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Spiritual Stability, Part 5: Godly Thinking B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
January 12, 2023 3:00 am

Spiritual Stability, Part 5: Godly Thinking B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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January 12, 2023 3:00 am

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Spiritual stability is a product of cultivating peace in the fellowship, maintaining a spirit of joy, learning to accept less than you're due, resting on a confident trust or faith in the Lord, reacting to problems with thankful prayer, and all of that flows out of focusing on godly virtues that begin to dominate your thinking patterns that make your life stabilize. If you're a Christian, you can navigate any challenge or setback with peace and confidence if you apply the biblical principles John MacArthur looks at today. So stay tuned as John returns to his study called Seven Steps to Spiritual Stability, here on Grace To You. But just before we consider what Scripture says about being a spiritually stable Christian, we're privileged every week to hear about the stabilizing effect that Grace To You's Bible teaching has in the lives of listeners.

And John, you have a recent example that explains exactly what I'm talking about. Yeah, this is a wonderful letter. It begins, I first heard you when I was in my teens. My sister took me to see you when you were preaching in Boston. I fell asleep.

Well, you're not alone. Not a very encouraging letter to a pastor, I know, but wait, the good stuff is coming. After many trials and failed efforts to run my own life, God brought me to Himself through Jesus Christ. And now I listen to you every morning and hang onto every word you say. The first thing I do when I get up is pray. The next thing I do is listen to Grace To You on while I am making my breakfast. So many times I have listened to your preaching and afterwards have gotten on my face before the Lord, thanking Him for your teaching and asking Him to help me apply the things that I've heard to my own walk with God. So thank you for your passion to bring the truth to people instead of the circus acts that some churches try to pass off as worship. I admire how you showed great commitment to the Word of God during the COVID shutdowns.

I pray for you often that God would continue to encourage people through your Bible teaching. I know this letter may not be read over the broadcast, but it is, but I wrote it out of sincere appreciation of how your broadcast touches my walk with the Lord each day. And she signs, Your sister in Christ, Stacy.

What can we say, Stacy? Thank you so very much. And then she adds a P.S. I wanted to send you a can of Fresca as a little thank you, but I couldn't find it anywhere.

Sorry, this is the best I can do. So she sent a picture of it. That's okay, Stacy.

I've got plenty of Fresca. And together with Stacy and all those who support this ministry, we're locked arm in arm and helping God's people grow stable and strong in His Word day after day all around the world. So thank you for strengthening people by being a partner with us. There are thousands upon thousands like Stacy who are benefited by this ministry. And we wouldn't have a ministry outside our four walls without friends like you coming alongside, praying for us, supporting us financially, and telling others about grace to you. Be sure you tell others that we're available. You need to drive them toward this ministry for their spiritual benefit. And again, thank you for being part of our team. Yes, thank you, friend. It is a joy to work alongside you, to use your support to spread verse-by-verse teaching across the globe, strengthening individual believers and churches.

So thank you for all you've done to help us start 2023 on sound footing. And now stay here as John turns to the book of Philippians and shows you seven steps to spiritual stability. You as a believer are a product of your thinking, because it says in the Bible as clearly as possible, as a man thinks in his heart, so what is he? You are the product of your thoughts. Now what is particularly frightening about that in our culture is that it seems to me that thinking is not really that important today. We are not so concerned about thinking as we are about two other things. Let's call them emotion and pragmatism. We are concerned about feeling and we are concerned about success.

We are not so concerned about thinking. In other words, people don't ask this question, Is it true? And they don't ask the question, Is it right? They ask these questions, Does it work and how will it make me feel? That's what they want to know. They don't want to know, Is it right? They don't really care if it's right. They don't particularly care if it's true.

But will it work and will it make me feel good? Bill Hull in a book entitled Right Thinking, written in 1985, writes, What scares me is the anti-intellectual, anti-critical thinking philosophy that has spilled over into the church. This philosophy tends to romanticize the faith, making the local church into an experience center. Their concept of church is that they are spiritual consumers and that the church's job is to meet their felt needs, end quote. And what is happening in the church is that people are going to church not to think, not to reason about the truth, not like the noble Bereans to search the Scriptures to see what is true, but they're going there to get a weekly spiritual fix, a weekly spiritual high so they can feel that God is still with them. They are spiritually unstable because they live on feeling rather than on thinking. John Stott has written in his helpful little book Your Mind Matters this, Indeed sin has more dangerous effects on our faculty of feeling than on our faculty of thinking because our opinions are more easily checked and regulated by revealed truth than our experiences, end quote.

Very wise statement. Always the Bible calls on men to think, to reason. You see, that's why the Bible is a book. When God gave us His revelation, He did not give us a movie. He did not. He did not give us a series of music videos.

