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!

  1. Murder

    1. Read Matthew 5:17-19. What is Jesus’ attitude towards the
      Ten Commandments?

      1. 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.)

        1. 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.)

    2. Read Matthew 5:21. Where did you hear this? (Read Exodus
      20:13: “You shall not murder.”)

    3. 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?

    4. 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.)

      1. Let’s apply this to Jesus’ statements about murder.
        Is murder a tree or a fruit?

        1. Is anger a tree or a fruit?

        2. Is name-calling a tree or a fruit?

        3. 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.)

    5. Read Genesis 4:1-5. Why was Cain unhappy? (God seemed to
      favor Abel over him.)

      1. Why did God show favoritism? (The inference is that
        Abel obeyed God by bringing an animal sacrifice.)

        1. 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.)

    6. 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.)

      1. Can you see that anger is related to murder?

      2. If you were giving advice to Cain to prevent this
        fatal problem, what advice would you give?

      3. 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
        God’s sight.)

    7. Let’s explore how we can better pursue a right attitude.

  2. Two Paths

    1. 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.)

    2. 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

      1. 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?

      2. Do you plan how you can lift the burden of someone
        else? Do you plan how you can be a blessing to

      3. 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.)

      4. 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
        think about.)

    3. 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
      these things.)

      1. 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.)

    4. Read Colossians 3:5 and Colossians 3:12. How do you do

      1. 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?

      2. Have you ever spent time giving thought to how you
        can “clothe yourself” with humility? Or, are you
        mostly trying to avoid being humiliated?

    5. 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.

  3. Holy Spirit Power

    1. 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?

    2. 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

      1. 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.)

    3. 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?

  4. Next week: Hope Against Depression.