A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post here on this blog, with this idea: what you think is what you are. By this I mean that your real self is made up of the thoughts that you allow yourself to meditate on and cultivate in your mind. As I write this current post, this idea is now so established to me that it seems totally obvious. However, compared to what many Christian teachers teach, that thought was radical when I first wrote it, and it is still radical now. Ironically, that blog post was written on the first Sunday of 2013, and this follow-up post is being written on the last Sunday of 2014, in an absolutely unplanned coincidence. I am writing this follow-up post today because the truth of this idea has been brought home to me in a very personal way regarding the thoughts that I myself have allowed to take root in my own mind.
Why this idea is radical:
I am not saying that many Christian teachers teach the opposite of this. Rather, many teachers do not seem to truly focus on the importance of right actions as Christians. They might mention it in passing, as in “Make sure you do the right thing!” (Said in such a way as if good behaviour is something to be taken for granted among Christians.) However it cannot really be called a preoccupation for many of these teachers. I believe that if righteousness truly was their ongoing preoccupation then it would easily follow to them that as Christians it all needs to flow from the heart, and what we allow ourselves to think on.
On this blog I talk endlessly about the importance of good character among Christians. That is because I have experienced so much poor behaviour from so many Christians that I cannot help being preoccupied with the need for good character as demonstrated by the examples of poor character I experienced. And yet this is the very point that I am making in this blog post: In my own thinking endlessly about various things that I have experienced from other Christians, I myself have let my own heart become consumed by hatred, and resentment and bitterness. And so it as true for me as for anyone else: I myself am what I think and when I think endlessly on angry situations, I become very angry.
You know what? I would love to present examples of what I have experienced from these Christians. (After all, I have been meditating endlessly on these experiences!) Sometimes I wish that I could think of ways of expressing things that happened without necessarily identifying the perpetrators. However, I know that this would not be of God, and it would just be an excuse to pour yet more scorn on these people’s heads. So by the grace of God, I am not going to do that. However, please know that the things that these people did were often truly Christless. However this blog post is not about these people, and the wrong things that they did, but rather about myself, and the destructive thought patterns that I allowed myself to develop.
In all sincerity, and fairness to myself, I did not deliberately set about to develop anger and bitterness in my heart. The big issue is that I did not appreciate the way my own heart was capable of working, and that all this anger would be the result of the way I thought. My main aim was simply to think of ways to prevent myself from being further burned by similar situations. And then in thinking ahead to this, I would remember those things that people had already done, and each time I remembered each of these experiences fresh anger would be deposited in my mind. It is particularly relevant to me because I tend to think of everything in great detail, going over issues and ideas again and again in my mind, whether negative or positive.
And then after many months and even years of thinking like this, I suddenly realised that my mind was full of very toxic anger and resentment. I just did not know how to get rid of the existing anger, and even how to stop myself thinking like this again. And then the thoughts would keep coming to my mind over and over again, which is why they would keep being expressed on this blog. And then these thoughts would also represent the way I might behave towards these people: with scathing anger. If this is not true of anyone else, if no-one else can recognise this, then it is certainly true of me, that the anger I unwittingly allowed myself to develop in my heart resulted in cold disdain for these people, which is how I would have acted towards them if ever I met them. For the most part, I try to avoid people that I dislike. (I’m currently avoiding whole churches…) However there have been times when I have felt so angry that I wanted to angrily lash out at the people concerned – and that is putting it mildly.
At this point, I would like to thank, once again, the person who may have been praying for me regarding this issue. There were times when I genuinely felt helpless in the face of my own anger and also regarding the thought patterns of my mind. I know that as a Christian I should not feel helpless. I’ve got God Himself, I’ve got prayer, I’ve got the Bible. And yet these thoughts would keep coming to my mind with such persistence that even before realising it I would have drunk up more of this venom of anger. And this is why I’d like to thank the person who has been praying for me – or people, if there have been more than one. It has been so difficult, sometimes it has felt as if this anger is bigger than me. And yet I feel as if I have finally come to the place of understanding what I need to do to let go of this anger and instead embrace love towards the people concerned: towards people who have already treated me badly, and towards people who might yet treat me like this. I also feel that I now understand what I can do to largely protect myself from being treated like this again. From the way things have happened, from the way thoughts have been occurring to me I can’t help feeling (optimistically!) that this is due to someone else praying into my life; someone who already walks in understanding of grace and love for other people; someone who already appreciates that other people are not necessarily “nice”, but we as Christians have to love them anyway, from the heart outwards.
Actually, it is all quite ironic: I believe that the reason that many of those negative things happened that I complain about endlessly, is because many of these Christians are “nice” on the outside, but apparently don’t realise that kindness etc has to flow from the inside, and it has to flow specifically from thoughts that they allow themselves to meditate on. So, many times these people would genuinely try their hardest to be “nice”. However the real thoughts of their hearts would inevitably come out and bite me, from parts of their hearts that apparently never see the light of God’s Word: totally groundless lies, envy…so many things. And then unfortunately, because I have never exactly had the smallest head in the world, my own attitude would only make things worse…
Regarding my own anger, a big factor is that I have considered myself justified in thinking this way. Surely it is justified to be livid when you invest yourself wholeheartedly into a church, as I have done, to make endless sacrifices for the sake of that church, only for the members of that church, and even sometimes (often) the so-called “leadership”, to think that your head is available to be trampled on? When your commitment to God generally and to the church specifically is whole orders of magnitude more than theirs – even sometimes (often) the so-called “leadership” – even sometimes the lot of them put together (or that at any rate is how it has felt…)? When you have only shown the people in concern ongoing kindness?! (Hmm, perhaps sometimes (often) laced with a certain sarcasm!!!)…When you only attended the church in the first place not because you wanted or needed anything from the members, but rather out of the Christian duty of meeting up with other believers, because they claimed to be “Bible-Believing”?! I could go on… So the truth is that after encountering this so many times, I have considered myself justified in releasing myself to anger regarding these people. It is only with recent realisations that God loves even pseudo-Christians, and that He calls me to love them deeply, that I have realised that I am never justified in thinking in this way. So now I am finally at the point of embracing true love and grace towards these people.
And yet I (currently) cannot think of them as anything other than Pseudo-Christians. I found nothing of Christ in their gatherings. I experienced no real pursuit of Christ in their actions. Their teachings to me were largely platitudes, devoid of any true understanding of the Bible, or any revelation of God, or the power of God’s Holy Spirit. To me the idea of putting myself back into ongoing interaction with them as if they truly were Christians is simply nonsensical. And there is also the big issue of leadership. For many of the leaders of these gatherings, I don’t regard even them as Christians. To me the idea of systematically submitting myself to their (non-existent) “leadership” is as ridiculous as submitting myself to the leadership of a husband who is not a Christian. And this is largely because they failed to change their thinking by the word of God, and by God’s Spirit. So I am definitely not going back to their churches. And yet this does not change the fact that I need to love them.
To conclude then, what you think is definitely what you are. It is what makes these people fail to qualify as genuine Christians, and it is also what made me fail in my own adherence to God’s Word and God’s standards for behaviour. If we Christians want to truly be like the Jesus we claim to represent, then we have to let His word and His truth saturate our hearts, and take over our thinking. If anyone else out there is struggling with anger, or lust, or pride, or whatever else it may be, then we will only finally manage to overcome these thing when we master our thoughts, and assert the Lordship of Christ even over those deepest, most secret thoughts of our hearts; that is, only allow our thoughts to be things that truly glorify God, and which spring from God’s truth.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Photo of Icy twigs by Fotocitizen on Pixabay