Summary: Everyone has an attitude, whether it is a good or bad one. For Christians, we should be asking if it is a God-honoring attitude. How does the Bible talk about our attitude? What kind of attitude pleases Jesus?
In my last post, I described the renewed imagination Christian creatives have and how they can use that for God’s glory. In this post, I explain a Christian attitude.
Some people have a good attitude about them, and others not so much. Attitude is usually attributed to the study of psychology and counseling, but the Bible talks about a Christian attitude. That’s the focus of this teaching.
When you do a character study of some of the people in the Bible, you could talk about their attitude. It’s an outlook on life. Attitude is often shown or tested through trying situations in life. Jesus changes your attitude at salvation, but some Christians don’t act like it. Let’s get started.
What’s an attitude?
The word “attitude” originally describes a bodily posture. However, we can apply the word added to more commonly to our mental posture. Our attitude is linked to our mindset and mental position in situations. The position you take when a trial or hardship happens to you shows your attitude, your mental approach to the situation.
Attitude is defined by Webster’s Eleventh Edition Collegiate Dictionary as “a mental, feeling, or emotional position with regard to a fact or state.”1 A person can have a positive or negative attitude. Your attitude is different from your mindset in that attitude affects your decision-making process and it involves your emotions.
We emotionally react to our situation. If it is a trial, most people act negatively. They get angry, fearful, doubtful, and depressed. We react to a positive situation with positive emotional engagement. People are happy, peaceful, and joyful.
To have a Christian attitude about your situation in life, you must have the same mind as Christ. This is trusting in Jesus no matter your situation, positive or negative. You know that Jesus has seen your affliction, understands and walks with you in your trial.
You can suffer during your trial, but your ultimate attitude is faith in Him to guide you. The Christian attitude has different attributes than a worldly one. We will look at attitude in the Bible and then talk about the attributes of a Christian attitude.
Attitude in the Bible
The word “attitude” is hard to find unless you use translations with the concept-four-concept approach. They translate the word “mind” as “attitude” to show the context of how the mind is referred to by biblical authors. They use the word for mind, but they refer to a mindset or a way of looking at things with your mind.
In the Old Testament, literal translations like the ESV have “regard with favor,” “the spirit of,” “practice,” and “heart,” to name a few. It is most often the position of a person’s heart. The heart for the Hebrews was the seat of intellect, decision-making, and emotions. They understood that you need all three as part of your mental process.
We have much to learn from this holistic approach to a Christian attitude. Your attitude flows from how you see what’s happening before you. But this attitude you decide to have so much involves your emotions after you have made the decision to approach something with the attitude you choose.
Notice that all three of the Hebrew mind’s approach from the heart show up in your attitude. You rationally observe the situation you are in, decide what type of posture to take for it, and then emotionally respond to your situation. The Jews understand how the mind works so well, and as we form a Christian attitude, we do well to take this model of the mind into account.
It’s hard to find the word “attitude” in the New Testament, but you have to look at some of the uses for “mind.” The epistles use attitude in a biblical sense, not necessarily the word we use for attitude. We see attitude as referring to the mental posture we take.
The Bible refers to attitude in Christian ways, but through how we use our minds in each situation. Christian attitude is a way of preparing for each situation we choose before that situation occurs. Each part of the New Testament encourages us to use our mind to address each new situation the way Jesus would.
New Testament words for attitude speak of “wisdom,” “the spirit of your mind,” “think this way,” and “have this mind,” to name a few. In the next section, I break down the occurrence of attitude in some Bibles and show the wording behind each occurrence.
You can already see that whether we are talking about Hebrew in the Old Testament or Greek in the New Testament, the Bible clearly puts the mind and heart behind our attitude. There’s a very close connection there.
Attributes of the Christian Attitude
The Christian attitude is how a person saved by Jesus deals with the trials of life. It is in these trials that your attitude and mental mindset is challenged. That’s what I’m talking about when I say “a Christian attitude.” So, we are saying that Jesus changes our mental mindset when we face trials and suffering.