You know what? He didn't even have built-in organ background when you read the Bible. Nobody is humming. There's nothing to touch your emotions except the contemplation of truth. No stimulus other than truth which requires thought. So Scriptures assume that the first priority is to think because it's a book. Now when you come to considering this matter of the mind, the Bible has a lot to say. It has a lot to say about thinking. Let me give you a little theology of thinking.

Come in quick, so hold on. What about before you're saved? What does it say about your mind?

Here it comes. First of all, your mind is depraved, Romans 1.28. It's depraved, debased, debauched, wicked, evil.

That's what that means. Secondly, it's blind, 2 Corinthians 4. Thirdly, it is futile, vain, worthless, useless, Ephesians 4.17. Fourthly, it is ignorant, Ephesians 4.18.

Finally, it is foolish, 1 Corinthians 2.14. So depraved, it does not choose what is good. So blind, it does not know what is good. So useless, it does not perform what is good. So ignorant, it doesn't even know it's doing all of this.

And you're left with the only alternative, everything is foolish. That's the mind of man, fallen man. The gospel then penetrates, right? Now what about the mind at salvation?

Is the gospel concerned about the mind? You better believe it. Peter says, you must be able to give to every man who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.

You have to be able to show him a reason for this. Why do you believe this? In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus said, sometimes the seed falls, verse 19, on the ground and the seed is the word of the kingdom and the hard ground is the heart that does not understand it and Satan snatches it away. It demands reason and it demands understanding. An element of salvation, an element of it is occurring within the mind as a person is coming to a proper comprehension of truth, truth about himself, truth about his sin, truth about God, truth about Christ, truth about the work of Christ, truth about the future.

That all comes into the mind. That's why it says in Romans 10 that faith comes by hearing a speech about Christ. It's not some esoteric thing. Faith comes through the mind. So the reason, come now, let us reason together, says Isaiah. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool. Though they be red like crimson, they shall become as white as snow.

Let's reason that. The gospel hits the mind. That's what made those Bereans so noble. They searched the Scripture.

They thought it through. J. Gresham mentioned that great student of Scripture in his book, The Christian Faith in the Modern World, said what the Holy Spirit does in the new birth is not to make a man a Christian regardless of the evidence, but on the contrary, to clear away the mists from his eyes and enable him to attend to the evidence. That's the point. He sees it. He understands it by the working of the Spirit of God. Well this we know because men are saved to be worshipers, right? John 4, the Father seeks true worshipers. And a true worshiper worships in spirit and in what?

Truth. So if we're saved to worship in truth, then truth is crucial. And in Luke 10 27 it says, you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. You see, salvation is an intelligent response to God's self-revelation in Scripture prompted by the Holy Spirit. True faith is not an irrational leap. True faith is not some contact with the ground of being, as Paul Tillich used to say. True faith is not some explosion into a non-quantifiable event. True faith is not some mysterious, irreproducible, unspeakable encounter. True faith is a reasonable trust in the revealed truth about the true God.

It is a process of thinking. Salvation is impossible without thinking. When Jesus was talking to His disciples in Matthew 6, He...well, all the time when He was talking to them, we want to get them to think, but in Matthew 6, you know, they were bemoaning the fact that they might not have food and clothing.

And you remember, He came to them and He basically says, the birds of the air, they're taken care of and you see how the lilies of the field are and the grass of the field and all of that. And, O you of little faith, why don't you just believe God to take care of you? Remember that in Matthew 6? Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his classic, The Sermon on the Mount, writes this little paragraph on that section.

I think it's worthy of repeating. He says, faith, according to our Lord's teaching in this paragraph, is primarily thinking. And the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he doesn't think.

He allows circumstances to bludgeon him. We must spend more time in studying our Lord's lessons in observation and deduction. The Bible, he says, is full of logic and we must never think of faith as something purely mystical. We do not just sit down in an armchair and expect marvelous things to happen to us. This is not Christian faith.

Christian faith is essentially thinking. Look at the birds. Think about them and draw your deductions. Look at the grass. Look at the lilies of the field.

Consider them. Faith, if you like, can be defined like this. It is a man insisting upon thinking when everything seems determined to bludgeon and knock him down in an intellectual sense. The trouble with the person of little faith is that instead of controlling his own thought, his thought is being controlled by something else.

And as we put it, he goes round and round in circles. That is the essence of worry. Now get this. That is not thought. That is the absence of thought. End quote.

Great. What does he mean by that? He means if you worry, it's because you're not thinking.

You're being bludgeoned by your circumstances. If you rise above them and think about your God and think about His purposes and think about His promises and think about His plans, you won't worry, right? Remember that when you worry. You're not, you worry, you think too much. No, you think too little.

You think far too little in the right direction. Faith is not optimism. Faith is not psychological self-hypnosis. Faith is not wishful thinking.

