The Battlefield of the Mind
1. There are some odd things about Paul’s letter to the saints a Philippi.
a. Its writer is in prison. The messenger who carries it has been ill, near death. The church that receives it is experiencing some stress between some of its workers. Yet, its most frequently used word is “joy”.
b. The book offers no word of instruction about family life, or about conduct at work, or responsibilities toward civil authorities, or even about what to do in the assembly of the church. Yet, none of those activities can be successful apart from what it says.
2. The reason is that Philippians is about the Christian mind.
a. The rest of the New Testament teaches us that we must love God with our minds (Matt. 22:37); that as we learn Christ the mind is where the great renewal must take place (Eph. 4:17, 23); and that if we want to live we must set our minds on the Spirit rather than on the flesh (Rom. 8:5, 6).
b. But Philippians says the mind is where the real battles of life are fought–the most difficult battles. It is where the pressures of the world are toughest to resist. It’s where Christianity is most distinctive.
c. What are the issues to be settled on the battlefield of the mind?
1. Belief: is this what the word of God says?
a. Philippians was written because of a message which claims the right to be the basis of knowledge and understanding.
i. It is “the word of God” (1:14) or “the word of life” (2:16), “the gospel of Christ” (1:27), or simply “the faith” (1:25).
ii. It is something revealed; something that has to be taught and learned, that has a meaning worthy of a person’s life, that is not to be changed or compromised; something that may bring a reaction like imprisonment.
b. The way of Christ deserves, and will require, the best of your intellectual capabilities.
i. Anything as profoundly important as we’ve just described cannot be mastered with a casual glance and an occasional moment of shallow consideration. It will take time and work!
ii. There is something basic enough about the gospel that it can be accepted in a single hearing by people from very different backgrounds.
iii. But there is also a depth to it which cannot be fathomed in a lifetime of “progress and joy in the faith.”
(1) What, for example, are all the truths of Phil. 2:6-11?
(2) And how are each of those truths to be reproduced in our lives?
2. Perspective: will this advance the cause of Christ?
a. Almost as much as intellectual effort, perspective determines the outcomes on the battlefield of the mind.
i. “Perspective” is “the ability to perceive things in the actual, comparative importance.”
ii. Monte Ginnings, in a recent article in Old Paths, points out that a little attention to perspective would ease so many of the things that throw us into a panic. He says, “For instance, as I write this we are supposed to be on the verge of a pandemic (worse than epidemic) disease. I will not even mention its name because it will date this article [which] can be applied later to the next ‘pandemic panic’ scare. Again, as sensible scientists are pointing out, perspective on this potential disease would be extremely important and calming.” (Aug. 2010, p.1)
b. The way Paul thinks in Philippians is the best illustration of this truth.
i. He is imprisoned and is not sure whether his life will be spared, but it has really served to advance the gospel (1:12-14).
ii. Not everyone who is talking about Christ is doing so out of the best motives, but Christ is being proclaimed (1:15-18).
iii. A mind that looks at things in perspective like this can cope with tough circumstances and still find joy in living.
3. Attitude: does Jesus act like this?
a. Philippians calls on us to “have this mind” in ourselves and among ourselves which was also in Christ Jesus and which is ours in Christ Jesus (2:5).
i. It is talking about an attitude, a mindset, an approach to life–one that has been demonstrated by Jesus.
ii. He was secure in who he was, not defensive or grasping (2:6).
iii. He did not look only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (2:4).
iv. He did nothing through rivalry or conceit because he thought of the significance of others (2:3).
v. His way of “minding” tended toward mutual love and shared souls (2:2).
b. Attitude is a crucial skirmish on the battlefield of the mind.
i. More than any particular action or any ability, it is attitude that determines the health of a person’s relationships and the success of his efforts.
ii. And, just as sure as there are basic Christian doctrines and behaviors, there is a necessary Christian attitude.
4. Thought process: would this be at home in heaven?
a. By “thought process” I mean how we determine what we value–what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “Let those of us who are mature think this way...” (3:15).
i. He thought of himself as a citizen of heaven (3:20).
ii. What he valued most was gaining Christ–knowing him, sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death, and attaining the resurrection.
iii. His way was to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14).
iv. His thought process allowed him to forget what was behind, and to keep his eyes on what really matters, and to make good choices.
b. Everybody, whether he realizes it or not, has some kind of thought process by which his values are determined. What a battlefield this is!
i. Some are citizens of a different country than heaven, and the thoughts by which they decide what matters are dominated by things that would not be at home there.
ii. A mind which is “set on earthly things” delights in what would be a shame in heaven, worships desires and appetites, and has self-destructive goals (3:19). It attaches no value to that for which Christ gave himself up.
5. Preoccupations: are these things that elevate a life?
a. This is the battle we fight in our own inner world: the things we dwell on, the things we say to ourselves, the things that keep our attention.
i. Preoccupations may deepen disagreements (4:2), or turn worries into terrible anxieties (4:5-6), or make the lowest and most dishonorable deeds seem like actual possibilities.
ii. The things that degrade us or diminish us would never happen were it not for our failures in the struggles that take place on this battlefield of the mind.
b. The beloved apostle tells us to “think about these things” (4:8).
i. The word he uses means “to consider, give thought to, reason out.” (Craddock, 73).
ii. He is telling us to take the positive approach: to so occupy our private world with things of a certain nature that other things do not have a chance to take hold and take over.
iii. A life grows more noble when it is preoccupied with reasoning out things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.
1. I remember a sobering line from an old public service television spot: “...A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”
2. Philippians points the way to victory in the crucial skirmishes on the battlefield of the mind: intellect devoted to believing and knowing God; imagination devoted to the progress of the gospel; attitude devoted to the imitation of Christ; values fashioned by citizenship in heaven; and an inner world drawn toward all that is noble.
3. A camp song I used to hear: “Well I woke up this morning with my mind...”