I have pondered this post for a while. It’s a topic that I have a natural attraction to, but I realize that not everyone shares this same fondness. It is the topic of feeding, growing, and weeding your “spiritual mind.” Now, I know that we shouldn’t separate our “spiritual” mind from our physical one, but there is clear teaching in the Bible about spiritual mindedness and the new mind that we have in Christ. So, let’s get on with it.
Early on in my Christian life this verse knocked me off my feet, and still does:
“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
Read it carefully. Paul instructs us to be transformed by renewing our minds. In other words, the primary growth for Christ-followers takes place in the mind, not the will, or emotions. Sorry. If we are to become mature, effective Christ-followers we must grow our minds on God’s Word — which is how we are renewed — and allow God to do His transformative work in our minds first (see also Ephesians 4:23). This occurs when we consitently feed our minds on God’s Word . No shortcuts, no alternate routes.
To get on with building your spiritual mind you must first tear down two barriers that keep you from it. Both barriers are used by our Enemy, and appeal to our natural tendencies. The first barrier that we must overcome is that of being driven by our emotions, and allowing them to dictate the timbre and tone of our spiritual growth.
God created us to have emotions, and they play an important role in life. But, emotions are NOT the primary vehicle for spiritual growth, or even a dependable vehicle for growth at all. Sadly, American Christians tend to fall for this two-bit idea and think that our feelings about Christ and His Word will drive us toward depth and strength; instead, they tend to steer us right off the cliff.
A biblical example — the Gospels record more than two handfuls of times when Jesus asked His disciples what they thought about a situation or His teaching. How many times do the Gospels record Him asking, “how do you feel about this?” Zero. It wasn’t their emotions that He was after, it was a matter of putting His truth into their heads and souls. (Now before you send me a naggy email, or unfollow this blog, give it some thought. Emotions are icing on the cake, not the flour and eggs that make the cake.).
Here’s another example for you:
“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…” Luke 24:45
What did he open for the understanding of His Word? Their hearts? Their souls? Nope, it was their minds!
To further the point, here’s a practical example: if a strong stirring of emotions could produce favorable and long term results then you would only need once dose of encouragement per year, football coaches would give one pep talk per season, extra pounds could be shed and never return by you having a single feeling of inspiration about a diet and exercise program. I could go on — and would enjoy it — but you get the idea. True life transformation takes place through the renewing of our minds, which can be hampered by our emotions and a reliance upon them for change.
The second barrier to growing our spiritual minds is lack of discipline. Rather than engaging and training our spiritual minds each day, we allow them to crawl up on the front porch and doze while gnats gather to buzz around their hind-parts. Sad, but true. It’s no wonder that more than a decade ago, Os Guinness quipped that American Christians pursue fit bodies but have fat minds.
It is easy to allow our schedule, commitments, and work to gobble up time and energy. This is where discipline comes in. At the beginning of the day, or at its end, when we are tired, is when we have to make up our … well, you know, our minds, to take the time to read God’s Word in a systematic manner and think on what we have read.
In sum, dial down the emotions and crank up the discipline. And, as a corollary to your Bible study and thinkin’, add in some reading of great Christian thinkers. Supplementing, not replacing, your personal Bible reading time with C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, John Piper, J.I. Packer, and so on will do you miles of good. I have it from a good source that if a believer has not read J.I. Packer’s Knowing God and C S Lewis’ Mere Christianity at least once in his/her lifetime, then he or she will have to sit through remedial classes in heaven for his/her first six months there.
Here’s a challenge for you for the rest of the month: commit to forsake being led along by your emotions and circumstances, draw on spiritual discipline, and read through a chapter or two of God’s Word each day, then think on it, and pray through it. Also, memorize Romans 12:2, and add in a solid Christian book as a strongly brewed supplement for your spiritual mind.
My oldest daughter loves horses. This past summer she attended six days of Girl Scout “horse” camp. Yesterday, she went back to the Girl Scout camp for the next level of training in horseback riding. She loved it. One thing that stood out to me was that the teacher continually gave instruction to Emma about her riding form while she was riding, not before or after. Form matters.
The form that we need for feeding, growing, and weeding our spiritual minds is one of a disciplined ingestion of God’s Word, thinking on it, and supplementing it through reading solid-minded Christian writers from the past. Emma’s instructor would also frequently say, “keep going, that’s it, finish it out.” When you are tired, or loose your train of thought while reading a passage remember to keep going, finish it out. Your spiritual mind will grow, and you will grow in Christ-likeness.