Apricots blossoming in the Safe Haven Farm orchard, Haven, KS

Old thoughts don’t belong in a new life

The brain is a miracle. Have you ever stopped to marvel at it? It’s the most complex computer ever created, and even though we use it every day (some of us less than others), we still don’t understand why it does what it does most of the time. My brain thinks all the time, and mostly I can keep my mouth shut, though when I’m tired who knows what I’ll say.

Most of the time, my thoughts are positive, constructive, helpful, but on rare occasions, they’re the opposite. Sometimes I just wake up and I’m in a bad mood. Sometimes I crawl out of bed and have to face the world when all I want to do is hide from it. And it’s on those days when it’s important to have some kind of rein on your thoughts, because you live what you think. Your life is a reflection of your thoughts, maybe not immediately. You can have bad thoughts and still keep up the appearance of a good life, but if you have lived a life infused with bad thinking, your actions will reveal it.

Apricots blossoming in the Safe Haven Farm orchard, Haven, KS

Apricots blossoming in the Safe Haven Farm orchard, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Colossians 3:1.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

Our busy, crazy, out-of-control lives make it really easy to focus our thoughts on everything that’s going wrong. Even our life circumstances seem to conspire to get us to think about the unfairness or the injustice we face daily. But as followers of Christ, what should we think about? That’s an important question to ask yourself.

The Bible is the ultimate how-to book. It has everything you need to live a life that’s pleasing to God and satisfying for you. It’s not an easy read. It’s painful most of the time, but if you really take it in and build your life on it, not only will you have peace with God, you’ll have peace with yourself.

One of the topics the Bible tackles frequently is our thought life. I love that phrase: thought life. We all have one. We have our life that we live where everyone can see us, and then we have our thought life that we live in silence, in shadow, in secret from everyone but God. Some people’s thoughts would shock you. What people think in the anonymity of their own minds would rock your world. And sometimes I forget that God can hear me, and honestly that’s embarrassing. It’s worse than cussing at a bad driver when I have a guest in my car.

When we choose to follow Christ, He gives us a new life, and part of that new life is having power to make choices like He does. As a follower of Christ, you can choose not to sin. You can know what sin is and choose not to do it. Part of that comes down to what you’re thinking about. You have power over your thoughts. Just because a random spark of an idea pops into your mind, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. That doesn’t mean it’s something you should spend a lot of time focusing on. Just because you thought it doesn’t make it true or real or good, and you can choose whether to keep thinking about it or discard it.

As Christ-followers, our thoughts should reflect Christ. What we focus on should be the things that last forever. We have new life; why should we nurse old thoughts?

So the next time a thought pops into your brain, examine it. Don’t just cling to it because it’s your thought. Don’t mull over it like it’s something precious inherently. Identify it. Compare it to Scripture. Is it something God would think about? Is it something you would be ashamed to tell Jesus you were thinking about (even though He already knows)? Is it helpful? Is it encouraging? Does it make you better for thinking it?

If it’s a thought that tears you down, get rid of it. If it’s a thought that belittles someone’s existence, get rid of it. If it’s a thought that demonstrates rebellion toward God or other authorities, get rid of it. If it’s a thought that in any way contradicts what God says is right in the Bible, don’t think it. You don’t have to. You have power over your thoughts, so exercise it and think about things that will help you.

It starts with your thinking. Letting your thoughts rot with hurtful, hateful, selfish things will make you a hurtful, hateful, selfish person, and no Christ follower should live like that. Set your sights–focus your thoughts–on the things that are real, the things that matter, the things that will last forever. Before you know it, your life will be focused on the things that are real, the things that matter, the things that will last forever.

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Dead sunflower - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

New life, old choices

What does it mean to live a new life? The Bible is full of examples and statements about becoming a new person and living a new life and all that jazz, but what does it actually mean? How do you actually do it? Do you just trade out your current life for a new, shiny one?  It’s a great thought, being able to stop living the life that you’re living and move on to something better. But is that really how it works?

Dead sunflower - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dead sunflower – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Colossians 3:1.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

This is just one example of many verses that talk about living a new life. When I was little, I really didn’t understand the concept. I didn’t really understand what was wrong with my life that I had to start living a new one. It seemed fine to me.

Of course, as an adult, I can see the parts of my life that I wish I could change. But you don’t get to just switch lives, like in those “reality” TV shows where two different moms trade places or whatever. You only have one life, and that doesn’t change. What changes is your perspective and your motivation.

I love the Message paraphrase. It often grasps in concept what the original language is trying to communicate better than the literal translations, mainly because Greek is so complex that it’s impossible to exactly translate it into an awkward, indolent, lovable language like English without losing some meaning. But this is the same verse (in context) in the Message, verses 1 and 2 actually:

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

I think where a lot of the “new life” confusion comes from is that our American culture has been so steeped in Eastern mysticism that we get the idea that something magical happens when we accept Christ. Maybe we’re not expecting bright lights or ringing bells, but many times I know people do expect to feel something. And they are disappointed when they don’t.

The honest truth about following Christ is that there’s nothing magical about it. It’s a simple choice.

People sin. We do things that make us imperfect. We’ve been imperfect since our first Father, Adam, chose to disobey God’s Law. And because God is perfect, we can’t have a relationship with Him. Perfection can’t remain perfect if it’s tainted by imperfection. But God loved us so much, that He sent Christ, His own perfect Son, to die for us, in our place, so we could be made perfect. So when we choose to believe that Christ did this for us, Christ gives us His righteousness so that when God see us, He doesn’t see our sin, He sees Christ’s perfection. That’s how we’re able to have a face-to-face relationship with God. Through Christ and Christ alone.

A simple choice.

The choices that follow, however, aren’t that simple. Because even though God has forgotten our sins, right now we still have them and we will continue to struggle with them until we die or until Christ comes back for us. Part of being a Christian means that you have a choice, to sin or not to sin. Christ gives you the power to choose not to sin. Before you had Christ, you didn’t have that power.

Living a new life means choosing not to sin.

That’s what the whole concept of “new life” is. You aren’t stuck living the same old life you always were. You have the power through Christ and through the Holy Spirit to choose not to sin. It’s all about choice.

Well then, how do you make choices?

Choice is determined by motivation and perspective. That’s what this verse is talking about. Living a new life means turning away from the things you use to pursue. It means stepping away from the situations and circumstances in the world and getting involved in what Christ is doing. It means paying attention to where God is working and jumping in with both feet. It means learning Scripture and applying it to your life. It means seeing the world and your life through Jesus’ eyes.

If you have new life, that means you have a new perspective. Or at least, you should have a new perspective. Because now you can see the world and everything in it (including yourself) through the filter of real Truth.

So, Christian, when you’re tempted to backbite and bicker and lie and cheat — when you’re tempted to grumble and complain and focus on the negative, recognize that those are old choices. Those are old perspectives, stemming from old motivation. And even though you are free to choose those things, you don’t have to. And they don’t add anything to you or to anyone else. It’s so much better to make a new choice, one that matches your new life. It makes all the difference in the world.