Stemming from the 2010 Desiring God National Conference, this volume explores loving God with both the heart and the mind. Contributions by Warren, Chan, Piper, Mohler, Sproul, and Anyabwile.
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About the Author
John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and the chancellor of Bethlehem College&Seminary. He served for thirty-three years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than fifty books, including Desiring God; Don’t Waste Your Life; This Momentary Marriage; A Peculiar Glory; and Reading the Bible Supernaturally.
David Mathis serves as the executive editor at desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church, and adjunct professor at Bethlehem College&Seminary. He writes regularly at desiringGod.org, and he and his wife, Megan, have four children.
Thabiti M. Anyabwile (MS, North Carolina State University) serves as a pastor at Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC, and is the author of numerous books. He serves as a council member of the Gospel Coalition, is a lead writer for 9Marks Ministries, and regularly blogs at The Front Porch and Pure Church. He and his wife, Kristie, have three children.
R. Albert Mohler Jr. (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the ninth president and the Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology of Southern Seminary. Considered a leader among American evangelicals by Time and Christianity Today magazines, Dr. Mohler hosts two programs: The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview, and Thinking in Public, a series of conversations with today’s leading thinkers. He also writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural, and theological issues.
R. C. Sproul (1939–2017) was founder of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian discipleship organization located near Orlando, Florida. He was also founding pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. His radio program, Renewing Your Mind, is still broadcast daily on hundreds of radio stations around the world and can also be heard online. Sproul contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, spoke at conferences, churches, colleges, and seminaries around the world, and wrote more than one hundred books, including The Holiness of God, Chosen by God, and Everyone’s a Theologian. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.
Read an Excerpt
The Battle for Your Mind
A violent battle is raging around us twenty-four hours per day.
In 1965, Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote a book about it called The Invisible War. It is the battle for your mind, and that battle is vicious. It is intense. It is unrelenting, and it is unfair because Satan never plays fair. And the reason why it is so intense is that your greatest asset is your mind.
I have seen the face of mental illness. I have seen what it is like when people are unable to hear God because their minds are broken and cannot seem to connect to God even when they want to connect to God. And I know whatever gets your mind gets you. So one of the most important things we need to learn and teach others is how to guard, strengthen, and renew our minds, because the battle for sin always starts in the mind.
There are many passages in Scripture that we could look at in this chapter, but I want us to focus in on one, 2 Corinthians 10:3–5: Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh [in other words, we don't fight with armor, we don't fight with politics, we don't fight with money, we don't fight with all the humanistic ways].For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
The apostle Paul says here that our job in this battle is to "destroy strongholds." You know what a stronghold is? It is a mental block. Paul is talking about pretentions, arguments set up against the knowledge of God. This is a mental battle. And he says, "Destroy these strongholds." A stronghold can be one of two things:
It can be a worldview, such as materialism, hedonism, Darwinism, secularism, relativism, communism, atheism. All of the different -isms are mental strongholds that people set up against the knowledge of God.
A stronghold can also be a personal attitude. Worry can be a stronghold. Seeking the approval of other people can be a stronghold. Anything that you make an idol in your life can be a stronghold — fear, guilt, resentment, insecurity. All of these things can be strongholds in your mind. And the Bible says that we are to tear them down.
Taking Every Thought Captive
Now look at the very last phrase in the passage: "take every thought captive to obey Christ." Take captive every thought. The Greek word aichmalotizo there means "to control, to conquer, to bring into submission." We take captive. We make it submit. Every thought obedient to Christ. Make it obedient. Hupakoe means "to bring into submission, to bring under control."
