A Christian Mind (1): Thinking Differently

Don’t be a donkey. More precisely, don’t be like a horse or a mule (which is actually a different species than a donkey). Animal behavior is directed by instinct, whereas human behavior is directed by intelligent choice. You discriminate based on rational and moral evaluations. God has made you distinct from His animal creation. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding” (Psa 32:8-9, ESV). God expects your intelligent cooperation with Him. Don’t be a mule … or a horse … or a donkey. Think differently.

Your mind should not only be different from an animal’s mind, but also from those of unbelievers who have not submitted their minds to God’s revelation of truth. “You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart …. But that is not the way you learned Christ! – 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, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds” (Eph 4:17-18, 20-23, ESV). All of mankind, saved and lost, suffers from a corrupted mind as a result of inherent sin. The Christian’s advantage is not a higher IQ; your advantage is a renewed mind, able to think with God’s perspective and know God’s wisdom. As for lost mankind, they have chosen not to honor God as God. This has led them to become “futile in their thinking.” “Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:21-23, ESV). As for you, think differently.

Thinking differently begins with … thinking! God has given you a mind to use for His glory. Don’t underestimate the importance of your mind. What you believe, and learn, and know, and think is vital. What does the Lord Jesus say will allow you to experience true freedom as one of His disciples? Is it feeling the love? Is it smelling the incense? Is it doing whatever you want? No. Our Lord said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). “Many students close their minds when they close their school textbooks, satisfied that the intellect should play little, if any part, in the Christian life …. I am not pleading for a dry, humorless, academic Christianity, but for a warm devotion set on fire by truth[1].” The Lord Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, ESV). While you should give attention to your studies, and you are responsible to use your mind for your employer, God has the preeminent claim upon your mind. This is not just about developing a Bible IQ either. The point is, your thoughts shape your actions. The Lord taught that the act of murder stems from hatred in the mind, and the act of adultery stems from lustful thinking (Matt 5:21-22, 28). Likewise, the activity of serving others is a result of a Christ-like mind (Phil 2). To love God and to “consider others as more important than yourselves” (Phil 2:3, HCSB) is obviously not natural to man. It requires you to think differently, to think in a new way, which is only possible through your cooperation with the powerful work of the Holy Spirit within you.

You “have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col 3:10). “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph 4:23). “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom 12:1-2). There are two dominant thought patterns, and you will definitely migrate toward one or the other. The two thought patterns can be summarized under these two titles: this present age, and the will of God. Galatians 1:4 calls this present age “evil,” and says the Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for us to deliver us from it. In contrast, the text above says the will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect. To adopt the thinking of God requires you to think differently from this age – you need to think in a new way.

You won’t be renewed in your mind without the Scriptures. Do you recall our quotation from John 8 above? There was actually more to it. The Lord said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32, ESV). An awareness of the value of your mind to God is bound to affect what you allow to come into your mind. This impacts, in turn, what you watch, what you read, what you listen to, and what you allow yourself to daydream about. But the mind doesn’t become pure merely by trying to keep bad influences out. “One of the sovereign remedies against sin is to spend much time, thoughtful time, meditative time, in the Scriptures, for it is impossible to get rid of the trash in our minds without replacing it with an entirely different way of thinking[2].” Putting it bluntly, “if you think holy thoughts, you will be holy. If you think garbage, you will be garbage[3].” Give your mind to the Scriptures. Take an evening to relax with a good Christian book. Take time to quiet your mind before the Lord, and submit your will to His in prayer. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above” (Col 3:1-2, ESV).

[1] John Stott, Your Mind Matters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972), 11, 18

[2] D.A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Baker Academic, 1996), p.115

[3] Ibid