As someone who processes life through my mind I find that a lot of my initial responses are those that I can think through. Feelings and senses and experience can inspire curiosity and guide the direction of my inquiries, but ultimately I’m going to process whatever it is through what and how I think about it. This, as with anything, has pros and cons. Over the years I’ve collected a few favorite verses about the Christian mind that challenge and humble me.
As a Christ-follower my living is daily influenced by my faith. How I handle a situation, how I parent, how I prioritize my day, all of it is impacted in one way or the other by what I believe to be true about God.
That doesn’t mean that I get it right all the time, but it does mean that I’m conscious of the direction I want to be living and growing.
Three questions in particular surface as I consider what the Bible says about our thoughts and our minds.
First, what is our perspective – that is, what is the reality about the gap between what we know and what God knows.
Second, how should we then use our minds – what good can they accomplish?
Third, what are the mind’s limits?
Perspective: Mind the Gap
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
my thoughts than your thoughts.”
I have these verses framed on the wall in front of my desk. They are a constant and beautiful reminder that whatever knowledge or understanding I think I may gain, God has an infinitely bigger and wider perspective. This is both a reminder to me for humility and relief to me that He is in control.
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and
unsearchable things you do not know.”
This is a great verse to follow the Isaiah 55 verses. God invites us into a conversation with him. When we have questions and concerns, he wants us to bring them to him. He will show us things we could not have learned or connected on our own.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
Proverbs 3:5-6 are favorite verses to memorize and quote. Who doesn’t want or need a reminder that trust in God makes your path straight? But when we pause and focus on just Proverbs 3:5, an important point is thrown into sharp relief. “…and lean not on your own understanding.”
That “trust” part is a two-sided command. We need to trust God when we don’t fully understand a situation AND when even if do think we understand something. “I trust you God, but did you know…, or don’t you think…, or actually here’s what’s going on…” are not trust statements.
Our understanding, as Isaiah suggests, is limited. Our minds should rely on God – training our mind to do that is likely to be a lifelong endeavor in and of itself – no ifs, ands, or buts.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
This verse has been particularly powerful for me in a couple situations. It is another one that I memorized as a young child, but its significance did not come to light until a friend texted it to me at a time when we thought we had a miscarriage.
Almost immediately the phrase “that passes all understanding,” jumped out at me.
The phrase is describing the peace of God. That’s what I was desperate for during this scare, and the verse reminded me that finding peace in God was not dependent on my understanding of what was happening.
God’s peace quite often comes without our understanding everything that has happened or will happen. His peace is above and beyond all understanding. It doesn’t guarantee or require knowledge – it passes above and beyond that.
Considering that the previous verse in Philippians is about presenting requests to God and not being anxious, the connection to peace being untethered to understanding is hopeful and accessible for people in any situation. It is linked to putting those worries in His hands. Again, we must first and foremost trust in Him – with our requests and our understanding.
These few verses remind us of the source of knowledge and understanding. They remind us to whom we need to entrust our mind and thoughts. Nevertheless, God did give us a mind and he did command us to love Him with all of it. So how then are we to use what we have been given?
How Should We Use Our Mind?
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.
This is perhaps one of my favorite verses about using our minds (incidentally tucked in one of my all-time favorite chapters). Don’t be conformed – be transformed. Don’t settle for a mind that parrots whatever is the “common wisdom of the day.” Be changed above and beyond.
In other words, use your mind to pursue your change towards who God wants you to be. Rather than using your mind as a way to understand the world, use your mind to understand how following God changes the way you engage the world.
What does that look like practically? Fortunately, Paul gives us some guidelines in another letter that he wrote….next verse!
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.
We looked at Philippians 4:7 above, and in this next verse Paul is moving towards telling the Philippian church what types of things to fill their minds with. Whatever things are good and true and praiseworthy – think about those things. Consider them. Wonder about them. Ask of them. This list is a worthy place for us to start our thinking.
I don’t think this is meant to be a “rose-colored-glasses” moment. Paul is not saying that we should think everything is fine and lovely. Rather, he’s challenging us to look for what is true and look for what is good in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. Start there. The first half of Philippians 4 is about training our minds in whatever our circumstances.
Give your worries to God and begin looking for the good. Every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17). Choose to use your mind to focus on what is of the Father. Train your mind toward Christ.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge
of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
And finally, a verse that I’ve used more and more recently as I talk to my girls about what lies we tell ourselves: take captive every thought.
Thinking and using our minds is not a passive, insignificant undertaking. The assertive language of this passage reminds readers that our minds are to be used as a weapon in the spiritual battle. We are to be prepared to stand for the knowledge of God. Again, we are to train and direct our thoughts towards Christ.
These verses are empowering and delightful for those who live a life of the mind, but they are not the only side to consider. The strong language “take captive,” “do not be conformed,” “demolish arguments,” is a reminder that this is nonetheless a battle.
One way that I try to take these charges into account is to be an engaged reader. Check out this post to see what three things I keep an eye out for when I read Christian non-fiction.
So while we must train our mind to rely on Christ and to grow in Him, we must also be vigilant against the weaknesses of our mind. Keeping our perspective and humility is a good start. Here are two other verses to be conscious of when using our minds.
What Are the Limits of Our Mind?
The most obvious limit should be that we are not God. While this may sound like a ridiculous thing to state baldly, how often do we forget it?
Going back through the previous verses about the Christian mind in this post, and reviewing the chapters that they’re nestled in, we see time and again reminders to trust God – not our own understanding. Just because you think it doesn’t make it so.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
The warnings presented in in the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13 are humbling.
Verse 2 emphasizes knowledge. We can know everything, have all the right answers, know how to argue our theology upside down and inside out. 1 Corinthians 13 says you can have all that, but if you don’t have love…it’s worth nothing. The verse doesn’t say, that’s a good start or that’s the right direction to be headed. It says, congrats you know-it-all, but do you have love?
Our knowledge, what we can understand with our mind, is completely worthless if we don’t have love. I don’t know about you, but for me that is a daunting standard. And well it should be.
Furthermore, 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.
Our mind is limited by our choices. While this verse refers to those who are not Christ-followers, we can learn from its warning. They chose not to retain the knowledge of God and accepted the consequences therein. We also choose what we retain and what we dismiss.
In this case, if we don’t make the effort to direct our minds to Christ – and make no mistake, it will be a constant effort – our minds can revert to their natural inclinations and understandings.
We must affirm that the effort is worthwhile. Notice that the choice was not even about whether it is true or right or good. The choice was a value judgement. Is it worth it?
So, is training your mind worth it to you or too much hassle?
There are many other verses in the Bible related to thinking, thoughts, and our minds. In writing this post I came across a message written by Rick Warren. The post is titled The Battle for your Mind, and it’s an in-depth look at the topic of using our minds for God. In the post he talks about doing a full year of study on this topic.
These nine verses about the Christian mind can be helpful launching points for thinking about how we use our minds faithfully to love God and love our neighbors. They can also be good guideposts for our own learning when we begin to forget God’s call for our minds.
What other verses influence your understanding of how to love God with our minds? What other questions should we be asking?