The Mind of God
There is a book called "A Brief History of Time". It's written by Professor Stephen Hawking. He is well known for being a brilliant physicist. But not just that - to get there, he had to overcome having motor neuron disease, which confines him to a wheelchair and means that he needs a voice synthesizer to speak. In this book, Hawking tries to explain some amazingly complicated theories, from Newton and Einstein and his own research. His book gives these theories to us in a way that almost makes them able to be understood, if you study the book really hard.
In the final chapter, he points out that science is only trying to describe, and predict, what the universe is, and how it works. It does not say much about why it would even exist in the first place. But he thinks that if science can come up with a final, all-encompassing theory, only then will everyone be able to discuss that question of why we exist. And Hawking says that if we worked that out, "we would know the mind of God".
Well, I'm not going to give us a physics lesson. Which is just as well, because I'm hardly qualified. But I can tell you all a bit about the mind of God, from what he has told us himself in the Bible. And a bit about how we can tap into that mind, and have a mind like God's in many ways.
Let's look at three things:
How God thinks.
What we should think.
Knowing what God knows.
1. HOW GOD THINKS
God's thoughts are eternal - in effect, he must not need to think new thoughts as such - he already knows! He does not need to see something happen then decide what to do about it, because he always foreknew it would happen. Like the Bible says, "God is not a man that he should change his mind" [Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29]. Despite this, in the Bible he reveals to us one aspect at a time of his unchanging thoughts and feelings, as if he had just thought of something. He does this to help us understand him and to relate to him.
Can you imagine what it would be like to think like God does? It's impossible of course - God declares in Isaiah 55:9, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts". But still, he does give us access into his thoughts.
We can possess a reflection of God's omniscience, or knowing everything. We can have some foreknowledge of what will happen just by normal learning and thinking ahead, as we consider God's Word. And sometimes God might choose to give you foreknowledge by a special revelation, miraculously telling you something that you could not have known about the future if he hadn't told you.
But one aspect of his foreknowledge that we can all definitely adopt is to not worry about the future. God is never stressed. He always knows that he has everything under control, even if we sometimes forget. He has purpose and direction in what he does.
Another thing God does not do, and we shouldn't either, is rationalize. We all do it - making our thoughts line up with what we want, trying to justify doing something when we know it is wrong. Think about the Old Testament account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. [Daniel 3: c15-18]. They were captives in a foreign land, and the king was telling them to bow down and worship a gold statue, otherwise they would be killed. They could have given any number of excuses: "We will bow, but not actually worship it; We'll just do it this one time, that won't make us idol worshippers; We're not hurting anyone; If we don't do it, we'll be killed, and then we won't be able to help the other Jewish captives". Instead however, they chose to obey God's command not to worship idols, no matter what the cost, even though they knew God might allow them to be killed. And as many of you would know, God honored them by miraculously saving them from being killed.
In this case, it was clear that doing the act would be sin - it would break the second of the Ten Commandments! Maybe your situation is not so obvious. Or maybe it is obvious, but not to you, because you have blinded yourself to God's clear commands. You have let your judgment be clouded, by selfishness or by putting some other person before God. Although right and wrong is not always clear, don't put aside the firm truth of God's laws with feeble and transparent rationalizing.
2. WHAT WE SHOULD THINK
With that background of how God thinks, let's look at what he thinks, and how he wants us to be like him.
God certainly wants the way that we think, to change when we become his people, and to keep being changed as we grow more like him. In Ephesians 4:23 it says to "be made new in the attitude of your minds". In Romans 12:2 it says "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is." You need to pray, then put your mind to work knowing that he will guide your thoughts.
You've heard the saying "Too heavenly minded and no earthly use". We can't be so caught up in great and lofty ideas that we do nothing about what is around us. Yet God commands us to be guided in what we do, by thinking about heaven' as the next life for us to look forward to, and as where Jesus rules from, right now. The Bible presents the contrast between a mind fixed on earthly things, and a mind set on heaven.
Firstly, Philippians 3:18,19 says: "many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." So without God in your head, you're against Jesus and you're on your way to punishment even if the possibility has never crossed your mind. And what do people without God on their minds think about? They have a "god" of sorts - the idol of whatever appeals to physical pleasure, if it feels good, do it, as if they worship their own guts. And the things that should make them ashamed are actually what they are proud of. Have you ever heard someone laughing about how drunk they got the other night?
Contrast that with Colossians 3:1-14: "Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ. Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature. You have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator "Clothe yourselves with virtues." We are to have our thinking based on Jesus, and his glory.
You might say, "What harm can it do just to think about certain things. I won't actually do them!" But like the fact that you are what you eat, you are what you think too. You become whatever you meditate on. Like it says in Romans 13:14, "do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature". And Jesus taught that looking at someone lustfully is committing adultery with them in your heart [Matthew 5].
