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Taking Control of Every Thought

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2022-02-13 AM
  • Sermons

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Well as we prepare for communion this morning I want to step away from our study of the book of 1 John. A passage that we examined briefly last week, and something that I have been thinking about myself recently, and combined with a conversation that Sheila and I had over breakfast this past Monday morning, all of those things together encouraged me to address a special topic this morning. I'm convinced that it's a far-reaching issue in all of our hearts. The issue I want us to think about for just a few minutes is how we think; the thoughts that we entertain each moment.

Now let's begin by admitting that some people find thinking especially difficult. Maybe you're like Winnie the Pooh who said, "Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?" Of course, we all do think. It's part of being human. Plato called thinking "the talking of the soul with itself." But sadly I think many people and even many believers, perhaps even many believers here this morning, think that much of what happens in their minds, many of their thoughts, are really beyond their control. What I want us to think about this morning and see clearly from the Scripture is that Scripture itself calls each one of us to discipline our minds and to control our thoughts. But how exactly do we go about this? Well, I want us to see what the Scripture has to say about it and I hope by the time we're done we'll gain several insights from the Scripture into taking control of our thoughts. In fact, I've entitled this morning's message "Taking Control of Every Thought."

So let's consider together some of the foundational insights that will enable us to do that. Let's start with considering the typical sources of our thoughts. Where do our thoughts come from? Now there's so much that can be said about this and as I try to lay this out for you I must admit to you I'm a little frustrated because there's so many things I'd like to say without the time to say them. There are many examples that I could cite of the sources I'm going to give you, but I'm just going to give you a couple of representative ones just to sort of whet your appetite. Also, let me admit that these sources I'm going to give you are not tidy sort of airtight categories. There is some overlap between them and I recognize that, but I hope it'll help.

So let's begin then with considering what Scripture teaches about the common sources of our thoughts. First of all, our thoughts source in our basic nature. Turn over to Romans Chapter 8. In Romans Chapter 8, Paul is laying down the guidelines or the background for how you and I as believers can have security in spirit; how we can know that we're truly His. And beginning in Verse 5, he describes for us the fact that believers are radically different from unbelievers. You can have assurance, you can have security, because when you look at yourself as a believer and you look at unbelievers you see there are radical differences. First of all in Verse 5 there are radical differences in our natures. Notice in Verse 5 there are two groups of people. First of all, there are those who are "according to the flesh." That is those who are, another way Paul says it in this text is, "in the flesh." That is, these are people who are still the sinners they were born as. They are unchanged from how they were born into the world; they continue life separate from God; they continue in a state of rebellion against God; they are "in the flesh." The second category of people in Verse 5 is those who are "according to the Spirit." This is those who have at the moment of salvation come to understand the gospel. They repented and they believed and at that moment, in addition to being forgiven their sins, in addition to being declared right with God, in addition to being adopted all at that moment of time, they were also radically changed in their nature. They became, as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians, "a new creature"; a new creation in Jesus Christ. If you're a believer, that's what's happened to you. You see, Christianity isn't about turning over a new leaf. It's not about sort of trying to do better. No, the way you become a Christian is that at a radical moment in time, God changes you. There is what Jesus described as "the new birth." You become a new person in Jesus Christ. So those are the two kinds of people in the world. And as you sit here this morning, you are one or the other. You are either "in the flesh," "according to the flesh"; in other words you're just like you were when you came into this world, unchanged. Or, there was a moment in time when you repented and believed in Jesus Christ. At that moment you experienced what Jesus promised would happen, the new birth; you became a new creation in Jesus Christ.

Now, from those two natures come two mindsets. Notice Verse 5 again: "for those who are according to the flesh" (those who are in the flesh, those who are as they were as they came into this world unchanged) "[they] set their minds on the things of the flesh[.]" That is, they are governed by, controlled by, fallen things; by the world as it is. That's all they can think about. That's where their minds go. That's where their thoughts are. We saw it last week in 1 John. They are consumed by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. Just wrapped up in all of that and that's where their mind is all the time. On the other hand, Verse 5 says "those who are according to the Spirit" — those who experienced the new birth —they think about, their minds are set on "the things of the Spirit." What are the things of the Spirit? It's what God has revealed through His Spirit and His Word. Their mind is here on the eternal things that matter.

