Introduction: Have you heard it said, “I don’t want to be a Christian
because it is all a bunch of ‘don’t do this and don’t do that?'”
People who say this kind of thing know almost nothing about God’s
desires for our life. Christianity, as we will learn this week, is
mostly a battle for the heart and not the hands. Let’s dive into our
- Jesus Raising the Stakes
- Read Matthew 5:21-22. Where is it said “Don’t murder?” (It
is one of the Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:13.)
- When you think of things that a Christian should not
do, how high on the list of “do nots” is murder?
- Jesus equates being angry with murder. Is that fair?
- Is Jesus just adding to our list of “do nots” in
a way that is going overboard?
- Jesus goes further than just being angry. Notice
Matthew 5:22 where He says if we call someone a fool
we are in danger of the fire of hell. The Ten
Commandments forbid murder, Jesus now elevates anger
and even calling someone a fool to the same level.
Does that seem appropriate to you?
- Two weeks ago, I was visiting another church and
the Sabbath School class was studying this part
of the Beatitudes. I had my Palm Pilot with me
to use as my Bible. It has the New Living
Translation on it. To my great annoyance, the
NLT translated “fool” as “idiot.” I rarely call
anyone a “fool,” but I often positively identify
other drivers as idiots. Bird watchers identify
birds. What is wrong with identifying drivers?
- Read Matthew 5:27-28. Where is it said “Don’t commit
adultery?” (Again, this is part of the Ten Commandments:
- Is Jesus equating looking lustfully with committing
- Or, is committing adultery in your heart
something that is not as serious a sin as
- Again, Jesus is raising our thoughts to the
level of very serious sins. Is this fair?
- Mind Crimes
- Read Mark 7:20-23. What does Jesus mean when He says “from
within” comes all of this sin? (He is speaking of the mind
– what Jesus calls the “heart.”)
- Read James 1:13-15. What is James talking about when he
writes when “desire has conceived?” (He is speaking of the
mind, our thoughts.)
- If you asked James whether he believed that our
thoughts are the key to life or death, what would he
say? (James points to the natural progression from
our evil desires to death.)
- What do these two texts (Mark and James)teach us about the
origin of sin in our life? (All sin begins with the
- What is the logical conclusion then about how to deal
with our thoughts? Is it okay to think about
something if we just don’t do it? (No. Jesus’
instruction to us is that the true source of murder
and adultery is our mind. If we want to avoid
adultery we need to avoid thinking about it.)
- With this background, why is calling someone an “idiot”
( Matthew 5:22) a problem? (I think Jesus is telling us
that moving to the act of murder is a process. Calling
someone a name like this decreases your respect for that
person. It is the first step on the path towards murder.
Being angry with a person is the next step. Most people do
not complete this path, but Jesus tells us to avoid
getting on the path at all.)
- When I was a young man, I knew of a minister who left his
wife and children and ran off with another woman. The
speculation was that something just snapped in the mind of
a good man and he changed. Do you think this is true? (No.
I would be willing to bet that he played this through in
his mind hundreds of times before he actually did it.
Sinful actions are the result of a mental process. These
things do not happen overnight.)
- Read Exodus 20:17. What does it mean to “covet your
neighbor’s wife?” (Here, right at the end of the most
famous “do not” list, is proof that these sins begin in
the mind. If you do not want to commit adultery, don’t
covet the spouse of someone else.)
- Cut It Off and Pluck It Out
- Let’s go back to Jesus and the Beatitudes. Read Matthew
5:28-30. Does Jesus’ statement make any logical sense
after what He said about the mind and what we have
- If you gouged out your right eye because you had a
habit of looking lustfully at women, would it address
the root of the problem?
- If you cut off your right hand, because you had a
habit of stealing, would it address the root problem?
(The answer to both of these questions is “No.” When
Jesus taught us not too look lustfully, not to call
names and not to be angry, He taught us that the
source of sin is in the mind. It is not your hand or
your eye that causes you to sin. It is your brain.
You would need to pluck out your brain for this to
- Why, then, is Jesus giving us instructions that
He knows will not work – instructions which are
contrary to what He just taught? (We obviously
cannot gouge out our brain – and still live for
Christ. At the same time, no want wants to lose
an eye or a hand. Jesus is simply telling us to
consider the seriousness of this problem. If you
could give up an eye or a hand and be sure of
heaven, you would do it, right? Thus, Jesus is
saying that if we would be willing to lose an
eye or a hand for heaven, how about losing the
sin? Why not take the sin problem in your life
- Mind Relief
- Read Colossians 3:1-2. We are told to set our minds on
“things above.” How, as a practical matter, would you go
about doing that?
- Read Colossians 3:5-8. How many of the items on these two
lists are issues of the mind? (Quite a few.)
- When Colossians 3:7 tells us that we used to “walk in
these ways,” what does that mean?
- How can we avoid “walking” in these mental sins?
(“Walking” would refer to our usual practices. It
would refer to the direction of our life. God tells
us that we need to make a mental decision to avoid
these things that cause our minds to be involved in
impurity, lust, evil desires and greed.)
- These days private viewing of pornography on the
Internet is a very big business. What if you are
looking at a picture of a woman (man) who you do not
know, will never have the possibility of touching
(much less anything else), and you have disciplined
your mind not to think about having sex with the
person in the picture. Is that okay or is that sin?
(If you say this is okay, you are missing the point
of the lesson. Sin begins with a walk on the wrong
side. When Colossians tells us to “put to death”
“impurity, lust, evil desires” and not “walk in these
ways” it is teaching us that we need to completely
avoid those things which promote evil desires.)
- Read Colossians 3:12-14. When the Bible tells us to
“clothe” ourselves with these mental attitudes, is this
the practical answer to how we set our minds (Colossians
3:1) on “things above?”
- How would you go about “clothing” yourself with the
right mental attitude?
- Since we have been looking at the practical side of making
God the Lord of our thoughts, can we change our thoughts?
Can we switch our mental “clothing?”
- What is our most critical step for changing our
thoughts? (Read Philippians 4:8. What we put into our
mind has a terrific influence on the nature of our
thoughts. If you are spending more time reading
Stephen King than reading the Bible, there is no
doubt you have on the wrong mental clothing – period.
This is not rocket science.)
- What is the ultimate source for making God the Lord
of our thoughts? (Read Titus 3:5. We are responsible
for the decision that we want to set our thoughts on
things above and walk in God’s ways. We make the
decision on what we put in our mind. But, the change
in our mind is a matter for the power of the Holy
- Friend, your Christian walk begins with your thoughts.
Will you determine to make God the Lord of your
- Next week: Lord of Our Desires.