Today we continue our journey through Barbara Hughes’ book, Disciplines of a Godly Woman, as we pursue growth in Christ-likeness. We are now on chapter 6, “Discipline of the Mind”.
What we want to focus on today is how we use our minds for growth in godliness. This is very important. Your mind will affect every area of godly discipline. It is the pathway by which we internalize information to be stored in our heart. Our thoughts directly influence our behaviors. What we think and believe, we will act on.
Paul tells Christians: “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2). We can follow this verse backwards to help us understand it: The renewing of our minds brings about a transformation in us by which we will no longer act like the world (which is a telltale sign of a Christian). The renewing of our minds occurs because we are made into a new creation when we are redeemed by Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Our whole being is redeemed, including our minds. We are no longer slaves to thinking like the world thinks. We should begin to think like Christ.
Knowing that our minds can be made new in Christ should be thrilling news to many of us. This means we are not stuck with our old thought patterns. We don’t have to give in to anxiety, depression, worry, or negativity any longer. We don’t have to allow our minds to sin with thoughts of hate, anger, envy or lust. Our brains can be sanctified! And truly, they must progress in sanctification as we mature if we belong to God.
How do we go about training our minds in godly thinking? There is a great list provided for us in Philippians 2:8 by Paul, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This list culminates in the person of Jesus Christ who is the best subject for our thoughts. The opposite of this list is also true (as Hughes points out on page 69). We should not then think on what is: untrue, ignoble, wrong, impure, unlovely, not admirable, shoddy, or unworthy of praise.
What we need to understand is that our minds will consume and take in whatever it is we feed it.
In Psalm 101 we see David’s utter devotion to guarding his heart and mind. The whole Psalm is excellent, but look at verse 3: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” Notice that the word used is “worthless,” not “evil” or “wicked.” Even what we might consider “harmless” or “neutral” may still be worthless, meaning it is of no value to us. What caused David’s most notorious sin? He did not go out to battle and allowed his eyes to linger on a beautiful woman. His thoughts then turned into actions that were destructive. What you allow before your eyes (and that of your children) matters a great deal!
Therefore we need to feed our minds with what is good. This, of course, is where Scripture comes in. There is nothing better to fill your mind with than God’s very words. “You can never have a Christian mind without regular reading of the Scriptures and serious Bible study. Why is this? Because you cannot be profoundly influenced by what you don’t know.” (Hughes, page 72). This is how the renewing of our minds takes place, by the words of God working on it. That is how the transformation of our behavior occurs.
Even the word “disciple” in Greek means “a learner”. If we want to be a disciple of Christ, we must be learners, students of God’s words, works, and ways. This does not mean we have to have a high IQ to serve God well. It means we need to keep growing in our knowledge of him. The amazing thing is that when we set our minds on the Lord we are loving him! “And you shall love the Lord your God…with all your mind.” (Mark 12:30).
Ladies, we need to be intentional in what we allow into our minds. We can be lax in this area and let the world fill it with what is worthless or we can become disciplined and train our minds to think on what is good and praise worthy. If we want to be more like Jesus we need to set him before us continually, allowing ourselves to be profoundly influenced by him above all else. “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8.
“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,
We continue in our pursuit of godliness today as we look at the discipline of worship. The book we are using as our guide is Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes.
The word “worship” comes from the Saxon word “weorthscype” which later transitioned into “worthship”. I think this is an excellent way to view the act of worship overall. It is ascribing the proper worth to God. We worship God because he is immensely worthy of all praise. “Worship” in Greek is “proskyneo.” The first definition given at blueletterbible.org is “to kiss the hand…in token of reverence.” This reminds me of Psalm 2:12: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.” Jesus, the Son, is to be worshipped. If your life does not exist for this purpose, you will perish under his wrath.
This leads well into Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” What is our “spiritual worship”? To give our whole bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Why does this make sense? We know there is a reason given because Paul uses the word “therefore”. So we must look back to what he is referring to. I would assert that Paul is referring to everything he has already written in this letter to the Roman Church, for us that is Chapters 1 – 11. In these, Paul laid out the wickedness of humankind, the wrath of God against unrighteousness, the gift of grace from God, the means of salvation through faith in Jesus alone, the freedom we have in the Spirit, God’s everlasting love for us, and God’s perfect sovereignty (in a nutshell, the gospel).
