Being Formed in the Mind of Christ – Part 1

How can we transform our mind from a secular stronghold to a place inhabited by the Spirit of God?

This article was originally published in New Covenant Magazine, March 1977. Bruce states he would write this article somewhat differently today, but he is happy enough to let us reproduce it in its original form. 

Many years ago the phrase “man’s unconquerable mind” became current when a book was published under that title in 1954. The phrase refers to the human mind’s supposedly unlimited potential, and makes an assertion that, on first sight, might seem justified. Over the centuries, men and women have applied their minds to the most difficult problems and come up with extraordinary answers. From the discovery or radium to the increasingly refined techniques of neurosurgery, there is staggering evidence that the human mind is equipped to deal with extremely complex situations.

But is man’s mind unconquerable? The phrase itself is somewhat arrogant, implying that nothing is beyond man’s power, that ultimately no problem can stump him. While it’s true that the power of the mind is vast and that few, if any of us, ever tap its full potential, to say that it is unconquerable omits a whole range of factors that put the mind in perspective and define its purpose.

The way man uses his mind determines whether its achievements are welcome or un-welcome. The mind that pioneers life-saving breakthroughs in medical science also creates biological warfare. The mind that conceives of productive uses of nuclear energy also develops nuclear bombs. In the wars, the hatred and the bitterness that plague mankind, the evidence is all around us: man can allow his mind to be conquered by rebellion against God, by a refusal to submit to him in reverence and humility. Regardless of how much untapped power resides within, once man strays from the plan of God the mind can become an instrument of destruction, a curse rather than a blessing.

God never intended to measure the mind by its intellectual potential. Rather, the real measure of the mind is how wholeheartedly it pursues and clings to the Lord

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” Scripture exhorts. 

(Matthew 22:37, RSV)

Moreover, we can be sure that no matter what our level of intelligence, we can all attain knowledge of God, the most sublime knowledge offered us. 

“Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged because I keep thy precepts”. 

(Psalm 119:98-100)

The most brilliant men and women in the world never attain true knowledge if they close their minds to God. Regardless of its ability to make the most profound advances, the human mind falls far short of its goal unless it is submitted to God and rooted in him.

OPPOSED TO GOD’S KINGDOM

To some degree we have all succumbed to the values of the world, the flesh, and the evil one. Our minds, intended to be the stronghold of God, are slowly and subtly corrupted by the alien influences surrounding us.

The World System

The world constantly confronts us with values that are completely divorced from the kingdom of God – values based on a world system that operates outside of God’s plan. Over the years, a flurry of books has instructed people in the art of acquiring and wielding psychological power over others. The pages of a magazine reveal an attractive woman smiling from the interior of a plush car; buy this car, the ad implies, and beautiful women will be at your beck and call. These are typical of the many attempts to influence us that daily confront us. They are grounded in the values of the world: success, achievement, independence, and exploitation.

Many of the world’s values are actually sinful, but they masquerade as ethical. For the Christian, it can be difficult to sort out God’s truth from the world’s. Abortion on demand is frequently presented as an ethical choice based on freedom and rights. Promiscuous sexual activity is presented as liberating, fulfilling, and as a means of advancing interpersonal communication. Further, those who promote the world’s viewpoints and encourage others to violate the law of God are hailed as liberators who are “unbinding the captives.”

Even some supposedly Christian thinking originates in the world and bears little or no resemblance to the truth. Intellectual pride, another aspect of the world, can affect people’s thinking. For example, a book purporting to examine the historical accuracy of the New Testament may actually undermine the validity of Scripture. Not all Christian thinking bears the marks of the world. But it is important to recognize that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything when the word “Christian” is applied to a book, article, or discussion.

Internal Rebellion

The flesh also wars against Christian thinking.

“To set the mind on the flesh is death…. for the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God”. 

(Romans 8:6)

The flesh is that part of us that resists the things of God, that internal rebellion that drives us away from God’s will in search of the satisfaction of our own desires. 

The mind and the flesh frequently work hand in hand. When the flesh wants something or wants to avoid something, the mind often cooperates by providing ingenious rationalizations. The flesh says, “I have to have a new car, complete with an air conditioner, am-fm radio, stereo tape deck, and plush seat covering.” The mind quickly concurs. “That’s right. A big new car would help you feel more important. “Unless we recognize the impulses of the flesh and discipline our minds to resist them, we will find it increasingly difficult to yield our minds to the Lord and his purpose.

