In my personal Bible study lately I have been thinking about 2 Cor 10:4-5:
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh
but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God,
and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (ESV)
Monday I revelled in these supernatural weapons that we mortals wield (such as prayer and faith), and I thought about the (seemingly impenetrable) strongholds that can be levelled by these weapons (such as bitterness, ruined marriages, and sinful habits).
Yesterday as I moved into verse 5 I saw that it specifies one of the strongholds: anti-God ideas, or anti-God philosophies, or anti-God thinking. This verse touches, then, on the doctrine of the Christian mind and the importance of right thinking.
Right thinking is neglected by many Christians, it seems to me. There's an emphasis on experience and feeling, but not so much on thinking. Theology is something theologians do, and even many pastors these days aren't considered theologians. No, that's the dry stuff that academics engage in in seminaries which are located in other cities. "And Pastor, please don't dwell too long on theology in your sermons; we need practical help right now to deal with our problems. I don't care about doctrine; just tell me what I need to do." Youth pastors deal with "hot button" issues in order to be relevant, with the result being that the culture and the times influence the teaching schedule instead of the main themes of God's Word doing so.
But if we do not think, if we do not engage in meditating on the truths of Scripture, we will not destroy the anti-God ideas talked about in 2 Cor 10:5. Instead, we will succumb to them. If we do not renew our minds through sustained, thoughtful interaction with the Scriptures (study and meditation), then we will not be transformed; rather, we will continue to be conformed to the pattern of this world. (See Rom 12:2 for the logic of that last statement.)
Preachers are urged to "Apply, apply, apply." We're told that sermons should contain clear and specific application, especially in this day and age which stresses utilitarianism and practicality and "How does it help me?" I agree that application must be present in sermons, and obviously so. It must be clear, and it must be specific, and it must be helpful. But what many people narrow application down to is, "What must I do?" However, many times application should take the form, "What must I think?" or "What must I believe?" To be sure, Scripture has a lot to say about what we should do and what we shouldn't do, but it also has a lot to say about what we should think and what we shouldn't think.
Hebrews is not the most popular book in the NT. It's not as strong as other books in the "What must I do?" category. But what function does Hebrews perform? It paints for us a wonderful picture of the greatness, the majesty, the supremacy of Jesus Christ. It helps to elevate our thoughts about Christ. It corrects our human tendency to think less of God and of Christ than what is actually true; Hebrews (as well as the rest of the Bible) works to elevate our thinking about Christ. And that is tremendously practical. If I don't have an elevated view of Christ, I'm not near as likely to take my problems and issues to him. But if I believe all about Christ that Hebrews encourages me to believe, then I will approach the throne of grace with confidence to receive mercy and find grace to help me in my time of need (Heb 4:16). I will live more and more in the wisdom and the power of the Spirit. I will more and more trust in the Lord with all of my heart and lean not on my own understanding.
When it comes to the area of sex, a couple of authors note that the most important sex organ is the brain. How we think about sex is tremendously practical and relevant, because how we think about it will determine in large part how we handle it and practice it. When a person used to the world's way of sex becomes a Christian, much of the battle for purity, if it is to be won, is waged in the mind. Win the battle in the mind, and the body will fall into step.
Much of sanctification (in all areas of life) is a mind game. Rom 8 highlights this. "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. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on 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" (8:5-7 ESV, emphasis added).
Much of life is a matter of the mind. What we think and believe will impact our living--our choices, our allegiances, our attitudes. Studying and meditating on the Scriptures is a must for spiritual maturity and holy living. And reading good theology won't hurt, either.