Do you like to fill the room with background noise during the day, or do you prefer quiet? I love to keep some sort of entertainment rolling in the background almost all the time. Granny used to keep the TV on for company even though she gazed outside and daydreamed through it all. Background noise was her friend, and it is mine too!
During the day, while I work at our kitchen table, I stream old TV shows from Hulu or Prime. Typically, I choose shows I have already seen dozens of times so I can enjoy the “company” without having to pay much attention to the story line. Lately, I must admit that as much as I enjoy the shows, the commercials are starting to drive me insane. Sure, commercials do not have a reputation for being the main event (except perhaps during the Super Bowl); but, over the last few years, I have come to find them almost completely unbearable. Here are some reasons why:
- Agendas. Commercials are being used to push new ideologies rather than simply marketing products and services.
- Intense repetition. It is difficult watching the same commercials over and over until they start eating away at our brains.
- Lies. If you tell a lie loud enough, long enough, and often enough, it is eventually accepted as truth (hence the intense repetition). If you want to sell your shoes, your phone, or your washing machine, do it; but, do you also have to pump us full of self-serving messages? “You deserve it.” Do I? “You do not need other people. You are a rock star all by yourself.” Nope, afraid not. No one becomes a rockstar alone. And, I am not sure who needs to hear this, but no perfume or cologne is going to make you mysterious and irresistible (though it might make you smell good).
- Music which drives us stark raving mad. Okay, this one might just be a personal preference, but some of the music in these ads makes me feel like I am losing my mind – especially after the forty-fifth time I hear a song in a single afternoon. I am a hundred percent, and I’m only getting better. My mute button has kept me sane.
There is indeed a war for our minds in the media. From ads, to shows, to radio personalities, to social media, to subtle messages in games, to indoctrination in schools, to mandatory work seminars, and the ideology-driven news. Whether we realize it or not, we are certainly in a fight for our mental freedom.
How often do you notice these messages bombarding your mind? These messages are stealth, and those who want to shape our thinking cleverly slip ideas into our minds through unexpected means (for example, the environmental context of a commercial versus what they are selling). We must be on guard against the powers of darkness fighting for control of our minds – or, we will surrender a little of ourselves at a time… until we are mentally enslaved.
“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. (Hebrews 6:12, ESV).
Here are some ideas to fight for your mind’s freedom:
- Turn off the TV. “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me” (Psalm 101:3, ESV). If this sounds preachy, I assure you I am preaching to myself first. I love watching TV. Nothing sounds better after working hard than vegging in front of the tube with my favorite snack and a mindless game on my phone. Not everything on our favorite streaming services is bad, but we must be careful not to become numb to it. We need to notice what we are putting into our minds and decide if it is something which will build us up or tear us down. If it is something which will draw us closer to Christ or push us further from Christ. Even “good” programming can be a stumbling block for the mind. Some of the wisest people out there advise us to turn off our TV for our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
- Open your Bible. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, ESV). Let me be the first to confess that I am tempted to roll my eyes when I hear this advice. Not because it is poor advice – as believers we know God’s Word is important – but because it is advice friends, family, preachers, and teachers have given me all my life. It is tempting to write it off as cliché and move on to self-help books or TED talks. But the crazier this world becomes, the more desperately we need to be filling our minds with truth. We do not read our Bibles to be good little Christians. We read them to transform our minds away from the world (which takes every chance to infiltrate us) and to the Lord. There is nothing more powerful than the Holy Scriptures. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV).
- Listen to your Bible. You can listen to your Bible on an app while you work, travel, or relax. Lately, I fall asleep to someone reading Scripture with soothing music in the background. Even when your mind is on other tasks, keep God’s Word flowing. You will pick up more than you think. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2, ESV).
- Memorize Scripture. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11, ESV). The best way to remember something is to memorize it. We only retain a small portion of what we read. We retain a larger portion of what we study. But, we retain all of what we memorize. In Western culture, the Bible is something we often take for granted. Some homes even have ten or more copies. In addition, we can get it on our phones to look up any verse we want… at any time we want. (Such a blessing!) With that type of availability, memorizing Scripture does not seem like a high priority to many, but we are not guaranteed to have a Bible at our fingertips forever. The day may come when we must rely solely on what we have set to memory. And, in times of temptation or struggle, we can quote those verses we have tucked in our heart. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26, ESV).
- Avoid spending time with people who pull your mind in unhelpful or ungodly directions. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2, ESV). Do you have friends who are a lot of fun, but they encourage you to behave in ways which contradict your faith (e.g., excessive drinking, bad language, off-color joking, gossip, inappropriate entertainment, etc.)? Have you shared your concerns with them, and if so, have they made changes in their behavior – at least in your presence? If not, it is better to distance yourself from these people because who we spend our time with does affect us. We may not notice it at first, but over time the company we keep really does shape us.
- Use the Philippians filter. Years ago, a dear friend of mine shared a lesson she learned in youth group. As a teenager, she had the pleasure of sitting under the teaching of Mark Hall – lead singer of Casting Crowns. He encouraged her to use what he calls the Philippians filter – that is filtering all thoughts through Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8, ESV). When listening to the news, watching a comedian, or even sitting through commercials (seriously, mute those!), filter the messages you hear through this verse. Is what they are saying true? Is it honorable? Pure? Lovely? If not, think on something else. In fact, fill a journal full of true and lovely reflections. Visit that journal when you are struggling with fearful, lustful, or simply unhelpful mental images.
- Stay in communication with the Living Truth. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is the Living Word of God. He literally is the truth. Get to know Him through studying Scripture and communicating with Him – talking to Him and listening to Him. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, ESV). Abide in the vine. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, ESV).
What about your partner? Is your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancée, or spouse guarding his or her mind from outside influences? How does he or she interact with the news? Does it take over? Is staying up to date on current events an obsession? What about entertainment? Are you comfortable with what he or she enjoys watching or listening to? Is your partner interested in filling his or her mind with the goodness of God? Does he or she know more about the culture or about the Bible?
While you are still dating, notice how carefully your significant other guards his or her thought life. The one you marry will impact what you see, hear, and experience. My mother desperately wanted to keep television out of the house when she and my dad got married. Dad agreed, but within the first month he caved and bought a TV. He loved to stretch out and relax in front of the screen just like I do. Even though Mom did not want the TV, what came out of it over the next forty-four years surely impacted her life.
Eric enjoys watching YouTube videos and staying up to date on various news sources. Because we live in the same house, those news sources influence me. There is no way around it without wearing earplugs and refusing to discuss any news with Eric – which is also not realistic.
If you are troubled by what your significant other allows into his or her mind, now is the time to discuss it. Though you should not charge in and demand that he or she make changes, it is good to make your concerns known with solid reasons for your stance (e.g., spiritual shaping, influencing future children, predisposition to fear or depression, etc.).
There is a war raging… and as dramatic as that sounds, it is true. The battle for our minds is a quiet one, stealthily creeping in and catching us off guard. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8, ESV).
Sometimes we feel powerless to keep our minds clear of clutter and junk when so much negativity surrounds us, but because of Christ and the work He did on the cross, we are not powerless. We can have victory over the enemy and keep our minds free from the control of this world.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3, ESV)
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10: 4-6, ESV)
We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way – centered on money or pleasure or ambition – and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown. – C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)
Keep breaking free!!!
Do you feel a constant battle for control of your mind?