[Here, I hope to begin a short series of posts considering our thought life.]
What do you think when you hear "thought life" or "life of the mind"? This doesn't seem to be a phrase unique to the Christian world. Lots of research is going into learning what goes on between our ears. But it doesn't surprise us that God's Word instructs us often on this part of our being. In this post, I'd like to lay out a Biblical foundation for thinking about the life of the mind.
First, our thought life matters. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen. 6:5) Our thought life matters because God cares about it, because He designed our thoughts to be an integral part of our personhood. Here in Genesis six, we see how disastrous and evil thoughts can be (see also Isa. 59:7 and 66:18). Because they're so important, God pays attention to them: often we're reminded that He tests our hearts and minds (Jer. 11:20; 17:10; 20:12). You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. (Ps. 139:2) Not only does God pay attention to our thoughts, He cares about them! Paul makes this clear: But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his dunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3) Despite what you may have heard or observed in American Christianity, your mind matters!
Second, our thought life and heart life are not very distinct. In fact, Scripture often speaks about them as almost the same thing, talking about the "thoughts of the heart" (1 Chr. 29:18) or using parallelism to show their relationship: Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind. (Ps. 26:2) Against the wave of emotionally-driven religion, Scripture shows that our heart and mind are so closely related, that they are either two sides of the same coin or at least that one is always flowing into and from the other. Jesus makes this relationship painfully clear: But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Mt. 15:18-19)
Third, Christians are called to a sanctified thought life. ...In your thinking be mature. (1 Cor. 14:20) Because what we do with our minds determines, to a large extent, what goes on in our hearts, we would be wise to hear God often exhorting us to "consider!" (see Lk. 12:24, 27; Heb. 3:1; 12:3), to put our mind on something for the sake of moving our heart. 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. (Phil. 4:8)
Which leads to a final, foundational point: We are responsible for our thoughts. This may be the least popular of all these points. I've often heard people argue (or my own heart argue), "I'm not responsible for thoughts that just pop into my head." But, Biblically speaking, my thoughts are like my eyes: I may not be able to entirely control everything they see, but I can certainly control whether they continue to look. Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God. (1 Chri. 22:19) If I can set my mind on something, I can certainly take it off something else. Or consider Romans 8:5-6, For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. In these power-packed verses, we are shown both our ability and our responsibility. We are able to set our minds on the things of the flesh or the things of the Spirit. Thus, we are responsible to set our minds on the things of the Spirit, for the sake of life and peace.
In coming posts, we'll see what direction Scripture gives us to help set our minds on the things of the Spirit. But for now, let's pray for the Spirit's forgiveness and aid!