We have restarted this blog with a link to the Grace Bible Church of Pleasant Hill Facebook page. It is our hope this will result in a wider dissemination of the posts. The posts are primarily designed to promote the fellowship of our local congregation by deepening our grasp and application of the truths of God’s Christ-centered word. Thank you for your patience.
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life,” writes Solomon in Proverbs 4:23.
The heart or mind of mankind (biblical categories overlap at this point) is the starting point of all behavior. Deep in the recesses of our inner person lie the images and ideas that become the ruling motives of our lives. In our technological age the gateway to the inner being is bombarded with images and ideas clamoring for our attention. It is the glory of Jesus Christ that through our union with Him He is willing and capable of bringing His light to the darkest corridors of our hearts. Praise be to our God that He not only justifies us on account of Christ but purifies us through Christ as well.
This transformation involves our cooperation with God’s grace. We are to be about the business of renewing our minds with the Word of God. To be sure, it is God who does all the transforming and growing and changing. But His appointed means include our efforts under His influence. We must teach ourselves to think Christianly about all of life and this involves effort. It involves efforts at limiting and controlling what comes in, how it comes in and when it comes in. It also involves efforts at flooding and saturating our hearts with biblical truth.
I want to offer you a few examples largely informed by James Sire in his book Habits of the Mind by James Sire. They are directed at individual and not corporate renewal. At each point I believe you will once find that we must resist the currents of pop culture and the rapid pace of life.
1) Solitude: Renewing the mind involves thinking and contemplation. Not the kind that takes place in a few minutes on a noisy and busy bus ride. But the kind of thinking that is the result of extended solitude. The kind of thinking that is the result of tracing biblical truth to its furthest points of reference. This involves waiting as you ponder who God is and what He is teaching you. Waiting– wow! I can hardly explain how difficult this is for our American mentality. We are an instantaneous society. But beloved, renewing the mind will rarely be the result of a “pop-tart” approach to spiritual feeding. It will be difficult for you to renew your mind without halting busyness and insisting upon creating pockets of time for solitude where you will meet with God’s thoughts till they saturate you and result in praise, wonder or a new direction.
2) Silence: Solitude naturally involves silence but in some cases this involves yet a deeper discipline. The discipline of being content to think without the T.V. or music filling the air. The further discipline of unburdening the mind of all the voices that demand your attention and clamor for a decision or an opinion. This involves a renunciation of all the noise that crowds-out our deepest thoughts of God and disrupts our contemplation. It is both the noise of environment and the noise of busy-body minds that must be set aside if we are to aggressively renew our minds with the Word of God. To this end we must practice the fine art of detachment. Detaching ourselves even from important things for in the end they are all secondary things to the voice of God in Scripture and we desperately need to hear Him if we are to renew our minds.
3) Attention: We may finally set aside time to be alone and shut out the sounds and voices that trigger so many reflex thoughts, but if we have not learned to maintain attention upon the Word we will drift away and the benefits of this important time will be lost. Attention is a difficult thing to define and understand. As Sire notes, “one can’t simply pay attention by paying attention to paying attention!” What comes to my mind is the sense of a free and natural focused concentration. Like the swing of a natural baseball player. All the rules of the game and the conditions of the environment inform him. There is a man on second, there are two outs, the left fielder is playing on the line, the pitcher likes to throw inside fastballs on two strikes and today’s umpire has a large strike zone. All these things are there in the back of his mind and they are true but for those few seconds his attention is completely focused upon the pitcher’s wind up and release. He swings with a natural beauty and sense of timing that is the result of a focused attention and hits the ball. At that moment his desire was to hit the ball not analyze all the details I just mentioned. Likewise, if we desire to know and to understand God and what He has said then His Word will have our focused attention. It is this yearning desire that keeps us on edge. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;” (Ps 42:1-2a)
4) Meditation: So often the word “meditation” conjures up Eastern ideas of emptying oneself. But biblical meditation is really the opposite. It is not emptying but filling. It is filling one’s mind with biblical truth and then contemplating the various angles and connections this truth has to other truths and finally to one’s life. Both ideas are brought together by the psalmist when he writes “I will meditate on Thy precepts, and regard Thy ways” (Ps. 119:15). Meditation cannot be rushed. It is mulling over biblical statements and ideas over and over again. It is like staring at a sunset that is just unbelievable and longing to hold onto it forever. I find my meditation is helped by reading out loud and stating the implications of what I am reading as I pray to God. You might also try keeping a notebook with you to jot down your thoughts in order to return to them in contemplation.
We face many obstacles to solitude, silence, attention and meditation. But beloved, as Os Guiness notes, there are only two possibilities– “to think Christianly or to think un-Christianly.” Christ’s own disciples were guilty of thinking “as men think, not as God thinks.” If we are to have reformation in this area, and beloved we must, then we must make a commitment to renewing our minds as active obedience to the great commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your mind!”