Transforming the Mind by the Word of God (Romans Sermon 92 of 120)
February 19, 2006 | Andrew Davis
The Law of God, Christian Living, Holiness, The Word of God, Worship
Changing Your Mind
Open your scriptures, if you would, to Psalm 119. As we continue in our study in Psalms, there is a beautiful interweaving in scripture between the written word and the Living Word Jesus Christ, and that's what we've been looking at in our time in Psalms. The scripture was given, it says in 2 Timothy 3:15: “To make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” But not just for that purpose. But also, that the man of God might be thoroughly equipped for every good work to bring you on to completion, to guide you safely home to finish the journey. And so today we're going to look at how the Scripture is given to transform your life by renewing your mind and by transforming your mind. Psalm 119 has a great deal to say about this. Have you ever changed your mind? Has a day gone by when you didn't change your mind? It's not just for women who have the priority and prerogative to change their minds. I've changed my mind too, Christy will testify.
We change our minds, but the question is, can you change your mind? I mean really just change the way you think about something, especially something important. Can that be done? Can you convert your own mind, so to speak? And throughout history, there have been those that have sought to use various techniques to change people's entire ways of thinking. In the 17th century in Spain, there was something called the Spanish Inquisition. Now, what techniques did they use to change people's minds? Physical torture. Well, I suppose it worked to some degree. If you beat on people enough, they might change their minds, but I don't think that's God's method, not at all. The Spanish Inquisition, therefore, became a symbol of that kind of persuasion by physical means. In 1778, a strange doctor named Franz Anton Mesmer from Austria appeared in Paris and started using strange techniques. He claimed to have something called animal magnetism, and if he touched you or touched something that you touched, you would be healed of various maladies. It became known as mesmerism or “to be mesmerized”. It was some kind of early form of hypnosis, and so your mind would be changed just by being near this person.
He was eventually denounced as a quack and run out of town. But the word stuck in our vocabulary when we talk about somebody who's mesmerizing, or the ability to change somebody's mind by hypnosis. Then, during the Korean War, some of you remember a word known as brainwashing. The North Korean troops would capture some of our troops and seek to convert them to communism, and they were using techniques developed by Russian communists in the 1930s. They would isolate you in physically discomforting quarters, but not by using torture. They would keep you up all hours of the night, wake you up, and then bring you in for humiliating interrogation. And then at certain key points, they would suggest the right answers to you and then with a mixture of threat and encouragement, lead you to come to those convictions. This was brainwashing, and so American troops were trained on how to resist these techniques.
And then every January, we have another form of persuasion called Super Bowl Commercials. These companies: Gillette, Coca-Cola, American Airlines, Lexus, Rolex, all kinds of companies invest millions of dollars in market research, and then with the best advertising companies try to get you to change your mind and buy their product. I don't know what it would take to get me to buy a Lexus, an awful lot more money I suppose, and a whole different way of looking at the world. But they think in 30 seconds they can do it, and market research has proven that they don't waste their money. I'm not sure if that's brainwashing, but they're going for your mind. They're going for your thinking and they're trying to persuade you to change.
Now, as we bring up this whole issue, I want you to understand what a marvel and what an amazing thing the human brain is. It's an incredible thing that God has created and you carry it around with you all the time, at least most of the time. I've met some of you, and sometimes I wonder if you might have left it behind. Go home and get it and put it back in. But we have it with us, and it's an amazing thing that God has created the ability to think and to reason. And today, I want to talk to you about the transformation of your mind, but not in any of these ways like the Spanish Inquisition or brainwashing, but the transformation of your mind by the steady flow of Scripture through it. That's what I want to talk about today. Your mind could be a blank canvas in which God paints his most stunning masterpiece or lines on a score sheet in which he writes his most beautiful symphony. And because it can be that, and it has been that in many other lives, it is also a battleground where Satan wants to wage his fiercest battles over your soul. That is the nature of the mind, and we're going to talk about it today.
A Brief History of the Mind
The Human Brain: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
In order to understand the mind and understand how all this fits in, we need to have an overview of what the Bible gives us in terms of the history of the human mind. The human mind and the brain were created by God, and we were created in Genesis 1 in the image and likeness of God. Now, when God created your mind, he put inside your brain 100 billion neurons or nerve cells. 100 billion! That's a big number. Now, how many neurons is that? Well suppose, for example, you went down to Latin America where the tropical Amazonian Rainforest is. If you were to fly around it in a helicopter or plane, it would take you days to get around the whole circumference of it. The number of trees in the Tropical Rainforest is the number of nerve cells you have in your brain. Not only that, but each of the nerve cells has these interconnections with other nerve cells creating a tangled network of interconnections, and each nerve cell has as many interconnections as there are leaves on an average tree.
