Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
–1 Peter 1:13–17
Do you feast on negativity? Let’s be honest. Many times we do, whether we’re aware of it or not. Sometimes we catch ourselves (or those around us may catch us) saying something sarcastic like, “Oh, like that’s really going to happen,” or responding to some optimistic suggestion with, “Yeah, right,” “or, “That’s just not the world we live in.” If that is the case, we need to shift our thinking about what we can or can’t do.
People who have achieved amazing things through invention or innovation have been those who weren’t held back by the word “impossible.” The one who knows God understands that nothing is impossible because they have factored God into the equation, so that literally anything is possible. If we’re attempting to do God’s will and become the kind of person he wants us to be, then an in-depth knowledge of his unlimited power trumps any obstacle.
When we grasp the immeasurable width and depth of God’s ability to create, arrange, or rearrange things, we can replace “It can’t happen” with “If God wants it, nothing can stop it.” Consider the incredible Creation itself. If God made everything in the immeasurable universe with the snap of his fingers, then how insurmountable is the problem we’re facing at the moment? I’ve told people for years that if they can accept the first two verses of Genesis 1, nothing else in the Bible should present a problem.
Most of the first scientists in the modern era were people who had experienced the “new birth,” a change of mind and heart. They could crack the nut of nature’s mysteries because of their knowledge of God, and so operated on the assumption that “nature” and its laws were designed and manufactured by a personal lawmaker. They discovered that this God was willing to reveal Creation’s mysteries to those who, in humility, bothered to ask.
Martin Luther didn’t trigger the Reformation because he was so happy and cheerful, but because he wasn’t. For many, despair and depression are the initial occasion for a personal transformation. Luther had to reorient his mind from a negative to a positive view of God. He said, “I was myself more than once driven to the very abyss of despair so that I wished I had never been created. Love God? I hated him!”
Luther’s habitual frame of mind was to see God as some impossible-to-please parent or some distant ogre always on the verge of condemning and punishing him for any misstep. The only source he possessed that contained a reliable description of God was the Scriptures. So, he prayerfully and painstakingly poured over them day and night, searching in the original languages for an accurate picture of God. This intense study was no purely academic exercise. It was for him a matter of life and death.
And Luther wasn’t disappointed.
After a long and careful analysis of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, including a thorough reevaluation of the entire New Testament, he came to know God not as the stern and unyielding judge who hated sinners, but as the gracious and merciful heavenly Father Jesus described. He had much to unlearn from his teachers before he could learn what the Bible taught.
I know what that’s like. I had years of terrible teaching about God and the Gospel. This teaching so clouded my mind that it was difficult to love the God found in popular folk-Christianity. The Christian life was portrayed as walking some sort of tightrope, where the slightest misstep to the right or the left would plunge me into eternal hellfire. Legalism was the main feature that erased the doctrine of grace, or buried it under thick layers of erroneous teaching. We need to clear our minds of the distorted images of God others (or we) have put there to make room for the accurate portrait of him in the Bible’s teaching.
The doctrine of God’s loving-kindness and grace, properly understood, gives us a solid foundation for developing habits of joy and optimistic thoughts and behavior that are part of the transformation of the mind. This is one of the key reasons for staying in the Scriptures every day, rain or shine, good mood or bad. In our world of competing philosophies and propaganda, it’s essential to have a daily input of biblical truth, along with a regular habit of vital worship and spending time with healthy believers.
Remember, it’s God first, Kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). If it’s genuine, intelligent happiness and contentment we’re looking for, it comes only from reality—the plain, life-altering truth about our Creator and all that he accomplished for us through his Son.
-Photo by Colin Watts on Unsplash
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