The following are the notes from this week’s CROSSROADS lesson. Words in bold identify key phrases from notes pages handed out each week. If you would like copies of our slides, please feel free to reach and request them. As these are from the notes pages for each week, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.
This lesson is part of a series called “What Does It Mean To Be A Christian”. To see an overview of this series, click HERE.
Take a look at the quote on the screen. Marcus Aurelius was a very successful emperor of Rome (many of them were pretty terrible) and fairly well respected among his peers as a leader and a great thinker (I should note that during his time in power, Christians were NOT treated well). He stated, “The soul becomes dyed with the color of it’s thoughts.” What do you think that means?
When I read this quote, I think of all the bright red shirts I got when I was in college. NC State’s colors are red and white so when you attended college you ended up with a ton of red and white shirts. I ended up with several shirts that had a distinct pink hue to them, especially when I was first learning how to do laundry. As funny as it looked, almost anyone could look at the shirt and say “that’s supposed to be a white shirt”. At the same time, the same people who knew that the shirt SHOULD be white also could tell I washed it with one of the many red NC State shirts floating around. In other words, without me actually wearing the red shirt, they could tell I owned red shirts. This quote says much the same thing. We often think our thoughts are these private things that no one around us can see, but in reality our thoughts leave “hues” of what is happening in our minds on how we act. Need proof? Just ask Meredith if I act differently when I have a ton of my mind. We all do it and we have to be aware of the fact that our thoughts have real impacts on us as people and on the world around us.
The first take away I have for you tonight is that your thought INFLUENCE every part of who you are. This is what we explained on the last slide and you can probably see how this is true in your own life. Have you ever worked yourself up about something that wasn’t really a big deal? Did anyone necessarily have to get you worked up or did you do it all in your head? A lot of the time we do it to ourselves. What about when you get emotional? Think about the last thing that got you upset. Were you upset right away when that “thing” happened or were you more upset after you had a chance to think things over? I know I have moments from time to time where an event happens and it rolls off my back, but then my mind takes off and I start getting worked up. We have to be careful to not let our minds WANDER places that hurt us.
So why is it that our thoughts tend to wander to unhealthy places? Temptation? Sin? The pains and struggles of the world? How about ‘all of the above’? Our minds are quick to wander because it’s easy to leave you mind be consumed by what’s right in front of your face. That’s why it’s so important to be constantly praying, going to church, reading the Bible, and spending time with other Christians; if your RELATIONSHIP with God is front-and-center, your thoughts are more likely to wander towards God. This brings us to our second big take-away for the evening: your thoughts REVEAL the focus of your life. Take a look at what Paul writes about thoughts in Romans.
For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. Now the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)
What Paul explains exactly what we just covered; that your mind will be set on whatever you are living for. If you live for the world, your mind will be set on the world (or the “flesh” as he writes it). If you live for God, your mind will be set on God. But Paul goes one step forward to mention the consequences of these mindsets. The flesh will eventually die and decay. One day we will all pass from this earth. For those who have a relationship with Christ, we have eternal life to enjoy but everything we know of this world will waste away. The same construct applies to our thoughts. If our mind is wholly set on things of the flesh… our popularity, our pride, our vanity… then our thoughts are focused on nothing but death. On the contrary, if our thoughts are focused on God… the God of eternal life and love… then our minds will start reflecting God’s love and, hopefully, our actions as well.
When we talk about thoughts, its important to understand that as much as you might not like it, your thoughts are known. God created you and everything around you. Don’t you think he knows your thoughts? It’s important to always remember that the God who CREATED you KNOWS you inside and out. He knows what you are thinking now, what you’ll be thinking when you leave here tonight and what you’ll be thinking tomorrow at school. There is no secret motive or feeling that can escape him. David writes about this in Psalms 139.
Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me. This wondrous knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it. Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, even there your hand will lead me; your right hand will hold on to me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night”— even the darkness is not dark to you. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to you. (Psalms 139:1-12)
Depending on what goes through your head most of the time, this is either comforting or concerning. For most of us, I think we’d call this concerning. I know I have tons of horrible things go through my head on a daily basis. The fact of the matter is that God sees everything you have written in your mind. When you think you’re pulling one over on your teacher or your parents, God knows the truth. When you say with your mouth that you’re doing something for one reason and in your mind you know you are doing it for a different reason, God knows. When you are fully aware of what you SHOULD do but yet you decide to do what is “fun” or “easy”, God knows what is going through your head. There is no hiding what you are thinking from God.
But that’s the amazing part. This is where you see God’s greatness. God knows every thought of every man, woman, and child that ever has been thought, is being thought, or ever will be thought. Yet, despite knowing that many will reject who he is and continue to curse his name, he still chose to send his son to die on a cross for you. God still provides you with opportunity after opportunity to choose a life focused on God rather than focused on the death that the world has to offer. God love you DESPITE YOUR THOUGHTS and would be willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice time and time again just to have a relationship with you. See how the “creepy” thought of God suddenly adds tremendously to his glory? God is glorious because his love and mercy are stronger than the penalty we probably deserve for the things we do, the decisions we make, the things we say, and the things we think. God is greater than it all.