Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been considering the issue of total health. A different definition, indeed, than the rest of the world uses. One that centers on the Creator and how He created us: four equal parts, all distinct and individual, all working together to make up the whole of who we are. We cannot elevate one without cost to the others. If we want to experience total health as God defines it, we need to follow the command of one of the central prayers of the Jewish faith (the Shema), sourced from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (6:4-9) which Jesus repeats in the central verse in the gospel of Mark that we’ve focused on in this series:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Mark 12:30 (NIV)
Over the past two weeks, we’ve looked at the first half of those four equal parts: the heart and soul. This week, your dianoia. No, I am not trying to “annoy ya” with these Greek words, but I truly believe it helps to look beyond the word translated in English. It’s a bit quirky and likely helps you remember, and there’s always a depth that’s added when you look at the native word. In this case, the translation is pretty expected. The Greek word “dianoia” means, to think through. Mind … think … yep, pretty literal and simple connection.
Remember I mentioned the central Jewish prayer is drawn from a passage on Deuteronomy? And that Jesus repeated those words in the verse we’ve been focused on the past couple of weeks? Well, Jesus does something interesting in repeating the words. He actually adds one … and the one he adds is dianoia (mind). Jesus does nothing absent purpose, and although it’s not plain or clear as to why He adds it, the fact that He does is more than just notable. He draws attention to the mind in adding it to the Old Testament list.
The most important thing you need to know about your mind is that it NEVER STOPS. Your mind is like a shark. Maybe you didn’t know this, but most species of sharks have to keep swimming to stay alive. Because they need to stay in motion, this also means they are constantly consuming. They need fuel in the form of food to keep moving and stay alive. Our minds are like a shark. Even when we rest, our minds are still at work. And the stuff that we put or allow into our minds becomes the fuel that moves the brain. The movement of our brain (the things we dwell on or wrestle with) shapes who we are.
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
Ephesians 4:17 (NIV)
The Apostle Paul is noting a very basic distinction in the ancient world. A Gentile was simply someone who was not Jewish. It was just that simple … two options — Jew or Gentile. But in Paul’s context (the period of time when the gospel was first being spread to the Gentile world), the word “Gentile” also meant “Godless.” It was a distinction people drew between someone who followed after God, and someone who didn’t (a Gentile). Paul is passionate in challenging people not to think as Godless people do. Because the truth is, if you think like a Godless person, you will live like them. If you want to change the way you live, you’ve got to change the way you think.
The way you think — the things you dwell on, the things you meditate on — will determine how you live and who you are. And if you take hold of the way you think, it has the power to change everything about your life. To illustrate this, notice how Paul continues past verse 17 and the admonition to not think as Godless people do …
They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
Ephesians 4:18-19 (NIV)
Yeah, that is an ugly picture … and absolutely true of the Godless mind. If you give your thought life over to things which are opposed to God, if you fill your mind with the filth of this world (pornography, lust, greed, deceit, gossip), it will be garbage in and garbage out. You will become the very things that you’ve fed to your mind.
transform your mind
“So what do I do?” you might ask. “You’ve been pretty clear with what I shouldn’t do, but what should I do?” Well, that’s actually quite simple too…
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
You need to eliminate toxic thoughts.
- Thoughts that are not true
- Thoughts that are not pure
- Thoughts that are not love
You need to resist the gravitational pull of this world and what it wants to feed your brain, and be a non-conformist. And then you need to begin to transform and renew your mind. You need to take the next step past just not thinking bad thoughts, you need a new pattern. You need to choose good. So how do you train or develop a healthy mind?
- Reflect on scripture
- Have conversations about faith
- Input from godly people
If you want to change the way you live, you’ve got to change the way you think.