Discipleship: God-Referenced vs. Man-Referenced Thinking

Discipleship: God-Referenced vs. Man-Referenced Thinking

Agathos Church is a non-denominational Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio.  This blog post is an adapted excerpt from a sermon by Peter DeWitt.  You can hear the whole sermon, Discipleship (part 3)by clicking here.

A Season of Change

Jesus said “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)  We have to shed old thought patterns in order to be able to grow – in order to make way for God to do something new in our lives!  In every one of our lives today, God wants to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ask, seek, or imagine.  But God’s great plans are going to require me (and you) to change!  Our old ways of thinking need to be shed in order to experience new growth.

Change through Discipleship

Changing our mind is the process of discipleship.  “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  (Jn. 8:31-32)  Discipleship is always about His Word.  It’s abiding in His Word – that’s what transforms our hearts.  Throughout our discipleship process, we have to be careful that when we experience breakthrough with God that we don’t turn breakthrough into a plateau that becomes a stagnation point.  Paul had a deliberate thought pattern in which he considered himself to have “not apprehended” – to have not arrived.  This perspective allowed Paul to “press forward.”  We tend to think “been there, done that.”  But we’ve not actually “been there” and we’ve not actually “done that.”  And if we have truly “been there,” we’ve only scratched the surface actually.

The Key to Discipleship

All discipleship hinges on not having any righteousness of your own.   Phil. 3:8-10 says “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death . . .”  

Paul says that he did not want to have a righteousness of his own . . . so that he may know Christ!  Our ability to know Christ hinges on not having any self-righteousness.  If you are thinking “I don’t have the fire for God that I used to have,” self-righteousness is at the root of the issue.  Getting self-righteousness out of the way is the key to all discipleship – the key to being able to change our minds according to the Word of God.  Self-righteous means that you’re the one that’s right.  And if you are the one that’s right then you reference yourself for your answers.  And if you reference yourself for your answers that means you are going to look to yourself a lot for your answers.  You become self-focused, focused on your flesh.  Your mind is set on your flesh.

The Reference Frame of Our Thinking

For all of human thinking, there are 2 different reference frames that people can choose from to go through life with.  The first reference frame starts with God and ends with wisdom.  Rom. 8:5-8 describes the flesh-focused reference frame and the Spirit-focused reference frame:

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, the things of the Spirit.   For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.   So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Jesus said that His Words will abide (rest, dwell) in the heart of His disciples.  But the carnally minded are actually at war with God in their thinking.  The Word of God does not sit well in the carnal mind.  We tend to think that self-righteousness as being very “religious looking.”  The phrase makes us think of the Pharisees – a very religious looking and acting people.  But, self-righteousness, in its truest sense is actually just being “flesh-referenced” in our thinking.  There are 2 reference frames for all the thoughts of man.  One is God-centered and the other is flesh-centered.  The mind that is focused on the Spirit produces life and peace.  Focusing on the flesh produces death.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14)  The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit!  Self-righteousness makes us Spiritually stupid.  We have to become NOT WISE in our own eyes in order to become wise in HIS!   God wants to reveal His Great Plans to YOU!!!  We have the Holy Spirit on the inside of us so that we can know what God has deposited in us!  Every born-again believer has the capability to be completely spiritually minded – just like Jesus! (all from 1 Cor. 2:9-16)

The Mind of Christ

When you were born again, you received the mind of Christ, but we also have a natural mind.  With our free will, our thinking, we get to choose if we are going to submit to the mind of Christ that is on the inside of us and that we see clearly in the Word of God . . . or if you are going to let your mind rule the day.  That is exactly what James 1 said “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God . . . a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)  As born-again believers, we have 2 minds, but we are not called to be double-minded.  We are called to be single-minded.  The way you do that, as a born-again believer, is you bring your mind under the authority of the Word of God.  It may seem plain, but THIS IS THE STUFF OF DISCIPLESHIP – to bring our mind under the authority of the Word of God.  This is not just about what to do right after you get saved.  The same process keeps working if we will stay in it!

So long as we have our own thoughts, we won’t have His.  Paul was a Christian-killer who was willing to change his mind to the point that God chose to deliver tremendous revelation through him to the Body of Christ.What was Paul’s mindset?  In short, Paul’s mindset was one of HUMILITY!  “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven!”  (Mt. 5:3)  Everything up there comes here through poorness in Spirit.  Through humility.  Through meekness.   The result?  The Power of God rested on Paul and His ministry!

Colossians 2:18-19 says “Let no one cheat you of your reward . . .vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.” If we have a fleshly mind, we will cheat ourselves of our reward.  But, let no one cheat you of your reward – including yourself!

Cultivating a Learning Heart for The Word

The Word (Heb. 4:12) is what will separate out the flesh from the Spirit.  If we want to experience growth in all of this, study 1 Cor. 2:1-16 and Rom. 8:5-8.  As we read the Word, if we find ourselves having some of the following thoughts, they actually can have some profound impact on our whole perspective with which we approach the Word (and therefore discipleship).

  • Common Thought 1:  “I’ve read this, seen this, known this before.”
  • Common Thought 2:  “My circumstance is different than that.”  Someone may think “sure I see tithing in the scriptures but it’s a bit different when you are trying to support your child through college.”  What’s at stake there, with that thought, if left un challenged, is their ability to be subject to the Word of God as it relates to finances or not.
  • Common Thought 3:  As you read the Word, you find yourself somehow “doubting that it’s possible.”  James 1 talks about this.  We are to ask in faith, not doubting, for wisdom from God.  By doubting the possibility of His Word, by not approaching it with faith, we ended up as a double-minded man – not submitted to the mind of Christ.
  • Common Thought 4:  We figure that the Word is not applicable to us.  We want to “breeze past the boring chapters of Leviticus.”  But there is so much for us to learn there!  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,  (2 Tim. 3:16)
  • Common Thought 5:  “Times were different then.”  Remember that “there is nothing new under the sun.”  (Eccl. 1:9)  People and the real issues we face are still the same as they were 2000 and 6000 years ago.
  • Common Thought 6:  “People would think I’m “the oddest duck on the block’ if I actually acted on what’s clearly in the Word.”  The natural man cannot submit to the things of God because they are foolishness to him.  We have to be spiritually minded and not let the sway of the world make us think that what God has to say is foolishness!  The wisdom of man is foolishness in the eyes of God.

Take these sorts of thoughts captive.  Catch yourself.  Watch your thoughts as you read the Word because they will give you a clue into areas where you are not receiving the things of the Spirit (the revelation from the Word) in the way that you could.  We can change our mind about that – and what a great OPPORTUNITY that is!!!

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