This blog post is based on my notes from Take Your Mind Back, a teaching by Pastor Craig Groeschel at Life.Church on Sunday February 21, 2021.
Every time you think a thought, you’re creating a new pattern of thought or a new pathway, almost like a mental trail, in your mind. Your experiences and your thoughts are wiring or programming your brain.
In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul said, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.” In other words, don’t think like the world thinks, don’t act like the world acts, don’t behave like the world behaves. “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Our mind is a battlefield and most of life’s battles are won or lost in the mind. The way we get transformed is by renewing our mind with the truth of God’s word as we think it and confess it until we believe it.
When we think a thought our brain is creating new neural pathways. And the more we think a thought, the easier it is to think that thought again. The more dominant that thought becomes, which is really good news, when we’re thinking on truth. But it’s incredibly bad news when so many of us are believing the lies.
Pulling down strongholds
Apostle Paul refers to these lies as strongholds. What is a stronghold? It’s a wrong pattern of thinking. It’s a place where the wires in our brain have been crossed. As followers of Christ, we have spiritual weapons and they are not the same weapons of this world. Our weapons have divine power to demolish strongholds.When we think a thought our brain is creating new neural pathways. And the more we think a thought, the more dominant that thought becomes. HT @CraigGroeschel @LifeChurch #WinningTheWarInYourMind Click To Tweet
We live in the world but we do not wage war as the world does. Therefore we demolish arguments and every pretension, every wrongly crossed wire that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-6)
Why does every thought matter? It matters because your life is always moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts. What goes into your mind tends to come out in your life. You cannot have a positive life when you have a negative mind, when the wires are crossed. If you don’t control what you think, you’ll never be able to control what you do.
How then do you train your mind? I’m guessing that a lot of you probably haven’t ever thought about training your minds. You might have thought about training your dog. You might have thought about training your body. And thinking of training your body actually can be a good leap to training your mind.
For example, for years, I thought that training your body was all about exercise. You know, we’re going to run, jump and do sit ups and kettle bells. I thought it was about what you would do with your body. But when I was about 40, eating anything that I wanted, I discovered that training your body isn’t just about what you do with it, it’s also what you put into it.
This is such a good illustration of the mind. It’s not just on how we’ve been thinking, but it’s also what we pour into our mind that can either train our mind to continue believing the wrong thing, or we can train our minds with truth. It’s not just what you do with it, is also what you put in it.
Fix your thoughts
I want to show you the apostle Paul, whom I love, because you could watch the progression in his life in ministry, as he started to renew his mind.
We’re going to look at Philippians chapter four. We’re going to start in verse eight. And to give you context, the apostle Paul was writing this from a Roman prison. He was locked up on house arrest, not an ideal situation, in fact a very terrifying place to be, awaiting possible execution. This was kind of a worst case scenario.
And here’s what he said:
He said, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing…”
Let me tell you what he didn’t say. He didn’t say, “God let me down” when he could have thought that. He didn’t say, “I can’t go on with life.” He didn’t say, “Things couldn’t get any worse than this.”
No, he said “Fix your thoughts.”
“Fix your thoughts on what is true. Fix your thoughts on what is honorable, fix your thoughts on what is right and pure and lovely and admirable.”
He didn’t say, “Fix your thoughts on worst case scenario, on what you hate on what you’re afraid of, on what could go wrong” but “fix your mind on what is good.” He said, “Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”Your life is always moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts. What goes into your mind tends to come out in your life. HT @CraigGroeschel @LifeChurch #WinningTheWarInYourMind Click To Tweet
I like the way the New King James version translated the same verse: “If there is any virtue and if there’s anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”
Now, wait a minute. Isn’t meditation, some kind of new age spooky stuff, like become one with a universe, cross your legs or arm, you know. Isn’t that what meditation is?
Well, that can be meditation, but I want to give you another definition of meditation. And I want to show you just how scriptural and healthy the right kind of meditation can be.
What is a definition of meditation? A simple definition is this: to engage in mental exercise, to focus one’s thoughts. It’s just to focus. In fact, if you look at scripture, there are many examples of godly people, meditating on the things that are true and lovely and admirable and excellent, meditating on the power of God’s word.
