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Personal from the President: March 18, 2021

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Personal from the President

March 18, 2021

Our Challenge—Bringing Every Thought to the Captivity of Christ

Before the Passover, I’d like to share one more thought with you before we keep this annual observance. We’ve already covered two instances in Corinthians about how we are to examine ourselves so that we will take the symbols of the Passover in a worthy manner, and also that we test that our faith is genuine.

Genesis 1 explains that the creation of man was “very good” (Genesis 1:31 Genesis 1:31And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
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). Higher than even the breath-taking marvels of the physical universe, we humans represent the pinnacle of God’s Creation. He fashioned us in His image and likeness and has given us the freedom to act at our own discretion. We are deliberately allowed to make personal decisions, whether for good or evil.

With that background, consider this important point: a disciple of Jesus Christ embarks on a spiritual journey with his mind and heart. With his mind, a Christian makes choices based on knowledge. In Philippians 2:5 Philippians 2:5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
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we read: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Our Savior and Elder Brother is the high standard.

That’s a challenge! The journey that you and I are on is often one of a tension between what we naturally are apart from God and what God wants us to become. Every day we have to make choices continually about which path we will follow. God will equip us to make good choices, but He will not make those choices for us. We have to develop and exercise godly character and wisdom to make the right decisions. God invites us to share this process with Him.

God already knows our strengths and weaknesses. Note these words in Psalms: “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; you understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether” (Psalms 139:1-4 Psalms 139:1-4 [1] O lord, you have searched me, and known me. [2] You know my sitting down and my rising up, you understand my thought afar off. [3] You compass my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. [4] For there is not a word in my tongue, but, see, O LORD, you know it altogether.
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As humans, we are aware of ourselves, our environment, those around us and our Maker. In our prayers, we share our thoughts, praises and petitions with God. God answers those prayers, and this results in God Himself reforming our values, character and relationships. He helps us become ultimately what we need to become so we are more like Him.

Examining ourselves includes reviewing what we think. How are we doing?

We need to go beyond simply making an observation. We need to act on what we find out. As Christians, we need to realize that we are in a spiritual war! As Paul tells us: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:3 2 Corinthians 10:3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
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Paul continues: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 [4] (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) [5] Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
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We’ve considered some elements about the mind. Now, what about our hearts? The prophet Jeremiah succinctly summed up humanity’s focus apart from the knowledge of God: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9 Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
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Christ breaks this down further in Mark 7. The story is about the Pharisees and some of the scribes who found fault with Jesus’s disciples because they failed to ceremonially wash their hands before eating. They claimed that this physical outward failure “defiled” them.

Jesus showed where real defilement comes from. It comes not from the outside, but from the innermost motivation, from the heart: “‘Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?’ And He said, ‘What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man’” (Mark 7:18-23 Mark 7:18-23 [18] And he said to them, Are you so without understanding also? Do you not perceive, that whatever thing from without enters into the man, it cannot defile him; [19] Because it enters not into his heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the draught, purging all meats? [20] And he said, That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man. [21] For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, [22] Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: [23] All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
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, emphasis added throughout).

In a world that increasingly spurns the ways of God and embraces “these evil things,” this shows what man is by nature. The world often revels in these subjects, vividly portraying and reinforcing them in high-impact movies and entertainment.

Here’s a tough question: do we see any of this in our own natures?

What standard of comparison can reveal what may lie inside of us? The answer: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
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Much of human nature can be reduced to vanity, jealousy, lust and greed, coming to life as characteristics, reactions and motives for much of what we naturally think and do.

But there’s good news! When we come to repentance, we rise out of this morass that all but engulfs humanity. In examination of ourselves we commit to an ongoing transformation process. The apostle Paul pleads with Christians saying: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2 Romans 12:1-2 [1] I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. [2] And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
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Jesus Christ is always willing to forgive, purify and fortify us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
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King David also prayed for understanding, cleansing and to be set back on the right path: “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression” (Psalms 19:12-13 Psalms 19:12-13 [12] Who can understand his errors? cleanse you me from secret faults. [13] Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
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God will forgive us and help us in the direction of healthy thinking. We come to Jesus Christ, who was crucified for our iniquities. His astonishing sacrifice cleanses us from our sins.

We will shortly be observing the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The world increasingly disavows this critical truth, but to us it is the precious path to eternal life, which we understand is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:23-25 1 Corinthians 1:23-25 [23] But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; [24] But to them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. [25] Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
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In the days remaining before the Passover, let’s renew our efforts to begin and sustain a fresh commitment to bring every thought of ours into the captivity of Christ. May God bless your efforts to become one with Him and His Son! (John 17:21 John 17:21That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me.
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