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, "We demolish 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". Take your thoughts captive, before they take you captive! Otherwise they may keep you from being satisfied or happy. They may make you bitter or jealous. They even may turn into dysfunctional thinking over time and leave you in need of psychiatric help! So take them captive, using what God has given you.
You need to give God not just the occasional thought, but your way of thinking. This is because God deserves more than just an occasional thought. And God deserves our constant praise, out of love, not just our requests out of need. But as well as that, the occasional thought won't make you ready for when a crisis hits; you may not be able to deal with it, because it hits you hard and fast, and your response needs to come automatically, not with effort and time. Here's a quote from the book "My Utmost for His Highest" [April 1] "If a burden and its resulting pressure come upon us while we are not in an attitude of worship, it will only produce a hardness toward God and a despair in our own souls."
I personally found this to be true recently. My wife and I are building a house in Brisbane. A couple of months ago we were still in the process of buying the land, and due to certain delays there was the very real threat that the land developer would cancel our contract, keep our deposit and sell the land to someone else. Even though we had already come so far in getting the loan and starting the builder's documentation. I have to admit, I was stressed. And since this was happening while I was at work, I was possibly giving my own purchase file too much time, and letting clients' files suffer.
What I should have remembered were Bible verses - rejoice in the Lord always; have no anxiety, but pray in all situations and God's peace will guard your heart and mind [Philippians 4:4, 6 & 7], and other relevant verses. And the way that we had prayed when finding the land and builder, that God would guide us in entering into those contracts. But they were not in my way of thinking at the time. You might think, "Oh well, those things are hard to trust in when you are actually in the situation". That's sometimes true, but my main problem was that I too busy worrying to even remember those verses.
When you see someone who is clear-headed in confusing times, and cool when the heat is on, maybe they have God's peace. Sometimes God's peace, and other blessings, are obtained simply as a natural consequence of trusting what he has told us. Not necessarily a direct calming intervention by the Holy Spirit, although he can do that, but the fact that it makes sense to not worry.
To live out God's way of thinking, you need to put in the time for it to become part of the way you think, part of the assumptions and values you automatically reach for in dealing with situations that arise. Where you know you have a particular problem in your life, memorize relevant verses and say them over to yourself several times a day. And imagine or visualize yourself handling the situation the right way. Then when you enter that situation suddenly, you are more prepared. Do your best, but rely on God to use your efforts.
To some extent, getting your thoughts to line up with God's is a process. God will use situations and experiences you have to mature you, to the point where you have the same attitude, perspective and discernment as him in that area. You need to just do the good things you know you should do, until they become automatic and natural, and anything else seems strange or even distasteful. Practice what you learn. It's like learning to drive a car at first you need to learn to think about checking for other cars, and changing gears. But as time goes on, you don't even have to think about it, you just do it.
It is a change of character, not just actions. But forcing some action out of yourself can prime the pump of motivation, and then that motivation causes more action to flow. And God often only gives us strength and success when we get off our butts and at least start to do what he has told us to.
It isn't easy. In Romans 7:23, 25; 8:5-7, Paul discusses the struggle within us. He says that a Christian is a slave to God's law in their mind, but a slave to the law of sin in the sinful nature at work in our bodies. But Jesus died to set us free. We need to live in accordance with the Holy Spirit, by having our minds set on what he desires, which leads to life and peace; not having our minds set on what our sinful nature desires, which leads to death.
To commit ourselves this fully to thinking God's way, we need to trust what he says. Even though some of God's thoughts seem too radical, as if they can't be true, until we look into them. One example is in James 1:2. It says, "Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds". It sounds bizarre to get ecstatic about pain, but there is a reason there that sees through the trouble to the result - the testing of your faith develops your character. Do you really believe the promises and truths that God has shown you?
To summarize, ask yourself: are you serious about living the way God wants you to? Then put some thought into it!
3. KNOWING WHAT GOD KNOWS
Lastly, as well as the moral ways in which we can think like God, we can tap into the understanding God has - what God knows. Whether it is in theology, or in looking at our lives.
I think sometimes we Christians have to ask ourselves... do Christians use their brains? We should, and we can. But do we? We must not leave our brains at the door when we come to church. And we must not let the sermons and Bible studies go in one ear and out the other, week in and week out.
If we really care about people going to hell, we need to think through our beliefs and make sure we can explain them. Do an Apologetics course if you can. For example, when someone says that Christianity is fine for you, but something else is better for them, what would you say? Would you realize that this is an attack on the idea of absolute truth, and be able to give a simple explanation to show that both can't be right?
