Proper perspective brings assurance and confidence.
1 Thessalonians 5:11-23 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. 12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This passage, along with many others, lists a whole bunch of stuff that, as Christians, we are to do. We are not to do them to gain salvation or holiness, but we are to do them out of obedience, because it is the Word of God and these make up the fabric of real Christianity. Unless we are engaged in these many activities or are at least striving to do so, then we are in no way living the life of Spirituality.

Proverbs 23:7 for as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
Therefore, the question.., How do we control our minds? or  
even more searching, Who or what is controlling our minds?

If obedience to God’s biblical instructions is the needed factor for a life of holiness, and it is, how do I accomplish this impossible task of obeying God’s biblical instructions? This not a rhetorical question. It needs to be answered and the answer is absolutely vital to living the real Christian life. It is amazing how far some Christians will go and how they will twist the Scriptures to excuse their lack of obedience in these areas or their lack of striving to obey God’s instructions. God clearly states in His Word that we are Born Again instantly, but the Christian life is process of growth in grace. Even the Apostle Paul, near the close of his life, said that he had not yet attained that goal, but he continued to press on toward that goal.

Philippians 3:12-19 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. 17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly (their natural desires), and whose glory is in their shame -- who set their mind on earthly things.

As we have seen, our minds are set on either the things of the flesh or the things of the Spirit. When our minds are set on the things of the flesh, that mind set will control our thinking and actions. Changing the setting from the flesh (carnal) to the Spirit (Spiritual) is a choice of obedience. Some say that living the Christian life is simply yielding and they are right. Except what is generally meant by their use of the term yielding is to simply do nothing and God will do everything in our lives to bring us to holiness or to a attitude in which our minds are set on the spiritual.

Some try to tell us that we have no responsibility in Christian living, because Christ has done it all for us, therefore we have all things because of our position in Christ. They also go on to say that even if we did try to do something, it would be sin because the only thing a human can do is sin. Some and maybe most of what they say is true. However, like almost any politician, they leave out many facts that are needed to see the whole picture. Therefore, the ultimate end of what they present is false and goes contrary to the teaching of the totality of the Word of God. You see, teachers can use parts of the Scripture to teach almost anything, and they do. The Word of God is a whole, and no one part of that Word can stand alone, without being compared and harmonized with all other parts.

It is true that God has provided all that is needed for a Spiritual life, and that a human, by and through their works, cannot add one thing to what God has provided. However, to appropriate what God has provided and make it a reality in our lives and living, requires obedience to God’s Word. Even to receive the Gift of the New Birth, we must believe/receive/accept Christ as our Savior. Believe/receive/accept are descriptive words for our non-meritorious actions and attitudes.

If we are not living in obedience to what God has commanded in His Word, 
we are living in sin, not holiness.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

You know, anyone, with even a minimal education in the English language, when looking at this portion and seeing the phrases Let us lay aside every weight and Let us run with endurance, would know that we have a responsibility, and if we don’t do as commanded, we are living in disobedience and I believe, at last check, that’s called sin. The action of this running does not produce any spiritual quality, however, by doing so we have obeyed God’s command. Therefore, God can produce, within us, His Glory and that is spiritual. Look at what Paul had to say about this subject of running, which is just another term explaining what the Christian life is all about.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

We are to run in such a way as to obtain the prize. Obviously, this command indicates that we can run in a manner that would prevent us from obtaining the prize.

Paul speaks of our needed preparation for running and our attitude of mind while running. Before we list the preparations and attitude, note the phrase and everyone who competes for the prize.

competes = (Greek) to struggle; contend.

From this Greek word we get our English word agonize. Look at a couple of passages where this Greek word is used. In these passages, the translators used a different English word but with the same basic thought.

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
2 Timothy 4:6-7 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

We could use lesson after lesson looking at passages that clearly tell us that we have a responsibility in living the Christian life of holiness, and our responsibility involves stress and sometimes even agony. With that in mind, look at some of the things and attitudes we are to have as we run this race, as seen in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

Without beating a dead horse, may I repeat that those are things we are to do. God does not do these things for us, nor does God do our obeying for us. Please note, Paul says that he does these things, because if he didn’t, even though he had preached to others, he would not win the prize but would be disqualified from the race (not His salvation).

In past lessons, we looked at lists of things that we are to do and not to do. We saw these lists in Ephesians 4, Colossians 3, Romans 12, and those are not the only passages that give us such lists.

We are to:

We are to put death:

We are commanded to put away all:

We are commanded to:

These are only a partial listing of things we are to do and not to do, if we are to live in obedience to God through His word. One thing we need to see is that through our own strength, we can not even get a good start on those lists, to say nothing of living daily in such a manner. If God commands it, He has provided a means that will enable the accomplishment of that command. It is the process of using God’s enabling power to live in holiness that we need to see. We must not stick our heads in the sand and repeat the lie that we have no responsibility in striving to do these things.

