Summary: Many Christians don’t realize how crucial the mind is to our growth in Him and transformation into the new creatures He is making us to be. Instead of letting your mind wander, let the Spirit empower it to make those battles easier to win.
In my last post, I began talking about renewing your mind as a disciple of Jesus by describing a Christian mindset. In this post, I teach on renewing your mind in Christ.
What do you do about stray thoughts, daydreams, even things you plan and about? Some people can focus their minds on a task. What you think about when the mind is otherwise unoccupied? A lot of people don’t patrol their thoughts. The letter minds wander and go wherever he wants to go.
But even these stray thoughts and daydreams are not random. Nothing about the mind is random. People may not train their minds, but it is possible. Our brains are powerful and can do many things we don’t realize. Scientists say that we only use around 7%-10% of the full capacity of our brains. And yet, we do so much with them without even trying.
Your mind is incredibly important to your spiritual development as a disciple of Jesus. Sadly, many Christians have no idea how important the mind is. They don’t notice all the times the Bible talks about our minds, especially in the New Testament.
Scholars have many ideas about the Christian mine. For instance, some believe that your mind remains “carnal” and vulnerable to temptations and evil thoughts. Others offer that the Christian mind is in the state of flux, half the time carnal and the other half of the time righteous. Some don’t believe anything about our mind changes when we become disciples of Jesus.
There’s a lot of negativity about the Christian mind and what if anything Jesus does to change it from our life before we met Him. The Bible has a lot to say about what changes in our minds. Let’s start with the beginning. When Jesus makes us new creatures in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17-20), He re-creates our mind too. But it’s not all up to Him. We have to be obedient with our mind. Let’s get started.
A Trick Concept?
The Bible talks about an ongoing process of renewing your mind in Christ (Romans 12:2). It comes as Paul talks about offering our bodies as a spiritual sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Interestingly, the word “spiritual” and some translation could also be translated “rational” or “reasonable” sacrifice.
When you get the idea that our mind and thoughts could not be a spiritual garden bringing glory to God? Why do we have to separate “spiritual sacrifice” with “rational or reasonable sacrifice? We’ve let the secular world into every part of us, the Church, and our minds. We are seceding ground to the enemy without even thinking about it.
The spiritual and the mental “spheres” of our life are not meant to be separate. We can worship God with our minds as we think on Him and His Word. If you check out mentally at a church service or when you read your Bible, you are doing the opposite of God’s expectation. One of the greatest spiritual joys of my life is to dive into Scripture and mine the gems God has for me and congregations I preach and teach the Word to.
So, let’s break down what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 and how to renew our minds with purpose and conviction. When I talk about how you can renew your mind, that’s not actually what the Bible says (I just wanted to see if you would click on this post and read it). God is after your body and your mind.
Romans 12:1 tells us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord. Elsewhere Paul has told us that our bodies don’t belong to us as Christians. They were bought at the price of Jesus’s suffering on the Cross (2 Corinthians 6:19-20). He connects the body and the mind in this thought of “living sacrifices” by two ideas: your spiritual or reasonable act of worship, and conforming to this world.
Right after resisting conformity to this world, Paul tells us the war is for our mind. Too often, we give our mind over to the world and to the enemy of our souls. Without thinking (which is what God wants you to do with the mind He gave you), Christians conform to the world. But God’s plan and process for your salvation and sanctification is that you conform to Christ (Romans 8:29) we must resist the world’s and the devil’s designs for our minds.
The verb for transformation is passive, meaning that it happens to you, not that you do it for yourself. The trick in the title for how you can renew your mind is actually the Spirit’s work. You are transformed by the renewing of your mind. We don’t transform ourselves. The Spirit does that.
However, we have an active role to play in our transformation. We renew our minds, a beautiful dance between the Spirit telling us what and how to think, and us obeying Him. It’s a partnership in our transformation and sanctification. So let’s see how to do that.
Intake and Processes
In a sense, the brain is a powerful computer, like an engine, that runs on the fuel of thoughts and the intake from our senses. What fuels your brain? This literally comes down to input from your senses. What are you watching on TV and at the movies? What kind of music you listen to? What ways are you talking to yourself?
The engine of your mind is fueled by your thoughts, your ideas, your intake from your senses, and what is stored in your brain, your memory bank. Everything else in your mind from imagination to your factual knowledge and experiential knowledge gives the brain everything that needs to process that information.
