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The battle for our minds is a reality that cannot be ignored. We are the focus of relentless efforts to alter our beliefs, in ways that are astonishingly powerful and effective.
How we think controls the way we live and how we relate to others. Our thoughts influence our decisions and thus our actions. In a sense, we are what we think. We should be aware of who is influencing our personal opinions, and the external pulls swaying our thinking and affecting our standards of behavior.
Under the right circumstances, the influence of others on our lives can be beneficial, expanding our understanding and knowledge. But not all who seek to shape our views are constructive. Marketing efforts and commercial advertising thrive on shaping public habits and influencing choices. Honest advertising can be a benefit, providing valuable information, but not all advertising honestly represents the facts.
Television and the Internet convey ideas and information to large numbers of people, and have drastically altered our society's thinking and behavioral patterns. Film critic Michael Medved commented that entertainers have "assumed a dominant role in establishing social conventions…determining what is considered hip, and what will be viewed as hopelessly weird" (Hollywood vs. America, Harper-Collins Publishers, New York, 1992, p. 261). Also much popular music undermines established conventions, often combining catchy tunes with sometimes blatantly antisocial lyrics.
Tragically, many parents are inadequately equipped to explain right from wrong, with many agreeing that morality is relative, and absolute standards for right and wrong do not exist. Almighty God, who created mankind, reveals how we should live, and sets the standards for the way we should think and behave, but there is increasing hostility towards this source of instruction. “A war against standards leads logically and inevitably to hostility to religion because it is religious faith that provides the ultimate basis for all standards" (Medved, p. 89). Only the God who created us can define reliable guidelines for human conduct, which He reveals through the Holy Scriptures. God cares how we think.
Our normal way of thinking is quite different from God’s: "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts' " (Isaiah 55:8-9). The Apostle Paul explains the reason for the gulf between the values of God and most humans: “So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened" (Romans 1:21).
The rejection of God's guidance began as far back as the Garden of Eden when Satan began to influence and distort human thinking. Satan basically told Eve: "Don't believe God, trust yourself. Eat the forbidden fruit. Then you will have the wisdom to determine good and evil" (Genesis 3:1-5). The devil kindled in Eve the desire to decide right and wrong for herself. She then convinced Adam, and Satan won this early battle for the human mind.
God wants us to think like Him, so that His laws are the way we choose to live our life: "…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8). The results of behavior based on thinking rejecting God's standard is also described in the Bible: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like…those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).
Paul admonishes us: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-5). God will never force us to think like Him, as shown when He instructed ancient Israel, "...I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life…" (Deuteronomy 30:19). God provides the guidance, but the choice to heed or ignore it is always ours.
Satan does not present his ways as the greedy, self-centered, vain practices they really are. He masquerades his thoughts and way of life as enlightenment, fulfillment and satisfaction. We are warned "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). No human interest or endeavor escapes his intrusion: "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19).
The Apostle Paul describes the inevitable, tragic results of rejecting God and His way of life:"...even as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind… filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice...gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful…Although they know…that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:28-32).
God is now calling some out of this ungodly, Satan-dominated world to fight the influences around them. This struggle pits them against their self-centered ways of thinking, as well as a personal foe determined to separate them from God: "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…" (1 Peter 5:8-9, NIV).
We must decide who will determine our values, and this requires difficult choices: "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world…they have divine power to demolish strongholds [on our minds]….arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
The Good News Magazine (Mar-Apr 1997)