In fact, the Psalmist, in Psalm 119:15 says this of God, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” In other words, I’m focusing my mind, God, on your truth. I’m training my mind to see your truth.
Psalm 143:5 says, “I meditate, God, on all your works and consider what your hands have done.”
I like this!
Eastern meditation may have a different focus. I’ve been told that oftentimes in Eastern meditation, you empty your mind and you try to focus on nothing and get it into a state of calm and such. But Christian meditation isn’t emptying your mind. Instead, it’s filling your mind with truth. It’s fixing your mind. And over the past few years, I’ve been on a journey to learn to focus and fix my mind.
One of the highest priorities in my own personal spiritual development, is learning to focus my mind because focus is a skill. In fact, to quote the great theologian, Jackie Chan, he said, in the remake of the movie Karate Kid, “Your focus needs more focus.”
Some of you, if I can just say to you right now, your focus needs more focus. Your mind needs to uncross the wires that have been programmed to believe something that’s not true. And you need to focus on what is true.Meditation is to focus one's thoughts. Christian meditation isn't emptying your mind. Instead, it's filling your mind with truth. HT @CraigGroeschel @LifeChurch #WinningTheWarInYourMind Click To Tweet
Fix your minds on the things of God because when our mind drifts—and I don’t know about you, but my mind can drift very quickly—it generally doesn’t drift to that which is true. It generally drifts to my own insecurities, my own fears, my worst case scenarios and the lies that the devil has been telling me about myself for years.
“You’re never going to be good enough, you’re incapable, you should be ashamed after what you did, how could God ever use you?”
What we want to do is learn to meditate on truth, to focus and train our minds on God’s truth. And what I’m going to do, is give you an exercise that’s not really easy. If you’ve been believing a lie for 10 years or 15 years or 30 years, sometimes it takes a little while to deprogram that mistruth and replace it with truth.
I’m going to give you an exercise that I honestly believe can be a game changer in focusing on what is true. Then I’ll show you how I’ve grown in my own thoughts and how I repeat some truth over and over and over again, to create new neural pathways, to renew my mind with truth. And then I’m going to trust that the Holy Spirit is going to work on you.
Are you ready?
Let’s start by answering two questions:
What stronghold is holding you back?
What would you say is the top wrong mindset that’s holding you hostage? Identify where you have the wires crossed in your brain.
For some of you, it could be just a lie. Like you grew up in a household that struggled with finances and you think you’re not any good with this. So you just believe, “We’re never going get out of debt.”
Or you might have the wires crossed and think, “I’ve tried for three years and I can’t overcome this addiction. I’m never going to be able to overcome this addiction.”
Or you might think of yourself, “I’ll never be healthy. You know, people in my family aren’t healthy, we’re just never gonna be healthy.”
Or “I’ve tried to get close to God, I’ve been close to God for like five seconds and then my mind drifted, I’m never going to be close to God.”
Or “I worked so hard to get ahead, but I’m never gonna have a meaningful job, I’m always going to do something stupid and beneath me.”
Or “I’m never going to get married, I’m never gonna have a blessed marriage.”
What is the dominant stronghold where your mental wires are crossed, where the devil has trained you with the mental pathway to believe something that is not true about you?
That’s the first part of the assignment. The second part is to answer this question:
What spiritual truth from God demolishes that stronghold?
What is the spiritual truth that demolishes and obliterates that stronghold? Then what we’re going to do is we’re going to take a scriptural truth, not just a truth, but a truth that’s empowered by God’s living word, powerful enough to bring transformation. We’re going to let His word renew our mind.
What I want you to do is to write out some truth, very specific. Whatever it is that demolishes that stronghold in your life. And I want to encourage you, don’t just write a sentence, but think about it, meditate on it, let it be born out of God’s word and write a statement that creates emotional energy towards the truth of God.
Then what we’re going to do is we’re going to write it or type it and then we’re going to start thinking on it. And I encourage you to confess it until God starts to renew your mind. We’re going to write it, think it confess it, until we believe it. (Say that out loud).Identify the stronghold that is holding you back. Find the scriptural truth that demolishes it. Write this truth, think it, confess it until you believe it. HT @CraigGroeschel @LifeChurch #WinningTheWarInYourMind Click To Tweet
It may take time but we’ll keep at it. We’re going to write it, think it, confess it until we believe it. We’re creating new neural pathways. God is renewing our mind with truth.
