Nancy Leigh DeMoss: She said, “You have helped me to realize that my ingratitude and grumbling spirit really is an attack on the life that God has chosen for me, that I have been detesting it.” So God began to transform her thinking as she heard the Word of God and agreed with it. She said, “Thank you for bringing me to my senses—sophron—and showing me once again the goodness of the God we serve.”
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Monday, November 3.
For several weeks the apostle Paul has been speaking to some of the most relevant topics of our day. We’ve been looking at his words in Titus 2 with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She’s here to pick up in the series God’s Beautiful Design for Women.
Nancy: Without a question, the United States of America is blessed to be the wealthiest and most prosperous nation probably in the history of the world. We have more opportunities, more conveniences than any generation in history. That being the case, I found myself wondering about some of the ailments that we have in our culture.
- Why are there so many families being strangled with credit card debt and with mortgages they can’t afford?
- Why is there such a high incidence of mental and emotional disorders in our society?
- Why so much chronic depression and bi-polar disorder and ADHD in children?
- Why are we such an addictive culture—the horrific level of substance abuse, we’ve talked about that earlier in this series—pornography out of control, eating disorders, obesity killing us, literally.
- Why are we so debauched morally?
- Why such a high incidence of divorce and adultery and unbridled sexual passion and perversion?
- Why these kinds of sicknesses and afflictions and ailments in our culture?
Well, there are a lot of factors, and I don’t want to over-simply things here, but I believe that much of what I’ve just described is the fruit of not having a sound mind. We’ve said that having a sound mind, being sophron is the Greek word, s-o-p-h-r-o-n, it means “sensible, self-controlled, sound thinking.” That sound thinking is rooted in sound doctrine about God and His Word and His ways. But within our culture, broadly, we have fueled unsound thinking, and that has impacted the way we live. Unsound thinking has consequences in our behavior, in our relationships, and in our culture, That unsound thinking has not made us happy or productive, as a lot of commercials promise that it will. Instead, it has made us slaves.
As I think about the era in which Paul wrote the book of Titus that we’ve been studying over these weeks, I think about the Roman Empire. That certainly was an era that was known for being decadent, perverse. There was rampant substance abuse and immorality, much like our day.
In fact, we tend to look around and think it’s never been this bad, but when you read some about the Roman era, you realize it was a very, very wicked, depraved, debauched culture. Into that culture, in the fullness of time, Jesus was born and lived and died and rose again and sent His Holy Spirit and started the church. The church of Jesus Christ was birthed in a wicked, debauched, dark, fallen culture, and in the midst of that darkness, as the New Testament authors penned the epistles, the letters to those early churches, those early believers, those followers of Christ were called to be sophron—sensible, sound minded, self-controlled.
They were called to stand out. They did stand out because they had sound thinking in a world that was gone crazy. They made a difference. Their lives reflected the beauty, the balance, the stability that the gospel brings to a mind, to a life, to a home, and to a culture.
So, in Titus chapter 2, we’ve been studying how older women are to train the younger women to be sober, to be sound minded. What does that look like? What does that mean? It means they are to love their husbands and children, and they are to be self-controlled, sound thinking. We said this is fundamental to living out our other obligations and roles and responsibilities as women.
As I’ve been thinking about what it means to be sound minded, self-controlled, sensible, depending on your translation, it’s that Greek word, sophron, sound minded, the Lord brought to mind an account in the gospels. I want to ask you to turn to this passage in Mark chapter 5. It’s an account found in all three of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but I want us to look at the version in Mark chapter 5. At the end of this story, I want to start at the end, and then we’ll go back to the beginning. At the end of this story we find a word that is related to sophron, sound minded, sensible, self-controlled.
