Renovation Of The Heart - Part Five

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Part 5 - Transforming My Mind's Thoughts

Since you have read the first 4 parts, you should know the renovation lingo and get the gist. Now it's time to apply it to our lives, which is what the remainder of the parts will focus on. This is a life changing renovation and, as stated at the beginning, it involves taking one small step at a time. Renovation is within our grasp with God's help. He won't let us fail if we truly engage with Him.


We will apply the VIM Factor to our parts that need renovation - our mind's thoughts and feelings, our heart, body, social life, and soul. We'll learn Christ's vision for each of these five parts and be encouraged to make an intentional decision in our heart to grow. Then we'll learn some specific means by which we can work toward the vision of a full renovation. When we are finished, we should have a very attainable plan for experiencing the life Christ wants us to experience - a life of "inexpressible and glorious joy" (1 Peter 1:8), a life "springing up to eternal life" (John 4:14), a life beyond "our wildest dreams!" (Ephesians 3:19-20).


Prayer: Loving Father, help us to create our personal renovation plans. We want to see Your vision and have made an intentional decision in our hearts to grow closer to You. We need Your personalized plan for renovation so we can do what it takes to change. We want to live lives of indescribable and glorious joy.


The Vision To Transform My Mind's Thoughts  


Day and night I'll stick with God, I've got a good thing going and I'm not letting go. (Psalm 16:8)


We know our minds are made up of thoughts and feelings, and both need renovation. In this Part we'll deal with our mind's thoughts. In the next Part we'll tackle our mind's feelings.


The first move of our hearts away from God is prompted by our thoughts. In turn, the first move our hearts make toward God also comes from our thoughts. Therefore, our thoughts must be changed. In our minds is where God first begins to move us through the words of Christ and the Holy Spirit begins to direct our hearts to embrace these healthy and truthful thoughts.


God has wired us in such a way that we have ultimate freedom and power to choose what our minds dwell on. We also have enough control to get our minds focused on Christ and to overcome the attacks from the world and Satan that seek to ruin us.


Our minds' thoughts have four aspects that work together to sway our hearts toward radical ruin or radical goodness. These aspects are ideas, images, information, and intelligence.


Ideas


We all have ideas or ways we think about life. Some are based in reality and some are not. We may not be aware of how our ideas affect the way we see life or live. It's difficult to recognize which ideas are influencing or even controlling our response to life.


Our personal ideas have been growing from the time we were infants, formed consciously and subconsciously through our experiences, the teachings of others, and observation of the behaviors of our family and community - among other influences.


What ideas do you have about:  Freedom, Education, Automobiles, Death, Family?


Christian spiritual formation is a matter of recognizing the idea system of evil we've adopted, which sneaks in because we live in a fallen world. What needs to happen? Our minds need to replace the idea system of evil with the idea system of Jesus. The catch? Changing our ideas is the most difficult, painful, and dangerous thing in human life. Jesus confronted and undermined an idea system and culture, and the authorities in that culture killed Him. However, He rose from the dead and continues to ignite a worldwide idea shift that is at the core of His revolution.


Think about this: Society tells us, and many believe, that to be loved and accepted we need to be as thin and beautiful as a professional model. This belief can be very dangerous to our lives. What do you think about it?


Associated with our ideas are always concrete and specific images, which stir up strong feelings in us. Examples of images: hairstyle, clothes, flags, music, movies, and so on. Every idea system is closely linked with images.


When you remember what happened on 9/11/01, what ideas does that conjure? Maybe a belief that people are innately evil, or that you love New York City. Now switch it. Think of an idea you already have. Maybe you believe war is inevitable, or maybe you have strong American patriotism. These existing ideas influence the way you mentally process the image of the twin towers. That's an example of the way images and ideas are closely connected.


Jesus is the Master of images, with His most powerful being the cross which represents lostness of people as well as God's sacrifice to save us. When you look at a cross, it stirs up ideas and feelings.


Satan's primary focus to defeat God's purposes for humankind are ideas and images. When we are subject to Satan's chosen ideas and images, he can take a nap because they're that influential. With transformation into Christlikeness, we progressively replace those destructive ideas and images with those that filled the mind of Jesus Christ. Our mind's highest priority is to focus on our ideas of God and all the related images.


Information


How are we to choose Christ's ideas and images over Satan's and the current culture? After God has implanted in us new life from above by Word and Spirit, we can (and must) begin to take initiative in retaking our whole thought lives for God's kingdom. His grace will accompany us, but we must take an active role as well. We cannot be passive in our spiritual formation in Christ.


Without information, our ability to think has no platform on which to work. For example, if you needed to write a paper on a certain subject, but had no access to a library or the internet, you would be stuck.


Failure to know what God is really like and what His law requires destroys the soul, ruins society, and leaves people in eternal separation from Him. As Hosea states, "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge...A people without understanding will come to ruin!" (Hosea 4:8, 14). Our minds can take in and comprehend information, but if we don't have access to truth or have false information, we will find ourselves in big trouble.


Jesus' first task on earth was to proclaim God - to inform those around Him of the availability of God's eternal life through Himself. This is basic information for human life. It was then, and it is now.


Intelligence


The gospel of Jesus rejects any false information about God and the meaning of human life. It undermines the power of false ideas and images that shove our lives away from God. But for the gospel to have this subversive effect on false information, we must use our ability to think.


Thinking is the activity of searching out what must be true or cannot be true. It takes information we have in our minds and enables us to see the "larger picture" clearly and wholly. It can undermine false or misleading ideas and images revealing their falseness to those who want to know the truth. Thinking is a powerful gift of God to be used in the service of truth.


In order to recognize truth, we've got to apply the Word of God to our thinking. We take it in, ponder its meaning, and explore its implications, especially as it relates to our own lives.


When we dwell on God as in Scripture, we will love Him more passionately, which will cause us to think about Him more steadily. With this, we enter a life of worship, which is the single most powerful force in completing and sustaining a restored person. Worship is the true outcome of the renovation of the thought life.


The progression of our thoughts can lead us away from or toward God. Consider the contrasts in the following two thought progressions:


The world's idea and image:


Idea - To be loved and accepted by yourself and the world, you need to be thin.

Image - Magazine models and TV personalities are often very thin and popular.

Information - There is information available on proper diet, exercise, and the dangers of anorexia 

     and bulimia.

Intelligence - We can use our minds to accept this information and to avoid radical ruin and move 

     toward radical goodness. However, people ignore this information because they want to feel 

     loved and accepted.


Christ's idea and image:


Idea - As a child of God, you are loved and accepted no matter what.

Image - The cross represents the gift Christ gave you of being God's child.

Information - The Bible gives us truthful information about eternal life and the identity and love 

     that are available in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 3:14-20).

Intelligence -  We can use our minds' ability to think so that we may receive and accept this 

     information that helps us avoid radical ruin and move toward radical goodness.


Prayer: Lord God, renovate our hearts by transforming our minds' thoughts. Fill our thoughts with ideas of Jesus and images of His cross. Give us more of Your truth and help us to use our intelligence to study and meditate on Your Word. We want to live every day in worship of You.


The Means To Transform My Mind's Thoughts


The tools of our trade aren't for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)


We now have a vision for transforming our mind's thoughts. This means we will have God as a constant presence in our minds, crowding out every false or destructive image, and every crooked idea. To pull this off, we need to seek to use the divinely powerful weapons referred to in the verse above.


But without the means our vision and intention are useless. There are many disciplines we can use to aid in the transformation of our thought lives. These are activities that are in our power and enable us to do what we cannot do by direct effort. We can't transform ideas, images, information, or even our thought processes into Christlikeness by direct effort. But we can adopt certain practices that will accomplish the job indirectly.