God uses many familiar terms to describe this process. By using human terms to describe something in the spiritual realm that is beyond our comprehension, it makes it possible to better understand the process, as we enter into it by faith. A couple of the terms used by the Holy Spirit for this purpose are discernment and perseverance. Discernment and perseverance are two traits that are needed if we are to know the reality of spiritual maturity or the ability of setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. We introduced both of those traits in the last lesson and they will be developed more as the series continues.

I would like to introduce one more trait in this lesson. Discernment and perseverance go hand in hand and we need both, so we can stand firm as we earnestly contend for the faith once for all delivered to the Saints. However, after we develop a measure of maturity through discernment and our ability to stand in the face of trials with perseverance, because we are human, we have a tendency to think very highly of our ability, even to the point of self-pride. It is a little like a person coming up through the education experience. I’m sure that you were never involved in the pride of learning, but I’m also just as sure that you know several who fell into the trap of overestimating their educational accomplishments. You remember (or can look forward to) when you were a high school senior. At that point in life, you were convinced that you had the world by the tail, and if there was anything worth knowing, you knew it.Then you arrived at college. That was a shock to your ego. You found that there were still some areas in which you didn’t have full knowledge. You were served up a good helping of humble pie when you found that you were going to have to choose one subject to be you major, because there were far too many subjects for you to know them all. However, by the time you became a college senior, you felt that you knew just about all there was to know about your major, and most of what could be known about any minors you took. Then you began to work on those postgraduate degrees, and found, to your surprise, that the more you learned, it seemed that you achieved less and less of total knowledge. Before postgraduate, you were given a diploma because you could answer certain questions, but now your greatest ability is to seek answers while asking deeper and deeper questions that you can’t answer.

This is also true of maturity in the Christian life . The closer we grow to Christ, the more we realize how much further we still have to grow, to be able to live the Christ-like life. The more we learn of the deep truths of the Scripture, the greater becomes the realization that we have not even scratched the surface of Biblical truth. We all need a good dose of humility, not so we will be embarrassed because we can’t do something or don’t know some biblical truth, but because we have grown in maturity to the point of realization that the Christian life is not a static condition that we obtained, but a constant deeper and deeper walk in the Spirit that we experience.

James 3:13-18 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness (humility) of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking (the opposite of humility) in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

A sure sign of immaturity is the personal belief that I have attained maturity. A sure sign of maturity is the dedicated pursuit of greater and greater spiritual growth, and the recognition of how far I’ve come and the realization that there is yet far more to be achieved.

Yes, the third trait of spiritual maturity is humility

Humility is not a sign of weakness. It is instead, a sign of strength. Humility is not the false modesty of retreating from the limelight. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

True humility is not a groveling, self-despising spirit.
It is a right estimate of ourselves, as God sees us.

The Japanese developed the best handmade swords in the world. To make those fine weapons, ancient Japanese sword makers had to develop a sword that was hard enough to retain a sharp edge, but at the same time soft enough not to be brittle and break. Swords with hard steel kept their sharp edge. However, they were often so brittle that they broke in the clash of battle. Soft steel is not as brittle, but is easily dulled and unable to slice through armor. Therefore, the Japanese sword makers forged a sword with steel hard enough to retain a sharp edge, but at the same time pliable enough not to break in battle. They did so by using multiple sheets of hard and soft steel that were heated, folded and beaten together over and over again. Japanese swords went through a lengthy forging process, until they had up to 33,000 paper-thin laminations of hard and soft metal. The end result was a finely crafted weapon that was pliable and yet retained a sharp honed edge.

Like Japanese sword makers, who repeatedly hammered together layers of metal to produce a sword that would be effective and withstand the battle, God so allows trials to hammer spiritual metal into the lives of His children. Just as a sword made of hard metal will easily break in battle, so the believer filled with pride will break in adversity. It is through the forging hand of God that humility and dependence on Him are developed in our lives, to create character that will triumph in adversity.

A mature Believer must have the hard steel of discernment and perseverance 
blended together with the soft steel of humility.

Build me a son, O Lord,
who will be strong enough to know when he is weak,
and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid;
one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat,
and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son, O Lord, whose wishbone will not be
where his backbone should be;
a son who will know Thee
as the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort,
but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenges.
Here, let him learn to stand up in the storm;
Here, let him team in compassion for those who fall.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goals will be high;
a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men;
one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep;
one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his,
add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor,
so that he may always be serious,
yet never take himself too seriously.

Give him humility, so that he may always remember
the simplicity of true greatness,
the open mind of true wisdom,
the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper,
"I have not lived in vain."

A prayer of General Douglas MacArthur