Faith is a reasoned response to revealed truth. Now, we talked about what your mind was like before salvation. We talked about how God moves your mind at salvation.

What about after salvation? Well, your mind's been transformed. You've got a new mind. You have a whole new thought patterns. To show you this, look at Romans chapter 8.

This draws it as simply and clearly as any passage. Verse 5 of Romans 8 says, For those who are according to the flesh, that's unregenerate people, non-Christian people, those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh. To put it simply, unsaved people have an unsaved mindset. Fleshly people have a fleshly mindset. They think about fleshly things. But, verse 5, those who are according to the Spirit, the regenerate, set their mind on the things of the Spirit. You have a new mind. Verse 6, For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. You have a whole new mind. It's not set on the flesh, it's set on the Spirit.

It's incredible. The word here, phrenema, means mindset. A whole new way of thinking is what it means. Not a new brain, but a new way of thinking. All of a sudden your thought patterns which are physical and human are injected with thought patterns which are divine and supernatural. The Spirit of God moves into your thinking. And now that mind which was once depraved and blind and futile and ignorant and foolish is totally different.

It no longer thinks on the fleshly level, it thinks on the spiritual level. Look at 1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 30. When we think about what Christ gives us in salvation, what He brings to us, what He provides for us, what He grants us, it's absolutely thrilling.

But just note this, maybe you've overlooked this one. 1 Corinthians 1, 30, By God's doing we are in Christ, he says. We have become in Christ. Then it says, Christ Jesus who became to us what? Wisdom from God.

Isn't that a marvelous reality? All of a sudden now we have the wisdom of God. And the Old Testament, Psalm says, Psalm 92, 5, Thy thoughts are very deep. Now all of a sudden we can plunge the deep thoughts of eternal God.

We think in ways we never thought before. We think God's thoughts. Go to chapter 2, verse 11, For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so, the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God.

Unbelievable. The only one who knows a man is the spirit of that man. That's analogous to the fact that the only one who knows God is the Spirit of God. And we have received the Spirit of God, therefore we have the knowledge of God. So we have the wisdom of Christ. We have the knowledge of God granted us by the Holy Spirit. Look at verse 15, He who is spiritual appraises all things.

Great statement. Yet he himself is appraised by no man, for who has known the mind of the Lord that he should instruct him? But we have...what?...the mind of Christ.

Isn't that incredible? We're not like the natural man in verse 14 who doesn't know anything about God. It's all foolishness to him. We know the mind of Christ. We now understand the wisdom of God. The Spirit of God brings us knowledge about God that we would otherwise never, ever have.

And you know, as a Christian, you have that. That's how we are to think consistent with the wisdom of God granted us in Christ. It says in Colossians 3, 10, that the new self is renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the one who created him. In other words, we've been given a new mind.

Have you ever strained anything through a strainer? We have the ability to strain all the data in the world and purify it. We have the mind of Christ, the mind of God. So the Christian life then becomes characterized by a new mind. We have a new mind. But may I challenge you, have you noticed that sometimes your mind gets dirty?

Have you noticed it needs a periodic cleaning? Well, in Romans 12, 1 and 2, it says that we not only are to present our bodies a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable unto God, which is an act of reasonable worship, but we are not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind in order that you may know what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. We are continually in need of renewing our minds, continually renewing our minds. In Ephesians 4, 23, Paul says, be renewed in the spirit of your mind.

In 1 Thessalonians at the end, chapter 5, verse 21, examine everything carefully. Hold fast to what is good. Learn to think, refresh your mind, clean your mind, renew your mind.

It gets dirty in the world. Peter says in 1 Peter 1, 13, gird up your mind for action. You've got to take care of your mind, folks.

That's what he's saying. That's what Paul's saying. Peter's saying, take care of your mind. John Owen, a great Puritan writer, said this, that good which the mind cannot discover, the will cannot choose, and the affections cannot cleave to. And then Owen said, in Scripture, the deceit of the mind is commonly laid down as the principle of all sin. You must take care of your mind. We are therefore called a mental discipline. Colossians 3, 2, set your mind on things what?

Above, not on things on the earth. Paul often says in his epistles, I would not have you to be what? Ignorant. The Christian mind tragically has succumbed to the secular drift. And we have a Christianity today that doesn't think. It's somewhat hysterical, melancholy, melodramatic. It doesn't think.

It's really tragic. We're asking the wrong questions. We're asking, how will it make me feel and does it work instead of is it true, is it right?

We've got to learn to think on the right things. Now, what are they? Let's look at our text.

Very simple. I don't even need to comment on them. Actually, you can see them for yourself. First, he says, finally, brethren, whatever is true. Now, if you want to know what's true, where are you going to go? It's in the Word of God. John 17, 17, thy word is truth.

