Our thinking drives our priorities, our priorities dictate our actions, our actions form our habits, and our habits reflect our destiny. Therefore, knowing the dynamics of the mind is fundamental for living wisely.
1. The mind is a spiritual battlefield (Gen 4:6-7; Ps 77:1-9, 11-20; Gal 5:16-17; 1 Pet 5:6-7). Conflicting thoughts rage and war against each other. The comedic picture of dueling shoulder angels is painted with the strokes of experience. We know that the battles in our minds sound just like these angel-demon exchanges. An entire arsenal of self-justifications, distortions, partialities, manipulations, and positionings are amassed against the pure truth. Why else have courts over the decades required their participants to swear to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”? And why else do they close with the fitting prayer of desperation, “so help me God”? Your mind is a spiritual battlefield.
2. Human thoughts are incomplete, misshapen, and distorted (Rom 12:1-2). Our minds must be “transformed” instead of “conformed to this world.” This exhortation implies that our thoughts have been pressed into the world’s mold, a mold that does not fit within God’s perfectly-shaped designs and purposes. We face this pressure, from within and from without, every single day. We will not win the battle without pushing back. The Word of God, through meditation and internalization, provides this reverse pressure.
3. Your thoughts reflect your identity (Rom 8:5-8). We are what we think. Of course, our thoughts are conflicted, so it’s not exactly that simple. The reality is that our conflicted thoughts reflect a conflicted identity. Fleshly thoughts war against spiritual thoughts. At the same time, the New Testament clearly teaches that our identity in Christ is dominant (Rom 8:9-11; Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:1-11). This dominance of our new nature is the basis for Paul’s constant exhortations to think and desire and choose and act in line with our new nature. If our thoughts and desires are dominated and controlled by the flesh, it’s clear who we have chosen for our master. But even though the Christian may be shaped and influenced and colored by his own sinful desires, his mind bears more of a gospel shape and a Spirit-influence and a divine hue.
4. Your thoughts reflect your values. We think about what we value. If we love our reputation, we will find ourselves wondering constantly about what others think about us. If we love sleep, we will find ourselves drawn to how much we’re going to get tonight or when a nap is coming or how we’re going to feel and function without getting enough rest. Can you sense themes in your thoughts? About God? About circumstances? About yourself? About others? About your future? Over time, such repeated thoughts form ruts in our thinking. As these ruts criss-cross, they construct an entire worldview out of which we operate and within which we interpret our world.
The Christian life is thought-to-thought combat. Strategizing for the battle must involve poring over the blueprints of the battlefield. Blessed is the man who thinks well.