So ultimately there's a sense in which you can do nothing about your thoughts because if you are still in the flesh, if you have not been changed by the Spirit of God, then you're going to think about the things of the flesh. And on the other hand, if you've been changed by the Spirit, then you will grow in your capacity and mindset to think about the things that matter to God. Let me just appeal to you if you're here this morning and you've never repented and believed in Christ, this is your only hope. You will continue to be the person you are until the day you die and forever; unchanged; in this life and in hell forever, the same. Revelation ends by saying "let the filthy be filthy still." Eternally so. You can try to change; you can do everything you think is necessary to try to change; but you will be who you are unless God changes you. And the only way that happens is for you to repent and believe in His Son. So, that's the first source.

Now let me hurry through the others. The second source is God. Sometimes the source of our thoughts is God Himself. Not that He miraculously plants thoughts in our minds, but He does so in two ways — first of all, through His providence. God creates circumstances based on our own makeup and dispositions in order to cause us to have certain thoughts. In Nehemiah 2:12 Nehemiah says, "I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem." "What God was putting into my mind"; again, not miraculously so, but rather through His providence in shaping his circumstances. Another way that God puts thoughts in our minds (and this is an obvious one but I'll mention it) is through His Word. Psalm 119:97: "O how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day." When we turn our minds and hearts to think about God's Word, God is influencing and producing and directing our thoughts.

A third common source of our thoughts is Satan. John 13:2: "the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him[.]" Here's an unbeliever and you see the devil influencing his thoughts. Acts 5:3; you have a professing Christian — Peter said to Ananias, "why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?" You remember? There was a man in the early church who sold some property and rather than coming and saying, "Here's part of the price," he came and gave part of the price and said, "Here's all the price." Why? Because he wanted to look good; he lied. And here we're told that in Ananias's case, Satan had filled his heart. Now don't misunderstand. These verses are not teaching that Satan directs thoughts into our minds directly. There's no evidence in Scripture that he has immediate access to your mind or mine. Instead, he creates circumstances that based on his innate cunning and millennia of experience, he knows will direct our thoughts down certain channels. You understand how this works. As an adult, if you're in the room with a small child and you want to direct that child's thoughts in a certain direction you have the intelligence to do that; enough experience to know "if I do this, if I put this in front of the child, it's going to produce this line of thought." Well in the same way, Satan is able to do that with all of us.

Number four: the flesh. The flesh is another source of our thoughts. Of course this is true for unbelievers. Look at Ephesians Chapter 2. I cited this passage last week. This was one of the passages that prompted me to come to this theme. But here in Ephesians 2:3, Paul is talking about those who are without Christ, those who are unbelievers; and about us before we came to Christ specifically. And he says, notice Verse 3: "among the sons of disobedience we too all formerly lived." He includes himself. All of us, without exception, who are now Christians, "formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh" of our unredeemed fallenness. We lived in the lust of our flesh and here's how it expressed itself: "indulging the desires." And the Greek word as I pointed out to you last time is the word "wills" plural. We indulged the wills of, number one, the flesh; and I think the second time the word "flesh" appears there in that verse it's talking about our bodies. So the way the lust of our fallenness expressed itself was in our indulging the will of our bodies and indulging the will of our mind. Literally, the Greek text says "our thoughts." People who are unredeemed unbelievers are driven by their thoughts; and those thoughts are motivated by and driven by the flesh, their fallenness. Sadly the flesh is often the source of our thoughts as believers, because while we have been made new, while we're a new creation in Christ, you're not the person you used to be. You still retain a portion of you that is unredeemed. Its beachhead is your body. And Paul describes that unredeemed portion of us as "the flesh." Scripture constantly reminds us as believers to guard ourselves from the sinful patterns of thinking that grow out of our flesh. There are so many examples of this. You know in the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord in Matthew 5:21-22 warns us as His disciples to be careful not to harbor and allow thoughts of anger in our souls. That comes out of the flesh. That comes out, according to Galatians 5, as one of the deeds of the flesh. And yet we can be susceptible to that, and are. In that same sermon later in the same passage, Matthew 5:27-28, He says, "Be on your guard against letting lust grow in your heart"; sexually desiring a person who is not legitimately yours as God has dictated in His Word. And so the flesh, even in believers, can become the source of sinful thinking. Of course, you come to Ephesians 4 and you've got a whole list of it there as he talks about what it looks like to change as believers. In fact, look at Ephesians 4 (just over a couple of pages there, if you're still with me). In Ephesians 4 beginning in Verse 25, he says, you've got to think differently about the truth. Verse 26 — don't let anger grow out of your flesh and express itself. Verse 28 – you've got to think differently about possessions. You're not supposed to work so that you just have what you want, but work so that you can share it with others rather than taking from them. Verse 29 — you've got to entertain thoughts about your speech. Your speech (here's a shocker) does not exist for you to express yourself. According to Verse 29 it exists to serve others. Verse 31 — here are thoughts that grow out of the flesh. "Let all bitterness" (you know, you've been harmed. You feel either you have been or you feel you've been wronged, and you allow that to fester in your soul. You think about it; you ruminate on how you've been wronged; and it grows into bitterness). "Let all bitterness, [and] wrath and anger" — two different Greek words for anger — the one is blowing up. This is an outburst of anger. The other is clamming up, what our kids call pouting. Guess what? Adults pout to. It's a different kind of anger. And we're not to let that be in our souls. That's part of the flesh according to Galatians 5. And the last word in Verse 31 is "malice." That's a desire to hurt someone. It's a hatred that, because I've been hurt, I want to hurt them. Those are all evil patterns of thinking that grow out of our flesh. And so our flesh can certainly be the source of our thoughts.

