Battle for the Mind
The Three Elements in the Battle of the Mind
The Three Elements in the Battle of the Mind
If you have your Bibles let’s go ahead and turn to Acts 14:1-7;
1 In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks. 2 But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren. 3 Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands. 4 But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. 5 And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region; 7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.
Acts 13 spelled out for us Paul’s practice of going to the synagogue and preaching the gospel to the Jews and the gentiles alike. Luke laid out for us the details of how Paul accomplished this and also how the people reacted. As we come to chapter 14 we don’t find the same detail but what we do find is the pattern of Paul going to the synagogue preaching the gospel and people coming to saving faith. We also will find that the gospel, the word of the Lord polarizes people everywhere the gospel is preached. In Iconium it is no different.
In verses 1-2 we find that “they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and Greeks.”
Not being able to do anymore in Pisidian Antioch the apostles move on to another region, Iconium. As they enter this region we find they continue in the same pattern as in Pisidian Antioch. They go to the synagogue to proclaim the gospel message there and while there, ‘a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks.’ This message is resonating with the people and they are trusting in the gospel. The problem arises with those who don’t believe. They try to stir the people up against the brethren.
They stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them,’ this doesn’t spell out exactly what they were saying but no matter what it was doesn’t matter the issue lies in the motive behind it and what the preaching of the gospel really is, it is a battle for the ‘mind’ as this text interprets it or even the soul. This is exactly what the issue is when it comes to proclaiming the true gospel message and this is why it is so urgent, because it is a battle for the mind, and the soul.
We are going out into a battlefield and the battlefield is not one where we always see the enemy but where the enemy is one that attacks when we are not looking and the battle is one for the mind and the soul. R.C. Sproul understood this. He was saved in college and he wanted to be a college professor because he wanted to be able to shape the minds and souls of young people in the things of God. We need to look at this when we are out sharing the truth of Scripture with people that it is a battle of the mind. The Jews in Iconium were hearing the gospel message being proclaimed it as we looked last week it was a message that included the Gentiles by faith alone. The Jewish elite didn’t like this so they did whatever it took to turn the gentiles away from this truth. They would poison their minds against the truth. We don’t know what the poison was but it turned some gentiles some Greeks against the message of the gospel.
So how do we deal with this, what do we need to know as we are going out into the battlefield so that we can stand firm for the truth and be able to go into this combat with a polarizing gospel message.
First Know the Enemy
First Know the Enemy
In verse 2 we see, “the Jews who disbelieved,” this has the meaning of fixing themselves on disobedience. They hear the truth of the gospel and they reject the truth of the gospel and fix themselves on trusting in the lies of the world and rejecting the truth that will actually set them free from their bondage to the lies. They are fixed on their own exaltation and not the exaltation of God. So in the same way the Jewish elite stirred up the people to put Jesus to death on the cross these people about a decade later are doing the same thing when the gospel came to this city. They do not want to see the gentiles trusting in this truth and so they are fixed on poisoning their minds.
This is the problem the enemy is spewing poison. I can’t tell you what the poison was these Jewish elite were spewing. It could very well be they were teaching they need to go through the Jewish rituals, it could have been they were using their own beliefs against the apostles. We don’t know but whatever it was it was effective.
The thing is there is a lot in the world that can poison the minds of the people against the things of God. There is legalism, there is the idea that you will give up all of the fun things in life, there are even things like media that twist the Scripture to suite their needs and when you try to share the truth of God’s word with people their minds have been so poisoned that they believe the lies of the world and tell you what you believe is a lie. The enemy is out there to turn the minds of the people away from the truth.
Know this when it comes to the enemy who is poisoning the minds of these people, they have no intentions on helping these people. The enemy is all about themselves. It is all about control, control the minds of the people and controlling them with lies disguised in half-truths, which are just lies.
Satan did this in the Garden when he tempted Eve. He tried this in the wilderness when he tempted Jesus. John tells us what this is that we are poisoned with.
1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’ ” 5 And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’ ” 9 And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’ 11 and, ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’ ” 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.
Second Speak Boldly
Second Speak Boldly
Since this has become a battle of the mind and soul and those who disobey are stirring up the Gentiles against the believers, the apostles take their stand against the Jews. The way they take there stand is to speak our boldly to the Lord who was the One who testified to His Own grace through the granting of signs and wonders that were performed by the apostles. The signs and wonders were for the purpose, as it has been all along, of testifying to God’s word and His grace. It has never been to confuse but to glorify God. There was such a powerful influence from the wicked that even the testimony of the Lord was drawing people to Himself but it still caused a strong division between the people. Some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. There wasn’t a third group there was only two, the unbelievers and the believers. They either trusted in Christ or they didn’t. That is what this text is teaching and that is what we encounter today, either people are believers or not. Either they are drawing you to Christ or they are luring you away. Be careful what has your mind and your soul, either Christ is in control or Satan.
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Paul follows this instruction with this
1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Paul wants Timothy to speak boldly in the midst of the those who are poisoning the minds of the unbelievers and believers alike. This is why it is so important when it comes to the truth of God’s word and the doctrines of His word we know them and we don’t let the world turn us away from the truth.
We need to know the enemy we need to speak out boldly and we also need to know when it is time to move on, not give up on the truth but know when the battle is over.
Third Know when to Move On
Third Know when to Move On
This battle for the mind was becoming very intense, so much so that there was a plot concocted to bring the apostle to a bitter end, through stoning. The plot involved the gentiles, and the Jews and it was similar to what Paul did to Stephen. The apostles caught wind of this plot and they fled. This seems contradictory when it comes to telling people to face persecution and give the gospel even in the face of death. This, however, is not a contradiction. They didn’t stop giving the gospel and that is what is meant by speak the truth even in the midst of persecution, verse 7 provides this truth. They fled so they could continue to proclaim the truth. They also fled in the same manner they fled Pisidian Antioch. This has more to do with not casting your pearls to swine. If people aren’t receptive and they will not respond int faith to the gospel there is only so much you can do. They city was divided so God had saved all He was going to save at that moment in Iconium when the plot was revealed the apostles realized it was time to move on. Sometimes it takes the plot of the wicked to move the righteous along. There are times we want to stay put because of our comfort but the wicked push us out and we move.
Know that they didn’t give up on the gospel but it came to the point that they had proclaimed int to the city to the point that it was divided now it was time to go and proclaim it in other cities also.
When we are moved out because the wicked are against us it doesn’t derail God’s plan. God’s plan is for the faithful to faithfully proclaim the gospel message. There will also be people who are disobedient trying to derail a believer but the believer can’t let the unbeliever or wicked person stop them from serving the Lord. God desires my devotion and my devotion is to Him first and if I am focusing on Him there is nothing man can do to derail me. Just like the apostles moved on and preached the gospel, I will continue to preach the gospel. God wants all of me, mind, body and soul. I must give Him all of me or I will not be able to continue even in the midst of serious and life threatening confrontation. So yes the Christian life is a battle for the mind and so is preaching the gospel, first my mind needs to be focused and determined to serve God and only God. Second, I need to remember that when I preach, or just give the gospel, it is about winning over the mind from the enticement of the wicked who paint this picture of being satisfied now instead of being satisfied for all eternity.
Don’t give up on God and don’t give up on the gospel. Persevere in the truth and fight for Christ. I love what Paul tells Timothy in regard to perseverance.
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.