How are you protecting your mind from unhelpful thoughts and images?

There’s an old phrase in computer science circles: Garbage In, Garbage Out. GIGO! It’s pretty clear what it means. If you put rubbish in to a computer then expect to get rubbish out. But this is not just true for computers - it’s absolutely true for our minds too!

If you put rubbish thoughts and images and ideas in to your mind then don’t be surprised if that stuff badly affects the way you think and as a result, what you say and do.

For example, if you spend a lot of time with gossips then don’t be surprised if you become insecure, worrying that those same gossips are talking to others about you. If you spend a lot of time watching porn then don’t be surprised if you struggle to see others as nothing more than sex objects. If you spend a lot of time listening to coarse language then don’t be surprised if that becomes the way you speak. Why? Because these regular habits physically ‘re-wire’ our brain.

We all understand that if we continually make poor choices in what we eat, then our body will suffer. The same is true for our mind. Think for a moment about the things that feed your mind on a regular basis – the things you read, what you watch, stuff you listen to, people you listen to. Do you recognize the impact that these things have on your thinking?

So let me ask you this question - the fourth of seven questions that we should regularly be grappling with in our accountable disciple-making with others. Here’s the question:

How are you protecting your mind from unhelpful thoughts and images?

In Philippians 4:8, the Apostle Paul sets a helpful ‘bar’ for us to measure against when it comes to how we’re feeding out minds. He writes - “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Think about it! If something you feed your mind isn’t true, honourable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise – then why would you bother? It’s only going to damage you.

It’s no wonder that Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:13 “Be alert and think straight.” We need to be more alert, every day, with what ‘mind food’ we’re devouring. Else we’ll end up with what author and preacher, Joyce Meyer, wonderfully calls ‘stinking thinking’. And who wants stinking thinking?

Of course, we all know that our thinking is broken. We all suffer from negative thoughts and ideas from time to time. So how can we recover some health in this area and embrace more of God’s shalom?

Firstly, Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2 that we need to ask God for help in this area – “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Jesus commands us to ‘repent’ and to repent literally means to ‘change your mind’. Why not pray every day that God, by His Spirit, would continue to transform your thinking so you think like Jesus? And that God gives you the strength to resist unhealthy mind food.

Secondly, what do we do when negative thoughts flow? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take “every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” What does he mean by this? Whenever a thought flows in to your head don’t just take it in – stop – and ask yourself, would God agree with this? Is God saying this? Is it true, honourable, right, pure, lovely etc.? And if not, reject the thought! Choose to disagree with it – even if your emotions feel it’s true.

The Christian journey is about God by His Spirit and Word shaping our thinking, rather than allowing our thinking and emotions to shape God. This is why the battle for our minds is probably the most important battle we’ll ever face – and with God’s help, day by day, it’s a battle we can win!