A fifth source is the world. We talked last week about the fact that Satan has created this world system. It's driven by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And everything in that system, sadly, can and does influence believers. We're influenced by the mindset of the age in which we live. In Ephesians 2, if you're still in Ephesians, look back at Verse 2 of Chapter 2. Ephesians 2:2 is still talking about us before Christ. He says, "you formerly walked according to the course of this world"; literally, the age of this cosmos. What he's talking about is the mindset of the age in which we live; the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. That drove us, it influenced us. And guess what, as Christians, the age around us — its thinking influences us far more than I think any of us realize. The world; the world includes, by the way, philosophies, ideologies; that's what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 10:5 when he says we destroy fortresses. And he's talking about fortresses of sinful thinking: philosophies, ideologies, speculations, "and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God." We're "taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." He says we don't use fleshly weapons. We use spiritual weapons, the Word of God, to destroy the systems Satan has created — philosophies, ideologies; this world is full of them. But we can be influenced by them. Our thinking can be influenced by them. Even by false religion and false teaching. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving." The world system and its false religion keeps people blind to the truth of the gospel. And even believers can be influenced by those things. Our thinking can be influenced by them.

Number six. And this is an obvious one, but another source of our thinking is the people around us. They can direct our thoughts toward evil. A couple of examples — 1 Kings 21:25: "Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him." She drove his thoughts. And the people around us can do the same. Proverbs 1:10: "My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent." Don't let your thinking be negatively influenced for evil and then to action by the people around you. Acts 14:2: "the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren." Of course, the people around us can also influence our thoughts toward good and God. The Scripture itself is an example. I love what Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:1. He says, I'm writing this second letter to you to stir up "your sincere mind by way of reminder." That's an inspired letter, but you and I and the people around us can have similar influences on the people in our lives for good. We can influence their thinking for good.

Number seven. Our habits of thinking are another source. You see just as our minds take paths while we're asleep and those paths are involuntary (it happens without direction), our minds do the same thing often when we're awake. And usually when our minds lead us somewhere in an involuntary way, it's because those are our habits of thinking. Think of it this way. If you go in your backyard and you carve out a number of ruts in your backyard and then you go to the place where those ruts begin and you pour water into that hole, what's going to happen? The water's going to run in the ruts. It's going to do that naturally because the ruts are there. The same thing happens with our minds. Over the years you have carved ruts in your mind. You have carved habits of thinking. And sometimes when it seems your mind is going somewhere without you, it's actually going exactly in the ruts you have previously carved; habits of thinking. You see it, for example, in Naaman's thoughts in response to Elisha's command. You remember in the Old Testament Elisha commanded Naaman the leper to go dip seven times in the Jordan. But because of a pattern of proud thinking, what was Naaman's response? How did he respond? Here he is. He has the chance to be healed of his leprosy. But when he's told that, this is what we read in 2 Kings 5:11: "Naaman was furious, and went away and said [listen to this], 'Behold, I thought'" okay? It's because of his patterns of thinking in pride that he responded the way he did. "Behold, I thought, 'he will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper.'" You know what he was saying? He was saying, you know, "My pride tells me I deserve to be respected. And he's not treating me with the respect I think I deserve, and therefore I'm angry." Why did he respond that way? He could be cured of his leprosy. It's because of habits of pride in his mind. Same thing later in that same story — patterns of greed in Elisha's servant Gehazi in 2 Kings 5:20: "Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought," [okay, here he is, you see these patterns of thinking) "Behold, my master has spared Naaman" "by not receiving from his hands what he brought [to give him as a gift]. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him." How did that happen in Gehazi's mind? Where did that come from? It came from patterns of thinking. This man was a greedy man, and there went his mind right down the same rut. This happens to us as well. Often our habits of thinking are the source of our thoughts.

