"There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking." -Sir Joshua Reynolds.It's convicting because it's true. How many occasions have I gladly spent my time mindlessly watching TV in order to avoid the real thoughts and feelings that I may be experiencing? How many times have a chosen day-dreaming over thoughtfully listening to instruction? How many times have I opted for pop songs in lieu of thinking about the labors God has called me to carry out with merit? Countless times. In fact, it's my knee-jerk reaction and my go-to move. It's the band aide I place on over thinking. Thinking requires effort, and it is often an effort that we feel neither equipped nor energized to give. As Christians who are called to be holy as the Lord is holy, we've got a higher standard to which our thoughts must match up. Being above reproach isn't naturally easy or fun, and having our thoughts be honoring to God takes stamina and discipline. We're prone to have our thoughts wander toward anything of the flesh: lust, malice, envy, worry. Those are the thoughts that are easy for us, in our brokenness, to muster up; these are the things that my over thinking mind veers to. What's more difficult: to conjure up thoughts of anger and slander or thoughts of mercy and grace? I can't speak for you, but the unwholesome things are easier for me to summon than the excellent things. Our thoughts tend to be a litmus test of what is happening in our hearts, and all of our actions flow from what we think is true. This means that our beliefs and love for Scripture have a great deal of impact on our minds, which in turn has a great deal of impact on our actions. We do what is right and holy and excellent in the sight of the Lord when those actions are fueled by excellent, holy, and righteous thoughts, that is: thinking on the Word of God. In this way, thinking is a crucial tenant of our faith. What we think about matters. What we think about impacts the rest of our being–both in action and in emotion. Elisabeth Elliot continues on in her book, speaking of the relevance and importance of a Christ-centered mind:
"It is nothing short of a transformed vision of reality that is able to see Christ as more real than the storm, love more real than hatred, meekness more real than pride, long-suffering more real than annoyance, holiness more real than sin."Can we pause to really understand what she's saying here? It's because of God that our minds shift to believe that He is the ultimate, excellent, and best thing. It is because of Jesus that we fear no death. It is because of the counseling of the Holy Spirit that we are able to pursue meekness instead of boasting. It is because of God that we have the ability to delight. Do you think that Christ is more real than your circumstances? Do you think that the Word of God is sufficient for wisdom and navigating this world? Do you think that God's glory is more important that your discomfort? Do you think that suffering for the sake of the Gospel is worth it? These are the thoughts that dictate our actions. These are the thoughts that set a foundation for what we believe to be true. And what we believe to be true is what determines our actions, influencing whether they are holy or fleshly. Wrong feeling. Wrong thought. Wrong action. Do you see how these three things are born out of one another? Poor acting reveals poor feeling which reveals poor thinking. When we are in Christ, our mind is renewed and rehabilitated. When we are in Christ we put away the things of the flesh and focus on the Light that is our Savior. When we are in Christ, our thoughts and actions are charged with holiness as we work excellently unto the Lord To conclude, I'll offer one more thought from Elliot in which she describes a moment that she responded in the Spirit rather than the flesh:
"Think Christ was the new thought that came. Where did it come from? Not from me. Not from a secular mind-set. The Holy Spirit reminded–re-minded–me."Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:22-24, and Colossians 3:2-5 are just a sampling of verses that testify to this sentiment. In each of these passages the Apostle Paul urges believers to submit to their new minds in Christ. In our modern world there are countless ways in which we numb our mind, and we are great at creating excuses to do so. In a culture that doesn't value laborious thought, are you willing to be re-minded by the Holy Spirit? Are you prepared to forsake the old self in place of something better–a new Spirit? Sarah Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Grace Co.