[See the first installment here. There I argued for four simple ideas: Your thought life matters. Your mind and heart are never really separate. You are called to a sanctified mind. And you are responsible for your thoughts.]
To grasp the importance of our call to a sanctified mind, let's consider what God tells us about us. How does Scripture teach us to view the human person and what does the mind have to do with that? What is the mind meant to be? And what happened to it?
The Bible teaches us to view humans with two essential parts: body and soul (theologians call this "dichotomy"). Against the unnecessary and unbiblical complications of trichotomy (seeing man as body, soul and spirit), dichotomy gives us the right orientation. Each of us are body and soul. And our thought life is intertwined with both.
In the garden of Eden, humanity existed--body and soul--in holiness and happiness, carrying well the image of God. This imago Dei, according to Paul, consisted in our righteousness and holiness. Unlike the animals, we were made to commune and communicate with God. And our minds were amazing! Isaiah 55:8 was still true ("my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways..."), but our minds were free, clear, and able to not sin.
But everything changed. When our first father fell into sin, we fell with him. The tragedy of that fall wasn't just the certainty of death, but our distance from God and the way sin infected each and every part of us. Not only were our bodies changed, our minds "were hardened" (2 Cor. 3:14), "depraved" (1 Tim. 6:5), "defiled" (Titus 1:15), "darkened" (Eph. 1:18), completely futile in all attempts to find or know God (Rom. 1:18, 21). Such confusion wasn't simply a result of a choice, but part of the punishment (Dt. 28:28). Given over to our sin, our minds were clouded, so that the angel's sword wasn't the only thing prohibiting us from returning to God's presence. This state of affairs remains to this day, when humanity's most brilliant and wise still cannot find God through the workings of their own minds (1 Cor. 1:20-21). Theologians have called this the noetic effect of sin, or the way that sin keeps unregenerate minds from finding, knowing or reflecting God and His glory.
Enter the good news. When God brings new life, a genuine re-generation, to sinners like us, more than our future is changed. In addition to the promise of eternal salvation, we are given new minds right now. God's Spirit gives us a "new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." (Col. 3:10) While we are not yet completely renewed, we are truly renewed.
The implication is clear: if God renews our minds, the call of the Christian is to be "transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rom. 12:2). Here is one of the primary ways we break our conformity with the world, by learning to discern what is "good and acceptable and perfect." We give all the credit for such renewal to the Holy Spirit, but it is our job to be renewed, to set our minds on the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5), primarily by reading, hearing, studying, memorizing and meditating on God's Word.
This post has been an overview of basic anthropology (the study of mankind), maybe just a review for you. So what do we do with this information? Let me offer three Biblical applications of what God tells us about our minds:
First, we should have a healthy distrust of our own ability to think well: "Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool..." (Pro. 28:26). The further we get away from Jesus, the less our minds will be clear and Biblical.
Second, we should prayerfully seek the Spirit's transforming power (Rom. 12:1-2), obeying God's call to "Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Col 3:2) by engaging daily with God's Word.
And finally, we should get our thought life in order and in action: "...preparing your minds for action, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Pet. 1:13)
[In the next post, I hope to discuss practical ways to prepare our minds for action.]