When I was little, my dad would always watch vintage wild-west television shows. He would explain the characters to me and detail who was fighting who. If I am honest, I could care less about the wild-west, but I did love spending time with my dad. Though I cannot tell you the specific plot of any of these shows, I do have the scenery etched in my mind after all these years. Desert roads, ghost towns, forlorn wanderers, and gunshots exchanged between weathered cowboys. Depictions of a lawless land.
Sometimes my mind feels like this lawless land; and I feel like a cowboy, attempting to shoot down invasive thoughts that attempt to settle down. It’s exhausting, really. And sometimes I am tempted to feel defeated. In these moments, I am keenly aware that there is an enemy prowling around like a lion searching for prey. And I am the prey he desires.
Yet in Matthew 22:37, Jesus commands us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” So, how do we love the Lord with the whole of our being, even our minds? How do we grow vegetation in a lawless, desert place?
First and foremost, we love God by the power of His Spirit. And we love God by focusing our mind on the things of God (R.C. Sproul). It is on this truth that the rest of this blog is built on. Once we understand how we love God, we can also implement four practical ways that, by His Spirit, will discipline us to love God with our minds.
1. Examine your thoughts
If we trust in Jesus as Lord of our life, we trust the Bible as the record of truth. That means that if our thoughts are contradicting God’s Word, doubting God’s Word, or attempting to justify actions that are against God’s Word, our thoughts cannot be trusted. Therefore, we can approach our thoughts with skepticism knowing that we are sheep easily led astray.
In fact, in 2 Corinthians 10:3–5, Paul describes a spiritual battle in which Satan wages war on the mind: “For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
Yet, we do not participate in this battle by our own strength. Jesus’s death and resurrection paid the debt of our sins and ushered forth the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit resides in believers and works to transform each believer into the image of Christ. This process is called sanctification.
Through the Holy Spirit, in partnership with God’s Word, we discern holy thoughts from evil thoughts and foolish thoughts from wisdom. It is good to exercise a healthy amount of caution with our thoughts, as we are our own best deceivers. Let us navigate with wisdom and chase what is true. We do not fight alone.
2. Exchange your thoughts
Secondly, we must work to exchange our thoughts. We must give the lawless land a law. How?
Jeremiah 31 offers some insight on how we can do that. In Jeremiah 31:33, God promises that He will put His teaching within the minds of His people and write His laws on their hearts.
Through the process of sanctification, our minds are being renewed to mirror Christ’s mind. Therefore, we begin to care about what God cares about. Our hard hearts are softened into compassion.
To help us practically pursue the reality of a Christlike heart, Scripture tells us what kind of thoughts to fill our minds with: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). We can exchange our evil, invasive thoughts with thoughts of value in Christ’s kingdom.
Please remember, this is not a single day transformation. Instead, throughout our lives, we all continually be growing and growing in our knowledge of God and in the purity of our minds. However, we cannot grow until we begin. Try to memorize Philippians 4:8 and speak it over yourself the next time you find evil thoughts attempting to break in.
3. Exercise your mind
In a world of binge watching TV shows and scrolling mindlessly through social media, our minds are attuned to tuning out. Instead of shooting down evil thoughts, we drown them out with distractions. The fighting ceases until we are most vulnerable. Suddenly, a barrage of self-loathing, worry-ridden, fear-soaked thoughts threaten our sleep or send us into panic.
Let us not neglect the exercising of our minds. First Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be sober-minded and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
To exercise your mind, you can do the following things:
- Memorize Scripture.
- Ask hard questions of the Bible and diligently seek out answers.
- Make a list of what you’re grateful for.
- Pray passionately.
- Get to know your neighbors and love them well.
A numbed mind is a defenseless mind. Build up your armory of memorized Scripture. Bury truths of the Bible in your heart. For when Jesus fought temptation from the devil, His weapon was God’s Word (Matthew 4:1–11). Let us follow Christ’s example. Let us be found ready.
4. Enjoy your God
When I look back on the old western TV shows I watched with my dad, one key element is missing: joy. In the midst of action-packed showdowns, there was little celebration or delight. Thankfully, through our sanctification, the mind of a believer will be transformed from a wasteland into a garden—a garden tended to and cultivated by our Creator and Sustainer.
Therefore, as we wage war against wayward thoughts, we can delight in the fact that we are on the winning team. Satan may attempt to prey upon our hearts, but those in Christ’s grasp cannot be snatched away (John 10:28). Colossians 1:13 reminds us that God “has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”
If your mind feels like a lawless land today, take heart. One day, your body and your mind will be made new, at rest in the presence of Jesus. His victory is ours.
Additional resources on loving God:
“8 Bible Verses about Deceivers, of Christians.” 8 Bible verses about Deceivers, Of Christians. Accessed February 14, 2023. https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Deceivers,-Of-Christians.
Sproul, R.C. “Loving God with Our Minds.” Ligonier Ministries. Accessed February 14, 2023. https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/loving-god-our-minds.