Echo High school started a new series this Sunday talking about Mind Games. Romans 12:1-2 teaches that the key to transformation is renewing our minds: changing destructive patterns of thought into something that follows the mind of Christ. It means learning to think correctly about God and ourselves. This is tough because sometimes our mind is our worst enemy. People say things like: “It’s just in your head…” but what is in our heads matters! What you believe influences how you behave.
Check out 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – Paul is talking about the struggle he has to help people understand the Gospel and his ministry. He is struggling against and arguing against “false teachers” that are defaming him and telling lies. You might call this a propaganda war; it is about which voices will be most influential on the beliefs of others. To this conflict, Paul says this: “For though we are human, we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” Paul is talking about spiritual warfare as a mind game – a contest of ideas.
It was true back then and it is true now – there are forces at work in the world that seek to control the way you think, and some of those forces are sinister and harmful. I have talked with so many people that are plagued by destructive patterns of thought – held prisoner to lies, deceptions, and false assumptions about God, about themselves, and about others. Many times people are ignorant about the spiritual dimensions of such thoughts. What happens in your mind makes a very big difference in your life.
Behind our behavior is our worldview – the deep rooted beliefs at our core. I am not trying to imply that changing your patterns of thought is an easy thing to achieve, like you can just flip a switch and think differently. Paul uses the word “stronghold” on purpose. A stronghold is a fortress, a place of refuge from attack. Such fortified cities were very important in the ancient world, and Paul’s audience knows to what he is referring. One of the most famous “strongholds” of the ancient world is the city Masada, a place so well fortified it held off the Roman war machine for a long time in the first century. This image would have helped Paul’s original audience imagine an obstacle very difficult to overcome. Some of our destructive patterns of thought run deep – they are the root of insecurity, dysfunction, addiction, etc. Some of these patterns of thought are generations old – it is the way you were taught to think by your parents, who were taught something similar by their parents, and so on. Changing such deeply rooted patterns of thought is hard work. You cannot begin to live the truth until you believe the truth, and you cannot believe the truth until you hear the truth. Our culture is constantly telling its story and propagating its version of reality. this is why it is so important to read scripture and see and understand the Kingdom of God. It is a different way of looking at reality. Mind games matter. What you believe determines how you behave. Your core beliefs influence your actions, reaction, and attitudes. These core beliefs change slowly. They are deeply held and ingrained convictions that we hold close to our hearts.
Bringing down a stronghold is a war of attrition. Overcoming a stronghold is going to involve a siege. The Romans laid siege to the Sicarii at Masada for months before they could take the city. In a siege, sometimes you have to starve the enemy out. It is a war of attrition, it isn’t fun, it isn’t fast, but it is effective. How would you do this in spiritual warfare? It would mean blocking access to the food or the fuel for certain destructive patterns of thought. We live in a world where we have access to so many avenues of information. Much of this is very influential on our thoughts – some of it even has the goal of controlling your mind and shaping your worldview. Marketing is a mind game. It is about the battle of ideas, the power of suggestion. It is ultimately about control. It is about getting people to do what you want them to do. We can convince ourselves or be convinced that something that is untrue is true. Sometimes these sources of information are feeding destructive and unhealthy patterns of thought.
Follow me on this: if you are struggling with this attitude of “lack” that feeds a materialistic and shallow lifestyle, you should probably be careful about fashion magazines and trips to the shopping mall. If watching stick-thin actresses pretend to be average people on T.V. makes you feel fat and provokes your insecurity – you should probably watch something different. If you are struggling with lust or looking at women as objects, but you are not addressing your pornography addiction, nothing is going to change anytime soon. Some strongholds need to be starved! If facebook feeds your “drama” addiction – unplug. There are some behaviors or compulsions that are rooted in a spiritual stronghold – which is a deep system of thought or belief. You cannot change them until you change the way you think.
Food for discussion/thought:
*We all deal with destructive patterns of thought in different ways. What are some “mind games” that you struggle with? (Critical thoughts, insecurity, pride, envy, jealousy, shame, depression, doubt, lust, prejudice, etc.?)Can you identify some harmful thought patterns that need to be adjusted in light of the claims of Jesus?
*Do you agree that core beliefs change slowly? Why do you think this is?
*In your mind, can you think of any strongholds that you need to stop feeding?
<Thanks to stufficanuse.com for the picture>