So, it's just countless. Absolutely countless is that mesh that God has put in your mind and your brain. It is in this so-called “jar of clay” (2 Cor. 4:7) that God has put the treasure of his glory. We won't always have it, and there will be a time when we will be separated from it, and we will continue in our relationship with God. But now God works through the mind. So much of our spirituality and so much of our life is affected by thinking processes. It's the center of our memory, our mood, our instinct, our will, our thought patterns, and our logic. It's a seed of individuality and personal history, and you train your brain with every experience you go through. That's why the decisions you make are so important, you're training your mind. And where water has flowed before, it will flow again. That's why you've got to fight sin every step of the way. But the battle is for the mind. Now, we were originally created in the image of God, and that means that we're able to think, to reason, to plan, to feel in the way that God does.
The Fallen Mind
The problem was that sin entered the world and twisted the mind and twisted the thinking process. Adam and Eve sinned in the garden and their thinking was twisted and their minds became dark, and it says so in Romans Chapter 1:21. We covered this when we went through Romans, it says, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened." So, sin enters and takes that beautiful gift of God and twists it, and darkens the thinking process. And out of that darkened thinking, comes darkened living. That's the way it works. In Ephesians 4, Paul says this, "So I tell you this and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live." Now listen to the number of times that the thinking comes up in this passage, "That you must no longer live as the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking." That's one. "They are darkened in their understanding." That's two. "And separated from the life of God because of the ignorance." That's three. "That is in them due to the hardening of their hearts." That's four. "Having lost all sensitivity." That's five. "They have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more."
That's where sin comes from. Five times he establishes the priority of the mind in a darkened life. And so, because of sin, our thinking is twisted. We don't think properly and we don't understand properly. As a result of that, our natural mind, it says in scripture, is hostile to God and ignorant of the things of God. In Romans 8:7, it says, "The sinful mind is hostile to God, it does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." The natural mind will never follow Christ. We are hostile and we are at enmity against God. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says we can't understand spiritual things. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned." We can't understand spiritual truth unless God does something to change your mind. Alright, so that's the second step. First was the giving of the gift that we're created in the image of God. The second was the entrance of sin that twists the thinking and darkens the mind and the understanding. The third step is salvation: the regenerated mind. That word regeneration is such a rich word. It means new creation, a re-genesis of your mind, God creates your mind anew.
The Regeneration of the Mind
2 Corinthians 5:17 talks about this: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone. Behold, everything has become new." Isn't that beautiful? And it starts in the mind; He gives you a new way of thinking. Your conversion starts with the mind understanding who Jesus Christ is. You see Jesus in a way you never saw before, and that's the moment of salvation. Paul likens it to the original creation moment. In Genesis 1:3, God said, "Let there be light, and there was light." 2 Corinthians 4:6 says "For God who said, let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts." (That's our minds) "To give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." So, there are two knowledge (or mind) words there. That's how salvation occurs. He changes your mind so that you see Christ differently and you see him as glorious and attractive, and you want him. That's the moment of salvation. He saved you. Regeneration.
The Renewed Mind
And then at that moment He also, according to 1 Corinthians 2:16, gives you the mind of Christ. What a gift. You have the ability now in Christ to think the way Jesus does about everything. But you have to train your mind, and that's where the fourth step comes in, the renewed mind. You're given a new creation mind but now you need to renew your mind daily. Renew it. Renew it. Renew it. Romans 12:2 talks about this, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, then you'll be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will." Not only will you know what God's will is through this renewed mind, but you'll also actually be attracted to it. You'll love it and you'll want it. It's not just a matter of knowing the will of God, but approving it and saying, I want that for myself. The renewed mind. But it's a struggle, isn't it? Is your mind pure straight through and through?
I was speaking at a college group recently and I said, “I think my mind is somewhat like seats in the Congress. There's a vote on everything. Are we going to go this way? Are we going to go that way? I'm pulled this way; I'm pulled that way.” Do you feel what I'm talking about? There's a pull toward that which is righteous, and then a pull toward that which is unrighteous, and the battlefield's in here, that's where it happens. So, there's a need for the constant renewing of the mind. Then the final step is the glorified mind. Jesus said in John 17:3, "Now this is eternal life, that they may know God, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." That's eternal life; a deep intimate knowledge of God.
