Two fundamental concepts must be embraced to grasp the profound importance of your thought life. First and foremost, we must understand that humanity's very purpose, our telos, is to engage in worship. It is the most fundamental part of our existence, for we were created to worship. In this perspective, worship emerges as the most critical activity we can undertake, for it is the only thing we do that has eternal consequences.
Secondly, it's crucial to recognize that our thoughts serve as the stage for our worship. They are the canvas upon which genuine worship can unfold. Think of your life as a theatrical production, with true worship occurring when you perform solely for one audience member — God. Unfortunately, our acts of worship often become tainted because we find ourselves driven by motivations beyond the desire to please God. We shift our focus toward gaining approval from others. We are performing for someone other than God.
However, in the realm of your thoughts, you find yourself free from the sway of these external motivations. Inside your thoughts, there exists but one spectator — God. It is a setting where you can worship God untouched by the influence of other motivations. Here, in this private sanctuary of your thoughts, you don't don masks or stage a performance to win the approval of others.
When you combine these two principles, your purpose as worshipping God and your thoughts as a pure setting for this worship, the significance of your thoughts becomes apparent. Your thoughts are one of the rare domains where you can engage in the purest form of the very act for which you were created.
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The Dangers of Distraction
Nonetheless, we often squander this opportunity. Ironically, it's precisely because your thoughts provide a space for pure worship that we frequently choose to do anything but worship. In the absence of external scrutiny, we may indulge in hateful, sexually explicit and angry thoughts.
Continuing to regard your thought life as a sanctuary for worship, you can perceive abstract concepts, imaginative scenarios and personal goals as instruments in your worship. The Bible, with its rich imagery and concepts, provides the finest instruments. Filling your mind with biblical images and concepts allows you to worship through your thoughts.
Regrettably, we often fail to use our thoughts for worship as we fill our minds with anything but the Bible. It is vital to exercise caution regarding what you allow into your thought life. Think of your mind as a sacred sanctuary requiring protection. This protection includes guarding against explicit images and vulgar words. Yet, to truly guard your thought life, you must be on the lookout for more subtle influences.
Often, the most destructive influences enter through seemingly innocent movies and books. The goal of every story is to teach you a moral. Stories often portray moralities as beautiful or ugly, subtly influencing us without our awareness. They are potent tools for shaping our aspirations, presenting some as beautiful and others as unsightly. When I say "businessman," what comes to your mind? Is it an evil capitalist who seeks only wealth and is willing to destroy anything that gets in his way? Where did you get that picture from?
Meditating on the Word
Instead of allowing these stories to dictate your goals and morality, focus on materials that aid you in worshipping with your thought life. Rather than these secular stories, turn to the scriptures. The Bible is full of beautiful narratives with compelling heroes. Theologians often refer to these narratives as "historical parables" because they are historically accurate and impart moral truths and commendable goals.
The Bible, however, doesn't just provide captivating stories. It invites you to be an active part of God’s unfolding story. To be a part of the story, model yourself after the heroes who have come before you. Immerse yourself in the biblical narratives, allowing them to mold your thoughts and aspirations. When your mind wanders in thought, what stories or ideas are you meditating upon?
Moreover, the Bible presents narratives and abstract moral and metaphysical principles. It encourages the contemplation of these principles. For instance, consider the sixth commandment: "You shall not murder," (Exodus 20:13). The Bible urges us not only to abstain from murder but also to reflect upon why this prohibition exists, the value of human life and its connection to the image of God. Likewise, the incarnation of Jesus prompts profound reflections. When we engage in such contemplation, we are actively engaged in worship.
With all this in mind, it is essential to prioritize your thought life and set aside moments of solitude. In our modern world, electronic devices have diminished the once-prevalent opportunities for solitude and contemplation. Instead of carving out time for reflection, we fill these moments with podcasts and music. Instead of using solitude to be active in our thought life, we become passive in our media consumption. We become passive thinkers, constantly consuming ideas but never producing our own. In the past, we used to be forced to be alone with our thoughts. Today, we always have the option of plugging into our devices and turning off our minds.
Moving Forward Worshipping God
In conclusion, consider Psalm 1, where the man who meditates on the law of the Lord is blessed. The psalmist employs vivid imagery to illustrate the blessings of contemplating the divine law. A thought life dedicated to worship transforms your practical existence, leading to righteousness and blessing. The psalmist is teaching us the man who uses his thoughts to worship God will be blessed. We will be blessed because we are doing the very thing we were made for.
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Approved by faculty for the College of Theology on Sept. 27, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.