The role of the mind in the spiritual life a difficult, interesting and important subject. How are we to follow the Spirit, and receive “spiritual discernment” and direction from God, apart from our intellect?
Should we look for a feeling in our gut, perhaps a familiar peaceful voice, and presume it’s the Holy Spirit? Should we neglect to evaluate this impression with our intellect?
Apart from our mind, this is our only option, and briefly considering the consequences highlights the obvious: this isn’t God’s design, but mindless foolishness. God gave us our mind for a reason (1Ti 1:7); we should use it.
Our mind is the instrument through which we engage the world, connecting metaphysical with the physical through our will, our intention. It is where our soul believes, thinks and acts, producing emotions, speech and activity in the physical realm. How we live depends on the state of our mind.
There’s such a thing as a carnal mind (Ro 8:6-7), but that’s very different than saying our mind is inherently carnal.
There’s such a thing as a corrupt mind (1Ti 6:5), but that’s very different than saying our mind is inherently corrupt.
There’s such a thing as a fleshly mind (Col 2:18), but that’s very different than saying our mind is inherently fleshly.
It’s with the mind that we serve the law of God (Ro 7:25); it’s where God puts His laws. (He 8:10)
God commands us: “Gird up the loins of your mind“ (1Pe 1:13); in other words, we’re never to neglect it, turn it off or be passive in using it, but always doing our best to think clearly, rightly, thoroughly and correctly. There are no exceptions to this; we must do this always, constantly. This is wisdom: the most important thing we can seek after. (Pr 4:7)
Being mentally passive is therefore never spiritual, it can’t be; it’s always foolish, childish, immature. (1Co 14:20)
Jesse Penn-Lewis, author of the classic, War On the Saints, claims passivity of the mind is the chief basis of demon possession. (ch 4) The enemy tries to bypass our minds and gain control of us by lying to us about the right use of our mind, so we don’t use it to identify and resist him. This is central to his war against us.
The very act of thinking must be spiritual: matter and electricity can’t do this on its own, so thought itself can’t be merely physical; it must be metaphysical. And we’re always thinking; as we think, so we are. (Pr 23:7) As we think according to truth we’re godly and spiritual, all else in us is carnal and fleshly. It isn’t so much about whether we’re thinking, but how we’re thinking.
When we deliberately set our minds aside, we’ve nothing left but emotion to lead us, and that’s not how God’s designed us to function. The enemy is a spirit, and will gladly infiltrate us, giving us lying emotions if we allow him through mental passivity. Every opening we hand over to him he’ll penetrate, like a poisonous gas.
Repentance is a change in thinking that produces godly feelings and actions. Every lie we hold (in our mind) is an opening for Satan, but God gives us repentance through godly instruction as we pursue truth so we can recover ourselves from the snare of the devil. (2Ti 2:25-26) We receive His instruction as the key to our freedom, taking heed to our way in order to cleanse it. (Ps 119:9)
We can’t identify truth by how it makes us feel; that’s how the wicked live. (Ep 2:2) To be renewed in the spirit of our mind (Ro 12:2), we need to buy the truth (Pr 23:23), crying after knowledge, understanding (Pr 2:3-5) and sound wisdom (Pr 2:7), evaluating our feelings by the truth.
We seek truth wherever we can find it, in science and in history, but primarily by meditating on God’s Law (Ps 1:2), constantly exposing our thought patterns to God’s Way, hunting down every false way, every thinking pattern that’s contrary to truth, so we can root out all enemy access to our souls.
We prayerfully seek truth through reason (Is 1:18), vetting new ideas based on what we already know to be true, such that we’re always ready to provide a reason for our hope to all who ask. (1Pe_3:15) This is a mental discipline, as well as a spiritual one (2Ti 2:15), in which we must cultivate and train ourselves. (He 5:14) It can’t be a choice of one or the other, mind or spirit: it must be both – and.