By Roland W. Keith
According to the dictionary mind is: “the element or complex elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons.” As a Christian concerned with the existence and effects of good and evil, I am most concerned with the last three elements of this definition. What one thinks. What one wills. And, how one reasons. Is our view of good or evil a construct or concept of our own mind? Do we “will” certain things to be true because of personal feelings on a matter? Or, do we use facts and logic to come to a reasoned understanding (truth)? In some religions and philosophies if you define what is good then evil ceases to exist, or neither exists. There are only shades of behavior— some more beneficial and desirable, some more detrimental and less desirable. In these views good or evil are simply judgments made and are defined only by the one doing the judging. What you may determine to be acceptable behavior, I may judge to be wrong, and vice versa. An example of this sort of reasoning is on full display in our society today in the disagreement on abortion. I say disagreement and not debate because we cannot debate someone who has willfully determined that abortion is acceptable and has thrown scientific fact, spiritual discernment, and reason out the window.
As a Christian I accept what science has actually proven. I do not have to accept scientific speculation as fact or the opinion of someone simply because they are a scientist. Less so am I compelled to conform to social mores that are contrary to God’s word. In fact, all true knowledge, whether it is scientific or not, begins and ends with God. Paul wrote, “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” (I Corinthians 2:16). We have much to learn from God, but nothing we can inform Him of. Nor do we have the right to change or override His word or will. Good and evil do exist because God says they do: “Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:22. Ultimately, sin is born of pride and self-seeking which drives men to deny or turn their backs on God (Proverbs 8:13; Romans 2:8-9; II Chronicles 29:6; Isaiah 32:6; John 3:18-20). On the one hand we have the will of God and on the other the mind and free will of man.
In Deuteronomy 30:15-18 Moses told the Israelites, “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in His ways, and by keeping His commandments and His statutes and His rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you… But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.” Good and evil, spiritual life and death are things we choose for ourselves of our own free will. Jesus asked a group of scribes, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4). They were not born with evil in their hearts— their thoughts were their own. Nor are we born evil. We are born with free will into a world that is drowning in sin— our propensities for good and evil are at war with one another, which of the two we choose is up to us.
Paul, who was well acquainted with the will of man, wrote, “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” (Romans 7:18-19). There is an old Cherokee parable about a man teaching his grandson about life: “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
When we seek the good, we bring forth what is good and when we seek evil, we produce evil (Matthew 12:35). Whether we are talking about an individual or an entire society we become what we seek. And, for those who know to do good and do not do it, or who allow evil to go unchallenged, it is sin (James 4:17). If we do not seek the Lord, or convince ourselves that the ways of the world are not so bad then gradually we will become one with the world and our thoughts and actions will reflect that (II Chronicles 12:14; Genesis 6:5; Romans 1:30; Mark 7:21, 23). If we want to overcome or change the world, we must do good (Romans 12:9, 21; Deuteronomy 12:28). As Paul attested it is not always easy, but if we are diligent seekers of truth and focus on the Lord’s guidance we will succeed. Solomon once wrote, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life… Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil” (Proverbs 4:23, 26-27).
All most every generation has bemoaned the perils of the times. This is because Satan and sin are ever present in the world. The devil is tirelessly seeking to deceive the world, including God’s elect (II Corinthians 11:4). As Paul noted the world has been blinded to the truth (II Corinthians 4:3, 4), and the people have become “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Ephesians 4:18). Those whose minds are still open to the truth and have had their spirits renewed by the secret wisdom of God are the fortunate ones (Ephesians 4:17-24; I Corinthians 2:6-7, 13). Such were each of us who bear the name of Christ. As such we should come together in prayer and fellowship to achieve greater wisdom for ourselves and one another; with due concern for our Christian growth, we should be actively safeguarding our salvation with all vigilance (James 1:5; Ephesians 1:16-17; Philippians 2:12; Colossians 2:2-3).
When our minds are centered on Christ and we remain bound together Satan cannot defeat us. To the Colossians Paul wrote, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (3:1-4). If we refuse to be conformed to the world and seek God’s council, He will guard our hearts and minds and together we can and will overcome the world (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 4:22-25; Philippians 4:5-7). Chances are, if you have been a member of the church for very long, you have heard someone proclaim that we are not citizens of this world, merely sojourners passing through. There is much to be said for that mindset. It helps us to put our fleshly existence into perspective with our spiritual nature. Paul wrote, “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. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:5-9).
Those who belong to the Lord do not live outside the world, so long as we are in the flesh, we just don’t live for worldly things (Matthew 6:21). We look outside ourselves for the true treasure of life and in so doing find ourselves concerned with the spiritual welfare of others as well (Philippians 2:4). Since we cannot conform to the world and the world hates those who refuse to submit to it, we find ourselves at war with its god. As soon as our mind grasps the possibilities the gospel offers us, we find it in peril. The world will entice us, berate us, threaten us, condemn us, even seek to destroy us if we take a stand for Christ. Even as sin wages a war for our minds (Romans 7:23), Satan, through the world, devises plans to devour our very souls (I Peter 5:8). Nonetheless, so long as we trust in the Lord Satan’s efforts are in vain. We have all the necessary tools and weapons that we need to defeat him.
Paul encouraged the Ephesians with these words: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:10-13). We too can stand firm against the perils that confront our minds, bodies, and souls. We can do so by our faith in Jesus Christ. In him we are more than a match for Satan and the world. For those who remain true to Christ and do God’s will Christ says, “come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.