I am sure all of us have experienced meeting people with something so deeply etched in their minds that they find it virtually impossible to erase that impression. I know a woman who was caught under a wooden raft on a pond for a few minutes before being rescued. She developed paranoia of water. People have phobias about heights, snakes or spiders, the dark, a closed-in space, crowds of people and a whole list of other very real and debilitating fears. Paranoia is defined in Chamber’s Concise Dictionary as: “a form of mental disorder characterized by fixed delusions, esp. of grandeur, pride, persecution, intense fear or suspicion.”
Phobia is: “a fear, aversion or hatred, esp. morbid and irrational.” It is somewhat bewildering to see the tremendous grip such a fear has on the mind. We seem to develop a mindset towards things happening which frighten us and we do the same towards ideas and concepts impacting us in culture, education, etc.
The really frightening aspect of a fear so deep and so often not understood at all is that trying to correct the mind in this matter takes so much effort that people usually just learn to live with it. Worse yet, it seems if we do not tackle our fears and phobias, they only get worse. Often one fear induces another and another.
A person can be afraid of spiders and soon, it seems, he’ll avoid places where spiders might be, and even a spider’s web invokes the same terrified response. Years ago, a scientist named Pavlov wrote about his experiments with dogs. He would set up a series of lights or other effects and at the end of the series, a bit of food would drop out for a dog. The dog salivated as soon as he saw the food. It did not take long, however, before the dog began salivating as soon as one of the lights came on.
I was taken by surprise when I visited the home of a brother-in-law. The moment he stood up from his special comfortable chair, all the fish in his aquarium swam over against the glass. They were already anticipating food the moment he arose. My son’s family has a dog that gets fed once a day. On the odd occasion I have been in the home, I have broken off just a half of a dog’s milk biscuit from the box in the pantry. I do not go over terribly often, but now just as soon as the dog sees me coming, he greets me at the door and makes a bee-line for the pantry door, stands there with one paw in the air and looks only at the door. He has developed a mindset about me—and his mind is really set!
I have observed the pain many people carry with them from abuse they may have received as a child. An abusive teacher, for example, can turn a student off of education. An overly critical coach can hinder an athlete’s performance. Parents who constantly tell their children, “You are dumb,” or, “You will never amount to anything,” often instill an attitude that hampers a child for the rest of their lives. From those areas, we can only imagine the deep wounds that are left in children who are born with fetal-alcohol syndrome, drug addiction or other similar problems.
Abusive, alcoholic, violent or even absent parents all impact a child. Many people reach adult lives with thought patterns that are deeply ingrained and certainly not asked for. Some have no idea why they think and feel as they do. There are always reasons, but we cannot always find them—and even knowing the reasons does not always help in making things better.
Putting the past behind us
I am greatly encouraged when I read the statement Paul was inspired to write in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 9 Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
American King James Version×: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” The word “were” is vital in this sentence. Almighty God is able to erase and remove every painful fear that has been etched into our minds. He is able to heal us completely. He does not turn from those who are suffering, but His love leads us to have faith and trust in His forgiveness—and to leave the past behind us. We may not lose every painful memory or developed phobia, but He eases our load.
We all know through experience those fighting alcoholism must abstain from drinking any alcoholic beverages. They fight this battle on a day by day basis. It is a battle of the mind and certainly is not easy. I have come to realize how difficult it is for people who smoke to drop the habit. There are still far, far more difficult habits, emotions and actions that we may have to fight with. All of the categories Paul listed as not being allowed into the kingdom of God are present in our society. The word “were” indicates that a person is no longer in the grip of that “category.” It does not mean the battle against the mind and or the emotions is over—it only means that the person no longer fornicates, worships idols, commits adultery, etc. He or she has this under control.
In some extreme cases a person may have to live alone and avoid any situation compromising his struggle. Jesus made a strong point as to the value of our struggles when he said, “if your eye makes you sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into [Gehenna] fire” (Mark 9:47 Mark 9:47And if your eye offend you, pluck it out: it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
American King James Version×). C.S. Lewis wrote, “You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind.” Naturally, we know it is not the eye that makes us offend—it is our mind and our mindset.
It is that which may be deep within our minds and provides the thrust in certain directions. Mark does not mean to remove an eye—his words basically tell us to take whatever steps needed in order not to sin. We are not to remain in the categories to which the kingdom of God is barred. We cannot stay in them. We may have to fight the good fight every day—but it is worth it a thousand times over.
Changing the inner man
The battle or struggle is not going to be easy—but then the goal is worth far more than any effort we may need to expend. Added to our effort, God offers strength and help through His Holy Spirit. He does not do the work for us, but He is there to give us rest, direction and encouragement. What is being changed is the “inner man”—that which makes you the person you are. All of us—every human being who plans to enter into the kingdom of God one day needs to change anything and everything contrary to God. We need to “walk in newness of life” as we accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That path is not easy for anyone, but you will have plenty of company.
After many trying times for David, at one point, he is overcome by the realization that things will turn out all right. Why? Because of God’s love for him. Psalm 103 expresses his deep feelings at understanding the depth of God’s forgiveness, patience and mercy.
There is one important point that we need to know. We need to want to change the habits or mindset that hurts us so and which confronts God. God gives us choices and He gives us help, but we need to want to change and we need to determine (with His help) to do whatever is needed. We need to learn about ourselves and seek the steps leading to freedom. Every one of us needs God in our lives and every one of us needs to conform our minds into the mind of Christ. We need a new mindset on which to set our minds. That focus ought to be on the kingdom of God. Make that real in your life.
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