Changing Our Attitude
(Reading time: 4.7 minutes)
What we think determines what we do. While many Christians emphasize changing our behavior, this alone leads to frustration because it doesn’t change the way we think, which governs our behavior. In a previous article, we saw that biblical repentance literally means transforming our minds, or changing the way we think and what we think about. In this article, we’ll examine some changes we should make in what we often call our attitude or mindset.
The New Testament describes Jesus as the “firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom. 8:29, NIV); that is, the first in a series or the prototype. So, to identify what our attitude or mindset should be, we need to examine his.
The Apostle Paul wrote frequently about that mindset. For example, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had” (Rom. 15:5). The phrase, “attitude of mind,” refers to someone’s attitude, their perspective or how they think, so we should think about others the same way Jesus did. We see a similar statement in Philippians: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Php. 2:5).
Jesus’ attitude or mindset is revealed by what he did, and Philippians 2:6-8 gives us important insight. As we examine this, keep God’s love for humanity in mind: that he created only humans in his image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27), that we’re the only beings to receive our own domain to rule over (creation, Gen 1:28; Ps. 8:6-8; 115:16), and that he provided salvation for us through Jesus before time began (2 Tim. 1:9).
With that background, consider how Jesus’ actions reveal his attitude toward humanity. He didn’t consider his equality with God something to hold onto forcibly for his own benefit, but gave up his deity to become fully human. We can’t understand how significant that was. Try imagining what it would be like voluntarily giving up your humanity to become a flea! Jesus went from one extreme – God – to the other – a human, a servant of mankind, executed as a criminal. He was willing to do it because it would benefit us. That’s the attitude we’re to have toward others.
Romans 12:2 reveals an important contrast: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We shouldn’t adopt the customs and attitudes of the world or the culture we live in. When God redeemed our spirits, he changed our nature so we’re no longer sinners, but saints; literally, “holy ones.” Now, as we work with him to renew our minds, those internal changes completely transform how we express ourselves and respond to the world around us.
For example, we should bless those who persecute us, instead of cursing them (Rom. 12:14). Not be arrogant or conceited, but willing to associate with others regardless of their social class (Rom 12:16). Not retaliate for the evil people do to us (Rom. 12:17). In humility, value others above ourselves (Php 2:3), and look for that which benefits them instead of us (1 Cor. 12:24). Focus our minds on heavenly things, such as God’s kingdom, and not be preoccupied with matters of earthly life (Php. 3:19; Col. 3:2). These are just a few examples of how radically we should be willing to change our attitude. We need to remind ourselves that God always enables us to do what he requires of us.
Consider a couple of biblical examples of men who thought very differently than the world system they lived in. Daniel is an Old Testament example of a spiritually-minded man. He had a high executive position in a pagan nation, yet three times each day he stopped his work to pray, though that was illegal at the time and punishable by death. His relationship with God was more important to him than his work or his life.
In the New Testament we see Paul as an example of a spiritual man. His religious credentials were impeccable and he excelled in his work, but he considered them as worthless as garbage. These men clearly had attitudes, values, standards, and perspectives different from the world’s.
We’re to clothe ourselves with the Lord, which includes making his mindset our own, and not even think about how to please ourselves (Rom. 13:14). This calls for a radical transformation in our attitude, our way of thinking, and our general outlook on life.
We can and must renew our minds to become more like Jesus and more effective in his kingdom. We can do that by concentrating on building our relationship with him, developing godly character, and adopting his mindset as our own. By considering how much he has done and continues to do for us, we gladly can choose to think in a way that pleases him
- What attitudes do you have that clearly conform to the world’s pattern? How are these attitudes reinforced by advertising, entertainment, or peer pressure? What habits or practices do you have that reinforce those attitudes?
- Since the best way to get rid of an undesirable attitude is to replace it with a desirable one, what desirable attitude can you form now that will change the way you think for the rest of the day?
- Which of your priorities and standards do you think displease God? What can you do to change them?
We have a vital role in becoming Christlike: changing our attitude or mindset. God will help us, but this is our responsibility and a key to repentance.