I was asked that question earlier this week. It was from someone who struggles with addiction. It has impacted their life, their marriage, their work, their health – you name it, it’s been touched. The frustration was painfully obvious from this individual as I was asked that question about living the Christian life. They pray. They attend church. They believe.
Shouldn’t this thing be easier?
We entered a pretty in-depth discussion about what it means to live a Christian life. We talked about the spiritual life, of course. And then we began a tough discussion about the mind. About thinking. About the ‘unspiritual’ parts of this Christian life. The parts that have bearing in a different way in the every day. In some ways, a more palpable intrusion.
As a pastor for the last nearly 25 years, I think that one thing that continues to amaze me is the lack of integration that happens in the whole person who is a follower of Christ. Praying is a good thing. Focusing on church attendance and integration is a powerful part of the Christian life. But one thing that is missed, and quite often, is that of the mind. The brain. Thinking. It is an overlooked part of the expression of Christ within us – and I am convinced that it is to our detriment that we relegate the division of the spiritual and the mind to some forgotten corner of our existence.
Good Christians focus on their spirit, right? Their discipline of spiritual things is the place to focus on.
And the brain sits, unengaged, unmoved, untested, and unimpressed.
“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (CSB)
“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 (CSB)
Paul wrote these in letters that were addressed to churches in the Roman world. Christians, especially the really spiritual ones, tend to gloss over these passages. But Paul was onto a key aspect, I believe, of what the Christian life fully entails. Paul, in my opinion, is simply asking the people of God to do more than just pray about it. Please pray! But do more. It has been shown that addictions change the way the brain functions. The neural pathways are altered. Changes in thinking patterns take place. New belief systems develop new thought patterns. And here is where the power of Paul’s insight really matters.
Paul wants the brain engaged. Thoughts engaged. In talking with the person I met with, the thinking patterns were all screwed up for numerous reasons. Perhaps the belief is correct. But the thinking is not. It led to defeat as quickly as the morning ritual of brushing the teeth. It was then that the decision was made to have that drink later in the evening. Battle lost. All because of thoughts. Enter Paul. Think on these things.
Now, I am NOT advocating that the Christian life is only a thought thing. What I am saying is that we can have a mess on our hands if we don’t deal with our minds when it comes to what living this Christian life is all about. I know for me, the challenge is to stop the downward spiral of thoughts when I notice the downward spiral taking over. That requires the interruption of the Spirit. But I MUST be empowered in my mind to then take that interruption of my thoughts to begin thinking a new direction – the direction of truth, honor, beauty, purity, and more. Paul says that then we can begin to discern the will of the Lord. And that’s a good thing.
So, what do you ‘think’ about this? How have you found engaging your mind as part of your Christian life? Or am I way off in this? Would love to hear from you!