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Lesson 6: Good Thinking *

Introduction: Have you heard Christians debate "faith" versus "works?" Of course you have. If you don't think this appropriately captures the issue, consider another approach: "righteousness by attitude." Over the years, I have come to believe that faith and works are not alternatives. Rather, they compliment each other. Both arise, I have come to believe, from our attitude. Our lesson this week is about "Good Thinking," which sounds like another term for "attitude." Let' dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can discover on this subject!

  1. Murder

    1. Read Matthew 5:17-19. What is Jesus' attitude towards the Ten Commandments?

      1. What confusion does Jesus predict about His followers and the Ten Commandments? (Jesus predicts His followers will disagree on the importance of keeping the commandments. He tells us that in heaven, those who taught here that keeping the commandments was not important, will not be flying first class on Air Heaven. They might be traveling in the baggage compartment.)

        1. Would it be prudent for us to consider now not simply entering heaven, but our status there? It is, after all, forever! (If you say, "yes," then getting our relationship to the commandments right is important.)

    2. Read Matthew 5:21. Where did you hear this? (Read Exodus 20:13: "You shall not murder.")

    3. Read Matthew 5:22. Is this found anywhere in the Ten Commandments? Since Jesus is God, I'm not going to deny His right to make up a bunch of new rules. But, Jesus started out saying that we should teach people to keep the existing commandments. He did not tell us to make up a bunch of new ones. How do you explain Jesus' words about anger and name-calling?

    4. Read Luke 6:43-45. What is the relationship between the tree and the fruit? (The nature of the tree determines the nature of the fruit.)

      1. Let's apply this to Jesus' statements about murder. Is murder a tree or a fruit?

        1. Is anger a tree or a fruit?

        2. Is name-calling a tree or a fruit?

        3. Is the heart a tree or a fruit? (Jesus is not making up new commandments. He is merely pointing out that evil actions come from an evil heart (an evil attitude). Name-calling and anger come from an evil heart. They are merely the early manifestations of an attitude which can end in murder.)

    5. Read Genesis 4:1-5. Why was Cain unhappy? (God seemed to favor Abel over him.)

      1. Why did God show favoritism? (The inference is that Abel obeyed God by bringing an animal sacrifice.)

        1. Should the type of the sacrifice matter? Doesn't it depend on context and the natural gifts given an individual? Abel raised animals, Cain grew vegetables. Diversity requires that each should sacrifice in a way which is relevant to his gifts, right? (Apparently not.)

    6. Read Genesis 4:6-8. Trace for me the steps that led to murder? (Independence from God's rules, anger, rejection of reproof, and finally, murder.)

      1. Can you see that anger is related to murder?

      2. If you were giving advice to Cain to prevent this fatal problem, what advice would you give?

      3. Look again at Genesis 4:6-7. What advice does God give to avoid the path to murder? (God tells Cain that he must "master" his sinful attitude. Instead of doing whatever Cain thinks is best, he needs to have an attitude of wanting to do what is right in God's sight.)

    7. Let's explore how we can better pursue a right attitude.

  2. Two Paths

    1. Read Proverbs 14:22. What is the important decision we must make to determine the path of our life? (We have two important words, "plot" and "plan." They represent a conscious decision to do good or evil. Thus, the battle against sin in your life begins with your mind - specifically, whether you are planning good or plotting evil for others.)

    2. Read Philippians 4:8. This is a self-test. When you have time to let your mind run free, what is it that you think about?

      1. Do you think about running off with someone else's spouse? Do you think about how unhappy you are compared to others? Do you think about how jealous you are about the success of others? Do you think about how you can undermine someone else?

      2. Do you plan how you can lift the burden of someone else? Do you plan how you can be a blessing to someone?

      3. Or, do you spend your time thinking about how you can improve your own comfort or status in life? (For a number of years, I would routinely fall asleep thinking about how I would convert a commercial bus to a motorhome to live in when I "retired." I would then drive around the United States teaching this lesson and preaching. It was just fun, and I would quickly fall asleep with my plans. How much better it would have been if I had fallen asleep plotting how I could improve the life of someone else, instead of improving a bus.)

      4. What impact does your reading, television viewing and radio listening fit into the direction given us in verse 8? (They have a huge impact on what we think about.)

    3. Read Colossians 3:1-2. Have you thought about retirement? Are you concerned about how much money you will have or how long you will live (which are related questions)? (Unless you are very young, you will have thought of these things.)

      1. Do you know the saying, "I'll sleep/rest/ retire when I'm dead?" We consider this a joke, because almost no one gives detailed though to what it is like when they are dead. What does the writer of Colossians suggest? (We need to spend more time thinking about heaven, not retirement here.)

    4. Read Colossians 3:5 and Colossians 3:12. How do you do this?

      1. Have you ever tried to focus your thoughts on good things? Have you ever tried to watch good (often boring) television and "put to death" the exciting television? How does that work out for you?

      2. Have you ever spent time giving thought to how you can "clothe yourself" with humility? Or, are you mostly trying to avoid being humiliated?

    5. Let's review. We have determined that having a right attitude is the key to pleasing God. We have also learned that acquiring a right attitude is a matter of our choice. We need to focus our minds on "things above," instead of how to satisfy our "earthly nature." This will help us to advance good and not evil.

  3. Holy Spirit Power

    1. Unless you are considerably more righteous than I am (which I hope is true) your television tastes tend towards the exciting and you never spend time figuring out how to be humiliated as opposed to avoiding being humiliated. (By the way, if you object to me equating being humble with being humiliated, your objection is sustained.) If you are like me, you know that focusing your mind on the good is no simple task. Let's turn next to how we can do this. How do we place our thoughts on what is good rather than what is evil?

    2. Read Romans 8:5-9. What does the Bible teach us is the key to right thinking? (First, we get back to this issue of having to make a choice - a choice between what our human nature desires and what the Holy Spirit desires for us. But, once we make the choice, the Bible says (three times!) our minds become "controlled" by the Holy Spirit.)

      1. What is our fate if we fail to ask the Holy Spirit to control our thinking? (Paul, who is the champion of righteousness by faith alone, tells us that if we do not make the right decision about who controls our thoughts, we will suffer eternal death. We cannot have faith, we cannot please God, if our attitude is evil.)

    3. Friend, salvation comes by grace alone. But, choosing to accept grace is an attitude. Will you choose today to ask the Holy Spirit to come in and control your thoughts, so that your attitude (your desire) will be to please God?

  4. Next week: Hope Against Depression.
* Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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