For the past several weeks, I have been pursuing the topic of engaging my mind in my faith journey. Now that’s a thought-provoking subject! I didn’t say that to be funny, but I wanted you to stop and consider how much thought do you invest in your faith journey? The Bible says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV) On my quest I read two separate passages written by the apostle Paul that spoke of the need for mind renewal. The first, a familiar passage says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (ESV) Often, Christians approach this transformation from a behavior modification standpoint assuming that they can force the change to happen; however, this verse indicates that transformation begins in our minds. We reboot our thinking with God’s Word. The second time I encountered this reference to mind renewal was in Ephesians 4:21-24. “Assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus to put off your old self (which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires), to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self (created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.)” The transition from the old to the new self seems to occur in the mind. The illustration makes me think of a snake shedding his skin.
My conviction came as I had to question that even though I profess to be a Christian, how much effort do I make to place my mind with intention on the Holy Scriptures? We can read books written by Christian authors, listen to ministers preach God’s Word, or read one-page daily devotionals that expel the meaning of a single verse in multiple paragraphs of application followed by a one or two sentence prayer. Do we call this renewing our minds? Is that what Paul meant? It is easy for our minds to become overwhelmed with many things. What priority do we place on investing in right thinking, in the life-giving guidance of the Holy Spirit?
Our Minds are Fragile.
To make more sense of that statement, let’s begin back in the garden in Genesis chapter 3. Here we see the description of the serpent that was used to change Eve’s mind about whether she would or wouldn’t eat the forbidden fruit. In the first verse of chapter 3, we read, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord had made.” The specific description of the serpent allows us to see how Satan was able to deceive. He used his cognitive reasoning skills, which were more crafty than humankind, was able to perceive. Could this be the first time that they had encountered deception? Eve’s thoughts were confused by the deceptive question Satan posed to her. One question and one statement were all that was necessary to convince Eve to change her mind. How much convincing was needed? Satan, yes cunning, found a hidden desire within Eve’s heart that she was probably not even aware was there. I’m sure that Eve had never considered that there was something better than what she had already experienced as an image-bearing creation. Satan said, “For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”(Genesis 3:5). Did Satan lie?
God gave humankind brains for cognitive reasoning, and the original design was for God-centered thinking. He, God, could have prevented disobedience by not allowing us to use reasoning skills; however, God desired free-will. Due to the fall, we have shifted our God-centered thinking to self-centered thinking. Apart from God’s Holy Word, our nature has been changed to reflect the fall of man, a single act of choice, or was it? Eve, like ourselves, did not consult with God when given a choice between this and that. In addition to this independent choice, she also drew her husband into sin as well. Consequentially, Adam was blamed for Eve’s decision as he followed rather than lead. As independent as Eve seemed to be, it wasn’t easy for her to go it alone, she needed a partner in crime. Uncertainty probably played a significant role with Eve decision to create an aligning partnership in destruction.
The Bible shows four phases to Eve decision:
- “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,” (she reasoned).
- “and that it was a delight to the eyes, (evoking an emotional response),
- “and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” (a selfish pursuit),
- “she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (uncertainty) Genesis 3:6 (ESV).
It did not a surprise God that Eve would choose to use her mind to reason. God also knew that independent thinking (not relying on Him) would be harmful to humans. The Bible gives us this example to help engage our minds into considering what makes a decision right or wrong. It is our first choice, where we place our thinking (self-centered or God-centered) that decides this matter. The disobedient act in the garden caused an immediate separation between humankind and God. Without Jesus, the new mindset we acquired in the garden was irreversible. Have you ever tried to unsee something after you’ve already gazed upon it? It is impossible to unsee it – irreversible!
What Satan used to entice Eve to sin was grounded in truth, her eyes indeed were opened, but what Satan failed to tell her was that she was choosing whom she would serve. Satan withheld information, not explaining that he had just gained the upper hand. He uses the same ploys with us to distort our thinking. Please don’t get upset; the next question is to help you ponder, not to accuse you. What excuse do we use to tell God that we do not have time for His counsel?
Jesus is God’s intervention to restore us to Himself. In the gospel according to John, we read Jesus words, “If you abide in me and my Words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this, my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:7-8). The truth is that we have to put God’s counsel back into us. If Eve had not followed her hidden desire, the need for the second Adam (Jesus) would not have been necessary. Satan’s manipulation influenced the woman’s thoughts to stray away from God. We can ask ourselves, what is Satan using now to cause us to continue in her footsteps?
Unpopular to Mention Satan
Have you noticed how unpopular it is to talk about Satan? It seems we have to replace his name with phrases like ‘the things of the world’ or ‘things of the flesh’ rather than call him by his real name and title, Satan, the deceiver! As I type his name, I almost feel like I have to dodge his flaming arrows. He doesn’t like to be called out. He works undercover. Ephesians chapter six tells us that we are not wrestling with ‘flesh and blood’ and that we need armor to protect ourselves against the schemes of the devil. This chapter tells us everything we need to put on to fight the fight because we are not fighting a battle that we understand. It consists of rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over the present darkness, and spiritual forces of evil. They are invisible and located in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:10-12). The way we view evil is different than the way God sees it. More than likely, we label it with a name and a face that belongs to someone we know when, in essence, it is only the power behind the name and face you see. Sometimes it is the power behind the face in the mirror.
Have you considered, if Adam and Eve had desired greater wisdom, what would have been the harm in them asking God for it? In 2 Chronicles, we can read the account of Solomon asking God for greater wisdom, and it was granted. God responded by giving Solomon abundantly more than he asked. He included wealth, possession, and honor. Solomon knew that God was in charge and that through divine power, he was appointed king over God’s people. When we direct our thinking to God, our hearts desire what God desires. He is our source of understanding. Any other avenue of evaluation is worthless. Right thinking is imparted back into us as we seek and study God’s Word. It is our reset button. If we go too long without a reset, the way of the world appears normal to us.
Mind renewal is necessary.
In the past two months, I had the privilege of teaching a Bible study to women at a local church. I chose the program Divine Mentor by Pastor Wayne Cordeiro because it focused on developing a daily practice of studying God’s Word. In this seven-week program, we learn how to be directed by the Holy Spirit into wisdom. The Holy Spirit is our helper, whose job is to guide and direct our lives. How easy do we make it on the Holy Spirit to become our trusted counsel? The apostle Paul talks about the Holy Spirits role to be the source of human wisdom in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13. John shares Jesus words in John 14:26. So why is it that many of us depend on something different than the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to guide our lives? In the past several months, I’ve asked many women to lay their personal preference for a particular daily devotional aside to see how the Holy Spirit wants to develop their dependence on Him. I have changed my daily Bible reading practices too. Let me suggest that if you are reading a guided devotion that shares a single Bible verses, followed by several paragraphs on how to apply this verse to your life and ending with a two sentence prayer you are accepting a substitute, not the Holy Spirit to guide you. Devotional booklets are useful for encouragement because “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17 (ESV).
In the Divine Mentor, Pastor Cordeiro provides a method to begin keeping track of the Holy Spirits guidance as we enter Scriptures. He explains that there is a difference between reading and entering scriptures. The Pharisees are an excellent example of those who read but never applied the Scriptures to their lives. That is why Jesus said, ‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bears witness about me’ John 5:39 (ESV). If you want to investigate another approach to renewing your mind, consider picking up Wayne Cordeiro’s book Divine Mentor and learn about the S.O.A.P. method that he uses to see how the Holy Spirit guides and equips us for the unknown experiences that face us in the future. If you don’t know Jesus, let’s make that your starting point. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me” John 14:16 (ESV).