I have thought for some time now that someone should make a movie
about two men engaged in an epic battle with one other. In some ways, it would be like every other movie: the hero and villain would be at war throughout the movie, with the hero having the upper hand at some points, and the villain gaining the upper hand at others. Near the end, the hero would deliver the fatal blow that sends the villain to his doom forever. But the difference in this movie would be that just before the closing credits
begin to roll, the camera would back up from the final battle scene, revealing to the audience that the hero and the villain were one and the same person, fighting atop of a brain inside a man’s head. Fresh from the victory in his mind, we would see the man finally stand up and walk forward to do what’s right. No longer bound by the thoughts that were raging within him, he would finally be free to live the life he was called to live.An audience of such a movie might think that they had been tricked into thinking that the whole battle was “real” for the entire movie, when it was only being played out inside the man’s head. But to those who saw what was taking place at a deeper level, they would realize that what took place inside the man’s head was no less real than what took place after he stood up at the end.
The victory in our mind is often just as critical as a victory in the physical world. In fact, we often need to secure the victory in our mind first before we can secure the victory in the physical world.
There are, however, ways to cover up our true thoughts and feelings with words and actions that make it look like we’ve got it all together on the inside. This kind of activity might deceive men, but it never deceives God. God wants us to win the victory in our minds and in the physical world. When there’s a disconnect between what’s going on inwardly and what’s going on outwardly, God wants us to get to the heart.
Paul addressed this disconnect in his letter to the Romans. The Jews were priding themselves on the outward signs of their faith, like the fact that they were circumcised whereas the Gentiles, or non-Jews, weren’t. But Paul said:
“A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29).
In some ways, the Jews could have seen circumcision as one of the symbols of their salvation. It was a physical sign imprinted on their bodies that they belonged to God, that they were children of a special covenant between God and His people. But Paul said that if their circumcision was external only, then it would only merit praise from men, not from God.
God wanted their circumcision to be a “circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.” Paul said that the Gentiles, who didn’t have the law of God written down for them, would be more honoring to God than the Jews if the Gentiles kept the requirements of the law by doing what’s right. Paul said:
“If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker” (Romans 2:26-27).
This isn’t to say that circumcision and the law was of no value to the Jews, as we’ll find out next time in chapter 3 of Paul’s letter. But it is to say that God wants our inward reality to match up with our outward reality. And when we get to the heart first, the outward actions will flow much more naturally.
I got an email from a friend who is struggling with p..n ogr.phy (I didn’t type out the full word so that this email will get past people’s spam filters). For years, this friend has battled this battle, thinking of himself as an addict. He hasn’t been sure if he will ever break free. Although I believe he can and he will, it’s hard for him to believe it, because of the length and the strength of his battle.
Yet in his most recent email, he said he had just been to a counselor who asked him many in-depth questions about his struggle. After reviewing the situation, the counselor said that he doesn’t think my friend has an addiction and he told my friend several reasons why. This was news to my friend because he’s been feeling like an addict for years! It changed my friend’s thinking about his situation and he’s already had some small victories in his battle since then!
My friend’s actions are beginning to change because he has changed the way he thinks about his problem. He now sees that there’s a possibility that he really can be free from this battle that has dogged him for so long.
God cares about what’s going on inside your brain. He cares about what’s going on inside your heart. And He cares about what you do as a result of what’s going on inside your brain and heart. What happens internally is just as important—and just as real—as what happens externally.
In one of the final scenes of the Harry Potter series, Harry has a fairly surreal experience and talks about it with one of his most trusted mentors. As their conversation comes to a close, Harry asks:
“Tell me one last thing. Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?
His mentor replies:
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?”
Sometimes we think that the thoughts in our head are separate from, and unrelated to, the actions that we take in our lives. We treat the two as different realities. But the truth is that our thoughts influence our actions. Both are real and God cares about both.
God wants you to have the victory on the inside so you can have the victory on the outside.
He doesn’t want you to be obedient just so you can say you have faith in Him. He wants you to have faith in Him so that you can be obedient.
While there can be value in just doing things because you know they’re right, even if you don’t feel like doing them, there’s much more value if what you do on the outside matches up with what you think and feel on the inside. When they match up, you’ll feel better about what you’re doing, others will feel better about what you’re doing, and God will be honored by what you’re doing.
As God said to Samuel when Samuel saw a man that he thought God would choose to be as the king of Israel:
“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7-8).
Ask God to renew your heart and mind this week. Ask Him to reveal anything within you that is improperly motivated, or that seeks for anything other than the good of others and the glory of God. Then, if God reveals anything to you that needs to be changed internally, ask Him for help to know how to change it. Ask Him to remake you from the inside out. Give Him permission to do that work inside you, whatever it takes.
Then, when God is done remaking you on the inside, you’ll be able to stand up, move forward, and do what’s right. No longer bound by the thoughts that were raging inside you, you’ll finally be free to live the life you were called to live!
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for caring about what goes on inside us—our thoughts and feelings—just as much as you care about what we do on the outside. Thank You for the reminder that both are real, and both are really important to You. Fill our minds and hearts with Your will for our lives and help us to believe and act on Your will. We pray that doing so will make an tremendous difference to us and to those around us in the weeks and months and years ahead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.S. I met a great band at a music festival this month and thought you might like to listen to one of their songs, which they graciously shared with me so you could listen to in its entirety for free at the link below. The band is called Fue, and the song is called “Abide in Love,” based on the Song of Solomon. Here’s the link to the song, and the link to their website below that: