The Battleground of the Mind

Bible on Table

It is essential that we give attention to the mind and fortify our thoughts with God’s Word—continually keeping Christ and His gospel foremost in our thinking, so we can recognize evil—to stand against it when needed; to flee from it when needed—and so we can know the truth and embrace it and set the course of our life by it.

It is God’s will that we engage our minds in the spiritual battle and arm ourselves with knowledge and obedience to His Word. There is not one thought that crosses our minds that we can allow to go unchallenged. Paul reminds us:

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled (2 Corinthians 10:4–6).

We must bring the thoughts and imaginations of our mind before the rule of Scripture—setting them under its light and submit them to God’s revealed and holy will.

Why is the mind such a prize for Satan? Why is it such a battlefield for the soul? It is a prize because it is God’s. God has made us to be vessels, to be reflectors. He created us to reflect His glory—to ponder His attributes and perfection and wonder at His holiness and moral excellence. He made it to absorb and delight in truth and righteousness.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:29 that God foreknew and predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son. It is our hope one day to be like Christ. We read in 1 John 3:

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2–3).

It is by God’s design that we are made impressionable. He describes Himself as the Potter and us as the clay. He is the One who has given us the capacity to learn and grasp and know. According to Genesis 1:26 we were made to bear God’s image. Part of being made in the image of God is our ability to know Him and love Him and serve Him with our minds. His has given us a measure of some of His attributes—an ability to understand, to create, to be just, to show mercy, to love, to be truthful and faithful…

We are created to bear His image and to reflect a measure His glory. But sin has marred that image and dulled that reflection. And so instead of displaying His praise, we are twisted out of shape and bent by the evil that is in us and around us. Instead of delighting in truth, we exchange truth for a lie and squander our thoughts in paths that are empty and godless. We must be concerned with the mind, because we need guidance, direction, prodding and shaping to be made into the person God desires us to be.

We are in a battle for the truth. All of us will conform to something—we will be shaped. Satan’s goal is to deceive us and destroy us by marring that shape with evil. The world is attempting to shape us—intimidate us, allure us or shame us into conformity. Our flesh is weak and ready to give in and drift with the flow. But God desires us to stand firm and resist and fight. And to do so we must engage our minds.

[This excerpt is from a sermon entitled “Renewing the Mind in Worship” in the series Thoughts on Worship. You can read the full sermon text here.]

See more Sermons and Articles by Ken Puls

The Truth About Talkative

Faithful: Now did Faithful begin to wonder; and stepping to Christian, (for he walked all this while by himself), he said to him, (but softly), What a brave companion have we got! Surely this man will make a very excellent pilgrim.

Christian: At this Christian modestly smiled, and said: This man, with whom you are so taken, will beguile, with that tongue of his, twenty of them that know him not.

Faithful: Do you know him, then?

Christian: Know him! Yes, better than he knows himself.

Faithful: Pray, what is he?

Christian: His name is Talkative; he dwells in our town. I wonder that you should be a stranger to him, only I consider that our town is large.

Faithful: Whose son is he? And whereabout does he dwell?

Christian: He is the son of one Say-well; he dwelt in Prating Row; and is known of all that are acquainted with him, by the name of Talkative in Prating Row; and notwithstanding his fine tongue, he is but a sorry fellow.

Faithful: Well, he seems to be a very pretty man.

Christian: That is, to them who have not thorough acquaintance with him; for he is best abroad; near home, he is ugly enough. Your saying that he is a pretty man, brings to my mind what I have observed in the work of the painter, whose pictures show best at a distance, but, very near, more unpleasing.

Faithful: But I am ready to think you do but jest, because you smiled.

Christian: God forbid that I should jest (although I smiled) in this matter, or that I should accuse any falsely! I will give you a further discovery of him. This man is for any company, and for any talk; as he talks now with you, so will he talk when he is on the ale-bench; and the more drink he has in his crown, the more of these things he has in his mouth; religion has no place in his heart, or house, or conversation; all he has lies in his tongue, and his religion is, to make a noise therewith.

Faithful: Say you so! then am I in this man greatly deceived.