Number eight. Our emotions can be the source of our thoughts. Now let me just say, on the one hand, our emotions are the result of what we think. Our emotions are a kind of physical reaction to what we think or perceive to be real. For example, if you're sitting here in the front row and I come down and I throw a toy snake in front of you but you think it's real, how are you going to respond? If you think it's real, you're going to have the emotion of, what? This is cooperative. (Audience states: Fear). Fear, exactly. So, your emotions are responding to what you think in that case. However, our emotions can also direct our thoughts as well. In other words, how we feel can change how we think about a particular situation. A great example is Abraham. Abraham was driven by his fear; fear of personal safety. Fear controlled his thoughts. In Genesis 20:11: "Abraham said, 'Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.'" He made the decision to lie about who she really was. In fact, twice in Abraham's life, the emotion of fear for his personal safety led him to have irrational thoughts about the level of personal danger. Jealousy and anger controlled King Saul's thoughts in 1 Samuel 18:11: "Saul hurled the spear [at David], for he thought, 'I will pin David to the wall.' But David escaped from his presence twice." You see, Saul was so overcome with jealous rage that it led him to think that killing David was a good plan and it could work out ok. Discouragement directed the Prophet Elijah's thoughts in 1 Kings 19:4; you remember the great story of the defeat of the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel. And then Jezebel tells him, "I'm going to take your life." And he flees south into the desert. And we're told in 1 Kings 19:4 what he was thinking. "[H]e himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and [he] said, (now, he's talking to God but clearly he first said these things to himself in his thoughts and then to God), 'It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, I am not better than my fathers.'" His emotional state of discouragement because what he thought had been accomplished — the routing of Baal and the change of the faithfulness of the people to Yahweh — had not happened, and that led him to sinful thinking.

One final source I would note is our external circumstances. External circumstances can be a source of our thoughts that can direct our thoughts. Daniel 4:29-30: Nebuchadnezzar the king is walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and he looks out at that magnificent city. This circumstance led him to think what? Now Verse 30 says, "The king reflected and said, "Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?" What happened there? What he saw, what he experienced, that circumstance, directed his thinking into self-glorification. In Mark 4:37-38 you see it with the disciples. You know, they're there on the Sea of Galilee, there arose a fierce gale of wind, the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" Their circumstances led them to think that, in fact, their life was over; and that even with Jesus in the boat, the boat was going down. Our circumstances like theirs can often direct our thoughts. But listen carefully; our circumstances are not actually what directs our thoughts. You can put two people in the same circumstance and guess what? They have totally different thoughts. Why? Because really, it's one of the other eight sources that shapes our thinking about our circumstances. So don't think, "Oh it's my circumstances that's making me think this." No, your circumstances are merely the stage, the theater, in which those other sources are being played out. So, those are the typical sources.

Now, secondly, let me point you to briefly consider the biblical commands regarding our thoughts. You see, in Scripture, God gives us several imperatives about what we as followers of Jesus Christ are to do when it comes to our thoughts. In fact, much of Scripture is filled with this. Let me summarize it in two basic headings. First of all, control every thought. A moment ago I read 2 Corinthians 10:5 where Paul writes, "we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." Now, as I mentioned to you in context, he's talking about the ideas and philosophies of unbelievers. We need to battle those, destroy those, with the Scripture. Every thought needs to be addressed. And clearly that's equally true of our own thoughts as believers. Galatians 5:23 says that part of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. And that's not just what happens with our bodies, but that's what happens with our thoughts and our minds. We're to exercise self-control in what we think. In Ephesians 4:23 as he talks about sanctification, he says we're to put off and we're to put on certain behaviors and patterns. But in the middle of that is the key, and that is we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. The grid of our minds is the idea. The way we look at everything. Every thought is to be changed by the Holy Spirit through the Scripture. Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute [or reputation, and then he summarizes all of that this way] if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Think about these things. That's a command to control your thinking.

