Paul tells us to renew our minds. This is good advice. Consider this post a follow up to Garbage in, Garbage out. The mind is a field of many thoughts both good and bad, both helpful and destructive. Paul reminds us that our minds tend to pick things up, they are sponges that collect. Our minds-eye sees all and un-discerningly it makes an imprint. There are many things I wish I could un-see, but instead, I have to form a response. Our minds absorb all manner of things that influence and direct our lives. These have a tendency to overtake us. Without proper redirection, we can go to dark places. For example, it is fine to dislike Trump, but failing to curb that feeling will lead to believing Trump will bring about the destruction of the world so your only option is to go burn down a Californian boulevard.
When we do not take every thought captive we can be overcome with anxiety and that can cause massive dissonance that we will be unable to handle because of our current mode of thinking. Paul gives us an anchor for our thoughts which is the Word of God and more specifically the person of Christ. This will bring about a peace in God, as you find anchors in God’s truth instead. This is a recipe to become able to respond in a more measured way to anything.
Have your viewpoint, but all the baggage that we attach to it is what I am talking about. Walking through a field shouldn’t mean we always need a bomb detector. If your viewpoints don’t lead to peace, then perhaps a new truth is in order. Perhaps our minds need some maintenance?
2. 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)
The world has many things for our minds to absorb that do shape and form our lives. This shaping comes about from simply being and living life. We experience pain, and tragedy, we feel the weight of life, we even see the lies mixed with the truth and it has impact. Over time if we do not refocus of minds we end up as simply a product of the social environment. The point is we conform and this happens naturally as we live our lives. It takes an active renewal process in order to transform it into something that is good and acceptable to God.
Paul says this takes a testing.
We are to test what we hear, we test what we see, we test what we experience in order to come to the will of God. It may not be such a thing as “go here today do such and such” but this is about a way of thinking about the problem. If we allow these destructive thought patterns, these mines, to be buried in our hearts then traipsing through them is not safe, not for us and certainly not for others. Unfortunately, others do not know this until they step on those mines and an explosion occurs. Certain thoughts and trails of thinking become unsafe and forgone, this is how arguments often begin. We react instead of thoughtfully respond. This is about shaping and altering the direction in our minds that leads to God’s preferred method of such. God wants us to think in such ways that are good, and accepting, and even perfect.
He doesn’t want us overcome with evil in the world but to overcome evil with good. We either need a map through our minefields that trigger such responses or to do the hard work of removing them and thinking critically as informed by God’s truth. But to do this we have to put a pause in our thinking and reflect on God’s good will. We need a test. So here are some questions:
Does this thinking/acting bring about peace? Does this thinking/acting bring about encouragement? Does this thinking/acting bring about love for others? Does this thinking/acting please God? To flesh out this one. Ask yourself am I doing this out of fear or faith? This is a fantastic question to ask yourself as this fuels so many of our decisions.
The Bible teaches us that without faith it is impossible to please God, (Heb 11:6) so even if we are attempting to glorify God in a decision or mode of thinking it must be done by faith or else we may simply not be given him much of anything. Fear has a way of weaseling its way into many of our thoughts and decisions. Paul also teaches that anything done without faith is sin. (Romans 14:23) Meaning that if we are actively acting against faith, then we are sinning.
This is that knowing what we ought to do, but justifying something else anyway. Self-justification is key for all kinds of bad thinking and behavior. We have to understand that our deeds and thoughts need to be moved by a faith in God, because it may be something else entirely moving us. After such things pray about it, this is a great way of realigning wayward thinking.
Run these tests in order to see if faith is moving you towards God-honoring thinking and acting. This is how we take captive our thoughts and order our behavior after the Word of God and achieve what is good, and acceptable and even perfect. It takes God’s help here. This is simply discipline. Over time you will get better at it as you humbly submit more and more to God’s opinions on the matters surrounding your life.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
The first point in this passage is to tell yourself the truth. If the truth you are buying into isn’t leading you towards the other things in this list, it might not be the truth you are listening to. Our minds are minefields of worry, anxiety, and fear which should not be driving us to action. This is why a transforming needs to take place. Think on these things instead. Think on things not in a vacuum without God, but as if he is there beside you because he is.
You will never reach a satisfied mind, without training your thinking.