Renewing Our Minds from Impurity
By SARAH GUTHRIE
…Try me and know my thoughts…
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
I shut my eyes tightly as another wave of remembrance washed over me. There. It had happened again. Another thought that I didn’t even conjure up presented itself before my very eyes. Ever had one of those moments? A seemingly uncontrollable thought — the slippery-as-soap variety; fast moving and hard to hold on to — perpetrated itself before my mind’s eye, and once again I was dragged back to the hallways of high school, hallways that hadn’t yet had time to grow cold and distant in my memory.
You see, through an extraordinary turn of events, I ended up leaving my local public school at the tail end of tenth grade to finish out my education at home. And yet, in the days, weeks, and probably even months following that season, it wasn’t a taste-the-rainbow experience filled with pots of gold, sunlight-drenched paths, or fields of wildflowers as I accomplished my schoolwork. It was out-and-out war. But not a war with decimals and fractions — although there was that too — rather, it was a battle in my mind.
My high school experience was pretty typical — a quaint, country school whose students worked hard to secure stunning test scores and bright futures. I was an honor student (most of the time) who loved literature and abhorred gym (like many). I didn’t date. I didn’t party. I didn’t attend school dances. I was a “good girl.”
But underneath the veneer and amid the day-in-day-out routine of trying to live in the world and not of it, I became overexposed to sin, desensitized to the perversion around me, and calloused towards the profanity and ungodliness that was in hallways, in locker rooms, and at the lunch table.
Now fast forward to my fledgling days of homeschooling — talk about culture shock! I loved the Lord and knew that He had directed me down this path, but I was tripping over what to do with all of the yuck that had been steeping in my mind for a few years. While the Lord had miraculously kept me from compromise in a way that saved me from immense heartbreak, I felt anything but pure.
In fact, I felt like my mind needed to be dumped out, rinsed thoroughly, and scrubbed down with something that would cut through the worldly build-up that had accrued with each passing semester.
In summertime when I was a young girl, my family would pile into our minivan and trek into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There’s nothing like getting lost in your own back yard. And in the wild woods of the Northeast, we did just that. One of my favorite places to visit is a gem-of-a-place called The Flume Gorge. This natural wonder testifies of the thunderous power of the Almighty as you meander through sky-high granite slabs that are split in two by the waterfalls, cascades, and natural springs that weave themselves through the forest. The scenery is reminiscent of one of Tolkien’s fantasies.
The crowning moment is the traditional stop at the granite pool. The roaring water careens over the granite and falls into the pool below where it empties out into more waterfalls. And there, I’d get down on my knees beside that pool, cup my hand, and greet the cold, clear water. I couldn’t help but drink it in! The naturally-refrigerated temperature, the sweetness you can’t bottle, and the purity that results from its granite filtration system all made it the best water I had ever tasted.
I once asked my dad what made the water taste so … so … pure. He said it was because the stream had spent so long running over the rocks. The result is a sparkling sweetness that is other-worldly — and the beauty of that pure water was, and still is, breathtaking to me.
That was just the sort of cleansing I craved. If only I could somehow manage to extricate my thoughts and memories and rinse my mind with something like that pure, sweet, torrential stream of mountain water!
God’s Word became that cleansing stream in my life. As my environment changed and was more conducive to seeking Jesus throughout the day (rather than squeezed into spare moments and in between classes) I found that — slowly but surely, and almost without realizing it — the more I was in His Word, the more the build-up dissolved.
Just as the water was sweetened the longer it spent running over the granite rocks, so my thought life was naturally purified as I learned how to renew my mind. The thought life I had tried so hard to wrangle began to behave. I felt I had tasted how the woman at the well must have felt when she experienced the Living Water through encountering the Living Word — Jesus Christ! I had finally tasted victory, and boy was it sweet! Just like that New Hampshire water!
If you find yourself in the same predicament or you know someone who is wrestling with an unruly thought life, I want to encourage you to run towards the fountain of Living Water. And what better way to do so than by running to the pages of Scripture which have the power to lead us to the One who can cleanse us from any sin or stain!