But how do you do that? And how do you teach other people to do that? How do I make my mind mind? I have noticed that my mind doesn't always mind. It is often disobedient. It is often very rebellious. It wants to go in a different direction. When I want to think a certain way, it wants to go another way. When I need to ponder, it wants to wander. When I need to pray, my thoughts want to float away. Paul talks about this in Romans 7, and he says, "I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. ... Wretched man that I am!" (Rom. 7:19, 24). The fact is, the reason we have so many ineffective Christians today is that they do not know how to fight the battle of the mind. And I blame pastors like me for that. We must spend more time teaching our people how to fight the battle of the mind.
Four Principles for Winning the Battle for Your Mind
I have been studying this subject for thirty-three years. I did my first study on the mind in 1977, working through all the books of the Bible. I think I could teach on this subject for an entire week. There is so much material on what the Bible has to say about strengthening our minds, renewing our minds, submitting our minds, and bringing our thoughts into captivity. There are at least one hundred principles in God's Word that have to do with what we are to do with our minds. As I said, your mind is your greatest asset.
But all I want to do in this chapter is give you four simple principles — four of the many, many principles that I have tried to teach to others over the years — for living like Christ and being effective for him.
1) Don't Believe Everything You Think
We naturally feel that if we think something, it must be true because it comes from within us. But just because you think something does not make it true. As I said above, I have seen the face of mental illness. So many different suggestions can come into the mind. The world puts suggestions in our minds that are false, and we are bombarded with those false ideas all the time. And, of course, Satan makes suggestions all the time. But your problem is much deeper than Satan. Everybody has a mental illness. We are all mentally ill. The mental illness is called sin. And the Bible uses at least a dozen different phrases for the condition of our minds under sin. Our minds are:
confused (Deut. 28:20)
anxious, closed (Job 17:3–4)
evil, restless (Eccles. 2:21–23)
rash, deluded (Lev. 5:4; Isa. 32:4 NIV)
The Bible talks about:
a troubled mind (2 Kings 6:11)
a depraved mind (1 Tim. 6:5)
a sinful mind (Rom. 8:7 NIV)
a dull mind (2 Cor. 3:14 NIV )
a blinded mind (2 Cor. 4:4)
a corrupt mind (2 Tim. 3:8)
Our Broken Minds
Our minds are broken by sin. Which means we cannot trust even what we think, ourselves. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" We have an amazing ability to lie to ourselves. You do it all the time. So do I. We lie. We tell ourselves that things aren't as bad as they really are. We tell ourselves that things are better than they really are. We tell ourselves that we're doing okay when we're not doing okay. We're telling ourselves it's no big deal when it is a big deal. In fact, the Bible tells us that you cannot be trusted to tell yourself the truth. That's why you need to question your own thoughts and teach others not to believe everything they think.
Just because you get a thought doesn't mean it's correct. This is the reason why we have so many fallen Christian leaders, because all sin begins with a lie. The Bible says Satan is "the father of lies" (John 8:44). And if he can get you to believe a lie, he can get you to sin. Anytime you sin, you are thinking that you know better than God. God has said this, but what about that? And so you have to question what you think. First John 1:8 says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." We deceive ourselves all the time.
Preconditioned to Misunderstand
I have noticed how the next generation values authenticity. I would like to ask, when has inauthenticity ever been in style? Authenticity has always been an attractive quality. But a lot of those proudly promoting their authenticity don't realize what it really is. You are not authentic until you can publicly admit how inauthentic you are most of the time. Authenticity begins when you start by admitting that you are inauthentic.
We all have blind spots. Some of us have bald spots, but we all have blind spots. We can't always tell ourselves the truth, because we don't stop to really think. Frequently we make snap judgments. We fail to notice important details. We all have more background biases than we realize. We jump to conclusions, and the Bible talks about this in Romans 2. We get trapped by categories — Are you this or that? — when whoever said there are only two categories or only three categories? We miss the big picture.
But one of the big reasons why you need to not believe everything you think is that we see what we want to see. I read whatever I can about the brain, and one of the things I just learned is that the optic nerve, which is the only nerve that goes directly to your brain, actually sends more impulses from your brain forward than from your eye backward. Which means your brain is telling you what you see. You are already preconditioned. That is why you can put four people at an accident and each of them will see something different. We must remind ourselves, and teach others, not to believe everything we think!