What do we do with this knowledge? We do Romans 12:1. It is the ONLY reasonable response to what God has done (see also KJV and ESV footnote). We give our entire selves over to Christ. We surrender everything to him because he has purchased us. We don’t kill animal flesh in sacrifice; we kill our own flesh and live for Christ. That is worship and it is the only logical response to the work of Jesus.
In light of this we should understand how all-consuming and life-saturating worship should be. It is not an activity we engage in for a few songs on a Sunday morning or when the mood hits us. It is how we should live every moment, giving ourselves over to God’s will and not our own. In this way worship is a unique discipline, it is both a means and an end in itself. All the disciplines we engage in (prayer, Bible reading, good works, using our gifts) will lead us to more worship of God. Yet, when we discipline ourselves to worship properly, it will also increase our godliness.
Who worshiped God perfectly? God himself in the man of Jesus Christ. As Jesus said, “But the hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” John 4:23. Keeping it simple, to worship “in spirit” means that we are to worship everywhere, we are no longer confined to worship only in Jerusalem at the temple. To worship God “in truth” means we must know God and have a right understanding of who he is. Worship should not be done in naivety or ignorance, but should flow forth from a heart and mind well informed about the focus of our praise. That being Jesus Christ our Lord. True worship occurs from the inside to the outside.
Once again, all of this steers us directly to God’s Word, as everything should. You must read and study the Bible so that you know who it is you are worshiping. As your understanding of God and his ways increases, your worship of him will too. When you find your worship lacking, whether on your own, with your family or within a congregation, it will be because your understanding of God is lacking. Dive in to his Word and refresh your soul there.
Ladies, sincere worship does not happen by accident or just when a good song comes on the radio. True worship occurs when we have a right understanding of God and a Spirit-born desire to give our entire selves over to him. Worship should be the lifestyle of every Christian, displayed in all that we do and say. Take some time to examine yourself in this area and then begin to work at cultivating a life of true worship. Our God is worthy.
“Pray without ceasing,”
These past few weeks have been spent ensuring we have our hearts and minds prepared for the pursuit of being Christ-like. We have discussed the importance of training for godliness (see 1 Tim. 4:7-11), we have centered ourselves in the gospel, knowing it is our only source of godliness, and last week we discussed that our proper posture before God is one of complete submission to his will (the essential attitude of godliness). We are now finally diving into the disciplines themselves, starting with prayer.
Do you think of prayer as a discipline? As something that requires deliberate work and training? Many of us don’t, and that may be our biggest problem. We often take prayer way too casually for what it is. Prayer is a gift to us that came at a great cost. Hebrews 10:19-20 tells us that we are able to “enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.” For this reason we are able to “draw near” to God (v. 22). We are allowed to stand before God in prayer because Jesus gave up his own blood. So, allow prayer to flow continually, but never take it lightly.
We need to realize that a healthy and effective prayer life takes great discipline. I think many of us would readily admit that we should be spending more time in prayer than we currently do (a sign we are un-disciplined). How do we make this happen? We plan for it and make it habit. We know we are commanded to pray in God’s Word. First Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing” and Ephesians 6:18 tells us to be “praying at all times in the Spirit”. So we should be having a continual heart communication with God throughout our day. This is the result of a Father-daughter relationship so close that he is the one we turn to all day long to adore, worship, ask for strength, and seek counsel from. However, there also needs to be times of deeper connection and dedicated attention given to God.
Instead of squeezing prayer into our already full days or using whatever time we have “leftover,” we need to be giving God the best times of our day. Plan ahead and decide when you will spend devoted time with God. Are you at your best in the morning? Spend time connecting with God then. Do you find yourself with energy in the evening when everyone else is in bed? Pray then. Or whenever it is you are best able to connect and engage. Plan ahead for prayer time and give God the best of yourself.
Devoting yourself to prayer time will be more difficult in different stages of your life, but do the best you can. God understands your situation because he gave it to you. If your prayer time happens while changing diapers and feeding babies so be it, but don’t give up because you can’t “escape” for a few minutes alone. For those of you who simply have full schedules with activities or obligations, it is time to cut loose some of these from your schedule. Prioritize spiritually with God, not with the world.