Still, I realize that it’s easier said than done. Habits are just that — habits. Some are the product of a short growing season and haven’t developed deep roots. Others are deeply-worn ruts in our thought patterns that destroy everything in their path. Big or small, the book of Ephesians tells us that one of the ministries of Christ to us is that He sanctifies us through the washing of the water of the Word. (See Ephesians 5:25-27.) It’s what the Bible does — cleanses, purifies, restores, and renews.
What hope and what promise await us as we dive into the water of the Word and see the impurities of the world begin to ebb away! It’s my hope that this soak in Scripture will direct your gaze not to my experience, but to the eternal and everlasting truths of God’s Word.
The Worldly Mind
The Mind of Christ
1 Corinthians 2:16
The Renewed Mind
Psalm 51; 119:9,11; 139:23
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
These Scriptures are a serene pool of thought; truths that you can approach and cup your hand to again and again. They never grow stale, but taste sweeter as the days go by! Soak in them for a good long while, as they must become our foundation in order for lasting change to stick in our thought lives. Countless times I sought to remove an impure thought and seemed powerless to do so. I found that it was because I was trying to establish reform rather than repentance and needed to switch my shaky foundation of cultural lies for sturdy truth.
While it’s tempting to skip right to the practicals and begin implementing steps 1, 2, and 3 lickety-split quick, there is a reason why we are immersing ourselves in Scripture first. He must be our first turn. Programs, initiatives, and techniques can be helpful, but they are to supplement — not supplant — God’s Word. I have found time and time again that instituting a practical effort in my life where a principle wasn’t firmly locked in place resulted in nothing more than wasted time and effort.
At the discipleship school I serve at, many girls have asked me the question: How do you actually take your thoughts captive? And I can understand the confusion! It’s not like we can hog-tie these rascally thoughts with rope or keep them under lock and key somewhere. I have found it helpful to ask the Lord to set a watch on the tower of my thought life. There have been seasons where I have actually prayed for God to red flag any thought that was not in keeping with His truth. And you know, what? He let me know!
Once I was alerted that there was a sinful thought tempting me on the horizon, I had to make a conscious choice to force that faulty or impure thought to bow to the obedience of the Living Word. In other words, I had to submit it to the Written Word. But in order to do that, I had to know what God had said in His Word regarding the thought I was struggling with. What ensued was a delightful treasure hunt seeking for truth that could quench whatever dart the enemy was aiming my way!
In your search of Scripture, find the fact of the matter and wallpaper your mind with truth instead of catering to a wrong focus or feeling.
For example: “I feel worthless.” This is a lie. God’s Word says that I am of more worth than many sparrows. (See Matthew 10:31.) This is the glorious reality! Rinsing our minds in this way with the Word of God doesn’t just take down the lie or the sinful thought, it replaces it with truth.
Think of it this way: You have a boulder in the back yard right where you desire to plant a garden. Problem. You excavate the boulder and are left with a crater-sized hole. Now your yard is dangerous because you can fall into the hole you just created. Decide to fill it in by adding topsoil, then plant peonies, sunflowers, or daisies! See? Tripping hazard solved!
As you begin to wash your mind with the water of the Word as a lifestyle, I promise you it will become second nature. As you go through this purifying process, maintain a constant victory by watching for impure sources in the form of entertainment, relationships, conversations, etc. Monitor the outlets in your life that feed into the stream of your soul and make sure they are pointing you towards godliness.
Temptation is inevitable. So, before the thought comes knocking (and at some point, it will) craft an offensive plan of attack. Know beforehand what to do when presented with a thought that does not belong.
Some ideas I’ve found helpful are: praying for an unsaved family member or friend; carrying Scripture verse cards in your purse, backpack, or place them on your nightstand to read at any moment; committing to memory an arsenal of worship songs that lead you to behold His face and not the face of an ugly thought. There are so many ways to get creative!
Amy Carmichael once wrote about the victory available to us in Christ: “Sometimes in the midst of the rush of things, it seems impossible always to be victorious, always to be peaceful, always to be inwardly sweet … O love of God, do this for me, Maintain a constant victory.”
And this is the victory that overcomes the world … even our faith! (See 1 John 5:4.) This is a cup of cold water to the soul — the New Hampshire waterfall variety. So take up your shield of faith and praise Jesus for His enabling grace that will keep you from falling and present you faultless before His throne with exceeding joy! (See Jude 1:24.)
I will be worshiping right there next to you.