The Glorified Mind
1 Corinthians 13:9-12 talks about this and I love this verse: "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child. I reasoned like a child, I thought like a child." See that in the thinking. "But when I became a man" I what? "I put childish ways behind me. Now, we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face-to-face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." That's heaven, where you know God as fully as He knows you. A glorified mind. So, I've given you a full history of the human mind. It was given as a gift in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve. A sinless, pure, perfect mind. The gift was twisted through sin so that we have darkness in our understanding. God recreates the mind through the Gospel. We are then called to renew our minds daily through the Word of God and then, in the end, we will receive a glorified mind to know God as fully as we are known. Well, I want to move back and look at that fourth step, the renewing of the mind, and that's what Psalm 119 addresses. How do we renew our minds? How do we think more and more? We are called to be holy.
The Transformation of the Mind by the Word of God
The Call to Be Holy
Deuteronomy 7:6 says, "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the Earth to be his people, his treasured possession." You are to be holy. You are to be special to God. It says so also in 1 Peter 2:9: "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." That's what you're meant to be; you're meant to be holy. And it says in 2 Corinthians 6:17: "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord." Be different from the world. Different in the way they think. Different in the way that they value things and the decisions they make and what they live for. Be different. Come out from them and think differently.
Sanctified by the Truth: John 17
So how do I do it? How can I come out? Coming out means to be sanctified. How can I be sanctified? Jesus prayed this in John 17:17, he said, "Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth." So, the Word of God and the truth of God sets you apart as different from the world as you take it in and imbibe it. Your mind is saturated by it and you just think differently. And as you think differently, you're going to live differently, and guess what? Your neighbors are going to start to notice. There's going be a difference. What is with him? What is with her? They don't talk like they used to. They don't walk like they used to. There's a change. You can't talk to them about anything. They have a whole different way of looking at things now. Now Psalm 119 directs itself toward your understanding, and all I did in preparing this sermon is look up the word “understanding” in Psalm 119 and draw the doctrine out of that word.
The Goal is Understanding
What is Spiritual Understanding?
So just look it up in a concordance. You want to follow the word “understanding” through the words in Psalm 119. And it's not just any understanding; you can understand physics, you can understand your job or a computer program, you can understand electronics, you can understand how to drive. I won't say anything about that, but it's good to understand how to drive. You can understand many things. I'm talking about a spiritual understanding. Now, how does that come about? Well, first look at verse 79 in Psalm 119. And you are going to want to follow along as best you can, so you can read them right off the page. Look at Psalm 119:79: "May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes." I'm defining what spiritual understanding is. In Hebrew poetry, there's a kind of an A and B structure. There's a first part of the verse and then the second part. They use what's known as parallelism. In other words, the first part and the second part are related and frequently the second part explains the first part.
So, you could read this verse this way: "May those who fear you turn to me, that is, those kinds of people who understand your statutes." So just pull all the words out and say, "The fear of the Lord is understanding God's statutes” or vice versa. Do you see what I'm getting at? Understanding is fear of the Lord. Spiritual understanding is fear of the Lord. Now, what does it mean to fear the Lord? Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." What it means is that you understand behind the black squiggles on the page that a person is speaking to you. Do you see what I'm getting at? Behind the markings on the page, a person is communicating with you, and He is to be worshipped and reverenced. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of spiritual understanding. God is speaking to me through these black marks on the page. It's not some Psalmist even who lived 1000 years before Christ. This is God who's talking to me.
When that clicks in through faith, that's the beginning of everything- spiritual understanding and the fear of the Lord. This comes across a little bit in verse 102. It says, "I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me." You see the personal side says I don't want to disobey because it's you that I'm turning away from, God. You yourself have taught me and you're the one that I turn away from when I sin. I don't want to do that, and so I'm not going to turn away from your law. The beginning of understanding is seeing that there's a person behind this who is powerful, loving, awesome, and should be worshipped.
The second aspect of understanding is insight, or we could also use the word illumination. Have you ever been reading in scripture or anything else and you say, "Oh, aha."? Something clicks. That's called insight. Now, you students should be getting it as you read your textbooks. Your professors are counting on it. Something clicks and you understand. Well, here we're talking that something's going to click about God or about your life or about some aspect of doctrine. Something clicks. You say, "Aha." Insight. That’s something I hadn't seen before. Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." So, there's light; we call that illumination. Something comes on that was dark before. You didn't see it before, but now you see it.