Next, God knows what Satan is up to, and 2 Corinthians 2:11 says that we Christians are not unaware of Satan's schemes. Are you aware of what he is up to? Or is ignorance bliss? Do you notice when there is disunity in the church, or a lack of forgiveness, or people doing things that do more harm than good, and do you realize it can be Satan's attempt to disrupt God's work? Do you quickly and tactfully do something about it? Paul warned the people in Corinth [1 Corinthians 14:20] to stop thinking like children and start thinking like adults, when it comes to this sort of thing.
God's knowledge does not only show us what to think about other people, or about our beliefs. It is also about how you see yourself. For example, if you think of yourself as worthless, God has to disagree! The Bible is full of great affirmations of the position we get if we give our lives to Christ. We are adopted as God's children, and we are being made into the likeness of his perfect son Jesus. On the other hand, if you think you are without sin and don't need forgiveness, God says you're fooling yourself [1 John 1:8].
Knowing what God knows also affects what you desire and pursue in life, the things that guide your thinking. God has love for you that cannot be taken away, and he invites you to live for him and find the role he has for you. When you know that God is supplying these two great needs everyone has, secure love and significant things to do, you don't need to chase them elsewhere. This leaves you free to choose what is best in life, not just desperately turning to anything that offers some promise of making you feel satisfied.
In tapping into God's knowledge, there is also the question people often raise about God's guidance. Psalm 25:4, 5, 8, 9, 14, 15 has a lot to say about guidance. If you fear God, and put your hope in him, and stay humble, then God will confide in you and teach you the way he has chosen for you. God's knowledge is way beyond our ability, but we have the exciting privilege of being able to access it! When we follow his leading, we sometimes do things for reasons we do not even know until later, but that leading is based on what God knows and we can trust what he has planned.
CONCLUSION & GOSPEL
To finish, Stephen Hawking is undoubtably brilliant. But he is wrong, if he really does think that the mind of God can be discovered through mathematical formula. There are secrets to be discovered about the tiniest atoms and the largest and most distant planets. But to God, that creation thing was all in a week's work. I can tell you what is most on God's mind, because he has told us. His main concern is for our souls into eternity, and our relationship to him.
One time, Jesus had been teaching his disciples about his upcoming suffering and death. Peter took him aside and tried to talk him out of it, but Jesus rebuked him. Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." [Mark 8:33]. Peter had unwittingly let himself be a tool of Satan. It can happen to you too, if you are not on your guard against letting your thinking be guided by your own selfish whims or pursuits, and by Satan's influence, rather than by God. Peter had tried to stand in the way of Jesus' sacrificial death, not thinking that this was God's wise way of bringing salvation.
God calls us to give our thinking and our lives to him, to trust in Jesus' death for us and Jesus' return from the dead, and to have that change of direction of our minds called repentance from sin. When this happens, as well as getting eternal life, we have access to the mind of God.
Let's pray: "Dear God. We praise you for your amazing thoughts. We thank you that the main thing on your mind is not the universe, but your love for us. Help us to become more like you in our thinking, bringing peace, and right actions, and wisdom, into our lives. In Christ's name. Amen."
Related ideas not used in message
Look up Bible concordance and study notes index, under e.g "idea", "thinking", "thoughts", "mind".
1 Chronicles 28:12 the Spirit put ideas into David's mind for the temple design etc.
Psalm 139 - God knows our thoughts; God's thoughts of us are precious; etc.
Romans 8:27 "mind of the Spirit".
1 Corinthians 1:25 "God's foolishness is wiser than man's wisdom".
1 Peter 1:13 "prepare your minds for action".
- Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5 God re: practice of sacrificing children to idols - "something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind".
- God can even cause confusion and anxiety in someone's mind... He said so in Moses' warnings to the Israelites of what would happen if they disobeyed! [Deuteronomy 28:28, 65.]
- Hebrews 10:24 says "let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" put some thought into it.
- God can also give wisdom and knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature. He did it for Daniel [1:4, 17; 2:21].
- In 1 Corinthians 2:11, 14, 16 Paul says that we Christians have the mind of Christ. He says that it is only when we have the Holy Spirit that we can understand the things that God tells us, because it is only God's Spirit who knows God's thoughts.
Guidance - Idea that God is not trying to hide his will from you, contrary to how it may appear sometimes.
- We have the privilege of being let in on what God plans to do. In John 15:15, Jesus said that Christians are not just in a situation of "do as you're told", but are given insight. (Although in the specific details, sometimes God allows a test of faith instead.) Also, regarding his plans for the world overall - Ephesians 1:9, 10 ("made known to us the mystery of His will"); angels long to see?
[Message by Rodney Brydon, Australia, October 2001. Copyright waived - Permission granted to anyone to copy message.]
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