In the first post in the series I mentioned the need for practical training to prepare our minds for action when action is needed. The reality is that being a follower of Jesus puts a big target on you, both to the world and to spiritual powers and principalities that oppose God. The fight will often take place internally when it is an assault on the believer, or will have internal ramifications even when it is related to an external dispute. There are two main analogies to keep in mind when considering the girding up, namely running and fighting. Messengers would need to wrap their clothing more securely around their loins to aid in speed, and soldiers would do the same to aid in mobility when fighting.
One caveat to prevent people from labeling me a works based Christian. The intention of this series is specific – it is about training the mind. It is categorically not about salvation. The things we are discussing are not about how one enters the Kingdom for that is in Christ alone. No, these things are about being well prepared for holding fast in the Kingdom, and living a life of victory in Christ.
With that said, during my devotional time I began thinking through the basic training steps we can put our minds through to stay in shape and be mentally prepared for whatever comes. And so today we turn to the first two practical concepts, and these are the biggest of them all.
1) Prayer – without a doubt it is one of the single most equipping things in our walk with Jesus. Prayer petitions God for His help, His perspective, and submits our self to His will. Prayer reminds us that we are not in this alone. Prayer reminds us of the reason for running the race – Jesus, and our hope in Him. Prayer recalls that we are neither the strong one nor the smart one, but we belong to Him.
When we pray in the Spirit, we edify ourselves which means we build ourselves up internally. There is a strengthening that takes place, much like the strengthening that comes from doing sets of repetitions in weight training. As we pray, we deny the old ways of thinking and living, and engage with a new way wherein we have communion with God through the Holy Spirit. And when we pray, we listen to hear the voice of the Creator as He speaks council and correction to us, illuminating what is darkness, and revealing truth to us.
2) Scripture – along with prayer must come devotion to the Word of God, because it is profitable for training in righteousness, for correction, for reproof and for teaching (2 Tim. 3:16). Scripture helps shape and support the structure of the mind – it gives strength, shape and definition. Scripture sets the boundaries of right thinking, as well as pointing us to Jesus which is its most important work, revealing God’s holiness and shining a light on our own sin so that it can be dealt with properly.
I got to thinking about running shoes and our Bibles. When someone says they run, what is the first place we can look to know it is true? We might be tempted to look at their form and physique, but that can be achieved by diet, aesthetic services at spas, medications and other things. But we could also look at their running shoes. If their running shoes are fresh out of the box, even though the receipt shows they were purchased a year or more ago, it’s a pretty good sign that they’re not quite the runner they claim to be. Likewise, someone can sound very Christian by knowing the right terms, acting in the right way, but what is their Bible looking like? Any dog eared pages? Any scribbles and scrawls? Is the binding in the spine uncracked? The following is attributed to Vance Havner, though is sometimes also attributed to Charles Spurgeon:
“If you see a Bible that is falling apart, it probably belongs to someone who isn’t!”
Clearly I’m not intending you to start checking on other people’s Bibles and judging them, I’m just saying that our Bibles are not magic amulets that imbue us with power by their being in our houses daily. Just as owning a pair of sneakers does not equip you for running a marathon, owning a Bible is not enough to equip you for the life of following Jesus. You’ve got to read it, pray through it and live it out.
So the first two disciplines for training the mind are prayer and reading the Scriptures. More to come!