Sometimes I think it would be much easier if all my decisions were black or white, right or wrong, evil or good. In a sense, those are the easy decisions. The hard ones for me are those decisions where I must choose between options that are neither good nor bad, or perhaps they are all good, but I can choose only one. How can I know which choice is the best one, the one God would have me make?
Do you ever wish God would come down and write on your walls to let you know just exactly what you should do? That would seem to make it easy. Actually, God has done something better than that! He has given us the capability of knowing his thoughts and having his mind. A passage from 1 Corinthians 2 tells us this:
“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. . . We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:10-12,16).
What this tells us is pretty exciting when you stop to think about it. We see in Romans 8:9 that each of us who have been born from above has God’s Spirit within us. This passage in 1 Corinthians tells us that because we have God’s Spirit within us, we can know God’s thoughts because the Spirit of God is the One who knows the thoughts of God. And, just to be certain we didn’t miss his point, the Apostle Paul spells it out clearly: We have the mind of Christ.
To me, this means that the thoughts which go through my head—my thinking processes and reasoning powers, as they are controlled by the Spirit of God that is within me—can be God’s thoughts. Therefore, as I face these tough decisions, I can turn to the mind of Christ that is within me to give me God’s thoughts so I can make the right decision.
Wow, that’s powerful theology! If we Christians really learned to take advantage of this great truth, what a difference we would see in our lives! To think we have this capability because of the Spirit of God who is within us to know what God thinks, to actually think his thoughts. And if I can know what God thinks, then decisions don’t baffle me any longer because I can turn to his mind which is within me and trust those reasoning processes to lead me to right and good decisions.
Does this mean that when I became a Christian, automatically all my thoughts became God’s thoughts? No, because until we reach heaven, we have two natures to deal with. This new nature given to us when we are born from above gives us the Spirit of God and the mind of Christ. But we still have our old nature which was born in sin and is still prone to sin. My thoughts will be controlled by one of these two natures, whichever one has the greatest control in my life.
Now, if I really want to have the mind of Christ operating within me so that my thoughts will be God’s thoughts, then I have to make certain that I continually allow the new nature indwelt by the Spirit of Christ to control me in ever-increasing measure. How do I do that? By feeding the new nature and starving the old one. It really is just that simple. The one that you nourish is the one that will control you.
Which of your natures do you nourish the most? Do you spend time feeding your new spiritual nature with the Word of God, with good books, with good fellowship and messages? Or do you spend more time feeding the old nature with the world’s messages, the world’s literature, and the world’s media? Do you pursue things that have no eternal value, or are you focused on storing up treasures in heaven?
If you are earnestly and diligently pursuing a knowledge of God, feeding that new nature and starving the old one, then you are more and more allowing the mind of Christ to control your thoughts. Therefore, as you face decisions, you don’t need handwriting on the wall; you can trust God to reveal his thoughts to you through the mind of Christ, which is within you.
The difficulty arises as we try to ascertain which thoughts are God’s thoughts generated by the Spirit of God, and which ones are coming from our old sinful nature. Though we may be starving the old nature, it’s always capable of getting back into the act.
I have developed a helpful exercise which helps me test my thinking so that I can have a biblical basis for analyzing my decisions. It’s based on James 3:17 which says: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” This verse gives us a very clear description of God’s thoughts; it identifies the characteristics of his wisdom. If we hold our thinking and reasoning up to this verse and compare the results, then we have good insight into the origin of our thoughts.
Let me use an example to illustrate how to use James 3:17 in making right decisions. Let’s say you have an opportunity to take a new job, but you’re not sure if it’s the right thing to do. Begin by writing down the decision you face: Should I accept this new job? Then write down what your options are. In this case they are fairly simple: Yes or No. Then use James 3:17 to test the results or consequences of each of your options. Ask yourself this series of questions concerning each option you have, and make notes as you go. Using our example, this is how that works:
- The first test is purity. God’s wisdom is always pure. This means the decision would not lead you into any kind of impurity in your lifestyle, would not take you into unnecessary temptation, and would not continually subject you to circumstances that would bring you down spiritually. Would this new job have any of these characteristics? What’s the environment like? What would be expected of you? Does it pass the purity test? Write down your answer.
