Introduction: Have you heard Christians debate “faith” versus
“works?” Of course you have. If you don’t think this appropriately
captures the issue, consider another approach: “righteousness by
attitude.” Over the years, I have come to believe that faith and
works are not alternatives. Rather, they compliment each other.
Both arise, I have come to believe, from our attitude. Our lesson
this week is about “Good Thinking,” which sounds like another term
for “attitude.” Let’ dive into our study of the Bible and see what
we can discover on this subject!
- Read Matthew 5:17-19. What is Jesus’ attitude towards the
- What confusion does Jesus predict about His
followers and the Ten Commandments? (Jesus predicts
His followers will disagree on the importance of
keeping the commandments. He tells us that in
heaven, those who taught here that keeping the
commandments was not important, will not be flying
first class on Air Heaven. They might be traveling
in the baggage compartment.)
- Would it be prudent for us to consider now not
simply entering heaven, but our status there?
It is, after all, forever! (If you say, “yes,”
then getting our relationship to the
commandments right is important.)
- Read Matthew 5:21. Where did you hear this? (Read Exodus
20:13: “You shall not murder.”)
- Read Matthew 5:22. Is this found anywhere in the Ten
Commandments? Since Jesus is God, I’m not going to deny
His right to make up a bunch of new rules. But, Jesus
started out saying that we should teach people to keep
the existing commandments. He did not tell us to make up
a bunch of new ones. How do you explain Jesus’ words
about anger and name-calling?
- Read Luke 6:43-45. What is the relationship between the
tree and the fruit? (The nature of the tree determines
the nature of the fruit.)
- Let’s apply this to Jesus’ statements about murder.
Is murder a tree or a fruit?
- Is anger a tree or a fruit?
- Is name-calling a tree or a fruit?
- Is the heart a tree or a fruit? (Jesus is not
making up new commandments. He is merely
pointing out that evil actions come from an
evil heart (an evil attitude). Name-calling and
anger come from an evil heart. They are merely
the early manifestations of an attitude which
can end in murder.)
- Read Genesis 4:1-5. Why was Cain unhappy? (God seemed to
favor Abel over him.)
- Why did God show favoritism? (The inference is that
Abel obeyed God by bringing an animal sacrifice.)
- Should the type of the sacrifice matter?
Doesn’t it depend on context and the natural
gifts given an individual? Abel raised animals,
Cain grew vegetables. Diversity requires that
each should sacrifice in a way which is
relevant to his gifts, right? (Apparently not.)
- Read Genesis 4:6-8. Trace for me the steps that led to
murder? (Independence from God’s rules, anger, rejection
of reproof, and finally, murder.)
- Can you see that anger is related to murder?
- If you were giving advice to Cain to prevent this
fatal problem, what advice would you give?
- Look again at Genesis 4:6-7. What advice does God
give to avoid the path to murder? (God tells Cain
that he must “master” his sinful attitude. Instead
of doing whatever Cain thinks is best, he needs to
have an attitude of wanting to do what is right in
- Let’s explore how we can better pursue a right attitude.
- Two Paths
- Read Proverbs 14:22. What is the important decision we
must make to determine the path of our life? (We have two
important words, “plot” and “plan.” They represent a
conscious decision to do good or evil. Thus, the battle
against sin in your life begins with your mind –
specifically, whether you are planning good or plotting
evil for others.)
- Read Philippians 4:8. This is a self-test. When you have
time to let your mind run free, what is it that you think
- Do you think about running off with someone else’s
spouse? Do you think about how unhappy you are
compared to others? Do you think about how jealous
you are about the success of others? Do you think
about how you can undermine someone else?
- Do you plan how you can lift the burden of someone
else? Do you plan how you can be a blessing to
- Or, do you spend your time thinking about how you
can improve your own comfort or status in life? (For
a number of years, I would routinely fall asleep
thinking about how I would convert a commercial bus
to a motorhome to live in when I “retired.” I would
then drive around the United States teaching this
lesson and preaching. It was just fun, and I would
quickly fall asleep with my plans. How much better
it would have been if I had fallen asleep plotting
how I could improve the life of someone else,
instead of improving a bus.)
- What impact does your reading, television viewing
and radio listening fit into the direction given us
in verse 8? (They have a huge impact on what we
- Read Colossians 3:1-2. Have you thought about retirement?
Are you concerned about how much money you will have or
how long you will live (which are related questions)?
(Unless you are very young, you will have thought of
- Do you know the saying, “I’ll sleep/rest/ retire
when I’m dead?” We consider this a joke, because
almost no one gives detailed though to what it is
like when they are dead. What does the writer of
Colossians suggest? (We need to spend more time
thinking about heaven, not retirement here.)
- Read Colossians 3:5 and Colossians 3:12. How do you do
- Have you ever tried to focus your thoughts on good
things? Have you ever tried to watch good (often
boring) television and “put to death” the exciting
television? How does that work out for you?
- Have you ever spent time giving thought to how you
can “clothe yourself” with humility? Or, are you
mostly trying to avoid being humiliated?
- Let’s review. We have determined that having a right
attitude is the key to pleasing God. We have also learned
that acquiring a right attitude is a matter of our
choice. We need to focus our minds on “things above,”
instead of how to satisfy our “earthly nature.” This will
help us to advance good and not evil.
- Holy Spirit Power
- Unless you are considerably more righteous than I am
(which I hope is true) your television tastes tend
towards the exciting and you never spend time figuring
out how to be humiliated as opposed to avoiding being
humiliated. (By the way, if you object to me equating
being humble with being humiliated, your objection is
sustained.) If you are like me, you know that focusing
your mind on the good is no simple task. Let’s turn next
to how we can do this. How do we place our thoughts on
what is good rather than what is evil?
- Read Romans 8:5-9. What does the Bible teach us is the
key to right thinking? (First, we get back to this issue
of having to make a choice – a choice between what our
human nature desires and what the Holy Spirit desires for
us. But, once we make the choice, the Bible says (three
times!) our minds become “controlled” by the Holy
- What is our fate if we fail to ask the Holy Spirit
to control our thinking? (Paul, who is the champion
of righteousness by faith alone, tells us that if we
do not make the right decision about who controls
our thoughts, we will suffer eternal death. We
cannot have faith, we cannot please God, if our
attitude is evil.)
- Friend, salvation comes by grace alone. But, choosing to
accept grace is an attitude. Will you choose today to ask
the Holy Spirit to come in and control your thoughts, so
that your attitude (your desire) will be to please God?
- Next week: Hope Against Depression.