Thinking Within

In my last post I referenced the importance of thinking and our imagination. In response a friend posted a comment that included the following, “The importance of a sanctified imagination.” I read this comment and it has been with me for days. In our walk with Jesus our thinking is critical, and is highlighted in Proverbs.

In examining this proverb it is important to compare two versions as when most quote it they refer to how we think in our heart. 

7  For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you. Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)

7  For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you. Proverbs 23:7 (NASB)

The NASB is the more accurate translation. The reference is about our inner thoughts. The word translated as heart in the NKJV is actually the Hebrew nephesh, soul.

Proverbs 23:7 is an important verse that presents an important principle in the context of verses 1-2. The context provides both wisdom and warning, for who of us doesn’t entertain the fantasy of knowing the ‘important’ people? Who would not have his ego ‘stroked’ by their attention? Solomon recognized this.

1  When you sit down to eat with a ruler, Consider carefully what is before you; 2  And put a knife to your throat If you are a man given to appetite. Proverbs 23:1-2 (NKJV)

The phrase ‘given to appetite’ translated more accurately would be ‘ruled/mastered by your soul.’ The word ‘appetite’ is also the Hebrew nephesh, soul. Solomon is saying the degree of control our appetites have over us is connected to how we think. This connection leads us to verse 7 which contains a key idea about the impact of our thought life.

If we focus on a soulish desire to be seen as ‘important’ in the eyes of others we will concentrate on their assessments and this is what we will think about. IF we root our thought life in the renewed and renewing mind of Christ, we will embrace His assessment of us.

The importance of this is found in the word translated ‘thinks’ in verse 7. It is the Hebrew word shāʿar and in addition to referring to our thinking also means to act as a gatekeeper. What Solomon is saying is that the way we think, what we open or close the gate to, determines who we are. Years ago I read something by A. W. Tozer talking about taking responsibility for our thought life. He said, “You may not be able to keep a bird from landing on your head but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.”  

Tozer’s idea echoes Solomon. The enemy or our flesh may initiate things in our thought life. Our responsibility is to shoo them away and close the gate.

Abiding

Jesus said,

4  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. John 15:4 (NKJV)

If we want to bear fruit we need to learn to abide. If we approach the metaphor from the perspective of agriculture it is clear that branches that are not connected to life giving vines cannot produce fruit, even though for a season we may be able to produce a semblance of life.

For example, one spring I cut down a large willow tree. I left a four foot portion of the trunk lying on the patio. In a couple of weeks small leaves appeared on the side of the prone trunk. There was the remnant of life in the trunk, but in a few days the leaves withered. The trunk was no longer connected to life giving roots.

Beyond the obvious practical need to abide to produce life, we need to know how to abide. With that in mind I will look at one tool to aid in abiding, our imagination. Isaiah said something very interesting and I have included a couple of translations to bring out the shades of meaning in this verse.

3  You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

3  You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. Isaiah 26:3 (AMP)

3  An imagination supported Thou fortifiest peace -peace! For in Thee it is confident. Isaiah 26:3 (YLT)

The Amplified translation brings out the idea of inclination and character while Young’s Literal Translation correctly informs us that the Hebrew word here for ‘mind’ actually refers to our imagination, or more specifically how our thoughts are formed. Our thought life is a powerful tool to deepen our walk with Jesus or draw us away. So, allow me to take the presentation in the different translations above further and offer my own.

3  You will keep him in deep peace, Whose imagination is fixed upon You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

The idea here is the need to take control of our thought life. Doing this requires that we be intentional regarding the use of our mind. My friend Evelyn used to warn me, and others, of the need to avoid passivity in our thought life. We are in a spiritual battle and when we let down our guard and let our thoughts wander we cease to abide. If we recognize what is happening we have an opportunity to pull our thoughts back. When we fix our thoughts on Him He responds by imparting peace to our hearts.