Look at verse 15 in Mark chapter 5. It tells us how the people of the city went out, and they found this man quote “sitting there clothed and in his right mind.” Now that word right mind is the wordsophronetto. . .sophron. . .sophronetto. It’s a man who was in his right mind. Now you read this description, and you say, “It sounds so normal. He was sitting there; he was clothed, and he was in his right mind. Isn’t that what everybody’s supposed to be?” Well what makes this description so remarkable at the end of the story is that it represents an astonishing change from the condition that the man starts out in at the beginning of the story.
So let’s go back to verse 1, and there we see this vivid description of a man who is anything butsophron, anything but in his right mind. Verse 1, Mark chapter 5,
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes, and when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs [there’s our first clue] a man with an unclean spirit.
Now Luke’s account in Luke chapter 8 said he had demons. I’m not going to go into what all of that means, and the whole study of demons and how they can affect people, that’s a whole different study. But I want you to see that these demons had afflicted this man, and that Satan, who is the prince of all the demons, works through our minds. He deceives. He twists the truth, and when we believe his lies, our thinking gets mangled. It gets destroyed, and we ultimately become irrational. So far from being in his right mind, this man was out of his mind, and it affected everything about him.
Verse 3 tells us that he lived among the tombs. Now let me just insert here the parallel passage in Luke chapter 8. Here’s how it describes this man. It says, “For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs” (verse 27). Now this does not sound like a normal person.
Continuing in Mark chapter 5, verse 3,
And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart [so this super-human strength] and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
A tragic picture here. John MacArthur in his study Bible says that crying out describes a continual unearthly scream uttered with intense emotion, and that the stones with which he was cutting himself were likely rocks made of flint with sharp, jagged edges.
So here’s a man who is in very, very bad shape, and look at his condition. It’s not a temporary condition. It’s not like he’s just momentarily taken leave of his senses. This is a chronic condition. The Scripture says it’s been going on for a long time. “Night and day among the tombs he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” This was the condition of his life. He has lost his mind. He’s a wild man. He’s completely unruly, out of control.
He’s under the influence, the control of demonic powers—to an extreme. His mental condition, influenced by the demons, and what we don’t know is any ways that this man may have given room or place to the demons, we don’t have that background. But for however long, he ended up in that place, that mental condition, that lack of a sound mind resulted in very bizarre, strange, erratic behavior.
Here’s a man who was running around stark naked. He’s cut off from relationships. He’s isolated, lonely, he’s defiled, according to Jewish law, by being in and around the tombs, because Jews couldn’t touch dead bodies. So he’s cut off from any relationships with Jewish believers. He’s violent. He’s dangerous to himself and to others. He has to be restrained, but he repeatedly throws off the restraints. This is a picture of someone who is in deep mental and emotional anguish—cutting himself, violent, destructive behavior.
You say, “Boy, this is so extreme. I just can’t imagine anything like this.” Well, the fact is that this is a picture of where many women live today—to greater or lesser degrees. It’s the cutting. We hear about it this day, and let me say it’s not just young girls, it’s mature, grown women, wives, moms. There are women in this room who, with your eating disorders or cutting behaviors have damaged your own body, or with erratic, extreme, bizarre behavior, perhaps have been a threat to the lives of others.
To some degree, greater or lesser, all of us show evidence at times of behavior that is a result of not having sound thinking, not being in our right mind. I see this in emails that come to us at Revive Our Hearts at times. A woman wrote us recently, and she said,
I just had an outburst with my pre-school daughter. It pains me to think about it. I have lately found myself unable to control my communication with her or my other children. I am catching myself doing the very thing I hated receiving from my mother, but for some reason I get really angry. I read about parents who have abused their children, and I wonder if I am also capable of that.
Now, that may describe a pattern in your life, or it may describe just moments in your life, and you get to these moments, it may be that something triggers it or sets you off, but there are times when you just, as a woman, feel out of control. Maybe by God’s grace you’re able to control it in terms of the acting out, but there are times for all of us.
