“So, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on bedrock. The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the winds blew and beat against that house, but it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the wind blew and beat against that house, and it collapsed — and its collapse was horrendous!” (Matthew 7:24-27 CJB)
The scripture above is the conclusion to Jesus’s revolutionary speech known as “The Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7). As he spoke, Jesus challenged the common teachings of his day, replacing rules with mindset shifts — a paradigm overhaul for his listeners and even for us today. Many of us have heard the Sermon on the Mount again and again, but haven’t effectively let it seep through the cracks and change us on the inside.
What does it mean to be meek? What does it mean to be pure in heart? Why are we blessed when we are persecuted?
I don’t pretend to know the meaning of everything Jesus said in this radical speech, but when I examine the text it seems he was giving us a new way to think about life. I call this mindset. You and I have mindsets that determine how we operate in the world, because they determine how we see the world and how we understand truth. Frequently, we hold unconscious mindsets based on our culture and what we have been taught.
Fortunately, you can develop your mindset over time by thinking about why you do what you do and building your understanding of reality on truth. This is a proven method; in fact, a very effective psychotherapy approach called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on creating mindset shifts by replacing lies with truth. This helps people with depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges restructure their brains to help them live with purpose and joy. In a similar way, I see the Holy Spirit doing this work in my life, building truth upon truth as my heart is ready for it. It comes in the form of epiphany and conviction, and through the wisdom of others. If I am willing and prepared (ready soil), the foundation can be poured upon which I’ll build my life and legacy.
In my mind, mindset is closely tied to purpose. The way we see our existence, whether it is to some meaningful end or not, will affect the choices we make and the ideas we affirm in our day to day life. What we believe about the world and ourselves will become apparent through our actions. So our thoughts, the beliefs behind what we say and do, are crucially important to living a life of integrity.
Here’s one example of a mindset shift that has changed my life, and as a result impacts the way I write about God: we’re no longer sinners, but sons. Those of us who accept Yeshua as the Messiah have been made new, not to a life of indulgence and sin, but to a life of joy in living out the will of God. We know his will because we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2) and we are called precious and beloved. As I have tried to live more and more in this framework, of being loved rather than condemned, I’ve grown in hope and freedom while being further challenged to become like Christ. Depression, though a persistent devil, is kept at bay when I remember with gratitude how I am loved by God. I read the Bible through this framework and see its beautiful truth, like flowers springing up everywhere. Changing my mindset of fear, shame and condemnation has led to incredible growth, freedom and joy in my life and has shaped my purpose.
I have a challenge for you this week: Read Matthew 5-7 with fresh eyes. Ask Holy Spirit to point things out to you that you have never noticed before. If you’re interested in a simple book on the sermon, I highly recommend What if Jesus Was Serious? by Skye Jethani. It’s a quick read with some impactful thoughts, to help you on your journey of forming a firm thought-foundation for your life.