With the Mind

The role of the mind in the spiritual life is both fascinating and essential. How are we to follow the Spirit, and receive “spiritual discernment” and direction from God, apart from our intellect?

We might look for a feeling in our gut, perhaps a familiar, peaceful voice, and presume it’s the Holy Spirit. Should we neglect to evaluate these impressions with our intellect and just blindly trust them?

Briefly considering the chaos of heeding seducing spirits reveals it isn’t God’s design to neglect our mind. 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, that we should not engage and heal it.

There’s such a thing as a fleshly mind (Col 2:18), but that’s very different than saying our mind is inherently fleshly, that we should not purify it and align it with the Spirit.

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)Rather, we’re to be continually transformed by the renewing of our minds (Ro 12:2), constantly cleansing and healing our minds until we have the mind of Christ. (1Co 2:16)

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.

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2 thoughts on “With the Mind”

  1. Another way to receive knowledge, apart from reasoning with our mind, is by direct, supernatural revelation, where God causes us to know something by giving us faith, supernatural assurance and understanding. In this, the mind is largely passive, a recipient of the knowledge. In such cases, God may be intervening due to our inability to acquire this knowledge naturally through the intellect. This might be because of a wound or a deception that holds the soul captive, so God intervenes and helps us where we’re unable to help ourselves.

    God does not choose to directly spoon-feed us all knowledge (or all saints would believe exactly the same way); rather, He designs the pursuit of knowledge and truth to form our spirits into His image. God is more interested in who we are becoming than in what we know and believe.

    Where God does not impart revelation directly to us, he calls us to reason, to verify and validate that all our knowledge is consistent with itself, that there are no contradictions, and to leverage our faith to expose all that is inconsistent with it as a lie and rid ourselves of all darkness.

  2. Since we’re not omniscient, our reasoning may be faulty, our knowledge spotty and inconsistent. So, we need God’s help: we’re not sufficient in ourselves to think properly. (“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” 2Co 3:5) God helps us by giving us the desire to constantly pursue Him in humility by studying His word (“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2Ti 2:15), and by engaging with others who believe differently than we do, hearing their reasons, seeking to understand their perspectives in their strongest, purest forms. We remain humble and fearless, presuming that others might know something we don’t, and are always seeking to refine and enhance our perception of spiritual reality. It is God’s design that in this deliberate, intentional journey He molds us more and more into the image of Christ.

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