God’s Thinking vs Man’s Thinking

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What are you thinking right now?

Perhaps it’s best that I don’t know! Our minds are full of thoughts, our internal voice is often chatting away, meditating on the things that have gone, the things that are still to come, some of you might even be thinking about what I’m saying, but I know how easy it is for our mind to wander!

But the real question is how are we thinking? Are we thinking like man or are we thinking like God? Of course, that’s if it’s even possible to think like the creator of the heavens and the earth!
As always we will be using our Bibles to find the answers to our questions, because that’s where God reveals his mind to us.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9)





I’d like you to keep this passage in our minds as we look at our topic. It’s pretty clear that our thoughts are on a completely different plane to God’s, there is this huge gulf between us and God, we naturally think differently to God, but why is that? How is our thinking different to God’s thinking? Understanding this concept is one of the most important things we can do in our lives because it will naturally lead us in the right direction.

As often the case, the best place to start looking for answers is at the beginning. Turn your Bible to Genesis 3, where we read of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, who were given one commandment by God which was to not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1)

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. (Gen 3:4)

This was a lie, a big lie, as God had said earlier they would die if they ate the fruit he had told them not to eat. God has told us that if we break his commandments then there will be severe consequences and we will die. So for breaking his commandment there was punishment for Adam and Eve, all of mankind, and the serpent, and here is where the struggle between good and evil begins. There is going to be this constant struggle between the nature of man and the nature of God, with man naturally prone to sin and God unable to tolerate sin you can see how this conflict arises.

The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen 3:14-15)

The word enmity means hatred or opposition, and what we find is a simple hatred or opposition between those that behave like the serpent and the seed of the woman, which here is ultimately the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the perfect example of someone who put the mind of God into action, and in our reading, Paul uses the phrase “the mind of Christ”. Those who have the mind of Christ will be in constant opposition with the way of the serpent.

In Matthew 3, John the Baptist while addressing the Pharisees and the Sadducees, he calls them a brood of vipers. In Matthew 23, Jesus calls the Scribes and Pharisees, serpents and a brood of vipers, they obviously weren’t snakes, but in other words they were behaving like the serpent, or the offspring of the serpent that was to bruise the offspring of the woman. This serpentine thinking is used often throughout the Bible as a symbol of sin and helps us to understand that wanting to do the things of the serpent is natural thinking.

So we have God’s way of thinking, and this snakelike way of thinking, and there is this battle between the two. Man naturally will think like the serpent, not like God. Paul uses this symbol and describes it as carnal thinking, our word carnal is derived from the Latin word for flesh. It’s this kind of animal thinking that man will naturally tend towards; an animal thinks of not much more than reproducing, where its next meal will come from, and perhaps some play; if you have pets like cats or dogs you’ll understand.

That also pretty much sums up some humans, but God has made mankind differently because he has given them the ability to rise above basic animal thoughts and lift up our minds to higher things. God has given us the ability to think on spiritual things, the things that God wants us to consider, and there is the difference, this natural desire to think like an animal but with the ability to overcome that natural fleshly way of thinking. How do we even start to overcome our natural thinking though? It does come naturally to us after all. Paul wrote of that very problem.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Rom 7:14-25)

This is a great description of the battle that goes on within our own bodies, the natural thinking of man at war with the thinking of God. If we let the mind of God enter into our lives then it will begin to push out the things that we naturally want to do. We have to understand that God’s ways are very different to our own natural ways and the ways of God won’t just happen within us because they are simply not in our nature.

We see a good illustration of the two types of thinking in Genesis 4 and the example of Cain and Abel.

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. (Gen 4:3-5)

To understand why God liked Abel’s offering but not Cain’s we have to go back a chapter.

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.(Gen 3:21)

God made coats of animal skins for Adam and Eve, God was showing man how he wanted worship to be done and what was acceptable to him, and this was even mentioned in the New Testament even though it happened thousands of years before.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. (Heb 11:4)

Here God is telling us that there is a specific way to come to him, and that was through the sacrifice of animals, until the sacrifice of Christ that is, which was the perfect sacrifice once and for all. Abel applies that godly thinking and presents God with an acceptable sacrifice; while Cain does what he thinks is best and applies his human thinking. We then see a graphic example of the enmity that exists between the two types of thinking, with Cain rising up and slaying his brother.

