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Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.

My younger brothers and sisters in the faith: I call you today to examine the way you think. I have entitled this article “Mind Games.” There are plenty of them being played today. But what often are called mind games are not games at all In fact, there is a battle being waged today. And that battle is being fought on the battlefield of our own minds.

Have you ever stopped to consider what a wonderful gift God gave you in your mind? When you consider the concept of the mind in the Bible, and particularly in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, you find that the mind is the highest, most noble part of a man’s soul. It is the mind which makes it possible for man to be religious. It is the mind which makes it possible for man to know God, and to recognize his own relation to God consciously and willingly. It is your mind, in other words, which makes you distinct from all other creatures. That mind also marks you as a responsible creature before God.

The Bible speaks often of our minds. It does so with purpose. Our God, who knows us through and through, who knows our every thought, who hears our every word and sees our every action; our God who knows that we are flesh, to use the language of Scripture, also knows that the devil is constantly playing mind games with us. That master deceiver does that through many means, because he knows that if we are not living out of Christ, and if we do not exercise the mind of Christ, he can easily get us to exercise a wrong style of thinking, that plays right into his hand, so to speak.

Mind games take on many different forms. Let me mention just one concrete example.

About a hundred years ago there was a Russian physiologist by the name of Pavlov. While studying brain functions, Pavlov happened to notice that his dog began to salivate whenever food was placed in front of him. So Pavlov began to experiment. Whenever he put food under the dog’s nose, he rang a bell. After a while that dog became conditioned to associate the ringing of the bell with food. Some time later Pavlov pulled a fast one on the dog. He just rang the bell; no food. The dog was so used to hearing the bell and equating it with food that he salivated anyway. Pavlov gave this a name: conditioned reflex. He concluded that all mental activity depends upon a chain of conditioned reflexes and responses. Now that conclusion certainly is open to criticism, and is not true of all mental activity. But when you consider his hypothesis, you will find that there is an element of truth there that calls for further examination.

You wonder what Pavlov and his dog have to do with your mind? His theory has been frequently applied to you directly and to your way of thinking. Prior to my call to pursue the ministry, I was studying business management and marketing at Western Michigan University. In an advertising class the underlying theory was this-and I apply it to you young people: “We have to create a mentality among you that causes you to salivate when we ring your chimes.” (Do you recognize Pavlov’s theory?) So what do the advertisers do? They hit you with certain advertising schemes frequently enough that all you do is see certain things or hear certain words or music and you automatically respond. In other words, they try to get you to lay aside your thinking processes and become little more than one huge, exposed nerve-ending that can be manipulated by their sensory stimuli.

One of the major advertising agencies in the world in the years that I was in college – Doyle, Daine, Burnbach – published a book entitled A Study of Youth. It was not a book written for the general public. It was written for the advertising profession. The purpose of the book was this: To explore how to get youth not to think, but just to buy the manufacturers’ product. And do you know what? They are pretty effective at playing those mind games with you! That is why some of you go out and buy things that you do not need, with money that is God’s and not yours, at a price that is absolutely ridiculous, to attain a certain status. If you sat down and really thought about it, you would realize how foolish it is. But you do it. You know you do; and not only you as young people, but we all do so to a greater or lesser degree. Do not think for a moment that a shoe manufacturer would pay Michael Jordan millions of dollars, and spend more millions for television spots, unless he has good reason to believe that that could influence you to buy NIKES. Let me tell you something: If a brewery or a car manufacturer is going to spend mega bucks to play mind games with you, you had better believe they are playing hard to ring your chimes. And the area of economics is only one small area where people are trying to play games with your mind.

The devil is constantly playing mind games with you. You had better be aware of his attacks. He knows that our minds, which were created by God beautiful and good, have been corrupted by sin. In the providence of God, you belong to those who have come under the means of grace and have been instructed in a different mind set. And to you who believe, God says that He has given you a spiritual mind, the mind of the Spirit of Christ, by which you know all things (I John 2:20). That does not mean that you naturally know all things spiritual, that you naturally know the truth. But it means that God has given you the mind of Christ, so that by the testimony of the Spirit through the Scriptures you know the truth and you discern the lie. But the fact remains that we carry with us in our old sinful natures the mind of the old man which tries to shut God out and which is very open to the influence of those who would play mind games with us. And by many means and through many people, the devil would keep you from applying to your thought processes the Christian principles in which you have been instructed.

The question to you, therefore, is a personal one: How do you use your mind? Do you use your mind in such a way that you know that you belong to Jesus Christ? InRomans 8:5, 6, we read, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Do you see how important is a right mind and the right use of the mind?

The devil so twists the mind, that young men and young women freely give themselves over to the pleasure madness of this world with all its corruption. The devil so attacks your minds, that he will try to get you to believe that your relationships with other individuals (peers) are more important than your personal and experiential relationship with God. Do you think that you can have a relationship of friendship with someone who is not committed to Jesus Christ and to the truth of God and still honor Christ? You are not in your right mind! Do you think that you can spend time partying with drunken young men and women and with fornicators, and yet avoid harming yourself spiritually? You are not in your right mind! Do you think that you can sit in front of the television and watch the filth that is readily accessible to you, and that you can serve Christ by doing so? I say, the devil has twisted your thinking!

I thank God that He has gifted many of you, I hope most of you, with the mind of Christ. What I am concerned about is that you put that mind of Christ to work and do not be a Pavlov’s dog who salivates with lust and covetousness every time your chimes are rung.

Hear the Word of God in Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

The inspired apostle speaks of “the renewing of your mind.” That reference is to something spiritual. Your mind is renewed when, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the truth of Scripture is laid hold of and believed and practiced, so as to replace the error and ignorance that once prevailed. That renewal must take place daily and you must grow in that. The apostle is saying, “Let your mind determine what shall be your walk.” Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Perhaps you are thinking, “Yes, but. . . .” The powers of darkness are at work even now trying to influence your thinking. “Yes, but then I must practically go out of the world!” Start walking. Not a single person speaking truthfully ever said that commitment to Christ is easy. Maybe you say, “But then I will lose my name, my friends.” Lose them. If your “friends” are given over to the mind games of Satan, they are the wrong kind of friends for you. He who would be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4). Maybe you are thinking, “But I might have to die then, if I walk so narrowly.” Die then. There is no other way. Jesus said in Matthew 16:25, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Turn that over in your mind.

That renewal of our minds requires that the will of God becomes a living reality to our consciousness and conviction. And that means that we must live out of the Scriptures. A lot of so-called or self-named Christians are frustrated because they are running around looking for something that they will never find. For God’s will does not drop out of the sky like a brick with a note attached. Knowing God’s will is a matter of commitment to fellowship with Him, and a matter of the development of your mind in relationship to the scriptures.

The apostle Paul gives the inspired instruction inPhilippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” He is not saying, “Incidentally, if you do not have anything else to do, think about a few of these things.” He is saying, This is the direction in which you need to direct your mental activity. “Let this mind be in you, which ‘was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). And the God of peace shall be with you.