The Celtic Revival: Celtic Christian Culture (4)
Shame on my thoughts, how they stray from me!
One moment they follow the ways of loveliness, and the next the ways of riotous shame...
Swiftly they leap in one bound from earth to heaven...
O beloved Christ...may the grace of the sevenfold Spirit come to keep them in check!
- Anonymous, On the Flightiness of Thought, Irish, 8th-9th century
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
- Colossians 3.1, 2
We identify with that anonymous scribe; we, too, can be undisciplined in our minds. His way of dealing with the problem was to commit it to verse, taming his thought life by a poem, making his mind obey his desire to serve the Lord at all times.
The thought life can be like a dodge ball game, where we’re the only person on our side of the line, and a world of thoughts and ideas is arrayed against us, lobbing and hurling all manner of opinions, notions, reminders, things to do, and fleeting images against our brains. We glimpse most of these only for a moment, then duck away, only to be assaulted by the next barrage.
For many of us, concentrating can be difficult – at prayer, in church, during conversations, while reading, even at work. Setting our minds with focus and concentration on mundane matters is hard enough; focusing on unseen things – a key component of lively faith – is a struggle (Heb. 11.1).
Three things are required: First, growing clarity concerning the landscape of unseen things. The Bible offers rich images and descriptions to shape our thinking about unseen things, and we can appeal to these in painting out a compelling vision of that unseen landscape.
The secret to knowing more of the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God is learning to live in the there and then, here and now, by setting your mind on things above. If that realm is terra incognita to you, then take up the challenge of familiarizing yourself with what will be your eternal home.
Second, we must live our lives from the heavenly vantage point. We have been seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2.6). Our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3.3). But when we look out on the day ahead – the work we have to do, the people we expect to encounter, the things left over from yesterday – do we see them from that heavenly and eternal perspective? Do we see each moment and activity as part of our Kingdom-and-glory calling from the Lord (1 Thess. 2.12; Eph. 5.15-17)?
Call upon the grace of the sevenfold Spirit (Rev. 4.5; cf. Is. 11.2) to direct your thoughts to Jesus. Look out on your life with the mind of Christ, and let His perspective become increasingly your own.
Finally, we must devote the time necessary for training our minds to focus on and conform to the things that are above. Gaining a vision of unseen things doesn’t just happen; we must apply ourselves to this discipline daily through reading, meditation, prayer, and talking with other believers.
The imperative “set” in Colossians 3.2 implies a choice: we can either submit and obey, working to set our minds on things that are above, or we can continue in our undisciplined, earthly way of thinking. The Spirit can help us keep our wandering, unfocused minds in check, but we need time with Him, and a repertoire of disciplines to train our thought life. Our Celtic poet sought to train his mind by writing a poem. We can do the same by memorizing Scripture, singing hymns, talking with others, and journaling and meditating on the landscape of unseen things.
Paul says our lives have been hidden with Christ in God. Why should we allow our minds to languish amid the flotsam and jetsam of temporal distractions?
Today would be a good day to begin nurturing a truly Biblical mindset toward all of life. Start by determining to gain a clear and compelling vision of the unseen realm from reading and meditating on God’s Word. Then work hard each day at those disciplines that can keep you focused on that vision, living your life accordingly. You might even, following the example of our anonymous poet, try writing your way into a clearer vision of the unseen realm.
Your mind is not your own (1 Cor. 6.19), but you are the steward of its focus. Where will you set it today?
1. Describe what you “see” when you think about Jesus, exalted in glory. What Scriptures come to mind?
2. How can you keep this vision in mind more consistently?
Psalm 93.1, 2 (Trinity: Come, Thou Almighty King)
The Lord in majesty reigns, girded and clothed in strength!
Earth stands secure: Nor shall it e’er be moved;
God on His throne above set it in place with love –
His reign is sure!
Open the eyes of my heart to see You, Jesus, exalted in glory, and help me to…
About the Celtic Revival
Want to learn more about the Celtic Revival? Go to our new web page on this important topic by clicking here. Listen to our newest podcast, Celtic Legacy, by clicking here.
Two books that can help you set your mind on the things that are above: What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth? looks at the work of Jesus, exalted in glory. Vantage Point explains how Christians can live from a heavenly perspective into every moment of our lives. Order your free copies by clicking here and here.
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Davies, pp. 262, 263.