Here is how attitude is connected to the mind, and sometimes the spiritual aspects of our person, throughout the Bible. Let’s begin with the words behind “attitude” in the Old Testament.
- Genesis 31:2, 5 – “regard with favor”
- Numbers 5:14, 30 – “the spirit of”
- Numbers 14& 24 – “a different spirit”
- Deuteronomy 28:50 – “hard-faced”
- 1 Kings 11:11 – “practice”
- Ezra 6:22 – “hearts”
- Job 19:29 – “wrath”
- Jeremiah 12:3 – “my heart toward you”
- Daniel 12:3 – “face changed”
Attitude in the Old Testament speaks of the way we regard one another, having a spirit of a posture toward a person, the practice we take toward something, and the way our face is when we encounter a trial, and even wrath toward a person.
In the New Testament, there are some similar words behind “attitude.” The Hebrew concept of the mind/heart equals the “mind” of the New Testament. “The spirit of” also has references in the New Testament. Here are the words behind the New Testament use of “attitude.”
- Luke 1:17 – “wisdom”
- Romans 14:18 – “acceptable”
- Ephesians 4:23 – “spirit of your minds”
- Philippians 2:5 – “think this way”
- Philippians 3:15 – “have this mind”
- Colossians 1:21 – “humble in mind”
- Colossians 4:2 – “watchful”
- Hebrews 4:12 – “intentions”
- James 2:1 – “show partiality”
- 1 Peter 3:8 – “mind”
- 1 Peter 4:1 – “way of thinking”
We see that the “attitude” in the New Testament covers wisdom, the spirit of our minds, the way we think about something, humility in our minds, paying attention, our inside intentions, and even showing partiality. All of these from Hebrew to Greek are a posture we take before we face people and trials.
Another approach to take when studying attitude in the Bible is to observe biblical people, and how they interact with their situations and other people. Look at Job, who suffered great tragedy and affliction, and yet he never lost faith in God. Paul also suffered many things as he ministered to Jesus’s churches, and yet he refused to give up.
In the same way, we can look at negative attitudes. Naomi lost a husband and two sons in Moab. Even though she had two daughters-in-law who would go with her back to Israel, she tried to turn them both away. She knew she was full of bitterness. She even told people in Israel to call her Mara (Heb. “Bitter”) because in her view, God had taken so much from her.
The Israelites collectively in the wilderness represent the unbelieving, stiff-necked people who only listened to God in the good times. Otherwise, they complained and even wanted to desert Moses. It seems our attitude is greatly affected by our closeness to God and His Word for our lives.
The Great Change
If it’s true that our attitude and emotional reaction to situations are affected by our closeness to God, those who are saved by His grace should have a different outlook and attitude no matter the situation. Firmly fixing it in our minds that God is in full control of every situation will affect our attitude and emotional state when trials and storms of life come.
Jesus has so fundamentally changed the way we think that we should see Him in every situation. “Where is Jesus in my situation?” “I will lean on Jesus when I don’t have the strength.” These are the kinds of questions that help us put Christ in our minds and let our minds filter that statement of faith into the attitude and emotions that follow.
Notice also that even though Christian are supposed to have a renewed mind, be new creatures in Christ, and have a godly attitude, that doesn’t mean these things come to us automatically. The moment you become a Christian, you still need to take the effort to renew your mind regularly.
You still have to choose to have a godly attitude. Through the spiritual disciplines, you must regularly evaluate and grow in mental discipline, listening to the Holy Spirit in your life, and obeying His guidance for your life. We will all fail in these disciplines from time to time. But as you follow Jesus, you will see Him slowly making that change as you mature in Him.
Evaluate your attitude before the Lord. What do you need to work on and need the Spirit’s help with? What can the Holy Spirit take credit for in your attitude’s positive aspects?
We need to let the Holy Spirit develop our attitude to be like Jesus’s. Next, we will talk about how to use godly wisdom in our lives.