Which came first?
Which came first — the chicken or the egg? The answer to that will depend on your world view. For those that accept the Bible as the Word of God, the answer is the chicken. For those that do not, the answer could be the egg. A similar type question is, from where do thoughts originate — the mind or the heart? The answer to that question also depends on your world view.
If truth be told, most people have never even given thought to the question. You might even be thinking, “Who cares? What difference does it make?” Well, I shall get to that. What piqued my interest was the following post that someone retweeted last night.
“What you constantly think about drops from your mind into your heart
— choose to think on good things.” — Joel Osteen 1Twitter, @Joel Osteen, February 22, 2017
This statement, because it is imprecise, is false. (see my blog post Precisely) “You’re nitpicking,” you say. Yes, I am. Nits turn into lice, and inaccuracy turns into grievous error. Both can be debilitating. Truth matters.
When I read a post like this I wonder for whom it is intended. Is it for the Christian? Is it for everyone? Is it for a more precisely designed group of people? Sometimes the answer to that question will make a difference in meaning. I am going to assume that Mr. Osteen is speaking to people in general.
Unfortunately, as written, it is bad advice, regardless of its intended readers. The last clause parades as good advice, but it, too, is filled with danger. Who determines what is good? Some think armed protest good, while others believe it is evil. What about abortion? To some the chase after sexual release is a good thing while attending church is an evil. You see, the problem isn’t rooted in our thoughts. Our thoughts are rooted in the problem.
Jesus Christ said,
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:2Matthew 15:19
Several hundred years earlier, King Solomon exhorted his readers to
Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.3Proverbs 4:23
The root of the problem
The root of the problem lies within our hearts. Do you remember God’s commentary on people from Genesis 6?
And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 4Genesis 6:5
The heart controls what we think about. In saying that, I exempt those thoughts that come into our heads from external sources: nearby inescapable conversations, thoughts generated from unavoidable sights, demonically planted thoughts designed to tempt us to evil, and similar. I am speaking of our pattern of thinking. The heart is the well-spring of our thoughts. And our hearts often lead us astray. Do you want to know the condition of your heart? One indicator of your heart’s health is the quality of your thoughts, and by that I mean, are your thoughts governed by the Word of God?
You cannot trust your heart
You cannot trust your heart or your thoughts unless they are regulated by Scripture.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?5Jeremiah 17:9
Let me give you an example. Forty years ago a friend came to my house and set up a white board and started drawing circles on it in an attempt to get me to join his multi-level marketing scheme. I wasn’t at all interested, but I liked their products and by joining I received a nice discount. For months my friend pestered me to “get with it.” My meager purchases were helping me but not doing much for him. At length he pressured me into attending a rally in Seattle the following Saturday night. I was reluctant to commit myself because I had to be in church teaching the next morning. After assurance that it would be over early enough to catch the ferry back to Bremerton I consented to go just to appease him and get him off my back. At the rally person after person got up and told how God had blessed them with wealth and freedom and this and that. One woman in particular stands out. She was b-e-a-u-tiful! Her hair must would have made any model jealous. Her dress was custom-made and exquisitely ornate and fashionable. The front of her dress was cut in a V-shape to her waist, leaving little to the imagination. Her testimony started out with a revelation that she was a Christian and God had led her into this business. She was not atypical of the women in attendance.
Intervals between speakers were filled with hymns … I mean songs … to the company represented. People would stand during the singing of these and with hands raised and lifted high I had a hard time not believing I was in a Pentecostal church. The rally was more akin to an Elmer Gantry revival meeting. By midnight things were just starting to get heated up. I had to leave in order to get home on time. Later, I asked my friend when the meeting ended. He said it was after 2 A.M.
Their “good” thinking was wicked thinking
Many of those in attendance thought they were Christians, and they may have been. However, their thinking was wicked. Their hearts were filled with greed and covetousness, among other things. The rally was in truth a religious rally. If their thoughts had been in line with the Scriptures, they would have loved the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind.6Matthew 22:37 They thought making money was good (and it often is) but their hearts were deceived, their priorities were disordered, and instead of thinking on good things they were thinking on evil things. Instead of attending church the next morning they, like their unbelieving neighbors, were paying homage to one of their true gods, Somnos or Hypnos. 7Roman and Greek gods of sleep.
Why it matters
“What you constantly think about drops from your mind into your heart,” our hearts would be constantly and only increasingly polluted, a veritable cesspool. That is always the case with the unbeliever and, too often and to a lesser degree, for the child of God. However, for the faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, the one who has had a change of heart, the one who meditates on God’s law day and night,8Psalms 1:3 the one who constantly seeks to honor and please God, his mind will be constantly renewed and his life transformed.9Romans 12:2
Had Joel Osteen said, ““What you constantly think about drops from your heart into your mind — choose to think on good things,” his advice would have been far better. Our habitual thinking always reflects what’s in the heart. When the heart is right, the mind will follow and both will be pleasing to God. Keep your heart with all diligence and the meditations [thoughts] of your heart shall be acceptable in God’s sight.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Twitter, @Joel Osteen, February 22, 2017|
|7.||↑||Roman and Greek gods of sleep.|