So, control every thought to what end? That brings me to the second imperative, sort of summary imperative, and that is cultivate godly, biblical thoughts. And this is really about the Scripture. It's about meditating on the Scripture. Joshua 1:8: "This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth." (By the way, departing out of your mouth is probably a reference to reading. In the ancient world they read out loud. It made for a real pain when you were studying at the library, but they read out loud). And so he says, "Read it. Know it." And then he says, "but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." So he says, read it, in other words know what it says; and do it. And that's going to give you spiritual prosperity. But did you notice the bridge in that verse between knowing and doing? It's meditating. What is meditating? Let me give you a definition. This is a different message for a different time but I'll give you a basic definition. Biblical meditation is deliberately choosing to think deeply about a passage of Scripture in order to better understand it and to plan how to do it. That's it. We're commanded to do that. Psalm 1:2: the righteous man, "his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on His Law he meditates day and night." Psalm 119, of course, talks about this constantly. In the New Testament Colossians 3:16 puts it this way, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, in all wisdom." It's the same principle. You think deeply, deliberately about the Scripture. These passages are calling on us to meditate on God's Word so that we can bring not only our actions and our words, but our thoughts, into conformity with Scripture.

Now one passage brings this all together. Look at Romans Chapter 12. As Paul applies the doctrine of justification, he says, how do you respond to what God has done in Jesus Christ? In Romans 12:1 he says give God your body. Your body belongs to Jesus Christ. And in Verse 2, he says your mind belongs to Jesus Christ. Look at what he says in Verse 2: "And do not be conformed to this world"; this age. In other words, don't let the mindset of your age push you into its mold. That's the picture of the words he uses. Instead, be transformed, be metamorphosise[d] by the renewing of your mind. How does that happen? Through the Scripture. And the result is that you will prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Folks, the will of God here is not what color car you buy. The will of God here is the Word of God. He's saying give Christ your mind. Don't let the world around you shape your thinking. Instead, be radically transformed in your thinking by the renewal the Spirit does through His Word with the result that you will know God's will as it's revealed in this Word, and you'll do it. That's what we're commanded to do. Control every thought and cultivate godly, biblical thoughts.

Now quickly, number three. Let me just give you some crucial implications about our thoughts. This is another insight that helps us understand just some crucial implications. When you consider what Scripture says, what we just looked at about our thoughts, there are several important implications that I think have massive consequences on our spiritual health. Let me just give them to you.

Number one. Our mind is not in control of our thoughts, we are. We decide what to think about. Now don't get me wrong, thoughts of course can come into our heads uninvited, but we're the ones who decide to dwell on them. As the Puritans used to say, you can't keep a bird from landing on your head but you can keep it from building a nest there. Our mind is not in control of our thoughts, we are. By the way, one caveat I should give, certain diseases and certain medications can interfere with the control of our thoughts. But our mind, by and large, is not in control of our thoughts, we are.

Secondly, we can and must control our thoughts. That's the biblical command.

Number three. And this is from Lloyd-Jones and it's maybe one of the most important lessons about sanctification I ever learned and I share it with you in this context: "Stop listening to yourself and start talking to yourself." What do I mean by that? Don't let your mind take you where it wants to take you. Don't let those other sources we talked about lead you down the same ruts. Tell yourself to shut up. I do that all the time. I'm sorry parents if this is offending you with your kids. You can explain it later and say, you know, "It's a slip on Pastor Tom's part." But literally, I say to myself, "Pennington, shut up!" And then I preach the truth to myself. I talk to myself what I know is true. This is the foundation of applied sanctification. Don't let your mind go where it wants to go. Stop listening to yourself and start talking to yourself with what you know is true about God and about yourself and about the world.

Number four. Our digital devices provide countless options to direct our thoughts, and therefore must be used with great self-control. Now let me just say I have digital devices. I use them all the time. They're a great resource, and so I'm not down on that or the modern age. But we sometimes take our problems out on our digital devices. How many of us have blamed our digital devices for being the distraction? "It's a distraction." Listen, that device did nothing. It's not the device's problem. The real issue is our own lack of self-control. We are making a choice. And we need to acknowledge that. You know, there are people (you can read articles about it) who have said, "Ok, you know, it's the phone. My smartphone's the problem. So I'm going to get rid of the smartphone and I'm going to get a dumb phone; you know, one of those big button flip phones. That's what I'm going to get. Where it can't go anywhere or do anything other than make a call or maybe give me a text. And then I'm going to get rid of my computer with no access to the internet and I'm going to get a dumb word processor." You know, for those of you who are old enough, WordStar or WordPerfect, or some other antiquated thing. And you know what? They do that and they find they're still distracted by, like, watering the plant on their desk. You see, the problem is not our devices. The problem is right here between our ears. It's a lack of self-control.