Confessions and declarations
Now let me give you some examples of what yours might look like.
You might be struggling to know God’s will in your life. So you’re going to create a statement that could be like this:
My life belongs God. Daily I seek Him and daily He directs my steps. I know His voice and He leads me to His perfect will.
You’re going to write it, you’re going to think it, you’re going to say it until you believe it. Over and over again, you’re going to say that, “My life belongs to God. Daily I seek Him, daily He directs my step. I know His voice and He leads me to His perfect will.”
You may be lacking confidence, every time you come in, you feel insecure, you feel inadequate, you feel like you’re not enough. And so, your statement is going to be this:
My confidence is in Christ and Christ alone because His Spirit lives within me. I can do everything He calls me to do.
You’re going to write it, think it, confess it until you believe it.
You might have a struggle with fighting lustful thoughts and you’re sick and tired of being hostage to images and shameful ideas. And so you’re going to let God renew your mind.
You’re going to say this over and over again:
I am not a slave to lustful thoughts because God has purified my mind. I will honor Him with my eyes and thoughts. My God is faithful. Even if I am tempted, He will always give me a way out.
You’re going to write it, you’re going to think it, you’re going to confess it until you believe it.
You might find comfort in food and you don’t want to do this anymore. So you’re going to declare:
When I’m stressed I turn to God, not food. I come to Jesus because He is what I need. In Him I find strength and comfort.
You might find yourself, battling worry all the time, consumed with worry. But you’re going to write it, think it, confess it till you believe it. What is it?
Because of Christ, I’m not anxious about anything. I cast my cares on God because He cares for me. I have the peace of God dwelling in my heart and ruling my mind.
Creating new neural pathways
What are you going to do?
Identify the stronghold and a liberating truth that will demolish that stronghold. Where are the wires crossed in your mind? What is the spiritual truth that will set you free? Then you’re going to write it, think it and confess it, until you believe it.
You’re creating new neural pathways, according to the truth. And God is renewing your mind.
Now, I want to show you how this plays out in my life. I’m going to tell you about some of the places where I’ve had the wires crossed for years.
As a child, for some reason, I always battled with thoughts of inadequacy. No matter what I do, I’ve never ever felt like I’m enough. And this just haunts me, because as a pastor, I can never get it all done. Never. I’m always letting somebody down.
And when I try to bring my very, very best to the church, then guess what? I’m inadequate as a husband and inadequate as a dad. And the moment I try to refocus to being a husband and a dad, then I’m even more inadequate to the church. And it’s a stronghold that holds me back and fills me with ongoing guilt and even shame.
I struggle. And I hate to say this, but sometimes I seem to care more about what people think than even what God thinks. And I don’t like to admit that when I’m preaching and powered by God, I can be really, really bold but I can come home with an overwhelming sense of insecurity, that they hate me and they don’t like me, and I’m failing and I’m miserable.
There are times when my priorities get out of order, where I worked way too hard. And then I neglect and take for granted the people that are around me. There are times when I just feel incredibly discouraged, thinking, I don’t know if I can come up with another message.
Sometimes you say, haven’t you preached that before? Yes. It’s been 25 years. You know, it’s like doing a book report on the same book every week. It’s the Bible. How can I creatively express something in an interesting way that would engage people and transform lives? And I battle with deep feelings of inadequacy.
So what I’ve done with the help of my counselor and Amy and years developing some declarations is I have some truth that’s renewing my mind. And this isn’t the whole list, because I don’t want to bore you. But the whole list is in the book, Winning the War in Your Mind.
And I’ll tell you what I declare. I don’t do this daily, I did for years and years. Now, I do it when I need it and it’s deep in my heart. But my declaration that I’ve said now for probably four years, goes like this:
This is the truth. This is what God is using to renew my mind. This is what I need to uncross the wires and live according to His truth.
Pastor Craig Groeschel’s personal declarations
I declare Jesus is first in my life. I exist to serve and glorify Him.
