What Are You Thinking?

Ken Endean

FrontLine • May/June 2008

Almost 350 years ago, with the restoration of the English monarchy, King Charles II sought to control the churches. The Act of Uniformity was passed in 1662, requiring all churches to use the Book of Common Prayer and follow the direction of the Church of England. It also sought to control the ordination of ministers.

The “Great Ejection” followed as almost 2000 pastors resigned rather than submit to the state’s control. One of the pastors who was forced to leave his church was the minister in Dartmouth, John Flavel (1628–91). Cut off from his church, he was not allowed to go near his flock. But the separation did not diminish his concern for the souls in his flock. He took up residence as close to Dartmouth as the law allowed.

The difficulties of that period provided a fertile soil for a fruitful crop of Christian literature coming from men such as Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, and John Owen. One of the enduring books was a treatise written by the ejected John Flavel. After about a year of this separation from the church in Dartmouth, he wrote a book for them. He could think of nothing more important to impress on their minds than the verse in the fourth chapter of Proverbs—verse twenty-three: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” The book, entitled Keeping the Heart, communicated John Flavel’s proposition: “The keeping and right managing of the heart in every condition is the one great business of a Christian’s life.”[1]

All of life is downstream from the heart. How a person thinks shapes who he is (Rom. 12:2), determines how he lives (Prov. 23:7), impacts his emotions (Isa. 26:3), and determines his destiny (Col. 2:8).

What You Think Shapes Who You Are

“Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). On a cold day early in the 17th century, French mathematician René Descartes wrapped his cloak tightly around him and sought warmth by a large stove. For some time he had been troubled, wrestling with questions of doubt and reason, and searching for some philosophical confidence. Warming himself that bitter day, he resolved to doubt everything that could possibly be doubted.

His skeptical meditation persisted for hours. Finally, after intense inner questioning, he arose having determined that there was only one thing he could not doubt, and that was his mental experience—the fact that he doubted. Descartes then drew the deduction, “Cogito, ergo sum”—“I think, therefore I am.”

Previously, medieval philosophers had argued from the existence of God to the reality of the world. Descartes reversed that approach, and from then on philosophers argued from the certainty of self to the reality of God and the world.

That now-famous postulate culminated in an entire philosophical foundation of thought: “Man, rather than God, became the fixed point around which everything else revolved; human reason became the foundation upon which a structure of knowledge could be built; and doubt became the highest intellectual value.”[2]

What You Think Determines How You Live

“As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). The Asbury Park (NJ) Press, December 31, 2007, told of the arrest of a number of individuals who were involved in a real estate scheme. The situation seemed reminiscent of the stories of people buying the Brooklyn Bridge. However, instead of selling a bridge the scoundrels sold a local restaurant, the Yellow Rose Diner. When state investigators moved in they froze seven bank accounts, seized five automobiles, two fishing boats, and a yacht that were all believed to be proceeds from the multimillion- dollar scheme.

Although the article detailed how the scheme worked, one particular situation illustrates how wrong thinking impacts one’s life.

In 2005 a woman was led to believe she would be the major partner in the restaurant business, and she invested $300,000. In February 2006 the deal was closed, and she began doing renovations on the interior with the help of her family. Together they worked for three months. When the renovations were nearly complete, the real owner approached the woman and told her she was trespassing.

He intentionally waited until she was almost done to approach her. He then completed what little work remained and opened the diner under a new name. Imagine the devastation that woman experienced. Not only had she invested a substantial amount of money, she had also invested her “life.” Her family committed time and energy. She had invested emotionally with hopes and dreams. They looked to the future with excitement, and then it was all taken away. They had an improper perspective.

Humans can be deceived. From her perspective, this lady thought she owned the property, but in reality she actually put out all that energy for something that wouldn’t last because it wasn’t hers. She learned the truth after several months. But there are people who live their lives investing in purposes—investing their time, energy, money, along with hopes and dreams only to learn too late that it wasn’t theirs and it wouldn’t last. Every day people are conned into investing their lives in things that will be taken away.

With the rise of Internet communications, Webbased scams proliferate. Barry C. Collin, chief executive of the cybersecurity consulting firm Threat & Risk Associates, commented, “You can’t install a software patch for a person’s mind.”[3]

What You Think Impacts Your Emotions

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee” (Isa. 26:3). Imagine that a man owns 1000 shares of financial industries stock that was purchased at a hundred dollars a share. One morning he opens his paper and reads that the stock has dropped to ten dollars per share. His one-hundred-thousand-dollar investment is now worth ten thousand dollars. What emotions would he experience? He might be angry, frustrated, certainly disappointed or depressed, and maybe even suicidal. Once he grasps the loss of his fortune his emotions get involved.

Now suppose that man calls his stockbroker to find out what happened, and the broker tells him that the paper made a typographical error. Instead, his shares purchased for one hundred dollars are now worth one thousand dollars, not ten dollars. Instead of dropping ninety thousand dollars, his investment has increased nine hundred thousand dollars! The change in his emotional situation is determined by the information he receives and believes.[4]

What You Think Determines Your Destiny

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). Self-righteous religion has always been, and will continue to be, the greatest enemy to the gospel. Thomas Jefferson admired Jesus as a moral man but would have nothing to do with the supernatural elements found in the Scriptures. Using scissors and paste, Jefferson “edited” the Bible, removing anything he felt breached the laws of nature. Jefferson entitled his creation The Life and Morals of Jesus. Only eighty-two columns, or little more than one-tenth of the 700 columns in the King James Bible, remained. The other nine-tenths of the Gospel records were discarded. Jefferson’s work reflected the Deist’s view of Jesus as a moral guide but not divine. His book ended without hope with the words from John 19:42 and Matthew 28:60: “There laid they Jesus . . . and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre and departed.”

The words of Puritan theologian John Owen challenge us:

We can test ourselves by asking whether our spiritual thoughts are like guests visiting a hotel or like children living at home. There is a temporary stir and bustle when guests arrive, yet within a little while they leave and are forgotten. The hotel is then prepared for other guests. So it is with religious thoughts that are only occasional. But children belong to their house. They are missed if they don’t come home. Preparation is continually made for their food and comfort. Spiritual thoughts that arise from true spiritual mindedness are like the children of the house—always expected, and certainly enquired for if missing.[5]

Katie B. Wilkinson (1859–1928) penned the words to a hymn of prayer titled “May the Mind of Christ My Saviour.”

May the mind of Christ my Saviour
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and pow’r controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His pow’r.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.[6]

Ken Endean is the President of International Baptist College and Seminary, Chandler, AZ.

(Originally published in FrontLine • May/June 2008. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

  1. Complete text is available online at http://www.ccel. org/ccel/flavel/keeping.html. []
  2. Charles Colson, Against the Night (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1989), 26–27. Quoted by Richard L. Mayhue at http://www.ondoctrine.com/2may0002.htm. Also in chapter 2 of John MacArthur, Think Biblically (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 45. []
  3. Brian Grow, “The Mind Games Cybercrooks Play,” Business Week, April 17, 2006, p. 54. []
  4. Adapted from an illustration in Tim LaHaye and David Noebel, Mind Siege (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2000), 48. []
  5. Quoted in John MacArthur, Think Biblically! (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 46. []
  6. Hymns of Grace and Glory (Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002), #476. []