Changing Your Attitude
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The Bible has much to say about the human mind, which provides such functions as awareness, thought, reflection and judgment. The New Testament often uses the Greek word nous, translated “mind,” to represent these functions. The New Testament occasionally uses other words for mental processes–heart (kardia), soul (psyche), inner purpose (ennoia) and others–but these words are at times used interchangeably for man’s spirit. Careful study shows, however, that the Greek words nous (mind) and pneuma (spirit) aren’t used interchangeably, so we could use these words to examine the differences between man’s mind and spirit.
Not only does the New Testament attribute different functions to the mind and spirit, in a few places it makes a very clear distinction between them. For example, we find a reference to an “unspiritual mind” (Col. 2:18, NIV), which suggests a mind not oriented toward the spirit. In Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts, he contrasts his mind with his spirit: “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding” (1 Cor. 14:14-15). The Bible doesn’t specifically say the spirit reflects or thinks, although it’s said to know the mind’s thoughts so it clearly has awareness.
You can corrupt your mind and become depraved. The second half of Romans Chapter One explains that God is revealing his wrath against godless and wicked men, allowing them to become depraved. In that passage we read that “just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done” (Rom. 1:28). Elsewhere, we see a general reference to “people of corrupt mind” (1 Tim. 6:5). It’s clear from these scriptures as well as from observation that the human mind can be degraded and perverted so that it becomes immoral.
Actually, sin has corrupted every human mind, including yours, but God intends for his people to do something about that. He not only makes it possible for you to do something about the way you think, he requires it of you.
Renewing Your Mind
“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:14). Anyone who insists on understanding God before they commit their life to him will wait a long time — too long. Using human intellect, you can’t fully understand spiritual matters because you can’t adequately explain them in terms your mind can grasp. In fact, some of the things God does seem downright foolish to many people because they judge God’s actions on the basis of human experience.
Most people think Christians are simply foolish for what they believe and they think Christians have to rely on God because they’re too weak to do otherwise. Even if by some weird quirk of logic they were right, God has chosen to use weak and foolish people to confound the strong and wise, so he alone will receive the glory. However, spiritual matters simply don’t make sense to the mind of a non-Christian.
The Bible shows us that, in addition to failing to understand God, the “mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God” (Rom. 8:7). A person absorbed by the world’s standards and priorities is an enemy of God; that is how much sin has warped man’s mind. In part, this means a non-Christian’s natural inclination is always wrong because he’s directed by his sinful nature. It may even be wise for you as a Christian to use this rule of thumb: Do the opposite of the natural human reaction. What are most people doing? Do the opposite. What do most non-Christians believe? Believe the opposite.
Christianity is not a supplement to normal life; you can’t add it to everything else you do, like a hobby. Christianity is an intimate relationship with God Almighty, the creator of the universe, who holds the universe together and keeps it running. Christianity permeates everything you do and influences every attitude and action. It’s not a weekly social engagement on Sunday morning or a traditional prayer before meals that buys you a ticket to heaven. Christianity is at odds with the entire world system. It’s at odds with human nature. It’s at odds with normal human thinking and attitudes. That’s why God insists that you change the way you think.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer 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” (Rom. 12:1-2).
Here we see a contrast between conforming and transforming. We have conformed all our lives to the pattern of this world, the spiritual and moral characteristics of our environment. We have had the same concerns as the world system and the same attitudes. We studied its wisdom and copied its fashions and mannerisms. But now is the time for us to stop. Instead of continuing to conform to the world system, we can and must be transformed, which literally means to experience metamorphosis. Metamorphosis must occur so we can change into another form. That transformation occurs as you renew your mind, adjusting the way you think.
What do people in the world think about? They think about themselves and how to get what they want. They compare themselves with others to measure their own worth.
The Book of Romans says you are to stop conforming to the world’s patterns and be transformed by renewing your mind. In that context it continues: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (12:3). This addresses how you think of yourself, your self-image. It suggests that the only standard of judging yourself is that which God empowers you through faith to do. You can’t compare yourself with anyone else, as the world does. What is God’s will for you? What has he given you faith to do? That is how you should judge yourself.
These verses actually are an introduction to a discussion of some basic aptitudes God gives people. We won’t study those aptitudes now, but it’s significant that you can only use your aptitudes properly if you change the way you think.
In Second Corinthians chapter 4, Paul describes some hardships he has suffered and discusses the hope of resurrection. Then he makes a significant statement:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
How was he renewed daily in his inner nature? Did God increase his faith? Did God give Paul greater faith that he would take care of him? Possibly, but that would be a selfish use of faith if that were all.
There is another possibility. Notice the change in perspective that Paul describes. He contrasts what he calls light and momentary troubles with eternal glory. Elsewhere in this letter Paul lists some of his “light and momentary troubles” (2 Cor. 11:17). He was flogged five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned once and left for dead, and shipwrecked three times (11:24-25). You and I would call any of these life-threatening experiences a catastrophe, yet Paul calls them all light and momentary troubles. He isn’t suggesting those experiences were painless or insignificant in themselves. His point is that they are earning for him “an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (4:17). The pain of those experiences was “light” compared to the glory he’d experience. The years of suffering were “momentary” compared to eternity.
Paul’s message is about priorities and perspective–how you think. Part of his inward renewal relates to the way he thought. The correct perspective tells you that what is eternal and unseen is more important than anything you experience in this life. Paul’s response was to fix his eyes on what is unseen, which means eternal matters had become the center of his attention.
The Holy Spirit actively participates in the process of renewing your mind, as shown by the following scripture.
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:3-5).
Foolishness, disobedience, deception, preoccupation with passions and desires, malice, envy and hatred all have to do with the way you thought before your salvation. You used to think just like the world, but you were reborn (“the washing of rebirth”) and the Holy Spirit began to renew you. Your redemption began with the rebirth of your spirit, is continuing now through the renewing of your mind, and will be finalized with physical salvation when the Lord gives you a new body. The current phase is renewal by the Holy Spirit, which includes renewing your mind, and is a crucial part of your redemption.
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). The word “transformed” is the same as in Romans 12:2, “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” It’s part of a process, because it’s “with ever-increasing glory.” The goal of the transformation is for you to have his “image,” which means you’ll be like the Lord.
Does this suggest that you become like Jesus simply by controlling your thoughts or changing the way you think? Not at all. You can’t save yourself or develop godly character by your own efforts. However, your participation is vital to the process.
You have lived like the world too long and need to be transformed, changed into an entirely different being. You have a vital role in that transformation because it can occur only as you renew your mind. This means to change how you think, what you think about, your attitudes, perspective, priorities and standards.