Recently I listened to a podcast about how our mind can change our brain, and it blew my mind — pun intended. All joking aside, mental health is a significant issue and a struggle that impacts all of us in one way or another. Dr. Caroline Leaf stated, in the podcast, “that some mental health issues are wrongly diagnosed and treated as an illness.” She argues that treating a chemical imbalance in the brain with medication is different than treating the mind. Her research shows that wrong thinking, feeling, and choosing occurs in our minds, which can be managed and changed. She goes into greater detail in her book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess. Understanding how our minds work has a direct correlation to discipleship.
Paul wrote to followers of Jesus living in Rome, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind. (Romans 12:2b)” The way we think affects our bodies and our actions in positive or negative ways. That is why Paul told disciples of Jesus to “set your minds on the things above, not on things that are on earth.” Why? Because as Dr. Leaf has discovered in her research, what we think about dictates how we feel and choose and ultimately how we live. Thus, deeply pondering, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise,” is worthwhile and will ultimately benefit what we think, feel, and choose.
God doesn’t want his children to listen to words of temptation and condemnation that Satan tries to use to make us think we are still doomed sinners. The Gospels and New Testament make it clear that when a person, by grace through faith, repents and puts their faith in Jesus that they are born again. Paul says that we have become new creations. That means our true identity from that point on is and always will be a child and priest of God. To be clear, that occurs when the righteousness and Spirit of Jesus are given to us who are in Christ by God. Sure, we struggle to live into our new identity when we listen to Satan’s lies and walk in the flesh instead of in the Spirit, but nothing can separate us from the love of God again.
Let me encourage you to learn more about the identity God gives those who are in Christ. In the New Testament, followers of Jesus are called saints and children of God. Dr. Leaf said that “empowering a thought is like watering a tree so that it can grow.” When we fertilize and water godly thoughts (in this case, reading and meditating on God’s word), they will grow stronger. That can lead to thinking, feeling, and choosing to live into our true identity over time. May the Holy Spirit continue to lead us into all truth and empower us to take every thought captive; so that we can grow in our ability to love God and others as we share our lives and the Good News!
Grace & Peace, Rev. Jamie George