Put the effort into your prayer life. There is nothing more amazing than communicating with God Almighty. Use the time to adore him, telling him what you treasure about him. Use the time to put forward your requests and for interceding for others. Keep a prayer list (a real one, not just one in your head) so you can remember to pray specifically for needs and give praise for seeing prayers answered.
The ultimate key to praying more is to be in the Word more. The more you know your Lord, the more you trust him and adore him. Your heart will desire to commune with him as often as possible. Prayer will be empty without first allowing the words of God to abide in you (John 15:7).
Prayer is a great gift of sanctification to us. We are not blessing God with our attention; he is blessing us with his. In the book, Disciplines of a Godly Woman (the book we are following for this blog series), author Barbara Hughes gives a quote from E. Stanley Jones, a missionary and man of prayer: “If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore closer to me, or do I pull myself closer to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to God’s will.” Prayer therefore is not about getting God to meet our needs or do what we ask of him, but a spiritual bending of our will to his. A mighty tool for sanctification and holiness, exactly what we are pursuing!
Women, prayer is your lifeline to your Father in Heaven who loves you. How exciting that God has made a way for us to connect with him. What a great God we serve! Why not pray and tell him that now.
At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. – Philippians 2:10 -11
Chapter three, Discipline of Submission. Seriously? The book we are following (The Disciplines of a Godly Woman, by Barbara Hughes) is a book written for women, so of course they HAVE to have a chapter on submission. My flesh, at times, continues to rail so fiercely against this word that I have to stop and correct myself. I have to take a breath, pray and think spiritually.
Submission is what women are taught to AVOID as soon as we are capable of learning. “You are the boss of you, be independent, don’t let anyone tell you what to do, you can’t submit to someone else and be successful.” So when women bristle at the word “submission” we could say that we are reacting to years of training (often under the guise of “Christian” teaching). HOWEVER, is this socially-accepted-feminist-indoctrination the true cause of our rebellion against submitting? NO! What is? The SIN in our own hearts.
Rebellion against submitting to authority is what SIN is all about! This chapter on the discipline of submission would fit just as well in a book written for men (okay, not the parts that pertain to women such as in marriage). Yet, ALL who are called by God are called to live a life in submission to Him. That is what the Christian walk is all about. That is what we are pursuing right now as we pursue godliness – attempting to bring our own will into submission to his. If I am railing against submission, I am railing against God himself. Now, that is a humbling thought.
Submission can be defined as, “yielding to the authority of another”. I would add the word “willingly” to it (because submission is a heart issue, not just an action issue). In the book, Barbara Hughes calls submission “The Posture of Godliness”. It is our stance before God. He, being the Authority and we, his willing subject.
Philippians 2:5-11 is one of my all-time favorite portions of Scripture (pick up your Bible and read the whole thing). I think it embodies both the example of Jesus Christ in regards to his submission (to the Father) and his Lordship over us. It begins in verse 5, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” In other words – Jesus enables us to think as he did. Having the mind of Christ is a huge gift (see 1 Cor. 2:16) – use it to overcome the sinful pride of rebellion.
It goes on to tell us about the humility of Jesus while on earth: “though he was in the form of God… emptied himself… taking the form of a servant… humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death…on a cross.” If my mighty Savior submitted this way to his Father (even though he was God and all-powerful) I am without excuse (and so are you). Are you displaying the humility of Christ to those around you? Are you living up to the name “Christ-ian”?
“Therefore God has highly exalted him…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Jesus is declared LORD, all to the glory of God.
When God calls us to submit to him (James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God,”) is this not a good and right calling? Yes, it can be no other way. Every command given by God is perfect and leads to blessing for the believer (Rom. 8:28)! The call to submit is no different. So, let go of the resistance and walk this pathway of blessing with trust and joy.
We submit to God by submitting to the authorities that he has placed in our lives as women. This will include our husbands, pastors, parents, employers and others. We do this gladly “out of reverence for Christ,” (Ephesians 5:21). We also submit to God in every action and decision we make every day. We choose to do what he wants us to do and not what we are (sinfully) inclined to do. Having a difficult time discerning God’s will in an area? Search the Scriptures, pray and seek godly counsel. There is a right answer.
Women, stanch the rebellion in your flesh and live willingly under the Lordship of God. Joyfully submit to the One who holds your heart and all the world in his gracious hands.