Christian: Deceived! you may be sure of it; remember the proverb, “They say and do not.” But the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. He talks of prayer, of repentance, of faith, and of the new birth; but he knows but only to talk of them. I have been in his family, and have observed him both at home and abroad; and I know what I say of him is the truth. His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savor. There is there neither prayer nor sign of repentance for sin; yea, the brute in his kind serves God far better than he. He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion, to all that know him; it can hardly have a good word in all that end of the town where he dwells, through him. Thus say the common people that know him, A saint abroad, and a devil at home. His poor family finds it so; he is such a churl, such a railer at and so unreasonable with his servants, that they neither know how to do for or speak to him. Men that have any dealings with him say it is better to deal with a Turk than with him; for fairer dealing they shall have at their hands. This Talkative (if it be possible) will go beyond them, defraud, beguile, and overreach them. Besides, he brings up his sons to follow his steps; and if he finds in any of them a foolish timorousness, (for so he calls the first appearance of a tender conscience,) he calls them fools and blockheads, and by no means will employ them in much, or speak to their commendations before others. For my part, I am of opinion, that he has, by his wicked life, caused many to stumble and fall; and will be, if God prevent not, the ruin of many more.

Faithful: Well, my brother, I am bound to believe you; not only because you say you know him, but also because, like a Christian, you make your reports of men. For I cannot think that you speak these things of ill-will, but because it is even so as you say.

Christian: Had I known him no more than you, I might perhaps have thought of him, as, at the first, you did; yea, had he received this report at their hands only that are enemies to religion, I should have thought it had been a slander—a lot that often falls from bad men’s mouths upon good men’s names and professions; but all these things, yea, and a great many more as bad, of my own knowledge, I can prove him guilty of. Besides, good men are ashamed of him; they can neither call him brother, nor friend; the very naming of him among them makes them blush, if they know him.

TalkativeIn the previous post Faithful began a conversation with a traveler whose name was Talkative. Talkative quickly impressed Faithful with his fluent words and contagious enthusiasm. Now the conversation shifts; Faithful steps aside to speak privately with Christian. Though Faithful has a high regard for Talkative, Christian is not so convinced.

Christian knows the truth about Talkative. He knows of his reputation among family and friends in the City of Destruction. Christian raises three serious concerns that should give Faithful pause in his assessment of Talkative:

1. Though Talkative speaks well, his life doesn’t measure up to his talk. Bunyan highlights this discrepancy between Talkative’s words and walk in his description: “He is the son of one Say-Well” and lives on Prating Row. His speech sounds refined and informed, yet it amounts to little more than babbling and gibberish.

He talks of God at church and in the company of believers. He can dissect doctrine and even base his conclusions on Scripture. Yet he fails to live by what he professes. Though he speaks of prayer, faith and repentance; yet these are absent from his life. Christian observes that: “religion has no place in his heart, or house, or conversation; all he has lies in his tongue, and his religion is, to make a noise therewith.”

Talkative’s life resembles that of the Scribes and Pharisees who “say, and do not do” (Matthew 23:3). Even animals, when they act according to their God-given natures, serve God better than he (Jeremiah 8:7; Job 12:7–10). True salvation is more than knowing and saying right things; it is a change of heart that leads to a changed life. “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

2. Though Talkative appears to be a passionate pilgrim, his life looks better from a distance than close up. He presents himself well, but on closer examination, his actions don’t measure up to his words. Christian notes that “he is best abroad; near home, he is ugly enough.” To those casually acquainted with him, he appears to excel. He is knowledgeable, well-spoken and polite. But to those who know him more intimately, he falls short. His actions toward them are sinful, unjust and unreasonable. He is “a saint abroad, and a devil at home.” His religion is but a façade he has built to cover his life.

3. Though Talkative is fervent in how he speaks of his faith, his witness before others is both deceptive and dangerous. His life discredits the words he speaks. His hypocrisy leads to devastating consequences. His conduct causes “many to stumble and fall, disgusting some and causing them to turn away from the faith, while diluting others into thinking a believer can live comfortably with sin in his life. Christian asserts, “he is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion, to all that know him.” Because of his disregard for God’ Law “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles” (Romans 2:24). Because of his presumption of the Gospel, he speaks “peace, peace, where there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

Christian’s assessment of Talkative may seem quite severe. But his judgments and warnings are warranted. Some of Jesus’ sharpest words were aimed at those who lived in hypocrisy and led others astray by their hypocrisy. On two occasions in the book of Matthew Jesus referred to the Scribes and Pharisees as a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 12:34, 23:33). In Matthew 18 he warns:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes” (Matthew 18:6–7).

Sadly, there are many in the church today who fit the description of Talkative. They speak the language of a Pilgrim, are convinced that they are on the path to the Celestial City, yet their lives do not bear the marks of a Pilgrim. They like to mingle with God’s people, engage in theological conversation, and may even be well-versed in explaining and arguing the nuances of difficult doctrines. Yet their conduct bears little resemblance to the truth they so eloquently champion with their lips.

Talkative is satisfied that he can make the journey with mere knowledge and talk. In the next post will we look further in the Fallacy of Talkative’s thinking.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2016 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.