If you ask any atheist how they became one, they would probably say something like, “When I began thinking for myself” or “Thinking of myself.” That can not be any more true. If you want to live a godless life, think for yourself, and of yourself.
Romans 8:5-9 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their MINDS on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is HOSTILE to God, for it does not SUBMIT to God’s law, indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are NOT in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
This is what Paul is saying, “If you live a sinful life, you have sinful thoughts. If you live a RIGHTEOUS life and a life pleasing to God, you have righteous thoughts. Setting your mind on the sinful ways bring death, but setting your mind on the things of the Spirit will GIVE you life and peace. A sinful mind is an enemy of God. If you are in the Spirit, meaning if the Holy Spirit lives in you, you are a friend of God.”
Earlier in Romans, we get a glimpse of Paul’s life, and this is true to many of us. Romans 7:15,17-18, 22-25 says, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate. 17 It is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me , that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
Paul is basically saying, “I want to do good, but I don’t do good. I do what I don’t want to do. IN FACT, I keep doing the thing I wish I wouldn’t do! There is a war going on inside of me, because I love the Word of God in my soul, but my flesh continues to sin! Who will save me from this? Jesus will. So I will SHIFT my focus from me, to God.”
We get in this fractured cycle where we start doing something we know is wrong and it becomes a habit. We stop doing it one day, but then all of a sudden we start doing it again. We break free from it in the morning, but by the end of the day we go back to doing it. An endless cycle. We’ve got to get it out of it. Paul says, “Man I’ve got this problem where I keep doing this thing that I know is wrong, but I can’t stop. I keep going back to it. But I know the solution. I will shift my eyes to God. I will shift my focus. I will no longer think for myself, and of myself, but I will begin thinking of God, and for others.”
If we do what Paul says, we will have a break through. When you think about God, you move the FOCUS from YOU to GOD. This causes you to STOP doing that thing you wish you could stop and DOING what you DO want to do.
They tell us to think for yourself as if you know what’s best for you. “Follow your heart,” they say. “Trust your feelings! Don’t question anything, just go with it!” Why would you trust your feelings when your feelings and your thoughts are what’s making you do what you don’t want to do? The Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9 “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Do you really want to trust your heart?
Remember that cycle I mentioned earlier? We get in the cycle because we focus on ourselves. We focus ON our sins and not on our Savior. We focus on the mess we’re in but not the one that can take us OUT of that mess. Colossians 3:2-3 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” When we focus on God not only do we eventually stop doing the things we hate, but we will also dwell in the Spirit. This is AMAZING news! Why? Well in the Spirit there is no condemnation. No little voice inside your head that goes, “Nice try but you will never get out of this.” or “You’re pathetic, you’re a dirty, sinful person.” Condemnation is not from God. Jesus came to the world not to condemn it, but give it life.
In the Spirit there is LIFE. When we dwell in the flesh it brings death. But when we dwell in the Spirit and set our MINDS on the Spirit, we have LIFE. This is why, when atheists say that they became atheists when they started thinking for themselves, they are slowly dying. To think for yourself brings death. A youth pastor I spoke to once asked me what Salvation meant to me. I told him, “Instead of thinking for yourself and about yourself, you think about God, and for others.” When you are saved your whole mindset shifts. Being a Christian means you serve others, and you focus on God. You can’t do that when your focus is on you and your sin. You can’t serve others when you are caught up in your sin. You can’t be a follower of Christ when you focus on the flesh.
But the beauty of it all is that Christ came to set us free. He came to shift our focus on him. To set our minds free. This brings a whole new meaning to him setting the captives free doesn’t it. He breaks the chains of “self.” He destroys the walls keeping us in a constant cycle. He looks at us and says “Come to me, and I will give you rest.” If we go to him and if we focus on him, we will be freed from that cycle I spoke of. If we focus on Him, we will serve others. We will do the things God wants us to do.
This begs the question. Where’s your focus? Is it on you or is it on God?