Even the whole concept of man’s thinking is twisted by man’s thinking. We are constantly taught by the world that there are good people with a few bad people thrown in, but man is basically good; that is opposite to what the Bible tells us. Look at this verse from the prophecy of Jeremiah…

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?(Jer 17:9)

Man thinks that the heart is generally good and sometimes it goes bad, but that’s the opposite to what God says. We have to have the basic understanding that the Bible clearly tells us that man is not basically good, but rather man is bad. That might sound a bit depressing, God is saying that we are not good, but there is a reason why he wants us to understand that.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1Co 2:12-16)

What God says is true, the natural mind is naturally very separate from God and God’s ideas are alien to man, the natural man is not able to understand them because only the spiritual mind can make any sense of them.

The development of a spiritual mind is not something that can happen overnight. Thinking like God is not natural. In much the same way you won’t learn to play the piano, or drive a car, or learn to read overnight, it takes time and it takes guidance from someone who knows what they are doing to show you. It’s only by allowing God to show us his spiritual mind and the constant application of his ways will we begin to develop a spiritual mind and affect the natural way of thinking. We can do this by reading the Bible, absorbing the words of God, and thinking upon the man who is described as the word made flesh, that of course is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. We need to think about what he said, what he did, how he acted, and how everything thing he did was all about his Father in heaven. Every single thing he did or said was declaring his Father, he put God’s thinking within himself, as God breathed out his word, Jesus breathed it all in.

The knowledge of worldly things is no use to us in understanding the things of God and it is only by reading and absorbing the word of God that we develop a spiritual mind able to understand all the things freely given to us by God. It’s only by having the mind of Christ (who had the mind of his Father), will we overcome the fleshly person and become that spiritual person, and how do we know if we are putting God’s word into our minds?

Galatians 5 shows us how we can judge whether our thinking is that of men or God’s.

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:17-23)

There are nine virtues called the fruit of the spirit, and 15 bad things, or 17 in the KJV. If we are of a spiritual mind then those good things are what we will do naturally, and if we have the mind of the natural man then we will be doing the bad things naturally. We should hopefully see that spiritual mind in action. We don’t do those good works to gain a spiritual mind, we do them because we already have a spiritual mind.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Rom 8:5)

Where do we put our time and energy? Do we spend more time thinking about the things of the flesh, or do we spend more time on God’s word and the application of it in our lives? Whatever you do, it will be seen by your fruit, whether it be the fruit of the spirit, or the fruit of the flesh. Where we get into difficulties though is when we think it is okay to mix the two, for they cannot live together in harmony, they are opposite to each other. We’ve already said that there is an enmity between them. We have to put in a lot of spiritual to overcome the natural flesh.

One of the most difficult things to overcome with man’s thinking is being stuck in the present, rather than thinking like God and thinking beyond to the future kingdom. We can get stuck with all the human activities that take up our time, the lusts and pleasures of the world. We can get bogged down with trying to acquire possessions, or money, or worldly status.

For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (1Ti 6:7-8)

That’s completely opposite to worldly thinking. The world bombards us with marketing telling us that unless we have the newest, the biggest and the best we will never be happy. But God says,

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Mat 6:33)

Seek the kingdom of God first, not second, and then whatever else is deemed necessary will be added.

We can really see the difference between the mind of God and the mind of man here. The natural eyes of man see a beautiful Ferrari or Lamborghini, it sees a magnificent mansion, it sees a high flying executive job with an office at the top of a wonderful skyscraper, it sees endless holidays on a hot sunny Mediterranean beach. I’m sure you can think of many other things too.

Do you know what the spiritual eyes see?

Nothing.

That’s right. Nothing.

As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2Co 4:18)

The spiritual mind sees nothing in this world. That’s because the spiritual mind doesn’t look to the things of this world, but to the things that can’t be seen. No-one here has seen God, or Jesus or the kingdom, no-one knows what they look like, yet the spiritual mind believes that God exists and that His son Jesus will return to the earth to set up his Father’s kingdom. We have never seen them but the spiritual mind knows they are real.

