Every person learns a language when they are born into the world — the physical world. That language is called “native language” or “first tongue” and is specific to the region of the world where that person is born. It takes years for the newborn to learn and become proficient with the usage of that language.
Infants know nothing of the language that surrounds them at birth. They must learn the language of their parents. They must learn the language of their culture. The language of their physical world is unknown to them because they did not come out of their mother’s womb fluently speaking language of any kind. They come out as a blank record prepared to record what they hear spoken to them. As they grow, they follow a complex process of learning which involves speaking the words they hear, learning how to put in place the principles, ideas and precepts associated with them. Next, they try to use those elements in a proper context so that people around them can understand their thoughts and interact intelligently with them.
The same is true for someone who is spiritually born into the kingdom of God. They come into the kingdom as a blank record poised to record what is “spiritually” spoken to them in the vernacular of God’s words. They must also learn how to think, speak, and understand words that make up the language of God’s kingdom.
The language of God is not the language we grow up with as a child. It is not a language we interact with every day in the physical world. It is different from the language we know. God’s language has words that have meanings we do not readily understand. There are ideas, principles, and precepts we cannot readily perceive. God’s language is a language foreign to our understanding and intellect because it is spiritual.
God’s words and their meanings never change. They are not affected by the changing fads of the times; the changing seasons or with each new generation that comes along, as does the language of the physical world. God’s words hold God’s wisdom and truth, and since God is the same yesterday, today and forever, so it is with his language. God’s language never changes meaning.
Persons who are born again believers in Jesus Christ are commanded in the Scriptures to understand the language of the kingdom of God to fully experience the transformation of the mind that God wants them to have.
Believers in Jesus Christ are citizens of a spiritual kingdom — a spiritual realm of existence — with one culture that is God’s, one community that is God’s, and one set of values that are God’s. The kingdom of God does not use languages or dialects as the physical world does. God does not expect or want his people to be linguists. God wants his people to be fluent with his words, precepts, principles, and commands and knowledgeable of his meanings to know and understand his will. God wants his people to be literate of his language, so they can effectively communicate his will and interact with those who live with them in the kingdom.
I have come to believe that one reason Christians struggle with their sanctification is that they cannot understand the words, principles, precepts, and ideas God speaks to them. They exist as functional illiterates in the kingdom of God. They exist in a spiritual realm that is still unclear to them.
The most powerful
faculty given a human being is his capacity to reason. God created humans with the ability to think
and generate thought and placed this faculty inside the anatomical structure
called the “brain”.
The “mind” is where
all the invisible activity of the “brain” occurs. It is where we make sense of our
surroundings, our environments, our relationships, and our existence.
The “mind” is
described in the following ways:
The reasoning faculty, which thinks, judges, understands, and directs in humans, capable of great complexity because of the development of the human brain.
The human consciousness that originates in the brain and is manifested especially in thought, perception, emotion, will, memory and imagination.
The mind is the home of our conscience which is the human faculty that enables one to decide between right and wrong acts of behavior, especially in regard to one’s own conduct.
What is interesting and intriguing is that God wants us to become wise in the knowledge of how the faculty of the mind works. He places such importance on this that he tells us to protect it by putting it under a helmet; to rid it of old sinful tapes through constant and vigilant renewal; and he tells us to upgrade it with newness of attitude.
Scripture tells us that God is the stronghold of our lives and therefore we should not be afraid of anyone. The word stronghold refers to a fortified place; a strongly defended place; a fortress. It is an encampment in the field of battle; a place of security and refuge. It protects us from outside or unwanted intrusion from an enemy or foe.
This is the vanguard God wants in our lives. From the vantage point of his stronghold, we are able to defend ourselves from attack. We are especially capable of defending our minds from the attack of the devil. Scripture tells us that we are in a battle, a war, and a struggle against our former slave master the devil. He wishes to destroy us and he uses our mind as his battlefield.
The devil is no
stranger to the effectiveness of a stronghold.
He had each and every one of us in his stronghold before we converted to
Christianity and for many of us there are some areas of our mind that are still
not renewed from his influence. We
manifest residuals of the devil’s stronghold in undelivered behaviors and
patterns of thought that we struggle against and feel plagued by. Because our conversion, or salvation, is a one-time
act of God in our lives, we do not have to do anything else in this area. But
because our sanctification is an on-going continuing process, we have much work
to do in this area “cleaning out” our minds from the influence of the devil’s
stronghold in order for us to grow and mature as a Christian.
God tells us to be mindful of our thoughts, our mental attitudes and our emotions. He knows that through the channel of our mind the devil will wage his war and try to render God’s stronghold ineffective in our lives. He is soberly aware of the fact that he must assault the stronghold of God; that these assaults must be continuous. And he knows that the assaults must be aimed at our mind because it is our mind that is the doorway to our heart and our heart under girds our faith.
The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind and soul. God doesn’t tell us to use our brain to love him, he says to use our mind. Remember, this is where we have conscience, consciousness and reasoning with respect to God’s truths. If our minds are operating under the influence of lies, then our behaviors and patterns of thought will not be reflective of God, they will be reflective of the devil and we will find ourselves living a life of defeat instead of a life of victory.
God provides us with a foolproof process for not only combating, but for defeating the devil’s assaults on our mind. Pay attention to what he says:
2Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV) – “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
demolish, not tolerate, not coexist with, but demolish every thought that is
against the knowledge of God. What an
exhausting process that could be if God was not our stronghold. It is he who provides us with divine power to
demolish any opposing stronghold. This
being true, tell me then why so many Christians are defeated in their thought
lives? In my tenure as a biblical
counselor I have seen numerous people struggle with various circumstances of
life and personal trials all because of incorrect “mind management”. The thoughts that were operating in their
minds were not those of God but of the devil with much confusion, anxiety,
hopelessness, poor decision making and destructive behaviors as a consequence.
Christians, the reality of spiritual warfare is foreign to them. I believe this to be true because of a lack
of understanding on their part about their salvation. The component of God’s forgiveness is all
they know. They are unlearned about
authority; therefore they do not comprehend the fact that the devil had
authority over their minds and lives before they were converted to
Christianity. They are unlearned about
the enmity that exists between the flesh and the Spirit; that when they were
under the authority of the devil, they weren’t a threat to him because they
belonged to him. But now that they are
under the authority of the Lord, they are the devil’s enemy and he wants to
concept to meditate on:
The devil hates God and all that belongs to him.
When you were an unbeliever, you belonged to him and were an enemy of God.
You were under God’s wrath and condemnation and were headed for the same eternal destination as the devil – the second death – the lake of fire.
The devil didn’t need to try to destroy you because you were already destroyed.
But when you became a believer you then became the devil’s enemy because you were “saved” from God’s condemnation. You became his child. You were adopted into his family.
The devil now wants to destroy you because of that fact.
Christian could get this truth embedded deep within their heart, mind and soul
then I believe they would be more sensitive to the fact that they are in
spiritual warfare with the devil and he assaults them in the only way he has at
his disposal; their mind.
Though God is our stronghold, he commands us to fortify our thinking by growing in the knowledge of Christ. We can do this most effectively through knowing the Word of Truth – that’s the Bible. By studying the Bible, not memorizing the Bible, we will be given revelation from God concerning all of his truths. They will be part of our fiber because we will have “eaten his truth”. It will be nourishment to our soul. Only then will we know the truth of God and will be able to demolish every lie of the devil that he throws our way.
I conclude with
this exhortation by the Apostle Paul to the church at Philippi…
Philippians 4:8 (NIV) – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
When an inventor creates something he usually has some kind of blueprint that lays out the product and gives direction to how it is to be put together. Giving insight into how it is to work properly.
Every aspect of the invention is designed by the inventor, therefore if something is not in working order, you must go to the inventor to get its replacement. Using a part that does not meet the original specifications will not work.
The same is true when you purchase a product that has to be manually assembled. You are working with parts that have been designed by a manufacturer that have specific instructions of how they are to be put together. There is usually an illustration on the package cover that shows you what the finished product is to look like.
How many times have you ever tried putting something together without following the directions supplied? How many times have you been unsuccessful at doing this? I am sure that most of us can identify with this scenario. It is as though we believe we have the ability to just take a look at the finished product and “instinctively” know how to put the pieces together correctly. Boy, how we deceive ourselves when we think this way. Only the one who has designed the product knows how it is to be put together. After all, it was his/her design, not ours.
Surprisingly, this is how many Christians situate themselves with God. They try to put their lives together without following His directions. They believe they know “instinctively” how He has designed their lives to be, how they are to look and operate, but fail. Many lead defeated, disappointed lives because they have left something out of their self-construction. Many Christians fail to truly understand that God is the one who drew up their personal blueprint.
Jeremiah 1:5a (NIV) says: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.
Psalm 139:13 (NIV) says: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Many Christians also try to “order their steps” without considering the Word of God. They believe they have control and charge over the course of their lives but are in error of the designer’s sovereignty.
Proverbs 20:24 (NIV) says: A man’s steps are directed by they Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?
For the born again believer in Jesus Christ, this way of thinking, that I can order my own way in life, is analogous to the finished product resembling the picture on the package but not working at all the way it was intended to work. There are pieces missing or put in the wrong place and the believer turns out to be one who is always struggling in life; not growing in their faith; having no peace; not being blessed and not being a blessing to anyone.
God wants you to know how He has “ordered your steps”. He wants you to be knowledgeable about how the pieces of your life are to be arranged to reflect the picture on the package who is Jesus Christ.
God’s instructions are found in His Word. The Bible.
Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
Well, you might be asking what exactly does the Bible instruct? It instructs us in how to piece our lives together and grow to look like Christ. It instructs us in how to get connected to God through a spiritual rebirth. How to identify our special endowment gifts. How to learn our purpose in the body of Christ. How to grow in our faith. How to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. How to love our neighbor. How to worship. How to become more Christlike in our behaviors and pattern of thinking. These are but a few examples of what the Bible gives instruction on.
The problem with many Christians is their lack of utilization of this manual in the things concerning their lives. Most are inclined to follow the directions of the “world” than to follow the directions of the Bible. What I mean by that is they may read the Bible but not follow the directions for their given circumstance. When that happens, the result is failure to function properly. Something is not in its proper place or something has been left out.
Christians are exhorted to study the Word of God. They are to know how God wants us to fit together and how He has made us. Then He expects us to do those things He has instructed us to do so they become a rule of conduct for our lives.
So, if you are not use to reading your Bible for direction in your life, get comfortable doing so. Remember, only God knows how He put you together, so it is He you should be going to in order to find out how you should be operating. And you do this by understanding the Bible He left for us to refer to and then to follow its directions.
For some reason, it appears as though many Christians do not believe they can speak out against sinful thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors they see manifest in other Christian’s lives. Well, I believe this is a dangerous position to take.
You see, desensitization to the Word of God is a dangerous thing. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines desensitization in this way: to make emotionally insensitive or callous; specifically to extinguish an emotional response to stimuli that formerly induced it. (Such as fear, anxiety, or guilt)
Now in the context of a brother or sister in Christ sinning, it is the emotional response of guilt that makes them aware of their offenses and transgressions against God and/or their neighbor. Without guilt, a person has no ability to experience remorse, regret, or sorrow over what they have done.
Now we know that man is not perfect. Man will always make mistakes. Man will always fall short of God’s moral standards, so it is critical then, that man remains conscious of his shortcomings. It is critical that man has a heart, a mind and a will to correct those shortcomings and minimize their occurrences in his life. Desensitization to guilt prevents this from happening.
Scripture mandates every Christian to confront one another through a process of confrontation called Nouthesia. It is a Greek noun. It is defined in the lexical dictionary as “an admonition, a warning, or an exhortation. Any word of encouragement or reproof which leads to correct behavior.”
Now the Bible is our utility tool, our manual, our guide for providing Nouthetic guidance because it is God’s Word of moral instruction to us as it pertains to living holy and righteous lives in the body of Christ.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
God has given us a moral compass to use in our daily interactions with each other. The Holy Bible. Therefore, by it, we can have accountability to one another so that we can be a “facilitory agent” in each other’s lives for spiritual growth and maturation. Our responsibility to ourselves and to others is to live by God’s moral compass.
However, many born-again believers are failing and even running away from fulfilling this responsibility. Instead of spiritual growth and maturation, there is spiritual retardation and adolescence as it pertains to living holy and righteous lives, because of the failure to execute nouthetic confrontation in the lives of those who demonstrate wayward actions. They are not held accountable to the Word of God. No one warns or admonishes them by the Word of God and consequently, they remain outside the will of God; living defeated lives with an immature faith.
Let me take a moment and show you how accountability will facilitate obedience.
If I find myself doing something that is not in accord with God’s standard, then you would be correct in saying that I am off center or missing the mark. Now the longer I remain there, the more rooted I will become there and the more distant I will remain from God’s moral expectation of my life.
If no one confronts me for being off the mark or holds me accountable for my wayward conduct, then I will continue to be disobedient to God’s morality and will remain off center. Something has to motivate me to move back in line. Something has to awaken my sense of guilt for being off the mark. That something is nouthetic confrontation from another brother or sister in Christ.
Proverbs 27:17 tells us: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”.
The lexical definition of “sharpens” in this text of scripture means to make something stronger or to improve. Therefore, to state this proverb using this definition would sound like this: “As iron strengthens and improves iron, so one man strengthens and improves another.” This is through the process of Nouthetic confrontation.
Knowing this, tell me why so many born-again believers in Jesus Christ are not confronting one another? What is the reason for tolerating ungodliness in another Christian’s life? Well, I believe it has to do with one of two things: either apathy or fear.
If you find that you fall into the category of apathy, then I say this to you-you are sinning against the second command given by Jesus, which states we are to “love your neighbor as yourself”.
This love is agape love. The love that esteems others, cherishes others, favors others, honors others, respects others, accepts others, prizes others, relishes others, is devoted to others, is loyal to others, and is concerned for others. If you are apathetic toward your neighbor how can love them in this way?
If you find that you fall into the category of the fearful who are afraid of man’s possible repercussions from confrontation, which might involve verbal accosting, ostracism or even physical assault, then I say this to you-you are not trusting God for the veracity and wisdom of his word. You are not trusting God for the truth of his instruction. You do not have the conviction of:
Psalm 56:3, which states, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”
Psalm 56:4 which states, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?”
Psalm 118:8, which states, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”
You see, to confront is to love openly. Not to confront is to be unloving.
Proverbs 27:5 tells us “better is open rebuke than hidden love.”
Therefore, it is time you started practicing your faith and demonstrating Christian love one to another from the perspective of obedience to the mandate in Scripture of nouthetically confronting your neighbor when you see sin abound in their lives.
Let me give you one last illustration of the how the Lord expects us to love one another through nouthetic confrontation.
In the world when someone commits a crime, it is because they have done something outside the boundaries of the law. They become wanted criminals and walk around ever mindful the police are looking for them.
One day they are spotted by the police and stopped. The officer has grounds to search them and does so by “frisking” them down to see if there are any illegal items they might be carrying on their person. If the officer finds something, he takes it away – he confiscates it. It is no longer in the possession of the person.
Well in the kingdom of God, we are mandated to do to each other what the police officer did to the criminal suspect. We have been given legal grounds to “frisk” one another down. We have been given legal grounds to use the Word of God to search for any ungodliness in the lives of one another when they have committed sin. When we see the ungodliness, we are to be a facilitory agent in the confiscation of it.
By that, I mean we are to teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness through the use of God’s instructions as mandated in the Bible; to bring to light the ungodly contraband our brother or sister may be carrying in their lives. We are to use the authority of the Word of God when we “frisk”. Only using the truth of the Word of God will bring conviction, and only conviction will birth the awareness of guilt that will be the catalyst for change.
If we all can become proficient in utilizing the process of Nouthetic guidance one to another, we would see great strides made in the lives of every born-again believer as it pertains to their spiritual growth and maturation in the body of Christ.