Memorize And Meditate


Memorizing Scripture is the most obvious thing we can do. This will influence our mind's thoughts more than any other. We will constantly turn verses over in our mind as we go through the events and circumstances of our life. As Joshua said, "Don't for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you'll get where you're going; then you'll succeed" (Joshua 1:8).


If you think you're not a good memorizer, that's a myth. God created your mind for it, and He will help you do it. As you give your time and energy to this task and begin to plan your life around it, the renovation of your mind will happen. But you must choose to do it, and learn how. Then you will know by experience that the mind of the Spirit is life and peace. In all the detours of life, your mind will automatically recenter on God as the needle of a compass returns to north.


Icons And iPods


Being in the presence of visual and audible images is the second think we can do.


Icons - These are a powerful way to imprint stories and teachings in the mind. We can place pictures or images in different places where we can see them, maybe backgrounds for our computers and cell phones. How about a saying on the wall, like "Only one life. It will soon pass. Only what's done for Christ will last." These can affect us powerfully as their presence endures in our mind.


iPods - Music or anything auditory is also a powerful means to renovate our thought lives. Those that edify our thoughts, lifting them toward an appreciation of truth and beauty, helping the follower of Christ to more profoundly appreciate God's presence in the world and His poignant love.


Our culture today wants to say it doesn't make any difference what we look at or hear. This is because they want to be "free" to listen to and see whatever they want - no matter how evil or revolting. Millions of dollars are paid for ads and programs on television, as these seen repeatedly affect our thought lives and may hinder or harm our spiritual formation in Christ. We must be discerning viewers and listeners.


Friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious - the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (Philippians 4:8-9)


Mentors And Memoirs


We can spend time with others who have experienced the two previous suggestions with some level of success. Spiritual formation is not a private thing as it is a matter of whole-life transformation. We need to seek out others who are also pursuing the renovation of the heart.


Mentors - These are people in your family or in a congregation of Christians that you can contact on a regular basis. We must pray that God will lead us to others who can walk with us in our journey of renovation. Don't avoid older people, by sheer lapse of time. Try to understand those who have learned how to seek the mind's transformation and study carefully how they've done it.


Memoirs - These are books written by or about people who have experienced something significant in their lives that others can benefit from. Books are a great way to motivate our minds toward Christlikeness. We are able to read about Billy Graham, Teresa of Calcutta, Dawson Trotman, E. Stanley Jones, Frank Laubach, John Wesley, William Law, Martin Luther, Ignatius of Loyola, Frances of Assisi, and many others. How did they renovate their hearts for the Lord? Learn from their example. Make them our close companions through reading.


If we take in God through His Word and walk in the way of those who have experienced the transformation of their minds, that transformation will certainly come to us and will pervade every dimension of our lives. God will see to it!


Prayer: Heavenly Father, we will use the tools You have given us to renovate our hearts so that we can live a Christ-shaped life. We know that it is not our effort but the practice of spiritual disciplines that will change us. We want to memorize Your Word and meditate on it. We want to put things before our eyes and in our ears that talk to us about You. Help us to find mentors we can learn from so that we can be renovated for You.


Let's review the principles we have learned in this Part:


     The Vision To Transform My Mind's Thoughts -


          Ideas - what we think about things, consciously or subconsciously

          Images - words, pictures, or songs that convey ideas

          Information - the knowledge we have, whether true or false

          Intelligence - our ability to think critically about ideas, images, and information


     The Means To Transform My Mind's Thoughts -


          Memorize and Meditate - memorizing and meditating on Scripture

          Icons and iPods - constantly putting Christlike visual and audible images before us

          Mentors and Memoirs - developing relationships with Christlike people


Prayer: Dear God, we thank You for helping us to learn and grow with our own personal renovation plans. We will keep our hearts, minds, eyes, and ears focused on You and Your vision for us as we practice the disciplines in our plans. We trust that if we do, You will truly renovate our hearts.


Next week:  Transforming My Mind's Feelings