The flesh says that all the things we see around us are real, it only believes in the things it can see. The spiritual mind says the things that we can’t see are real.

So, how do we think like God?

By walking in the spirit, by reading God’s word and studying it, and spending time with other people who are studying it. When we do this the spiritual seed will grow within us, we will start to recognise the natural thinking within us and that seed will grow and produce fruit.

We are very much like a house plant. After the seed is planted in the soil, at first it will do nothing, but when start to read God’s word it’s like pouring water into that pot. The seed starts to grow and develop. But we must keep pouring the water or the Word of God onto that seedling to keep it growing. It’s that water that helps us to grow, and without it we will die, but keep on watering little and often and the seedling will become a fruit bearing plant, water too much and the excess will run off and be wasted. Developing a spiritual mind doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and patience, you can’t pour the whole Word of God over someone and expect them to absorb it all at once!

However, we can’t take any credit for any of the good fruit that we produce because it comes from God, it’s by taking in that Word of God we develop a spiritual mind and bear fruit. I’m sure you’ve all experienced the joy of looking after a potted plant at home, and if you’ve remembered to water it, watching it produce its lovely flowers or fruit. It wasn’t the plant’s choice to produce that fruit, it had no say in the matter, you giving it water made it bear fruit, all the plant had to do was be willing to absorb that water through its roots and then it will naturally grow towards the light. The same is true with us, we have to be willing to absorb the Word of God and let it help us grow.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jer 17:7-8)

This is a very powerful image, for the man who drinks continuously from the Word of God will have nothing to fear, when things get difficult in life that water will keep the tree healthy and bearing fruit, but all the tree had to do was search out the water, the rest came naturally.

When Jesus was called good teacher, he replied, “Why do you call me good? No-one is good except God alone”. Jesus gave his Father the credit due because the Word of God came from God and Jesus allowed himself to be filled with it. Jesus was a vessel for God’s word, and it was that word that made him think like his Father, not the nature of Jesus himself for he was given the same nature as we are.

To develop and bear the fruit of the spirit we must seek the guidance of God and drink from the spiritual well of God’s word. Jesus tells us the same in the New Testament.

But whoever drinks of the water that I [Jesus] will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Joh 4:14)

That’s what Jesus had promised to those who follow him and think like him.

Finally come back to our opening verse that we looked at, the one I asked you to keep in mind throughout this talk.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9)

We have discovered that our ways are indeed not God’s ways, they are certainly higher than our thoughts, and there is no way that God will come down to our level. However we have also discovered that although we can’t change the nature of the flesh, we can leave our natural ways of thinking behind but only if we let God’s Word permeate through our minds so that his ways of thinking take over. So let us allow the Word of God to water our minds and allow it to work in our lives to help us grow in our spiritual thinking and put on the mind of Christ.

2 thoughts on “God’s Thinking vs Man’s Thinking

  • 25th August 2016 at 3:00 am
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    The Q Re “how does God think” is adequately defined by combining your thoughts, and the inspired Word of God, as presented to us by the prophets, and interpreted to the original witnesses, the apostles of Jesus Christ, by him.

    The OT is an example of how the mind of man misinterpreted the mind of God by the continued practice of the “chosen” people of God thinking not like God thinks. Man cannot save himself because of how he thinks, only God’s thinking can save him! The gift of God to man, is his grace, “…the mind of Christ!”

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  • 25th August 2016 at 3:47 am
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    The Apostles of Jesus Christ learned to properly interpret the OT by applying the mind of Christ to all that he taught them. Jesus fulfilled the way God thinks by being the manifestation of his thinking. What the Apostles witnessed was the mind of God acting through his “…only Son, born of a virgin, begotten, not made…”

    Jesus is the mind of God made flesh! The flesh was sacrificed as an atonement for sin, but his mind lives in those who accept the teaching of the Apostles who witnessed this great event of the mind of God made flesh who dwelt among them as the “son of man” and opened their minds and hearts to the sanctifying action of his Spirit acting in them with his authority and blessing to transmit the mind of God to the world.

    Reply

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