I got a new book in the mail last week. No, it isn’t a page turning suspense thriller, a fantasy novel or even a spiritual devotional. It’s a cookbook. Specifically, one targeting heart-healthy living. It’s not that anyone is particularly interested in changing the numbers on the bathroom scale or altering appearance in our household, but upping our activity level and being more careful about what we eat is never a bad idea. And besides, everyone knows that when you make changes that affect your inside (ie lowering cholesterol and increasing heart health), the change on the outside (ie appearance, stamina etc) will take care of themselves.
Isn’t that the way it is with our spiritual health too? If you’ve been a Christian very long, you recognize that some things in your life are probably different. But at the same time, haven’t you also had relapses into your old patterns? Haven’t you made some stupid decisions that you knew were not in keeping with your new identity? Don’t you still sometimes struggle with the same thought patterns from years ago?
That’s because lasting change comes from the inside out. If we major only on making changes in behavior… like stopping bad habits or starting good ones, then most likely, the alterations won’t last long. Real change – whether physical, spiritual or emotional – begins first with a change of mind. I think that’s probably what Paul was getting at in Ephesians 4:22-24. He told the new Christians to “to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
The key to walking in concert with God and benefiting from the transformation He made in your spirit when you became a follower of Jesus is to be “made new in the attitude of your mind.” That’s because how you think influences how you act. If you allow your mind to dwell on unrighteousness, sin and disobedience, it won’t be long until your feet devise a way to indulge in your fantasies. But the good news that Paul points out is that the principle of renewal can work FOR you as well. That is, when you think rightly, you’ll also begin to act rightly.
In 2 Corinthians 4:16, Paul writes, “we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.”
The answer to how this happens is revealed in verse 18 “Because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Alternation in perspective comes through filling your mind with the unseen truths of eternity that eventually push out the temporary longings of this world.
And in Romans 12:2, Paul commands: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The corollary between thinking and action is unmistakable. When you renew your mind with truth, the will and way of God becomes clear.
So if you want lasting transformation, take a tip from my new cookbook and strive for spiritual health by focusing on the inside. Begin to actively take notice of where your mind rests. Strain out the thoughts that aren’t in keeping with the truth of God’s Word. And in their place, fold into your life a steady diet of right thinking, letting Scripture tenderize our hearts and “manifest through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him” (2 Cor. 2:14)