Don’t sit there and look at me like you don’t know what I’m talking about. If you’re a female, you know what I’m talking about. There are times when you feel like, “If God were not putting up a restraint in my life, I would really, really be losing it right now,” There are times when we don’t pay attention to the restraints. We overstep them, and we get out of control in our tone of voice or what we say or how we say it or our behavior.
We received another email from a man saying, “Would you please pray for my wife?” Now I’m not going to read the whole thing, to give you the whole context, but here’s a man who was really deeply burdened and concerned about some issues in their marriage. I want to pull out just this excerpt because it relates to, and I think describes where so many of us as women live at times. He said,
The ups and downs are mainly where she lives—constant panic attacks, anxiety, hurtful actions and attitudes toward herself, me, and the family. Throughout our marriage there have been short times of peace, and those were great, but the majority of the years have been filled with spiritual turmoil and trouble, like living with the enemy, almost as if having to daily talk someone down off the ledge. It breaks my heart.
Now again, that’s an extreme situation, and that’s a marriage that is obviously in crisis. It didn’t happen overnight, but here’s a woman, here are two women—the ones I just described—who don’t have sound thinking. They’re not sophron, and their lives have spun out of control because their minds are not under the control of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
As we go back to the man in Mark 5 who lived in the tombs, Scripture says no one could subdue or restrain him. No one could help him. Again, as I think about women who write us at Revive Our Hearts, there are many different psychological diagnoses today, and women are being treated in a lot of different ways, a lot of different methods and means.
But what I see in many of these women is that no one is able to help them. They’re not getting help. They go to a therapist. They go to a doctor. They go to a counselor. They go to their pastor. They go to a friend. They’re not getting helped. No one is able to help them be restrained and have sound thinking. They’re not changing in many cases.
That was what was true of this man. Then this man who had been so oppressed and afflicted by this demonic activity and this out-of-control, irrational, bizarre thinking and behavior, then this man encounters Christ, and Christ is his only hope. I want to tell you, whether your behavior is as extreme as that of this man, or whether it’s just little daily ways of lack of sophron in your life, Christ is your only hope. Christ’s power was the only power that could confront and over power the demons and restore this man to sanity.
Verse 6 tells us that “when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before Him,” which is what many of us as women need to do. Get to Jesus. Run to Him. Fall down before Him. But there’s still a battle going on. Look at verse 7, “and crying out to Him, [this is actually the demon crying out from within him] he said, ‘What do You have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God do not torment me.”
As you follow the passage you remember that Jesus cast those demons into the herd of pigs that were feeding nearby. The pigs rushed down a hill and into a lake and drowned. But what we see in this passage as we come to the end of it in verse 14 is that an encounter with Christ is transformational. It changes everything. As a result of this man and those demons encountering Christ, the demons were cast out, and this man’s mind was brought under the control of Christ. The encounter with Christ was transformational. This man’s mind was brought under the control of Christ.
Now I don’t want your mind to get carried away with how the demonic activity may involve you or this man or others—that’s not the point I’m trying to get out of this passage. The point is that this man was restored to sanity because Christ came and brought control to his mind.
Look at verse 14, “The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country, and people came to see what it was that had happened.” I tell you what, when women get their minds under the control of God’s Holy Spirit, there will be such a change that people will come to see what has happened. They want to know, “What happened to you? What happened?” They’re going to be astonished. They’re going to be amazed.
Now for the last part of this account, let me just quote the way Luke says it in Luke 8, verse 35.
And they [that is the people from the city and the country] came to Jesus and found the man, from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.
That little detail that he was sitting at the feet of Jesus is a detail we don’t have in Marks gospel. Mark just tells us he was sitting clothed and in his right mind, but Luke says where he was sitting—sitting at the feet of Jesus—clothed. This man who had been running around stark naked for years, or a long time at least, is clothed and he’s in his right mind. Did it take ten years of therapy? No. In a moment, Jesus restored his mind—sophronetto—sophron—his right mind.
Word spread quickly. Everybody knew about the change in this man.