It comes down to what you fuel your mind with. Are you rehashing the pleasures and desires from before you met Jesus, or are you focused on godly things? The more you feed your brain with things from your past, the harder you will find it to avoid temptation and to stay away from “entangling sins” (Hebrews 12:1).
Training the Mind for Godliness
The images and “video” you put in your head get stored by your brain in your memory. At any time of the day or night, your brain will feed that into your subconscious, imagination, and background thoughts. That’s why it’s so hard to renew your mind if you filled your brain with junk. You’ve got to get rid of that junk, and it takes a long time.
The cool thing about our brains is that they can make new neural pathways if we train them to do that. Your will gets involved because you have to want to get rid of that junk. You need to stop daydreaming about your passions and desires from BC (Before Christ). Those things you used to do and think about have chemical attachments called endorphins. The more you think about them, the more your body responds with the same pleasure it did before Christ.
Paul talks about chasing after God so hard that everything he used to find pleasure and significance in he now considers rubbish (Philippians 3:9). I word study for you, but you can guess what that Greek word refers to. You have to hate sin and everything that amounted to nothing with your old desires and passions that you accept the new input Jesus makes in you as His new creation.
Yes, we can choose which one to do. Your salvation took the shackles off your wrists so you can fight your flesh and passions. You must every day, even every minute, take the input of the Spirit and Word over the input of the world and the repository of wicked thoughts and things from your past.
Paul says to train ourselves for godliness, which is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). He talks about athletes that train in the games to run the race and get the prize, but we have a greater prize in Christ (1 Corinthians 9:24-26). Just as Paul trains his body, our minds also must be trained.
Taking Every Thought Captive
So how do you train your mind to be renewed? You can’t do it alone. You need the power of the Spirit who comes alongside you. Paul elsewhere describes the training of our minds as a spiritual battlefield (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We must actively think, taking every thought captive to Christ.
Got bad thoughts, ungodly ones you know don’t please Jesus? Put them in a cage and vanquish them. This is where Christians neglect the importance of the Christian mind. We have the ability to stop thinking about things that don’t please Jesus. Just like He freed our hands to fight our flesh, he freed our mind to fight ungodly thoughts.
Along with the Spirit’s help, Jesus gives us spiritual weapons of mental warfare that have His divine power (through the Spirit), big, destructive weapons, to obliterate those strongholds of sinful thinking. Your sinful, entangling thoughts from your past like a bear trap around your ankle. Jesus’s weapon of spiritual warfare against those evil thoughts is the jaws of life.
When we have godly thought processes, we can put past strongholds in their own chains. Arguments, philosophies, opinions of the world, and anything that combats the knowledge of God you are receiving from the Spirit goes in the cage. Don’t think about those things. Fill your mind with the good things of Christ.
Thinking on Good Things
It’s a spiritual discipline to monitor, control, and destroy every thought that is ungodly and worldly. Change the channel in your imagination. Read Scripture, think on godly things, and fill the repository of your memory with things that glorify God. It’s more than sheer willpower. It is Spirit-infused empowerment to think differently and fill your mind with God and His things.
Paul gives us the blueprint for how to change our mind from ungodly, evil thoughts to the godly things that bring godliness and cleanse our mind. In Philippians 4:8-9 he lays out eight things we can put our minds to that will never produce the wicked thoughts and passions of our past.
Philippians 4:9 tells us to imitate the character of godly people. Instead of watching tempting TV programs and movies, go hang out with your mentor in the faith. Don’t have one? Get one! The battlefield of your mind depends on changing your thoughts, filling your mind with God, reading Scripture that transforms your thinking from worldly to heavenly thoughts, and putting godly examples before you.
Instead of using your mind to think dirty thoughts, use it to break down Scripture, understand it, and apply it to your life. Follow a Mentor in the faith who leads you down godly paths of righteousness. Make the break with your thoughts from the past. Have to daydream and let your imagination wander?
What will heaven be like? What are some of God’s attributes that blow your mind? How should you understand that passage you read in your devotions? All good places for your mind to wander to enter imagination to go wild! If you think you have all that figured out, I cannot help you realize how far from a good, Christian imagination you have fallen. But more on that in another post.
What part of your mental journey in Christ does this post address? Do you need to put fleshly passions, thoughts, images, and what you listened to in the cage? Let the Spirit free and fill your mind with Jesus.
We’re not done talking about renewing your mind in Christ. In the next post, I will conclude my teaching on this crucial importance of renewing your mind in Christ with Part 2.