It was back in July, 2009 that I made the decision to jump in. We’re living in the information age, and technology has made available numerous communication tools that can be especially useful to us who are “truth bringers.” Along with my main forum of preaching in the public assembly I thought I would make use of the Pastor’s Corner on our church’s website to write a blog. Now, almost two years later I thought I’d do a reset of the title and the goal of this endeavor, it surely can’t hurt. For those who have been following it for a while, this is a helpful reminder, and for new people this is an opportunity to be a part.“Keeping Your Head In The Game” comes from the world of sport’s terminology. It refers to being mentally prepared, fully alert, involved to the very end in order to live up to your full potential, and to put games away in the win column. I’m a University of Arizona men’s basketball fan, and I hate close games; it’s too hard on my blood pressure! If I’m listening to a game and it’s a nail-biter, I will turn it off and do other things, checking back in periodically to see what the score is. My least favorite kind of game is the buzzer-beater: games that go down to the final seconds and could go either way, victory or defeat. Yesterday, in the NCAA tournament there was a little bit of March “madness.” With seconds left on the clock it seemed that the UofA had given up the lead and was headed for defeat against the Texas Longhorns. But with 12 seconds left, Texas committed a five second inbound violation, turning the ball over to the Wildcats who scored and took the lead with 9.6 seconds left. They managed to hold on to the lead, win the game, and advance to the Sweet 16. Phew! You talk about an emotional roller-coaster; that was one for the record books! Victory was theirs because they kept their heads in the game to the last second.
OK, now that I’ve got that out of my system, I’m not talking about basketball but loving God and Christian living. Specifically, the purpose of this blog is the Bible’s call to thinking Biblically, or the goal of helping us have a “Christian mind.” A Christian mind is not about being religious or going to church services. It’s all about having God’s mind (“let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”), and to think God’s thoughts about things. In the final analysis the important thing is always “What does God think or say? What is the will of God in this situation or concerning this matter?” This is what should shape our thinking, our world view, our attitudes and our decisions.
We are called to “walk in the Spirit” and the enabler has to do with our minds, keeping our heads in the game. (Rom.8:6-8) “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God's laws, and it never will. That's why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.” Similarly, the dynamic process of Christian growth and maturity involves what the Bible describes as “putting off the old man” (the life of sin) and “putting on the new man” (new life in Christ). There is a tiny verse inserted right in the middle that tells us how this takes place and what the outcome is to be. It says, “And be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” (Eph.4:23) The Amplified version puts it this way, “And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude].” It’s not about getting degrees or mere intellectualism, it’s about using the means God has given us to know Him, love Him, and serve Him and people. Thinking Biblically is one of those means. To love God “with all...your mind.”
This facet is profoundly important in the last days. In (1Pet.4:7-11) the Apostle Peter tells us that we are living a very dramatic moment in history when he announces, “The end of all things is at hand.” The Message paraphrase puts it this way, “everything in the world is about to be wrapped up.” While we don’t know the exact time, and God’s measurement of time is different than ours, but he tells us that we are living in the terminal generation. That fact and knowledge does not lead to sensationalism or disengaged living. No, the Bible’s teaching on eschatology (last things/end times) leads to a mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually well-grounded life. Bible prophecy doesn’t lead to fanciful speculation but to being fully-engaged and embracing our calling in Christ and His church. This includes the practice of prayer, the priority of love, the exercise of hospitality, and using the gifts we have for the glory of God and the building up of the church. Peter says this is how to invest our lives and live well in the last days. He gives us a last days plan! Years ago, I preached a series of four sermons from this text called, “Triumphant Living in the Terminal Generation.”
It’s significant that the starting point for triumphant living is in our MINDS. “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be sober and watch unto prayer.” He’s talking about the necessity of keeping our heads in the game! Listen to different translations of this verse: “therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (ESV); “therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (NIV); “therefore be earnest, thoughtful men of prayer” (LB); “be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (NASU); “keep sound minded and self-restrained and alert therefore for [the practice of] prayer.” (AMP) To love God and be disciplined and effective in our prayers starts in our minds! It’s the same as the last days exhortation that Paul gave to Timothy (2Tim.4:5) “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” We’re called, especially in the leadership arena, to KEEP OUR HEADS, WHEN EVERYONE ELSE IS LOSING THEIRS!
The Pastor and author, John Piper, has just published a book called, “Think” - the Life of the Mind and the Love of God. He clarifies his aim by saying, “This book is a plea to embrace serious thinking as a means of loving God and people. It is a plea to reject either-or-thinking when it comes to head and heart, thinking and feeling, reason and faith, theology and doxology, mental labor and the ministry of love. It is a plea to see thinking as a necessary, God-ordained means of knowing God. Thinking is one of the important ways that we put the fuel of knowledge on the fires of worship and service to the world.” The purpose is as simple as it is profound: the more we see of his surpassing greatness and knowledge and wisdom and power and justice and wrath and mercy and patience and goodness and grace and love, the more we will treasure him. Biblical thinking is a God-given means to that end. Let me give you the recommendations of other respected men of God that confirms the importance of this spiritual discipline:
-“This book promises to shepherd a generation about the Christian commitment of the life of the mind” - J.P. Moreland
-“John Piper offers much wise advice on the importance of Christian thinking as a way of loving God with our minds and as part of delighting in God above all things.” - George Marsden
-“Do you ever wish you could feel more deeply about things you know are true? Has it been a while since you were moved to tears at the thought of Christ’s death for your sins? It’s not mysterious: those who feel deeply about the Gospel are those who think deeply about the Gospel......If you want to feel profoundly, think carefully.” - C.J. Mahaney
-“An essential dimension of Christian discipleship is the life of the mind, and this may well be the most neglected Christian responsibility of our times God has made us intelligible creatures, and he has given us the stewardship of intellectual faculties that should drive us to think in ways that bring him greatest glory.” - R. Albert Mohler Jr.
-“Thinking—the alert, meticulous, probing, logical, critical use of the mind— will be a highway either to godliness or to its opposite, depending on how it is done.” - J.I. Packer
-“Those who are skittish when it comes to rigorous study, deep thinking, and theological precision have wanted us to believe that our problem is the mind, when in fact it’s the flesh. The problem isn’t knowledge, it’s pride.” - Sam Storms
-“Some Christians don’t think nearly enough; others are prone to think in the wrong way. I warmly commend John Piper’s appeal to all believers to be diligent in engaging our minds and to do so with ‘God-honoring humility and Christ-loving passion.” - Vaughan Roberts
As we reset the blog’s purpose remember the statement: “Sow a though, reap an action. So an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a lifestyle. Sow a lifestyle, reap a destiny. Sow a destiny, reap an eternity.” It all begins with you and I keeping our heads in the game! That’s my posture moving forward. To quote one of the ancient church fathers, Augustine, “I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.” Join me in this al-important endeavor.