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‘As Man Thinks’: The Importance of a Renewed Mind

Category Articles
Date September 20, 2017

The longer one lives in this world as a Christian, the more he or she becomes aware of the significance of their words and thoughts. The mind of the the believer plays a far more central role than we often realise. ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he’, the scriptures say. We realise more and more that the battle in the Christian life really is a battle for the mind to be renewed and controlled by God’s truth. As a person ‘thinketh’ in their heart, so they are and so they will be.

One of the primary reasons the Christian’s mind is so important is because all of life’s experiences, good or bad, flow out of the choices we make daily as a believer. All choices are the fruit of what we believe and think, whether words or decisions. Everything related to what we do and how we live flows out of our heart and mind, which are really the same thing in the Bible. This is why the Bible says, ‘as a man thinketh in his heart…’

Thinking with the heart? Don’t we think with our mind? Here the inspired writer of scripture makes it clear that the heart of a person is so intertwined with the mind, that man is pictured as thinking with his heart. Jesus put it the same way when he said, ‘Out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts’ (Mark 7:21). When we think of believer’s journey in grace, we must never separate our heart and spirit from our minds and our thoughts.

John Piper says,

Paul said in Romans 12:2 to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The word Paul uses here for transform is the word we use for the metamorphosis of a butterfly. The change in the end is something completely different than was there before. This is how total the transformation should be when it comes to our thinking. And remember, our thoughts determine our actions.

One author tells the story that in 1952, Florence Chadwick wanted to swim California’s shoreline. She had already been the first woman to swim the English Channel. Once she began her journey across the ocean water, her fear got the best of her. Scared of sharks, fighting the fog and the chilly water, she told the boat beside her she wanted to quit. She had already been swimming for 15 hours, was exhausted and ready to throw in the towel. Her mother tried to encourage her, telling her she was close. But, panicking, Chadwick gave up. It all had to do with her outlook and mindset. Even on the human level within the experience of common grace, Chadwick’s mind was not renewed to believe the truth that she could have made it all the way.

Chadwick’s experience pictures the Christian often adjusting our choices to what we believe to be the truth. Within the process of our salvation, the mind is a fierce battlefield, the major place where victories are won or lost in the Christian life. Just consider a moment a few of the many places where the Bible emphasizes the place of the mind and how primary its place is in the scriptures:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. –Psalm 19:14

My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. –Psalm 49:3

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. –Psalm 139:23-24

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. –Proverbs 3:5

My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. –Proverbs 4:20-23

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee. –Isaiah 26:3

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. –Mark 12:30

But I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. –Romans 7:23

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. –2 Corinthians 4:4

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. –2 Corinthians 10:4-5

To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. —Ephesians 4:22-24

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 2:5

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things. –Philippians 4:9

If them you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your affection (mind) on things above, not on things that are on earth — Colossians 3:1-2

For God has given us a spirit not of fear but of power, love and a sound mind. –2 Timothy 1:7

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. –1 Peter 1:13

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds. –Hebrew 10:16

How central a place man’s mind has in the Bible! My intent is not to weary you with an overload of scriptures, but only to show the major emphasis the Bible places on this area of our lives. In our unending battle with sin, a renewed mind is essential. In our ongoing need of comfort and encouragement, a renewed mind only will receive God’s comforts. For true perseverance in the faith year after year, a renewed mind will keep us on the right path, not allowing us to stray from the narrow way. In spiritual warfare, a renewed mind is not an option.

The only means and source of our minds being renewed is God’s word. Truth is the only thing we are to believe. In any situation, we will either believe a lie, a half-truth, or the truth. A renewed mind is one that has been transformed in its thinking and views to see reality for what it truly is, to believe what God has said in any situation, and to walk in that light. This is the renewed mind.

It is significant that Paul, in Romans 12:1-2, says that renewing of the mind follows two things:

  1. Presenting our bodies (our entire beings or all of us) as a living sacrifice to God, and
  2. Not being conformed to this world

–Consecration and transformation! Full yieldedness to Christ produces within the believer a transformation of the mind, rather than allowing the world to squeeze us int its mold. We are not to be conformed to this world but the only alternative to conformity to this world is transformation out of the world’s unregenerate way of thinking into Christ’s way of thinking according to God’s truth.

I can now look back and reflect on forty-four years of Christian experience and realise that my choices in living the Christian life were always based on what I believed at the moment. Reading a bad book as a new Christian, I suddenly felt and believed it was a bad book and I chose to throw it in the trash can. Good choice! I was moving toward marriage to a Christian young lady, and came to see it was not God’s will for us, and chose not to continue the relationship, and that choice resulted in my marriage of 39 years to Linda. My, what a difference our belief at any moment can make for the future!

Over the years, I have increasingly loved the doctrinal standards of historic Presbyterianism, and the stalwarts if the faith among that communion, such as B.B. Warfield, Charles Hodge, J. Gresham Machen, and others. But as much as I love their history and theology, I could never come to believe they were correct on paedobaptism (infant baptism). That conviction, flowing out of a renewed mind to what the Bible reveals, has kept me a Baptist all these years, though I have loving relationships with godly Presbyterians to this day.

What we believe in our hearts and minds is what we are, and determines what we choose and do. What we believe shapes all decisions and choices. Yes it’s true– ‘as a man thinketh in his heart, so he is’! Our constant prayer and goal should be a renewed mind and heart. That will keep us walking on the Lord’s highway of holiness all the days of our lives.

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