Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Mind Control

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:08-09, NKJV).

Ever tossed and turned in your bed, unable to sleep because you just can't seem to shutdown your thoughts? Ever gnawed your fingernails down to the quick as you obsess over some train of thought that just won't leave the station? Ever drank, smoked, or otherwise anesthetized yourself into oblivion so you can "forget" about life's problems?

In terms of effective remedies, none of those strategies have any real benefit, and quite a few are clearly detrimental. So what's a stressed-out Christian supposed to do? The first part of the answer is discussed here. This is the follow-on.

The Bible speaks of meditation 30 times (Ge 24:63; Jos 1:8; 1Ki 18:27; Ps 1:2; 4:4; 5:1; 7:1; 9:16; 19:14; 49:3; 63:6; 64:1; 77:6,12; 104:34; 119:15,23,27,48,78,97,99,148; 143:5; 145:5; Isa 33:18; Mal 3:16; Lu 21:14; Php 4:8; 1Ti 4:15). Each reference is very specific. The vast majority of those instances pinpoint precisely what a thinking human being is supposed to meditate upon. Simply put: God and/or God's Word. The other citations either outright mock what is unhelpful to spend time thinking about, or declare that such time and intense thought-energy spent on other topics is a total waste of effort.

I know some will read this and argue that Christianity does not even allow intellectual freedom, and to a certain extent that point may be loosely justified, particularly since believers are exhorted strongly to "take each thought captive". But rather than view this as a prohibition of thinking, it is far more accurate to interpret it as freedom from thinking wasteful things. 

Unless you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit as a child of God by faith, you are at the mercy of your mind. And there is, even before birth, already a ghost in that machine, because your mind is not merely your physical brain, it is the thing that operates within your physical brain. Thought itself is not merely the bioelectrical result of firing synapses, thought is what makes the buggers light up in the first place. If you doubt this, then feel free to explain how persons who have been declared "brain dead", and then resuscitated, remember thinking stuff.

In any event, your thoughts oftentimes just happen. This means that even without intending to think something, you do anyway. But it's even worse than that. For even when you consciously will yourself not to think something, you mostly can't stop. Hence, the sleepless nights, jagged finger nails, and DUI convictions.

There is really only one remedy, and it's outlined in the verses above, and their two predecessors. In addition to praying to the Father in faith and thanksgiving, covered previously, the treatment regimen goes on to enable us to consciously control how and what we think about, thereby replacing merciless wasteful mental activity with its godly opposite.

First, let me be clear, the word translated meditate does NOT mean, AT ALL, a trance-like state of mind induced by whatever repetitive, chemical, or metaphysical means necessary. It signifies, in fact, the diametric reverse: an active, rational, logical, conscious, and purposeful intellectual focus. It's as far from Eastern mystical meditation as you can get and still be in the same Universe. There is no trance, no chanting, no attempt whatsoever to make even an iota of more room in your mind by "emptying it" so the ghost already there can be more comfortable and stretch out. It is the filling of your mind, willfully, with eight godly whatevers.
These are the categories (and they're big ones, so pay attention), whatever things are: true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue, and worthy of praise. Think about these for just a second. How much garbage could you replace in your mind if you filled it exclusively instead with the components of those eight wide-ranging categories. Are your obsessing over deceit or being deceived? Focus on what is true. Are you finding it difficult to stop focusing on the base and profane activities, things or people around you? Replace these with those things that are noble, like self-sacrifice, or kindness, or simple goodness. And so on, right down the line.

The apostle did not single these areas out arbitrarily as antidotes to stress. Each one is precisely the best defense against, and remedy for, those hateful and hurtful and stressful things that rob of us that peace that passes all understanding. And never one to preach anything that he himself did not practice, Paul uses himself as the example to emulate and the guide to follow.

Don't pass over this last point too quickly. If anyone had "street cred" on suffering in a godly, edifying way, it was the Apostle Paul. Even just a cursory look at his life proves that premise. Stoned, beaten, hounded, imprisoned, shipwrecked, reviled, cursed, falsely accused, slandered, spit upon, rioted against, and hated by the very countrymen he sought so hard to serve, his personal outlook could, nevertheless, be summed up in two sentences he wrote so very long ago:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18, NKJV). 


For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, (2 Corinthians 4:17, NKJV).

So tonight, or right now, or whenever, memorize the verses above so that you can take the first steps necessary to start controlling the ghost in your machine.