Critics say that in order to be a Christian you have to check your brain at the door. They say that blind faith requires giving up critical thought and replacing it by mindlessly following church dogma. But, as a person who has been a thinker my whole life, and not just believed but studied those beliefs, I know that claim about Christians is simply not true.
When I say I have studied my beliefs, I mean that I have studied the Bible, because it is the authority for what I believe. Believing that the Bible is God’s revelation of himself to the whole world does not require that you stop questioning. Just the opposite is true. In order for me to understand Scripture I’ve had to ask many questions: What does it mean? How can it be? How have others reacted to Biblical claims? What were the reasons for their reactions? How do we begin to understand or relate to ancient peoples, cultures and languages? How are they relevant to us today? These are just a few of the questions I have asked over the years.
What I have found is that God himself wants us to use our heads. That’s what he created them for. Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Contained in this invitation to reason with God is his promise to cleanse us of sin.
Right away, such a statement will likely anger those who can’t accept the idea that they are sinful. They probably just don’t want to think about it. And that’s the bottom line with Christianity. Jesus defeated the power of sin by dying on the cross, defeated death by his resurrection and is now enthroned in heaven beside our Heavenly Father. We worship Father, Son and Spirit because we have been saved from sin, adopted into the family of God and are even now, citizens of heaven. If you don’t think you are sinful, you just don’t get that. The Bible says:
And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural man does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:13-14
You see, it’s not that Christians stop thinking, it’s that we begin to think differently, because being a Christian makes us different from what we were like before we believed. We don’t just take on a new religion; we are fundamentally changed:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:18
This change involves a lifetime of growing and learning — what theologians call sanctification. This process starts simply enough. 1 Corinthians 10:31b tells us, “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” And that of course would include the thinking we do. Romans 12:2 explains it this way, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he answered (quoting Deuteronomy), “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” ~ Matthew 22:37 (see also Mark 12:30 & Luke 10:27). In other words, God wants us to love him with our minds — something most of us don’t readily understand.
Most people think of love as something we do with our heart, not our minds. So, there is something different and beyond the norm about Biblical thinking. Scripture calls all believers in God — that is, the God of the Bible — to love him with our minds, which is a form of devotion. Actively loving, worshiping and glorifying God requires that we use our brains.
When a person receives Christ, they have a personal relationship with God. John 1:12-13 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” This new relationship is a mystery because it is spiritual in nature. Many passages of scripture teach that believers are in Christ, as in Ephesians 2:6 which says that God, “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” But at the same time, he is in us. My favorite Scripture describing this mystery is John 17:21-23:
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Because of this mystery of our relationship to the God of all creation, Paul was able to write in 1 Corinthians 2:16, “‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” Ooh, but what does this mean? I can absolutely say it’s not like a magic smart phone with every possible app at our fingertips that we can use however we want. Far from it. We can only begin to grasp the mind of Christ through walking obediently by faith, spending time in prayer and in the holy Scriptures.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. ~ Psalm 51:6
As we follow Jesus, acknowledge the Father and depend on his Holy Spirit, we discover how he wants us to think. The Bible has much to say about how we think, meditate, learn, gain knowledge, get understanding, seek wisdom and use good judgment. Let’s examine some.
Finally Brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~ Philippians 4:8
By focusing our thoughts on good things, this list implies that we maintain a positive and productive attitude. On the one hand, these instructions are inspiring. On the other hand, it demands a great deal of discipline to accomplish because the world is constantly presenting us with difficulties and things to complain about. We are challenged to be proactive, rather than reactive, in our thinking.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. ~ Proverbs 3:5
Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. ~ Proverbs 28:26
Biblical thinking means submitting our thoughts to the Sovereignty of God and placing our trust in him — not in ourselves. God gives us a wisdom that is not a product of our own intelligence. As James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” The important point here is that wisdom isn’t simply understanding. Wisdom has to do with our actions (how we “walk”).
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. ~ Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. ~ Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. ~ Proverbs 15:33
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. ~ Proverbs 3:7
Biblically speaking, our thinking is to be submitted to God. “The fear of the Lord” means accountability to him, the humility to accept his authority over us by demonstrating our obedience to him. Biblical thinking is not passive, but has purpose and moral compass. It goes directly to the issue of sin. Sin is rebellion against God’s authority disguised as thinking I am smart enough to figure things out and “do it myself”. The fear of the Lord, reminds us to avoid sin in our thinking.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ~ Isaiah 55:9
Human intelligence is inferior to God’s intelligence because he is infinitely all-knowing and we are not. David acknowledged God’s intimate understanding of every aspect of his life by confessing, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” ~ Psalm 139:6. But for those who will not humble themselves before God and acknowledge his omniscience, there are warnings in Scripture:
For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” ~ I Corinthians 1:19
For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:19
So, how does Biblical thinking differ from any other kind of thinking? It’s all about attitude. I’ve heard it said that all knowledge is God’s knowledge. Whether or not that is true, not all knowledge is worthwhile. 1 Corinthians 10:23 says, “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” So, as we saw in Philippians 4:8, we should be using our minds for positive and morally upright purposes.
Attitude is everything. Or perhaps I should say attitudes. 2 Timothy 2:15 instructs us to, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” And as we endeavor to do that, we discover much about attitudes. We are admonished not to fear, not to worry, not to be double-minded, and more.
But even beyond telling us about the negative attitudes we are to avoid, the Bible is rich in teaching us what Christ-like attitudes we should be cultivating in ourselves. Here are some attitudes that God wants to influence our thinking. Perhaps you can find others. The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I find.
The “wisdom of serpents” and the “innocence of doves”
Obedience to the commands of Jesus
All of these begin with an attitude that pleases God as we learn to humble our thinking before him.