Number five. Commit to biblical meditation as a consistent discipline. That's what we're called to do. That's how those commands are fulfilled.

And then finally, number four; just some practical habits regarding our thoughts. How can we develop new habits of choosing what we think about? Here are just a few ideas that I hope will help. But let me just say, apart from the last two, the rest of them are not inspired. They're just ideas that I hope will be some help.

Number one. Remind yourself often that you are choosing that moment what to think about. It's not happening to you. It's not your device's fault. It's not somebody else's fault. You are making a choice.

Number two. Force your mind to focus for a block of time. This is a great exercise. We get so distracted by clicking the next link on the internet that we lose all ability to focus, even on God's Word or anything that matters. Force yourself. Exercise your mind. Tell yourself, "During my walk, during my drive time, for the next thirty minutes I am going to think about this. And if my mind wavers, I'm going to bring it back and I'm going to keep bringing it back and I'm not going to let it keep straying." It's a great exercise.

Number three. Limit potential distractions. Limit the dings, bells, and vibrations in your life. Don't have your devices automatically notify you about everything. It's not all that important. And turn off the notifications during certain times when you're really trying to think. And folks, determine not to automatically reach for your phone every time you have a free moment. Did you know the average person checks his or her cell phone (and I saw different statistics, you know, with different surveys) somewhere between sixty and one hundred times a day. Now folks, none of us have that much important coming in on that little device. The average American spends 5.4 hours a day on their device. Again, I'm not against devices. I have them and use them. But let's be reminded that our devices are tools to be used, not tyrants to be obeyed.

Number four. Don't Google everything that comes to your mind. (Audience laughs). No, I mean this. You see, Googling everything the moment it occurs to you is not, and this is what we tell ourselves, educational. It's simply not. It's entertainment. Admit it. And, ultimately, it's a lack of self-control.

Number five. Schedule small blocks of time to do time-wasting tasks like news, social media, and web surfing. There's a place for all those things. I do them. But if we're not careful we let it grow into way out of proportion, way out of what it deserves in our lives. So schedule blocks of time when you say, "For this period of time I'm going to do that." And do it. And don't let it grow into your entire life.

Number six. Keep a list of random ideas, tasks, or things to research that just pop into your head, but don't interrupt what you're doing. There again, that's that lack of focus and thinking. It's letting yourself be swept along and making a different choice. Just create a little list. If something pops into your mind (It happened to me this morning. I had two things pop into my mind this morning when I was preparing to preach this message to you that I thought, "You know I need to look that up.") Its like, "You don't need to do that now." Make a list.

Whatever the next number is. Write to stay focused. You know sometimes it helps me (and I'm not the only one; this has been true through the history of the world), if you really want to focus your thinking, write as you're thinking because it helps you stay in the flow of your thought. Choose a daily or weekly verse or passage to meditate on. This is biblical, the concept of daily meditation, and this is just a practical way to implement that. Choose a daily or weekly verse or passage to meditate on. Every time your mind is not having to be consumed with something else, it goes back to this.

And then finally, preach the truth of Scripture to yourself. Lamentations 3:21: "This I recall to my mind," Jeremiah said, "Therefore I have hope." Intentionally recall the truths of Scripture to your mind. Preach them to yourself. Now what's the goal in all of this? Why does this matter? It's this reason: to become like Jesus Christ even in your thinking. See it's not enough to be like Him in what you do and don't do. The goal is to be like Him in our thinking. You say, "How can that ever happen?" Well I love the way 1 Corinthians 2 ends. First Corinthians 2 is about the Scripture, and it ends with this, and this is a statement about the Scripture: "we have the mind of Christ." You realize you hold in your hand the mind of Christ. This is how He thinks and wants you to think about everything that matters. And that's the goal.

As we prepare for the Lord's Table we all need to confess, I think, not only our sins of word and action, but our sins of thought. Let's pray together. Father, thank You for our time together this morning. I pray that You would use these truths in all our lives. Lord, we confess to You that we are too often driven by all the wrong sources when it comes to our thinking. Forgive us, oh God, forgive us even as we come to take of the Lord's Table. Forgive us for all of our sins. We confess them individually; our sins of action or inaction, Father, our sins of speech, and our sins of thought. Forgive us, oh God, for not thinking like Jesus Christ. And help that to become the goal and passion of our lives. It's why You've redeemed us, that we would be like Your Son. Lord, forgive us, cleanse us, and allow us now as we come to the Lord's Table to come with clean hands and a pure heart to remember Him. We pray in Jesus' Name, Amen.