Jesus said, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12) He made this declaration a little past mid-way into that wonderful time of fellowship we call the Last Supper. There was little time remaining for Jesus to teach His disciples, and there was so much He wanted to share with His friends. Time, as this verse shows, was not the only thing holding Jesus back. He knew something about the disciples they probably did not know about themselves.
Jesus had mentored the disciples for more than three years. He taught by example, and He explained the parables to them. Still they could not bear the things that remained to be said. Jesus didn’t say they could not hear them, but that they could not bear them.
Pay attention to the word cannot. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to, Jesus said they could not. The Greek word translated cannot is dunamai (doo’-nam-ahee). It means: can, could, or cannot when with a negative as in this case. Other meanings are: to be able, capable, or strong enough. Dunamai also conveys the idea of moral power. In other words, it is not about physical, but spiritual capability. It could be translated as not spiritually capable.
The Greek word translated bear is bastazó (bas-tad’-zo). This word means to carry or support. It expresses the idea of carrying something as though it were attached to your body, as if it were something being worn. Combining the two ideas, the phrase cannot bear, means that the disciples were not yet spiritually capable of making the things Jesus had to say a part of themselves as something to be worn and carried by them. Jesus was telling them they were not yet able to understand. Had Jesus told them the things He desired, they would have had His words in their heads, but they would have lacked experiential knowledge, i.e., understanding.
The disciples had a problem understanding what Jesus was saying and doing. They saw what He did, and heard what He said, but only with their physical eyes and ears. Their spiritual receptors were not activated by their physical experiences. They remained physically minded even after the crucifixion and resurrection … even after several post-resurrection appearances. They were thinking with physical minds while Jesus was acting and speaking from a spiritual position. The disciples were looking for a physical result right up to the time Jesus ascended into heaven when they asked Him, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) In the preceding verse, Jesus talked with the disciples about their being baptized with the Holy Spirit (a definitely spiritual activity), but their minds were fixed on the physical realm as their question indicates.
The twelve disciples were hand-picked by Jesus. They followed Him for over three years. He was their personal teacher and confidant. They even had received the Holy Spirit (See John 20:22). Yet, they did not understand the spiritual aspect of His teaching … they didn’t grasp what He was about, or why He was doing what did.
In short, the disciples’ problem was that they had a spiritual heart and a physical mind. Another way to say it is that their minds were cluttered with physical, rather than spiritual stuff. They are not unique. All believers come to the Lord with the same condition. It’s a malady I call Cluttered Mind Disorder, or CMD. Left unresolved, CMD will stunt a believer’s forward progress on the road to holiness and spiritual maturity. This is because CMD is a roadblock to hearing, trusting and obeying the Holy Spirit.
CMD is a condition caused by holding on to wrong attitudes and beliefs. Attitude, as I’m using it, is defined as: a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior . Belief has several meanings that apply here:
1. An acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
2. Something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction.
3. A religious conviction.
4. Belief in, as in trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.
Attitudes and beliefs shape your world. If you believe a conservative approach to government is the right way, liberal ideas are difficult to understand or accept. You just won’t be able to see (understand) how a liberal approach to economics could work. In fact, a liberal solution to just about anything will have a difficult time getting inside your head. The opposite is true for those who believe a liberal approach is the right way. This discussion is not about one political platform or another. It’s just an example of the way attitudes and beliefs shape your reality and act as deterrents to new ideas. This is true not only with political ideas, but also for every area of your life. Religious, or spiritual, beliefs act in the same way. Doctrinal beliefs, for example, shape your attitudes about religious activities, denominations and the meaning of certain passages from the Bible. Interpretations of the Bible that are outside of your beliefs and attitudes of the Bible are discouraged from being accepted.
Think of attitudes and beliefs as pillars in your mind. Each attitude or belief is a pillar, and the stronger the belief, the larger the diameter of the pillar. Together, the pillars form a maze. These pillars have the ability to attract and hold on to like-minded views, making them larger and stronger. When an opposing viewpoint bumps into a pillar, it is pushed away, but not before some of the pillar’s position rubs off on it.