Psalm 19, 9, Psalm 19, 1, 51, etc., etc., etc. The truth is in Christ, Ephesians 4, 21 tells us that. The truth is in God, 2 Timothy 2, 25 tells us that. So if you want to know the truth, you go to the Word of God.

It's the focus and the locus of all truth. So if I'm going to think on whatever is true, I'm going to dwell on the Word of God, first of all, and on anything else that is true. Secondly, he says, whatever is honorable, that means worthy of respect, whatever is noble, whatever is dignified, whatever is reverent, whatever is lofty, not trashy, mundane, common.

The word really comes from a term meaning to worship. Whatever is worthy of awe, whatever is held in high regard, whatever is greatly respected, whatever is worthy of adoration, that's what I think about. Thirdly, he says, whatever is right, and the Word is righteous here, righteous. Whatever is in perfect harmony with the eternal unchanging divine standard of a holy God revealed in Scripture. I am going to think on what is true. I am going to think on what is worthy of worship. I'm going to think on what is absolutely consistent with the holiness of God. And then he says, whatever is pure, hagnas, meaning morally clean, undefiled.

Whatever is morally pure and morally clean, I will think on that, not the other junk. Then he says, whatever is lovely, that means winsome, pleasing, attractive, amiable. It's one of those words we only find here in the New Testament, an unusual word. It means whatever is sweet or gracious or generous or patient. You can have a lot of sort of facets.

Whatever is attractive and lovely is as good as any word to translate that term. And then he says, whatever is of good repute, which means well thought of. Whatever is highly regarded, that's where I put my thoughts. You know where that keeps me? That really confines me, doesn't it? If I look at the world, am I going to find the truth? If I look around at the world, am I going to find what is honorable, what is right, what is pure, what is lovely, what is of good report? When I turn on the television, is that what I'm going to see? When I go to the theater, is that what I'm going to see? When I read a book or a magazine, is that what I'm going to see?

When I have a conversation with friends, is that what I'm going to experience? The point is, you've got to protect your mind because that is what determines what you want and what you desire, and that's what determines how you react to the stimuli of life. And then he says, if there's any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. And those are statements that we could just as well read. Since there is excellence and since there are some things worthy of praise, please focus on them.

Please. Your mind is the greatest treasure you have in terms of those gifts of human life. And now as a believer, your mind works in concert with the Spirit of God. You must protect that mind. And the way you protect it is how you think, and you must protect its influences. You must avoid those things which negatively influence your thinking. There's no quick fix to this. There's not any easy formula to spiritual stability that you can get in four counseling sessions. There's not any little book you can write and say, here it is.

You can't bottle it and tell them to take a dose a day. Spiritual stability is a product of cultivating peace in the fellowship, maintaining a spirit of joy, learning to accept less than you do, resting on a confident trust or faith in the Lord, reacting to problems with thankful prayer, and all of that flows out of focusing on godly virtues that begin to dominate your thinking patterns, and that's what produces the peace, the joy, the humility, the faith, the gratitude that make your life stabilize. Now the only remaining issue here, and Paul knows it, is to say, look, if you want an example of all this, look at me. Verse 9, the things you've learned, received and heard and seen in me, practice these things and the God of peace shall be with you. You'll not only have the peace of God, verse 7, you'll have the God of peace, verse 9. Paul says, I'll be the model, and then he goes on from there to give us illustrations of how he literally transcended his troubles, his persecutions, his difficulties, his testings, and maintained spiritual stability. Beloved, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

We must learn to guard our minds. You cannot expect the fullness of spiritual joy and usefulness unless you desire the right things, because that's what moves your behavior, and your desires are a direct reflection of your influences. So brethren, think on these things. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur. Thanks for being with us. Along with being featured on this broadcast, John also serves as chancellor of the Master's University and Seminary.

He's titled our current study, Seven Steps to Spiritual Stability. Well friend, can I ask you to do something for us? If the teaching you hear on Grace to You has benefited you, maybe it helped you understand a major truth in Scripture for the first time, would you let us know? Your story would greatly encourage both John and our staff.

When you have time, jot us a note and send it our way. You can email us at letters at gty dot org, or write to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. And again, if you can point to a specific way this ministry has helped you grow spiritually, perhaps you or someone you know has become a Christian after listening to one of these broadcasts, we would encourage you to get in touch.

Our email address, again, letters at gty dot org, and our regular mailing address, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. And let me remind you about a number of free resources we have created with you in mind. At our website, gty dot org, you can follow our blog or watch video from John's television and conference appearances. You can read daily devotionals or access John's entire sermon archive. That's more than 3,500 hours of verse-by-verse Bible teaching, all of it free to download in MP3 and transcript format. Our website again, gty dot org. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for making this broadcast part of your day and be here tomorrow when John looks at the last step to spiritual stability, obedience. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-12 05:35:31 / 2023-01-12 05:46:17 / 11

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