- Peace-loving—or peaceable—is the second criteria. God’s wisdom will lead us into a peaceable state of mind. I don’t mean we won’t know pressure or stress, but we will know an inner peace when we have God’s thoughts. I find this one a very important test, for the more my relationship with God is on solid ground, the more I know his peace. When my spirit within me is not at peace for some reason, then I’m fairly certain I don’t yet have the mind of Christ. So, you have to ask yourself if you have peace about this new job. Also, would the new job bring unrest and lack of peace into your life?
- Considerate is the next checkpoint. Using our example, you would ask yourself this: If I take this new job, would it be inconsiderate of someone else for me to do so? Perhaps it would demand much more of your time and you wouldn’t be able to keep other commitments you’ve made—to your family, your friends, your church, etc. Or perhaps it would free up some of your time and allow you to be more considerate of others.
- The next thing James tells us about God’s wisdom is that it is submissive. Now here we really need to stop and take some inventory in our lives. Is there some area where we haven’t allowed God’s Spirit to control us? Is there something we’ve subconsciously been saying “Hand’s off, Lord. Don’t touch this.” It may not necessarily be some outright sinful practice; perhaps it’s not bad in itself. Nonetheless we’ve retained the control of that thing in our lives and have refused to submit it.
If any areas of disobedience are resident in our lives, it will cause a roadblock to knowing the mind of Christ. It may be totally unrelated to the decision at hand, but that lack of submission could be the thing that’s keeping us from knowing the right choice to make. In order to have the thoughts of God, the Spirit of God must have total control.
- Is it full of mercy and good fruit? God’s wisdom will lead us to decisions that develop and encourage mercy toward others and all the good fruits of the Spirit of God within us. Paul tells young Timothy that he should pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness, and to be rich in good deeds. Will this new job be a hindrance to our pursuit of these important eternal things? That is a key question.
- Impartial and sincere are our last criteria. I think these relate to our motives. Which way are we leaning in this decision? Why are we leaning that way? Is it just because we want to make more money? That would be a motive you would have to look at carefully because Jesus told us we can’t serve God and money. Motives are tough to deal with sometimes. I often say to the Lord, “Underneath all this mess, Lord, is a heart that really wants to do your will.” Sometimes I feel I can’t even decipher my own motives. But God’s Spirit within us can do that, and we must keep coming back to our motivation. Are we leaning one way or another for the right or wrong reasons?
If we take ourselves through James’ checkpoints as found in chapter 3, verse 17, we’ll have done some pretty deep and serious thinking. I truly believe that this will, in most cases, give us the assurance of what the mind of Christ is concerning the decision we face.
If you find that you’re still troubled and can’t know the right choice, then perhaps it’s a lack of faith on your part: Faith to believe that God really wants to give you his thoughts; faith to believe that you can indeed have the mind of Christ. In the first chapter of James we read that when we ask for wisdom, we must believe and not doubt, because the person who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. To have doubts that God can and will give us his mind is to be double-minded and unstable in all our ways, James says.
Our enemy, Satan, does not want us to know how to allow the mind of Christ to control us. If he can’t get us any other way, he’ll put doubts in our mind. We’ll go through the process of James 3:17 and make a decision—and then start to doubt that God has really spoken to us. At some point we must take our stand on God’s Word and say to our enemy, “Look, Satan, God has said he has given me the mind of Christ, and he has promised me his wisdom. I refuse to doubt that I have been given His wisdom; I will not be double-minded. I believe I have the mind of Christ in this matter, so I resist you and order you to leave me alone.”
I want to assure you that God did not leave us down here to grope around in the dark, take our best guesses at the decisions facing us, and hope they’ll turn out okay. He left us with all we need to make good decisions. We have the mind of Christ and we can know the thoughts of God. Are you willing to allow the Spirit of God to so control you that your thinking processes and decision making will be guided by the mind of Christ which is within you? If so, you will more and more be confident about making right decisions, because you will more and more have the mind of Christ on the issues you face. That’s the secret to making right decisions.
But know this as well: Even when you make less-than-the-best decision, God uses those times to grow and teach you. If you really desired God’s will but, in retrospect, you believe you should have taken another course, it’s not fatal. God can make gardens out of deserts and make something good out of your poor choices. So learn your lessons, and ask God to show you how to make lemonade out of lemons!