If your mind is loaded with physical pillars, and a spiritual idea enters, it almost immediately collides with one of these pillars. The spiritual idea bounces off the pillar, but not without taking a little of the physical idea with it. The spiritual idea soon jams into another physical pillar, and the process repeats itself. Eventually, a very large amount of the physical will have rubbed off on the spiritual idea, and it will become hardly identifiable.
We all have a mind full of physical pillars when we make a decision to change the course of our lives to follow Jesus. Most who have made such a decision also begin to read the Bible. As we read, we are introduced to new spiritual ideas that are contrary to those of our physical pillars. They are truth, and when we see them they are revelations.
The maze of physical pillars in our mind prevents the spiritual revelations of truth from finding a place to reside. Here’s what happens.When a revelation of truth enters our mind, it must make its way through the maze of physical pillars to reach the heart. And so it journeys through the maze like a pinball bouncing from one post to another. Each time it encounters a physical pillar, an attitude or belief, it picks up some of the physical.
Here’s an example of what happens. You read in your Bible that all good things come from God. (James 1:17) This idea enters your mind and almost immediately runs into a pillar that says, “Oh yeah, how about the time He let you have that pneumonia that almost killed you?” The nugget of truth bounces off this pillar and slams directly into another. This one reminds you about the car crash that took your mother or father when you were still a child and needed them … this pillar says, “That was God, and that wasn’t good.” The next collision for this morsel of truth from God’s word is one of the devil’s favorite tools. It slams directly into the misinterpreted Bible verse, and you hear, “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) The false implication is that God pours out His vengeance on believers who don’t deserve it, in ways that are against His true nature. On and on this now battered, and soon to be unrecognizable, bit of truth ricochets from pillar to pillar. Before this precious gem from God can get to your heart where it can lift you up, you are questioning whether what you read is really true. You might even come to the false conclusion that not everything that comes from God is good.
The result: Like the disciples, you wanted to believe the truth, but you were not able to bear it at that time. The physical pillars in your mind got in the way, and prevented the truth from entering your heart. The diagnosis: You are suffering from Cluttered Mind Disorder.
Those of you who are CMD sufferers, as I was, are faced with a dilemma … you want to embrace the truth, you desire to be set free, but the false pillars in your mind are standing in the way. And you are wondering, “What can I do now?” You might try what others have. You could examine each of your beliefs individually to determine which is truth and which isn’t, but that undertaking would be confusing and unfruitful … you could set out to examine just the theologies and doctrines that are in vogue today, but that would likely take more years than you have to complete the task … or you could gather a group of people with the same desire, and discuss all of your beliefs with each other, a kind of support group, but that would probably lead to arguments and eventually division.
The solution is simple and direct. It’s what I did many years ago, and I believe it came to me from God. As God’s solutions are, it is quick, efficient and effective. You simply create a storage locker in your mind, then stuff all your beliefs into it. The key is to put all of your beliefs into it … even those you are sure are the truth … such as the fact of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Once removed, and safely out of the way, keep them there until God’s truth either confirms or rejects them. Those that are confirmed are returned to their rightful place in your mind, the ones that are not are disposed of. Whether an item in your locker is returned to your mind or disposed of must be confirmed by the word of God, the Bible. The obvious ones can be removed or returned immediately, while the rest remain in the locker until their true nature is confirmed in the Bible.
I believe this method was from God. A few years later, I heard a Bible teacher say he used a similar method. He said he had a shelf in his mind, and he placed any new doctrines or teaching on the shelf until the Lord showed it to be true or false. The locker method is a safeguard … it clears the mind without emptying it, and it prepares the way for renewing your mind with pillars of truth. New revelations of truth are protected from the destructive work of false pillars. With your beliefs in your locker, the truth you receive will have a clear path from your mind to your heart. And the light of the truth you accumulate will clearly reveal which stored beliefs to hold on to, and which to permanently discard.
Putting your pillars in a locker in your mind has a direct bearing on understanding the Bible. The longer you allow false, physical pillars to remain in your mind, the longer, and more difficult it will be for you to receive and benefit from revelations of understanding you obtained from studying the Word. Take the cure. Eliminate CMD. Create a locker in your mind, and fill it with your attitudes and beliefs. Put your pillars into a locker in your mind, and start understanding the Bible like never before.