2) Guard Your Mind from Garbage
The second thing to learn in this battle for the mind is guarding your mind from garbage. The old cliché from the early days of the computer — GIGO, garbage in/garbage out — is still true today. If you put bad data into a computer, you will get bad results out. If you put mental garbage into your mind, you will get garbage out in your life. Proverbs 15:14: "A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash" (NLT). That might be a good verse to write on a Post-it note and stick on your television. And remember that the next time you think about going to a movie.
Any nutritionist will tell you that there are three kinds of food for your physical body. There is brain food that makes you smarter (food that actually makes you smarter!). There is junk food, which is simple calories — it's not poison, but it's just empty calories. And then there are toxic foods, which are poison.
The same is true in what you see, what you hear, and what you allow into your mind. Some food is brain food. It will make you smarter, more godly, and more mature emotionally. Then there is junk food. There is so much you can fill your mind with that really is just stuffing. It is neither good nor bad, as 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, lawful but not helpful. In other words, some things aren't necessarily wrong, but they aren't necessary. The Bible tells us to fill our minds with the right things. If you want to be healthy and "successful" in the Christian life and in ministering to others, successful in your ministry, fix your mind on the right things.
By the way, some people say, "God hasn't called me to be successful. He's called me to be faithful." That's just not true. The Bible says God expects not only faithfulness but also fruitfulness. Trace it through Scriptures. "I chose you ... that you should go and bear fruit" (John 15:16). Jesus cursed a fig tree because it didn't bear fruit (Matt. 21:19) — that's how important fruitfulness is. Faithfulness is only half the equation. God expects fruitfulness as well.
Psalm 101:3 says, "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless." I know you would never invite a couple to come over to your house and ask them, "Why don't you commit an act of adultery right here in front of us?" But you do it every time you watch a TV program that has adultery in it. You would never invite somebody, "Why don't you murder somebody right here in my living room?" But you do it every time you watch a TV show in which somebody murders. How do you guard your mind against garbage? How do you help others guard their minds against garbage? Some people are so open-minded that their brains fall out. They think they can allow anything into their mind, and they will be just fine. They're kidding themselves.
Two Ways to Guard Our Minds
Philippians 4:6–8 gives us two ways to guard our minds from garbage: conversational prayer and concentrated focusing:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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.
How do you know when you have the peace that "surpasses all understanding"? When you give up trying to understand fully why God does what he does and simply trust him. This peace "will guard your hearts and your minds."
The first way you guard your heart and mind is "in everything" to pray. Then Paul says to think about "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." Notice that he says to pray about everything. If you were to pray as much as you worry, you would have a lot less to worry about. Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything. This kind of prayer is like a running conversation — which means we are not on our knees. We don't close our eyes.
I have trained myself to do this. I talk to God all the time. I'm talking to him while I'm writing to you. You can develop a two-track mind. The average person can speak about 150 words per minute, but the average mind can understand about 350 words per minute — that is a 200- word per minute boredom factor. So you can certainly talk to God and talk to somebody else at the same time. So pray about everything. Maintain a running conversation.
Second, Paul says that we should fix our thoughts. "Think about these things." How do you do that? By concentrated focusing. This is one of the keys to overcoming temptation: don't merely resist it; replace it. Whatever you merely resist persists. The more you hit a nail, the harder you drive it into the wood. And when people say I don't want to think about this, what are they doing? They are thinking about it! And whatever gets your focus gets you. James tells us that "sin when it is fully grown brings forth death" (James 1:15). So don't merely resist it.
