An Amazing (Unused?) Means of Change
One of the most remarkable capacities of the human mind is the capacity to direct its own attention to something it chooses. We can pause and say to our minds, “Think about this, and not that.” We can focus our attention on an idea or a picture or a problem or a hope.
It is an amazing power. I doubt that animals have it. They are probably not self-reflective, but rather governed by impulse and instinct. Humans have the amazing ability to think about thinking and to choose an object of thought to dwell on.
This is a gift from God, part of his image in us. And it is an immensely powerful means of our becoming what we ought to be. Have you been neglecting this great weapon in the arsenal of your war against sin? The Bible calls us again and again to use this remarkable gift. Let’s take it out and shine it up and put it to use.
For example, Paul says in Romans 8:5-6, “Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”
This is stunning. What you set your mind on determines whether the issue is life or death.
I sense that we have become far too passive in our pursuit of change and wholeness and peace. I have the feeling that in our therapeutic age we have fallen into the passive mindset of simply “talking through our problems” or “dealing with our issues” or “discovering the roots of our brokenness in our family of origin.” As helpful as these may be, I have the sense that we tend to slip into a passive way of thinking about change—that it may come to me one of these days as I “talk through” my problems.
But I see a much more aggressive, non-passive approach to change in the New Testament. Namely, set your mind. “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). “Enemies of the cross,” Paul says, “set their minds in earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).
Our emotions are governed in large measure by what we consider—what we dwell on with our minds. For example, Jesus told us to overcome the emotion of anxiety by what we consider: “Consider the ravens … Consider the lilies” (Luke 12:24, 27).
The mind is the window of the heart. If we let our minds constantly dwell on the dark, the heart will feel dark. But if we open the window of our mind to the light, the heart will feel the light.
This is what Paul meant in Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”
Above all, this great capacity of our minds to focus and consider is meant for considering Jesus. “Holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus … Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 3:1; 12:3).
Learning not to be passive with my mind,
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org