The Kingdom of Darkness

Finally, Satan and all his hosts continually wage war against our minds. Our minds are the battlefield on which Satan mounts some of his most successful campaigns, gradually conquering our thoughts and turning them into weapons for the kingdom of darkness. Frequently in this battle, he encounters little opposition because people fail to recognize and fight against the work of evil spirits. They leave their minds undefended and, essentially, enable Satan to enter and occupy the territory. Through false teaching, through lies, through planting thoughts that lead to fear, doubt, mistrust, anxiety, and condemnation, Satan establishes his kingdom within. If we are to oppose him, we must recognize that our minds belong to God, and that we are entrusted with the commission to vigilantly guard our thoughts from Satan’s influence.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHRISTIAN MIND

There is a significant difference between the Christian mind and the secular mind. The Christian mind approaches life from a different point than the secular mind and moves toward a different goal. This profoundly affects the way the Christian looks at life. I am indebted to Harry Blamires’ book, The Christian Mind, for fresh insight into the characteristics of the Christian, as opposed to the secular, mind.

First, a Christian approaches and thinks about life from the perspective of eternity.

He affirms that there is life after death, that there is more to our existence than the life we experience in this world. He is convinced that there is a second death which is more conclusive and decisive that physical death.

Because a Christian is not fettered by a view of life bound to this world alone, his mind operates in a radically different sphere than the secular mind. A Christian hears Jesus ask, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” and immediately responds, “Nothing, absolutely nothing.” He agrees with Paul that “if for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Why? Because if there is no eternal life then this life on earth has been in vain, his hopes a mockery. But he knows that “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead,” and that from,” and that from him comes “the resurrection of his eternal perspective, the hope and the promise that shape all his thinking.

Second, the Christian views reality from a supernatural perspective.

He believes that God acts in the world in a way that goes beyond natural processes. It comes as no surprise to him that God heals, that he intervenes to alter the direction of events, that he reveals his mind to his people.

Over the past century, efforts to “demythologize” Scripture have done considerable damage to this perspective. Often, demythologizing Scripture means stripping it of its supernatural elements and constructing a theory that explains those events in natural terms. According to this viewpoint, no one in Scripture is healed, no demons are cast out, and no miracles occur because such events are “myths” told in supernatural terms in order to make a certain point, or to convey a sense of God’s power, or for any number of reasons. Although there may have been some good insights derived from demythologizing Scripture, the overall effect has been to undermine the Bible and weaken the Christian’s supernatural perspective.

At its root, in fact, this kind of thinking is incompatible with faith in God because it contends that the Lord does not act in a miraculous way in the world. It limits God, deciding what he can and cannot do. Over against that, the Christian must constantly reaffirm that God is present in the world, continually acting to guide and heal his people.

Third, the Christian mind perceives truth as objective, knowable and universal. 

Opposed to this is the current popular understanding of truth as subjective, unknowable, and relative to circumstances. The latter view is easy to characterize. Imagine that you’ve just told someone about the Lord and the changes he’s accomplished in your life. As you finish, your listener says, “That’s great! I’m glad you can get into that.” “Well, wait a minute,” you say. “I just told you about the Lord, the creator of the universe, and how he’s working in my life.” “I’m happy for you,” your listener responds. “I’m glad it does something for you. But me, I like to meditate. Reality is different for me, it doesn’t work the same way it does for you. You relate to your reality and I’ll relate to mine.”

What an enormous perversion of the truth! In essence, the listener is saying that whatever helps you become “a good person, ‘whatever makes you feel happy and “fulfilled,” is reality and truth for you. The secular mind of today does not admit the possibility of an ultimate truth and reality that applies to all men and women regardless of how it makes them feel. But the Christian asserts that there is objective, ultimate truth that everyone can know – in fact, that it is critical for everyone to know. Jesus didn’t come to the Pharisees and say, “Well, you’re not accepting me but that’s okay. I can see where you’re coming from and it’s evident that you’re not ready for this.” He came bringing the truth; if they rejected him, they rejected truth.

The Christian must resist the tendency of the secular mind to reduce the truth to likes and dislikes, to current ideas and popular trends. The Christian knows that ultimate truth is objective, firmly established, steady, and reliable. It is not conceived of one day and discarded the next.

Fourth, the Christian submits his mind to the authority of God and his word.

To an age in revolt against authority, this submission is astounding, distasteful. The secular mind insists that it is its own authority, that as far as possible it is free from the restraints of an order imposed from above. The Christian mind, however, recognizes that the very nature of God himself calls forth complete obedience. Confronted with the awesome, all-powerful, eternal God, the Christian responds in utter submission. For him, there can be no shifting back and forth, no arbitrary recognition of God’s authority in one situation and rejection of it in another.

Fifth, the Christian knows that the most important truths are revealed.

In other words, the truths that lie at the very heart of reality, the truths concerning who God is and who we are, have been revealed to us by God himself. We could never have learned of the Trinity or the love of God on our own. The secular mind, on the other hand, operates apart from revelation and, consequently, has cast off the most significant truths of life, asserting the primacy of revealed truth doesn’t at all denigrate truths arrived at through science and other disciplines; it simply puts them in the proper perspective. No matter what technological advances we make, no matter what areas of study we pursue, if we’re not laying hold of the truths that God has revealed our studies won’t much avail.


Image credit: person reading the Scriptures, from BigStock.com, copyright by doidam10 , stock photo ID#  331805947

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