When I was a little kid, and I knew my mother had baked cookies, I would go up to the edge of the kitchen counter, and she would say, "Now, Ricky, don't eat those cookies." I would say, "I'm not, Mom. I'm just looking." I'm looking. I don't want it. I don't want it. And then I would grab it and eat it. Don't just resist; replace. Change the channel. Refocus. In the words of Thomas Chalmers, it is "the expulsive power of a new affection" that turns your mind away from the things that the Devil wants you to focus on to the things that God wants you to focus on. Guard your mind from garbage is the second key.
3) Never Let Up on Learning
The third thing to learn and teach to others in this battle for the mind is to never let up on learning. Become a lifelong learner. Love knowledge. Love wisdom. Learn to love the act of learning. The word disciple means "learner." You cannot be a disciple of Christ without being a learner. Jesus said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden [by the way, that sounds like a felt need!], and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me" (Matt. 11:28–29). What do you do when you take on a yoke? You share a burden with another animal. You lighten a load. And Jesus wants us to learn from him.
Many people act as though their education ended at their last graduation. I have met some pastors who have not cracked a book since seminary. They have never studied anything else. They have never taken another class since finishing school. Are you kidding me? To be a disciple means to be a learner. All leaders must first be disciples. So leaders must first be learners. The moment you stop learning, you stop leading. Growing churches require growing pastors. The moment you stop growing, your church stops growing.
You can learn from anybody if you just know the right questions. The Bible says, "Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out" (Prov. 20:5 KJV). In other words, you can learn from anybody if you just learn to draw out his or her knowledge. And how do you do it? You draw it out by asking questions. We all know things that others don't, and others know things of which we are ignorant. That's why the Bible says, "Iron sharpens iron" (Prov. 27:17).
But if you are going to really learn, you need one quality in particular: humility. Why does God resist the proud and give grace to the humble (1 Pet. 5:5)? Because the humble are teachable. I would rather admit that I don't know it all than to pretend that I know it all and not learn. You can learn from anybody. I learn from churches larger than Saddleback. I learn from churches smaller than Saddleback. I learn from guys older than me and from guys younger. I learn from people who don't like me. I learn from critics. I learn from people who totally misunderstand me. You can learn from anybody. Learning from your enemies is a way to be smarter than your enemies, because if your enemies learn only from themselves, but you learn from them, then you will know more than they do — what they know plus what you know!
Proverbs 18:15 (ICB) says, "The mind of a smart person is eager to get knowledge [that's a mark of intelligence!], and the wise person listens to learn more." We need to be eager to learn and willing to listen. Learn this old cliché: "God gave us two ears and one mouth," so we should listen twice as much as we speak. Proverbs 10:14 says, "Wise men store up knowledge" (NIV). In Scripture, knowledge is the only thing we are supposed to store up. Jesus says we are not to store up money. Don't store up treasure. Don't store up material possessions where moth and rust decay. But store up knowledge because knowledge is far more important than money. You can always get more money, but knowledge is something you are going to take with you to heaven. You will leave all your material wealth behind, but a wealth of knowledge goes with you.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Thinking. Loving. Doing."
Copyright © 2011 Desiring God Ministries.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction Think, Love, Do: In Gospel Perspective DAVID MATHIS, 11,
1 The Battle for Your Mind RICK WARREN, 25,
2 The Way the World Thinks: Meeting the Natural Mind in the Mirror and in the Marketplace R. ALBERT MOHLER JR., 47,
3 Thinking Deeply in the Ocean of Revelation: The Bible and the Life of the Mind R. C. SPROUL, 67,
4 Thinking for the Sake of Global Faithfulness: Encountering Islam with the Mind of Christ THABITI ANYABWILE, 81,
5 Think Hard, Stay Humble: The Life of the Mind and the Peril of Pride FRANCIS CHAN, 99,
Conclusion Thinking for the Sake of Joy: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God JOHN PIPER, 123,
A Conversation with the Contributors, 135,
Subject Index, 157,
Name Index, 161,
Scripture Index, 163,
Desiring God: A Note on Resources, 167,