Now look at verse 130, it says, "The unfolding of your words gives light, it gives understanding to the simple." And this is what I do every week in preaching; I seek to unfold texts in front of you and unfold them. I open them up into your mind so that you get insight, you understand something you didn't see before, and I follow the verses so that you can go home and do it yourself. You can try this in the safety of your own home, I would actually exhort you. That's my whole purpose. If you get nothing else out of the sermon other than go home and read the Bible, then you got it. That's the whole point of my sermon; go home and read the Bible for yourself. The unfolding of your words gives insight. You see things and so that's why I exhorted you to pray along with Verse 18, "Open my eyes, Lord, that I may see new things in your law." I want to see the insight, the illumination. Now it comes to a Christian by the indwelling Holy Spirit. That's why the Spirit is given to show you those neat things. Give Him a chance. Give Him a chance to do it. Read the scripture, and He'll start showing you some things. He’ll start showing you more and more.
The third step is what we call knowledge, and from that, good judgment. Look at verse 66: "Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I believe in your commands." There's really one step after the other. Knowledge is an accumulation of “aha” moments. You start to build them up, store them up, and you remember them. The human mind is an amazing thing. You start to say, "Oh yeah, I remember." And that clicks with this and that connects with this and you start to build the theology and you don't even know that's what you're doing. You never want your friends to know that you're a theologian. It's one of the last things you'd want to be in America today, but you really are one. It's starting to accumulate; you're building a database of knowledge about God. That's knowledge.
Source of Understanding
And from that comes what we call good judgment; that we may be able to test and to approve God's good, holy, and perfect Word. Good judgment. You know what way to go. Alright, well, that is, understanding. The question is, where do you find it? That's what it is but where do you get it? Job talks about this whole thing in Job 28. A beautiful chapter. He describes this whole question: where do you find understanding and where does it come from? And this is what he says, "There is a mine for silver, and a place where gold is refined. Iron is taken from the earth and copper is smelted from ore. Man puts an end to the darkness; he searches the farthest recesses for ore in the blackest darkness. Far from where people dwell he cuts a shaft, in places forgotten by the foot of man; far from men he dangles and sways." He's talking about mining here. Miners that go down into the earth for precious metals. “The Earth from which food comes, is transformed from below as by fire; sapphires come from its rocks, and its dust contain nuggets of gold.” (Job 28:1-6).
He tunnels through the rock, his eyes see all its treasures, he searches the sources and rivers and brings hidden things to light, but where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? Where do you find it? And Job's answer is very plain: you find it from God. God gives it. You're not going to find it in any other place. Look at verse 73, in Psalm 119: "Your Hands made me and formed me.” Look what it says, "Give me understanding." That's a prayer, isn't it? Give me understanding. It implies that God has it to give. You want understanding, you go to God and you get it from him. Give me understanding to learn your commands. Well, how does he give it? Well, He gives it through his word. Look at verse 104, I gain understanding from what? Your precepts. That's where it comes from. So, God gives it (step one), He gives it through his word- the precepts of God (step two). And then in verse 130 we already saw that the unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. So as the word gets unfolded, we gain understanding.
Thirdly, He gives it by opening your mind. Look at verse 18, which we referred to before. It's my favorite verse in the whole Psalm: "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” He does it by opening your eyes. Now you say, "Wait a minute, how do I read without open eyes?" Well, your eyes are open and you may be seeing the black marks on the page, but have you ever read the Bible and that's all it was, black marks on a page? It doesn't do anything for you. It's hitting a wall. It's not probing deeply. And so, you need to stop and say, “God, I'm not getting it. Open my eyes, the eyes of my heart that I may understand what you're saying to me here, I want to get it.” It's not enough just to listen, is it? The Jews did that. They listened to the Word all the time and they didn't get it.
Jesus said they have a hearing but never understanding, they have a seeing, but never perceiving because their hearts are calloused. Ask God to open your heart, to plough your heart like a newly ploughed field so that you can receive the seed of the Word. He must open your eyes and your minds, and He gives it in response to heartfelt prayer. Look Psalm 119 verse 169: "May my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word." Look at that, "May my cry come before you." What is that? That is prayer, but it's not just any kind of prayer. It's heartfelt prayer. You're going to God and saying, "O God, open the Word to me, I must understand it. I want to know you God. I want to know your Word, please show it to me." So, God gives understanding. He gives it through His Word, and He gives it through heartfelt prayer. Who does He give it to? He gives it to people who will obey it. Look at Psalm 119 verse 125: “I am your servant; Give me discernment that I may understand your statues.” He gives it to his servants.
