, before the all the garbage you know you will be fed. To focus you on how Christ might use you to His glory and to the service of others.
Since we began the 2-year Bible reading program, I have had a number of people tell me they have noticed God reshaping their minds. Changing the way they think. They have even seen this new mind manifest itself in words and actions at their workplace. God renews the spirit of our minds so He can reach out to others through us, so He can send His radical message of intervention into this hurting world.
But it is important to remember, this renewal of mind does not happen overnight. It is daily struggle. For the world's words and images still wage their war. They must be overcome by the words and images of Christ. This is why we remember the meaning of our baptism every day. For in your baptism, God gives you the strength to face the day as a Christian - to drown the old self - to fight the impulse to impurity - and defeat the temptation to think like the world. You are not idle after your baptism, because being a Christian is a new life - It requires a new way of thinking, a change from the old. The old way of thinking is gone, the new has come. - The Christian way of thinking.
Let the Lord start the change with the way you think about church - God has not called you here to merely sit in the pew - He wants your mind engaged, receiving His Words, being renewed - He wants your mind engaged with your brothers and sisters in Christ - knowing who they are and what is happening in their lives - He wants to renew the spirit of your mind, and the spirit of your congregation, of which you are an important part. Let Christ show you how He sees the people who sit around you. Let Him frame your eyes to see them the same way. For this is the great mystery of your new self.
Who is the new self? Christ - Christ has come, to earth yes - but also to you - put on Christ - In the heart, contrition, in the mouth, confession, in the work, entire humility
The chief way, the chief spirit of Christ - is forgiveness - to forgive and love in a sacrificial way that puts others ahead of you - that means when they wrong you, you tell them, but you forgive them immediately, because that is the spirit of Christ
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr