CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS, CHANGE YOUR LIFE – Part 3
HINDRANCES TO GODLY THINKING
In the blog, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life (parts 1 & 2), we explored the perspective that our thoughts define our destiny. When our thoughts do not agree with God’s perspective, we are hindered from walking in the freedom God wants for us and has provided through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Are you stuck? Do you find yourself trying really hard to defeat and change a habit pattern of behavior only to find yourself repeating it again? Are you desperate to change, but don’t know what to do next? Do you find yourself thinking, “I’ve tried everything I know to try and I just can’t change. There is no hope for me. I guess this is just the way I am and I will have to live with it?” These thoughts can cause you to feel helpless and hopeless, and then you yield to the old habit patterns of behavior.
The Apostle Paul had the same frustration. “Why do I keep doing the things I don’t want to do?” (Romans 7:15-20) Paul asks the question, “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) He answers in verse 25 with “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” There is provision from God through Jesus Christ!
Before we became a new creation in Christ, we developed habit patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. Our spirits were made brand new, but our souls (mind, will and emotion) now begin a journey of transformation with the help of the Holy Spirit. We are on a journey of character transformation to look like Jesus. We begin to change how we think, therefore how we feel and behave. The epistles, in particular, address the practical applications to live the Christian life. This is made possible because of the gift of grace – God’s divine supernatural power that indwells us and empowers us to walk in newness of life.
Many times, what is missing in our journey of walking in the newness God has provided is a correct perception of God. What is His nature and character? Who does He want to be for us? How does He want us to think about ourselves? Learning what thoughts need to change in order for us to embrace His thoughts can be challenging. At times we might need help discovering them. What habit patterns of thinking have brought us to the place we find ourselves today? What are the behavioral and emotional patterns we experience that we know are not the way we want to live life? They are not an expression of the Fruit of the Spirit, so they don’t look like Jesus. That’s where we begin to explore the thought patterns that will need to be replaced.
What are some of the hindrances to godly thinking? One of the most important dynamics to consider as we look at where a person seems to be stuck lies in the foundational principle of forgiveness. Even knowing the importance of forgiveness, many of us live with resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness toward someone who has hurt us deeply. We say we have forgiven, but when the fruit of forgiveness is missing, it is needful to take a deeper look at what it means to forgive. We forgive someone for the hurt as well as for the consequences their action has caused in our life today. We learn to take responsibility for the mindset we developed as a result of their sinful behavior toward us and ask forgiveness for living life from an ungodly perspective. And lastly, we learn the importance of letting ourselves off the hook, so to speak, and quit condemning ourselves for what God has forgiven. Most of us have been exposed to a limited view of what forgiveness really means.
The level of freedom experienced while extending forgiveness is directly related to the depth of my understanding of the debt I think is owed to me, and my willingness to cancel that debt. When you think of someone who has hurt you deeply and you are ready to forgive (or have forgiven) him/her, what do you think they (still) owe you? This can be a very revealing question. It might present an opportunity for a deeper level of forgiveness and freedom. The debt must be completely let go and cancelled.
If we are to forgive from the heart (Matthew 18:35), we need the help of the Holy Spirit to explore our heart’s motivations. Learning to be honest without condemnation and shame is key to freedom in Christ. If Jesus doesn’t condemn us, who are we to disagree with Him and continue to defeat ourselves by judging ourselves and releasing hopelessness? Jesus always leads us into life. Are we willing to cancel all debts in order to walk in freedom?
There is a beautiful scene in the movie Les Miserables. Jean Valjean has stolen the bishop’s silver and has been caught. The bishop tells the police he gave Valjean the silver and when asked why he did this for him, the bishop displays a heart of forgiveness so well.
For a more in depth exploration of forgiveness and its application in life, read Journey Into Wholeness, available on amazon.com.
In the next few blogs we will briefly explore other areas that affect all our lives and hinder us from walking in the new way of living God has for us. The mind is under transformation – it is being renewed to think like God thinks. We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Now we are learning how to access it and practically apply it.
Here are some journaling questions for you to PAL (Pause, Ask Listen): “Lord Jesus, is there anyone that you would like to talk to me about that I have not forgiven from my heart? What do I think they owe me? What are the consequences I am living today as a result of what they said/did to me?” Be sure to take time to listen to His answer.
Are you ready to experience a new level of freedom as you cancel every debt owed to you? Expanding your thoughts about forgiveness will change your life!
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)
Rev. Dr. Carolyn Allen has partnered in pastoral ministry with her husband, Ron, for 50 years. She has seen and lived a wide spectrum of church life in rural churches, suburban and city parishes. She has experienced several streams of the expressions of the Body of Christ.
Carolyn has a Masters in Christian Counseling and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies. Her own journey into wholeness evolved while raising a family and caring for others. She is an ordained minister on staff at the Heartland Parish, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Carolyn recently published Journey Into Wholeness, a book that helps you learn foundational biblical principles that will lead you through practical ministry and personal application. Learning to ask key questions will enable the reader to evaluate thoughts that produce feelings that lead to ungodly behavior, if not challenged and changed.
Journey Into Wholeness is available on Amazon: www.amazon.com.
You can reach Rev. Dr. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.