It’s what the Bible commands us and it’s now backed up by science. Michele Morrison explores how we can achieve a holy mind ...
Years ago, a popular book claimed that “you are what you eat”. Recent research now reveals that, perhaps more startlingly, “you are what you think”. Apparently, our thinking habits can impact the brain’s neurological pathways, which means disciplined thinking can help our brains develop default connections to righteous rather than worldly thinking. Cynicism should naturally give way to joy and hope and high expectations, as our world view shifts to Christ’s perspective. A transformed life begins in the head.
Where have you heard that before? Romans 12:2 exhorts us to: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. This sounds like such hard work: relentless policing of every stray thought to take inappropriate ones captive to Christ, and then consciously choosing to replace them with something life-affirming.
But although it requires adjusting our thinking minute by minute to conform to Scriptural principles, the discovery that such training results in physiological changes encourages me to think that gradually, supernatural thoughts will replace natural ones.
Thus, our default thinking will reflect Christ’s thinking. Doesn’t that just ... well ... blow your mind?
Just as getting our bodies fit requires discipline and perseverance, so altering our thought patterns requires attentiveness and care, especially in the initial stages.
Our minds are vulnerable and can offer fertile soil to seeds of doubt and self-condemnation. Paul exhorted the Ephesians to put on the helmet of salvation, designed to protect the mind from the fiery darts of the enemy – accusations, innuendoes and condemnations which can pervert thinking and undermine faith.
So what exactly is the helmet of salvation? It is accepting the truth that our salvation is complete in Jesus: it was won for us on the cross, it is active now and it guarantees a future in Christ. When our assurance is rock-hard, like the thick leather of a Roman helmet, no doubts or misgivings can penetrate our thinking and undermine our identity as daughters of the King.
Our perspective shifts from an earthly one to one in which we are seated in the heavens with Christ (Ephesians). This is key to living life to the full and moving in the power Jesus promised.
The protective helmet of salvation results from an active relationship with God. I’m thinking of papier mâché – aware that it isn’t impenetrable, but just taking the analogy of it being constructed of layers of pasted paper which then harden and hold a shape. The helmet is made of layer upon layer of scriptural truth pasted with the relationship we have with Jesus. That truth protects us from the devil’s lies.
Assured of our salvation, our lives can become the powerhouses God means them to be. And, as our minds are renewed, we will discover deeper joy, greater freedom and inner peace. Our lives will become the portal for kingdom life to flow through and transform the world.
SIX WAYS TO CHANGE YOUR THINKING
Declutter what’s there
A new year is often the time we think about de-cluttering some areas in our homes. But perhaps we need to de-clutter our minds as well, because nasty things like grudges and jealousy can clog righteous synaptic transmission – or the flow of good thoughts.
Filter what is coming in
Our minds are like giant radio receivers. The values of our culture are broadcast on all sorts of frequencies: through laws, friends, musical lyrics, movies, computer games, Twitter and Facebook ‘likes’ and ‘favourites’. We need to filter what’s coming in.
So start to monitor your viewing/listening habits. Don’t be careless with what you expose your mind to. Just as you choose nutritional rather than junk food, so be wise in what you feed your mind with. Try to reduce the time you spend on a computer/tablet/smart phone, including social media. Don’t be controlled by others’ opinions or waste time on frivolous postings.
Try a negativity fast
Be alert to notice and reject habitual expressions, deep sighs, or gestures which betray an underlying sense of despair. And guard your thinking from gossip, criticism, envious or self-pitying attitudes. Take them captive and expel them immediately.
Meditate on Scripture
Just as meat takes on the flavours in which it is marinated, so do our minds. So read and, crucially, meditate on Scripture. If a word is going to impact your life, it needs to sink in and affect your thinking.
Dr Andrew Newberg (Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital in Philadelphia) has discovered that when we meditate, there is increased activity in the frontal lobes (an area of the brain involved with compassion and positive emotions) and changes in the thalamus, a part of the brain which helps us form relationships. Biblical meditation has a positive effect on your brain and consequently, on your actions and emotions.
Fill your mind with good things
Take encouragement from Philippians 4: “...Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
Encourage others with good news stories. Take a walk and listen to God through nature or listen to praise music and worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth, with others or alone.
Keep your mind active
It’s easy to become intellectually lazy. We can be seduced by celebrity mags, vacuous entertainments and empty articles. Not everything we read needs to be devotional, but it should stimulate good thinking. We need to keep our brains challenged and active if we are to transform our minds, and we need to persevere.
Why not join a book group, study the Bible with others and grapple with faith issues, or learn to articulate your faith in a way that is relevant to our culture?