I love my wife and will lay down my life to serve her. My children will love God and serve Him with their whole hearts. I will nurture, equip, train and empower them to do more for the kingdom than they ever thought possible.
I love people and believe the best about others.
I am disciplined. Christ in me is stronger than the wrong desires in me. I am growing closer to Jesus every day.
Because of Christ my family is closer. My body is stronger. My faith is deeper and my leadership is sharper. I am creative, innovative, driven, focused and blessed beyond measure because the Holy Spirit dwells within me.
I develop leaders. This is not something I do. It’s who I am. I bring my best and then some. It’s what I do after I bring my best that makes the difference.
And I declare this and believe it to be true, that the world will be different and better because I served Jesus today.
Write it, think it, and confess it until you believe it.
Why does this matter? It matters because your life is always moving in the direction of your strongest thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you’ll never control what you do.
Take back your mind, meditate on truth. Fix your mind on what is true and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy. Meditate on such things. Focus your mind on the truth.
Identify whatever mental stronghold, wherever you have the wires crossed, and identify the truth that completely sets you free. Write it, think it, confess it until you believe it.
And as followers of Jesus, what will we not do? We will not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but we will be transformed.
Listen, it’s not by trying harder, not by being smarter, not by more personal effort, but by the renewing of our minds. And what is the greatest power to overcome the lies? It is the truth of Jesus.
And He said, and you’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)
Father, today we ask that by the power of the risen Christ and by the truth of Your inspired word, that You would renew our minds with truth. Father I pray, that you would give us clarity of whatever lie that we’ve wrongly believed.
God I know for some people it’s hard to identify the lie because we don’t even know it’s a lie. God help us to identify that. And then give us scripture, Your truth, and a declaration that would renew our mind with Your truth.
God, I know this may take weeks, months, even years for some to renew their minds. But we believe for some this will be a breakthrough. God, renew our minds with truth that we could live according to Your perfect will and show Your love in all that we do.
Lord, we thank you in advance that the devil is defeated, that You have risen from the dead and that you’re going to renew our minds with truth.
Call to salvation
There are those of you that may feel like you’re far from God. You don’t know where you stand with God. Maybe in your mind you feel like you’ve been way too bad for God.
How could He love someone like you? Let me tell you about the truth of God’s love. God loves you so much. That’s true. And there’s nothing you can do to earn His love more. And there’s nothing you could do that would cause Him to love you less. He just loves you, period, so much that He sent His perfect son, Jesus, born of a virgin, one who never sinned.
Jesus gave His life for the forgiveness of your sins. And our God raised Him from the dead so that anyone, and this includes you, who calls on His name, your sins would be forgiven and you would be completely saved. Call on Him today and pray out loud:
Heavenly Father, forgive all of my sins. Jesus save me. Make me brand new. I believe You died for me and you rose again so I could live for you. Fill me with your Spirit. My life is not my own. I give it all to you. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine. In Jesus name I pray.
Can somebody worship God!
Declarations for people in Christ
Before we worship, I want to make some declarations over you, for those of you who are in Christ:
You are strong and mighty. You have the same power that raised Christ from the dead dwelling inside of you. You are a weapon of righteousness in a world of darkness. You are not your past. You are not what you did. You are who God says you are.
He says you’re forgiven. He says you’re redeemed. He says you’re free. You are not a hostage to your unhealthy thoughts. The weapons you fight with are not the weapons of this world. They have power to demolish strongholds.
You have the mind of Christ directing your thoughts. You have the word of God directing your steps.
Worry is not your master. You trust in God.
His peace guards your heart, guards your mind and guards your soul, in Christ Jesus.
Your God has not given you a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. The Lord is your helper, you will not be afraid. You are not a slave to your habits. You are not a prisoner to your past.
You have been rescued from the power of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s light. Your God will bless you abundantly so that in all things, at all times, you have everything you need to do everything that God has called you to do. This is truth, it will set you free.
Nothing will separate you from the love of God. Not death, not demons, not the present, not the past. No power on earth can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Take your mind back! Why does it matter? Most of life’s battles, are won or lost in the mind. The good news is, the battle rages, but you have won the war!