“I wouldn’t think about it like that.”
“Stop overthinking it.”
“You’re thinking about this all wrong.”
“Just think about it!”
These phrases resonate and resound with us because they’re used unrelentingly. Most every day we hear about, talk about, complain about, counsel about, and contemplate about this crucial brain-birthed mechanistic aspect of our human experience. To be a human is to think.
French philosopher, René Descartes famously argued for the existence of the mind based on the reality that if the mind thinks, it lives – I think, therefore I am. Descartes knew that thinking was a uniquely human trait. Christians understand that the Creator of humanity is a thinking God, whose sovereignly determined actions appear from the first divinely-penned page (“In the beginning, God created”) to the last (“surely, I am coming soon”). Being made like him (Genesis 1:27), humans inherently think.
Whether contemplating or considering, dwelling on or determining, setting our minds on or pondering – thinking is a central part of life. Decisions are the bricks of life, building our days, years, and ultimately our lives. This tool of the human experience sometimes overwhelms, excites, surprises, blesses, or misleads us. Since it holds such a vital function in everyday life, it’s no surprise that the Bible addresses thinking.
1 Corinthians 13:11 describes that an evidence of maturity is thinking maturely, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.” Your thinking reveals who you are. Similarly, Jesus rebukes Peter for his God-dishonoring actions, saying “You are a stumbling block to me, because you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s” (Matthew 16:23). Peter’s actions were rivers which flowed from his lake of thoughts. And there’s Romans 8:5 which compares spiritual and fleshly living as revealed in thinking: “For those who live according to the flesh have their thinking shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their thinking shaped by the things of the Spirit” (also check out Philippians 3:19).
But thinking is not fixed. It’s fluid. Any child who has beckoned their parent in fright over the monster abiding in the menacing closet has been assured to know that no such creature exists. Over time, the child is reminded verbally and experientially that the closet is laughably empty of monsters. Thus, over time, her thinking changes.
The Bible calls Christians to change their thinking, too. Let’s look at three major exhortations to think differently:
Philippians 3:15: “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” Those who will grow in Christian maturity will grow in mature thinking.
Colossians 3:2: “Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth.” Everyone who has participated in Jesus’ glorification by placing their faith in him, are called also to seek life characterized by what is heavenly, spiritual, and God-centered. The way devoted believers grow in maturity is through setting the spotlight of their thoughts on everything in God’s realm.
The example of a lifestyle directed by thinking is no more clearly displayed than in Philippians 2:2-5: “Complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had.” The ultimate mark of devoted discipleship towards Jesus is thinking just like he did. Adopting God’s view of the world, ourselves, and others is Christian maturity. The more we think like him, the more we grow in his likeness.
Thinking holds such a massive part in the human’s and especially the Christian’s life. From the Bible, it’s clear that our thinking reveals our identity. But also, our thinking is like the steering wheel to our lives – it directs where we go, and needs constant watchful guidance.
We must never underestimate the power of our thoughts on something. The process of altering our gaze determines our life’s direction. So what will you think about? We’re commanded to think upon Christ and mimic his choices, by viewing life as he did—through the glasses of the Bible—God’s revealed view of himself, us, and the world. After all, the one who’s flourishing continually mutters scripture, ponders scripture, and lives by scripture all because he sets scripture before his face (Psalm 1:2).