Fruits of Understanding
Now, what is a servant? Well, someone who obeys a master. He will give you the Word as you obey it, as you treat it precious. It's valuable to you and He'll give you more of it. He sees what you've done with the last insight and as you are obedient, He will give it to you. Alright, well, that's where it comes from. What comes out of it? If you understand, what do you get for it? Well, first thing you get is you get life itself, look at verse 144: "Your statutes are forever right. Give me understanding in order that I may live." Do you know that the Word of God actually protects your physical life? Do you understand how holy God is? Do you understand that God has been known to take the lives of people because of sin, even believers? In 1 Corinthians 11, there was a problem with the Lord's Supper. We're going to have the Lord's Supper next week and I would urge you to search your heart and your mind before you come to that table, because the Apostle Paul said, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:27).
Some among the Corinthian congregation had fallen asleep, and some had gotten sick. It's right there in 1 Corinthians 11. God deals seriously with sin, and so the Word of God protects you from that kind of discipline from God. So that you may be holy and so that you may turn away from worthless things and live a worthwhile life, protected from the judgment of God. Verse 37 says, "Turn my eyes away from worthless things." Brothers and sisters, are there worthless things around you? Do you feel it? There's more every year it seems, more worthless things all the time. Our culture is going down, folks, do you not see that? You've got to come out from it and be separate, says the lord. “Preserve my life according to your word”, verse 37. This is serious, folks. Preserve my life according to your Word, that I may live at all.
That's what you get from understanding. It's not just physical life, you get eternal life. “Now, this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God in Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). You get physical life and eternal life from understanding. That's worthwhile. You also get heart transformation. Take your bulletin and look on the cover. See that little diagram, did you notice it when you came in? Alright, this is what I believe is a picture of spiritual maturity, and not only that, but how the journey is made. It works this way, knowledge, faith, character, actions. You know something, you understand something- that's knowledge, and you couple it with faith. To believe that it is God speaking it to you. It changes your character, or your heart, let's say. That has to do with what you love and what you hate, isn't it? The things you love. The things you're attracted to and want. The things you hate and don't want. It changes that around. You start to love what's good and hate what's wrong, and then out of that, you live your life.
This is spiritual maturity. And by the way, spiritual maturity has nothing to do with chronological age. It has to do with, did you follow this cycle for your life? Did you take in the scripture? Did you listen to it as God was speaking? Did you put it into practice? That's how the maturity comes. Now, look at the verse above it "I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path." (Ps. 119:104). Now, look how it lines up. Is knowledge in that verse? Yes. I gain what? Understanding. Okay, is faith in there? Yes. What does he gain understanding from? From your precepts. Who's the you in the verse? God. He says you gave them to Me. That's faith. He believes God is speaking these precepts to him. Therefore, I hate- what part of him hates? His character, right? He hates, and what does he hate? Every wrong path. What is a path? In Jewish thinking a path is the way you live your life. It's your action patterns. It's all right there in Psalm 119 verse 104.
Maturity comes from understanding, coupling it with faith, having it change your heart and change what you love and what you hate, and then having it change your life. Now finally, I want to show you three glorious cycles that are in Psalm 119. And these cycles, as they go around and around in your life will take you to maturity. They'll take you right to maturity. The first is the meditation and obedience cycle. Look at verse 99. By the way, verses 99 through 102 contains all these cycles: 99, 100, 101. That's where the cycles are. Alright, first of all, meditation and understanding: “I have more insight than all my teachers.” Why? Because “I meditate on your statutes.” (verse 99). Insight is understanding. Understanding comes from meditation; it comes from deep thinking. Not light quick thinking; not your three-minute quiet time. I mean you're working on it; you're thinking about it deeply and you're reasoning it through just like we're doing right now together with Psalm 119. You're thinking about it. Well, meditation, therefore, promotes understanding.
