Read Matthew 26:21-28, and you’ll notice an experience that makes discipleship hard. Jesus put an idea into his followers’ minds: “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me” (Mt. 26:21b, NIV). They each questioned whether they were personally guilty of this transgression. Jesus didn’t answer them directly. He only explained that the betrayer was one who ate with him, and they were all eating at that moment. He left them uncertain. Self-doubt can make discipleship difficult, but indecision about yourself is important.
Notice that Jesus himself put the doubt into their minds. He planted the thought which disturbed the already troubled people at the meal. Why would Jesus mess with their minds at such a crucial time? To prepare and equip them for what was coming. Such training by self-doubt makes discipleship hard. Indecision about yourself leads to growth.
Does your mind become a jumbled mess sometimes? Mine does. I fill it with too much. Appointments, details of church activities, sermon preparation, blogging, family concerns, ideas I want to write about or thoughts I’m working on. When I was going to a study conference once, my mother said to me, “Someday your head is going to bust!”
As you allow legitimate ideas to enter your mind, things you ought to think about, it isn’t long before somebody asks you to consider a new thing. You’re thoughts are influenced subtly by the media. Advertising is carefully aimed at you so that in the back of your mind you’re influenced to buy a particular product the next time you need a fast-acting pain reliever or a tasty soup or an entertaining song. What you read, see on a billboard, hear on the car radio becomes part of the content of your mind. Your subconscious thinks about it more than you realize.
In The Practice of Godliness, Jerry Bridges wrote, “Our minds are mental greenhouses where unlawful thoughts, once planted, are nurtured and watered before being transplanted into the real world of unlawful actions.”
Few crimes are committed without the criminal considering whether he might get away with it. Even crimes of passion have some basis in prior thought, vague imaginings or wishful ideas. As thoughts filter into you from the outside world, you pick up all sorts of good and bad notions. This is why careful analysis of what you read in a magazine or watch on your television is critical. Expose yourself too frequently to wrong notions, and you’ll eventually act on them. Witness the child pornographer or the adulterer, the thief or tax evader. Each has been shown in courts of law to have started their bad behavior with exposure to some media that shows or discusses the wrong activity in a tantalizing light. Fill you head with too much misbehavior, and you’ll misbehave.
Jesus spoke to Peter, who was urging him not to think of dying: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Mt. 16:23, NIV). In a sense, Peter was betraying Jesus as Judas later would, and as any disciple can. Doubt yourself, and grow in self-awareness.
What’s in a thought? The germ of a deed. Sooner or later you’ll act on a bad idea to which you become insensitive. You may begin by thinking lies are evil, yet train yourself to consider some lies to be permissible, and where will your deceptions stop? The reverse is true also. Flood your mind with wholesome and valuable and praiseworthy ideas, and you’ll work hard to produce the same kind of behavior. Yet this makes discipleship difficult.
What you put into your brain sooner or later leaks back out! A good disciple is very careful about this.