Oh the enemy is doing such a number on the minds of women today, and even Christian women. We’ve bought into ways of thinking that are not sound, and as a result, we’ve given room to the enemy to have a heyday in so many of our minds and our lives. Many times the reason we feel out of control is because our thinking is not sound, but praise God for the power of Christ to restore us to our right minds. You see, to be sophron—sensible, self controlled—is actually to have the mind of Christ—the mind of Christ.
Let me just read to you one example. It’s not a particularly dramatic one, but it’s such an illustration, I think, of where a lot of us live. It’s an illustration of how Christ can transform a mind and make unsound thinking into sound thinking.
A woman wrote us, and she said,
My husband was called into ministry about nine months ago and moved our family to another state. We took a pay cut of 50%, a space cut of 50%, and I took a joy cut of 50% or more. For the last nine months I have grumbled in my heart and often out loud about the things we no longer have or things I wish I had. I have coveted [this is a mind battle here] nearly every possession imaginable and have been completely miserable in the life the Lord has so graciously given me.
So here’s a woman whose thinking was not sound, and as a result, she’s been miserable and made some other people miserable around her, I’m sure. She said,
You have helped me to realize that my ingratitude and grumbling spirit really is an attack on the life that God has chosen for me, that I have been detesting it. [So God began to transform her thinking as she heard the Word of God and agreed with it.] Thank you for bringing me to my senses [sophron] and showing me once again the goodness of the God we serve.
See, when she wasn’t thinking straight, she was focusing on the things she didn’t have. When she was thinking straight, she was focusing on the goodness of God. When she wasn’t thinking straight, she was miserable. She’s cut her joy quotient in half, but when she is thinking straight, the joy returns, and that’s what she says. “This little apartment”—her circumstance hasn’t changed; she’s still got half the space she had before—but “this little apartment will now be filled each day with joy as I thank the Lord for all that He has chosen for me.”
He restores our minds. An encounter with Christ will restore us to that place of sound thinking.
John Greenleaf Whittier was a 19th century poet, whose name you’re familiar with. In 1872 he wrote a long narrative poem called “The Brewing of Soma.” This epic poem describes Vadic or Hindu priests who try to conjure up a religious experience by going into a forest and drinking themselves into a stupor with a concoction called soma. It’s a very strange poem. You’re probably not familiar with it, as I wasn’t until I came across it on the Internet the other day.
But after setting that bizarre scene of these priests trying to drink themselves into a stupor, Whittier writes in this longer poem a hymn that is familiar to many of us, it comes out of this longer poem, and this hymn may be even more relevant today than when it was first written nearly 140 years ago. In our contemporary context, it speaks to a culture that is dependent on substances and emotional experiences, and it calls us to find sanity and peace through Christ.
Here’s what that hymn says:
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In pure lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence praise.
In simple trust like theirs who heard,
Beside the Syrian sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word,
Rise up and follow Thee.
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our striving cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire,
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
Oh Father, How I pray that You would, by the power of Christ, the name above every name, the one before whom demons themselves have to bow and flee, in the power of His name, would You re-clothe us in our rightful minds, and may our ordered lives confess the beauty of Your peace. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been inviting you to a peaceful, beautiful life—not by working harder or struggling longer, but it comes from having a sound mind.
I hope you’ll be reminded of God’s peace and beauty each new month by getting the 2009 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. You know, dates are significant. Think of the women who celebrate five years of being cancer free. Think of the students who look forward to the day they get out of school or the day they can open their Christmas presents.
We want to remind you that every day is significant by sending you the 2009 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. The theme is “Savoring the Glorious Gospel of Christ,” and that theme is expressed in beautiful words and nature scenes in each new page of this monthly calendar.
In order to get your calendar, just make a donation of any size to Revive Our Hearts. Donate online at ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com.
When you’re developing a sound mind, no one can see what’s going on, but that quiet, internal process can lead to visible, external success. Find out how tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.