Now, put your finger here, we're going to go back in a minute. Look back at verse 27. Verse 27 says, "Let me understand the teachings of your precepts then I will... " What? "Meditate on your wonders." That's strange. In the other verse, it was: let me meditate in order that I might... What? Understand. But here it's reversed. Let me understand in order that I may what? Meditate. Well, how does that work? I'll explain it to you. Suppose a great uncle gave you an abandoned silver mine near Tucson and no silver had come out of it for 100 years, but you wanted to go see your new property and you went down there and sure enough, it looked about as abandoned as it can get. There's this old wooden sign, which probably you could sell as an artifact. They might give you $100 for it, but besides that there seems to be nothing but a hole in the ground. Well, let's say that you bring your friend and you get these helmets with their lights and you go down in it and you look around and sure enough, it's just dusty and all kinds of spider stuff.
You’re cleaning it out and then as you're exploring around you see an area where there's some dirt that's fallen in. So, you dig in there a little bit and you go in and suddenly you see that the light is sparkling on the walls and you recognize that it’s silver. There's just a whole area in there that had never been explored. Would you not be motivated to go buy a pickaxe and get back down in the hole in the ground and get some silver for yourself? Suppose you go in there and find nothing, will you be motivated to go back in that dirty dusty hole with all those spider webs? No. Insight promotes meditation. You see how it works. When you find things out, you say, "Hey, that was kind of neat. I'm looking forward to my next quiet time. I'm really excited about this. I'm seeing some things I hadn't seen before. This is really kind of neat."
It's kind of like a good business man who gets a profit out of his business and then does what with it? Reinvests it into the business again. That's how it works. That's cycle number one. Cycle number two. Understanding promotes obedience. Obedience promotes understanding. Alright, I just said understanding promotes obedience. Well, Jesus said, "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." (John 13:17). You see how there's a connection between understanding and as you understand God's will, it leads you toward obedience. Well, that makes sense. But amazingly, Psalm 119 also reverses it, look at verse 100, "I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts." That's very interesting. I understand because I what? Obey. How does that work? Well, it takes us back to the history of the mind. What does sin do to the mind? It darkens it. You begin to twist spiritual truth and you begin to fight it. But, if you have an open heart toward God and are willing to obey anything, guess what? You're going to start understanding more things from the scripture. You see the cycle. Understanding promotes obedience but obedience promotes understanding.
Now, the final cycle is obedience promotes further obedience. Look at verse 101: "I have kept my feet from every evil path, so that I may... " What? "Obey your word." I have chosen not to sin in order that I may obey. The more you obey, the more you will obey. There's a cycle. That's the way it works. He who is faithful in little, will be faithful in more. He who is faithful in more will be faithful in much. But if you disobey or if you rebel, guess what? You're going to stop obeying. It's the way it works.
Application: Ride the Cycles to Spiritual Maturity
Now, we've looked today at understanding and tried to understand understanding. I want to lay before you some very practical things, and next time we talk about Psalm 119, which is in two weeks, we're going to learn some practical hints on how to study the scriptures. But this is what I want to talk to you about. If you are a Christian, I want you to take these cycles and allow them to move you to spiritual maturity, to keep going around and around until you're mature. Alright, this is how it works: come to God every day humbling in prayer and say, "God, I want to understand your word." Say, verse 18, "Open my eyes to see new things in your Word." Secondly, at that time, say, "God, I will obey what you tell me. Whatever it is you tell me to do, I'm going to do it. I promise you that I'm going to obey it with your help." Then you read carefully and deeply. Stop and compare phrases like we've been doing in Psalm 119. Think about it.
Don't just let it wash over you, but think about it, meditate on it. At the end, humbly pray again, "God, you've shown me some new things, thank you, now help me to obey the things you've shown me." And then go do it, do the things you promised to do. Obey, and then do it again the next day, do it for 10 years. And guess what, you'll be more like Jesus at the end of the 10 years than when you started. Now a final word to those who are not yet Christians, none of what I just said will work for you. None of it. Because the mind without the Holy Spirit cannot understand spiritual things. So therefore, I ask you to come to Christ, come to personal faith in Christ, give your life to Jesus, that you might have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and then you can grow into godliness and maturity.
I want you to close with me in prayer. Heavenly Father, we do thank you for the things that we've seen today in your Word. We thank you for the brains you've given us Lord. They're complex and we don't even understand why we think and feel the way we think and feel, but we want to put our brains and our minds right before you and say, “God transform me by the renewing of my mind. O God, make me a diligent student of the scripture, that I might grow to be like you.” And for any guests who are here who do not know you, O Lord, I pray that they would come to know you as savior and Lord, that they put their trust in you, that they might understand spiritual truth. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.