“but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”
A friend of mine described how our thoughts are electrical in nature while our emotions are chemical. It is the electrical that first stimulates a gland or glands which then produce an emotion within us. This is interesting to me, so I looked it up. It doesn’t take long to realize this is a very complicated topic, but I was able to see over several articles that our thoughts do trigger chemicals which in turn influence our emotions. Over time, these emotions can circle back to influence our thoughts which can lead to patterns of emotions. In other words, we develop a “rut” of thought. This is no small issue because these chemicals actually change our brains. The saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is very applicable to us because early in life we can develop patterns of thinking that will become long-term emotional behavior. There is a physiological change in the structure of our brains.
In one sense, this is frightening if this is negative in nature, such as addiction, depression, or anxiety. This reminds me of two men I knew, both dead now. One was a man who talked about his wife very often. He thought she was the best human to have walked the planet. Honestly, it was remarkable. Then, one day, I met her and was surprised to note that she wasn’t extraordinary but rather quite ordinary. It’s not that she wasn’t a nice person, but by his frequent talking of her, my expectations were high. Over the next several times I met her, she proved to be a nice, ordinary woman; but to him, she was a queen, a gift he did not deserve.
The other man had a wife, but his view of her was much different. He did not appreciate her and blamed her for the problems in his life. Eventually he developed a hatred and the marriage ended in divorce. He talked about her often with a resentment that made people uncomfortable. It made one wonder how a woman could be so evil. But that wasn’t true. I met her. She was a nice, kind person. The only person who felt that way about her was her ex-husband.
Both men lived a long, long time and eventually died with these same thought patterns. It is fair to say that it defined who they were and the legacy they left. One man was happy, content, joyful and full of love. The other was bitter, angry, resentful, and full of hatred. Yes, it’s true that both built their life according to the skewed view of their wives, but one was for good and the other, for evil.
These are extraordinary cases of people I personally knew, but they serve as opportunities to learn and be warned. There was a point in each man’s life that they made a decision about how they were going to view their wives. Gradually, that decision turned into a pattern which eventually turned into a lifestyle. Could this happen to anyone? Of course, it could. Could the opposite happen for each? Certainly. It all depends upon a conscious choice.
How might this apply to you and me? It’s quite simple. Who do you want to be when you are old? Grateful or resentful? Happy or sad? Joyful or grumpy? Sober or intoxicated? Mentally healthy or ill? Stable or unbalanced? Whatever choice you take, that is what you will develop into. Yes, you can change course down the road, but it will be much more difficult as time goes on. There probably becomes a point that you won’t want to change. In fact, it may even be impossible, apart from God.
This seems to be how God designed humans. Whether we believe and honor him or not, we all have been given the ability to make choices in the way we think. Our emotions are triggered by our thoughts, and our emotions can influence our thoughts. But our thoughts are the primary source of our feelings, not the other way around. One is wise, therefore, to learn how to think and then train one’s self in the way you want to go. This won’t be easy. It will take a tremendous amount of discipline.
There is another law that seems to apply, that of entropy. Left alone, things basically deteriorate. Do you remember your mother telling you that staring at the TV will rot your mind? Or if you don’t brush your teeth? Think about all the time we let our minds go into autopilot. How easy is it to fall into stinkin-thinkin? Have you ever been in a serious rut? How hard is it to get out of that? I think we all know that these things are true.
It pays to spend time studying topics like this. Science can teach us much about how the body and mind works. None of it matters, however, if we don’t put what we’ve learned to productive use. Remember, left alone, everything deteriorates.
Now, for the Christian, we have an advantage – a HUGE advantage – over those who don’t have faith in Jesus. Besides science, we have the word of God to guide us. Yes, science can be biased toward evil at times, but we have the ability to decipher through the Holy Spirit living in us and the word of God to guide us. Not only that, but we also have something the rest of the world doesn’t:
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
We Christians really have no excuse to stay stuck in our ruts. We are commanded to examine ourselves and follow Christ. We are given supernatural tools and fellowship within the body of believers for support and encouragement. We, of all people, should be the freest on the planet. We have it all, if we only would use it. Yet, God won’t force it on us. It’s there for the taking.
What do you say? Might today be the day you chart a new course for your life? Make a major change in direction? Remember, talk is cheap. It will require effort, a lot of effort. Is the prize worth it? Jesus commanded us to count the costs.
Father, I pray that this message touches lots of people. Oh, that they would seek your face and name to cast of their chains! Amen!
Copyright © 2020 Scott Powers