The Discipline of the Mind

Last night in my men’s discipleship group we went through chapter six of Disciplines of a Godly Man by R.Kent Hughes.  The chapter was about the human mind and how we use it as Christians…or more like how we tend to not use it as Christians.  As image-bearers of God we are blessed with extraordinary mental faculties such as emotion, reason, logic, critical thinking, curiosity, and art.  No other creature in all of creation has these capabilities which makes us unique in God’s grand design.  The original purpose of the human mind was to have it be used in connection with the mind of God to work for the common goal of bringing glory to God on the Earth.  Man could originally perceive the thoughts and the will of God, and God even was bodily present with man.  This was all sundered when we rebelled against God and sin entered the world.  Since the fall mankind has used his mind for all kinds of wicked purposes.  If there was one part of creation that was affected more than anything else it was the human mind.  For all of our amazing accomplishments as a species we have done them for our glory, not God’s.  Imagine how different the world would be if we had not fallen into sin and our minds had not been corrupted by the ubiquitous nature of sin!  I believe J.C. Ryle says it best about man’s current state in his book Holiness:

I admit fully that man has many grand and noble faculties left about him, and that inarts and sciences and literature he shows immense capacity. But the fact still remains that in spiritual things he is utterly “dead,” and has no natural knowledge, or love, or fear ofGod. His best things are so interwoven and intermingled with corruption, that the contrast only brings out into sharper relief the truth and extent of the fall. That one and the same creature should be in some things so high and in others so low—so great and yet so little—so noble and yet so mean—so grand in his conception and execution of material things, and yet so grovelling and debased in his affections—that he should be able to plan and erect buildings like those to Carnac and Luxor in Egypt, and the Parthenon at Athens, and yet worship vile gods and goddesses, and birds, and beasts, and creeping things—that he should be able to produce tragedies like those of Æschylus and Sophocles, and histories like that of Thucydides, and yet be a slave to abominable vices like those described in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans—all this is a sore puzzle to those who sneer at “God’s Word written,” and scoff at us as Bibliolaters. But it is a knot that we can untie with the Bible in our hands. We can acknowledge that man has all the marks of a majestic temple about him—a temple in which God once dwelt, but a temple which is now in utter ruins—a temple in which a shattered window here, and a doorway there, and a column there, still give some faint idea of the magnificence of the original design, but a temple which from end to end has lost its glory and fallen from its high estate

The majestic temple lies in ruin, as Ryle says, but turn a corner and you get a glimpse of the grand architecture that in its day would have been glorious to behold.  I can think of no better comparison to our sinful state.  Despite its immense necessity, it is a lamentably sad occupation to dwell for too long on the sinfulness of man and his wretched state without God.  While it is right and good to know the full and complete picture of our spiritual and mental state before God, that is only half the story.  The other half is that God desires us to use our minds to glorify Him once again.

Because of the atoning and regenerating work of Christ on the cross we are reconciled to God and given a new heart that has affections for God.  Once the heart has been regenerated and made alive to God through Jesus, the Holy Spirit begins the process of sanctification, the reshaping of our entire being into the likeness of Christ.  As Paul tells us in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable, and perfect”  The renewing of the mind is what takes place as we study God’s Word and the truth is applied to our life by the power of the Holy Spirit.  With renewed minds we are able to see afresh the will of God and all that is good, acceptable, and perfect to God.

I believe that the Christian community is largely unaware of its true potential.  We typically define what God views as good, acceptable, and perfect as serving those less fortunate than ourselves, participating in ministry, or being good doers of the Word.  While these are all excellent to God, it rather puts a damper on how much we can do to bring glory to God with our renewed minds.  We often forget about the incredible faculties God has given us, namely the academic works.  The sciences, mathematics, and the arts have largely been neglected by many Christians.  We’ve left these to the people with the minds that have not been renewed by the power of God.  We shy away from pursuing elemental truth in nature because we have such weak faith.

As is the case with the discipline of science, Christians categorically reject many of the conventional teachings of modern science claiming that it is anti-Biblical out of fear that it may contradict their faith and the whole house of cards come shattering down.  I tell you that this is un-Biblical!  God does not want an army of Christian soldiers who shake in their armor when Goliath shouts insults at them and God Himself.  God wants an army clad in truth and the instruments of science and a knowledge of how to wield them but with an understanding that God is the god of science as well as mankind.  If God truly is the creator of the universe then we should be able to be well-versed in the rigors of the scientific method and the skills that come with it and be able to see how all the evidence points back to God.  If our faith were but a little stronger we wouldn’t be afraid of where the evidence leads because we would have full confidence in God.

The study of sciences should causes our hearts, our minds, nay, our entire being to fall more in love with God as Creator, Sustainer, and marvelously our Savior!  To gaze upon a distant galaxy through a telescope should fill our minds with wonder and curiosity and simultaneously grip us with amazement that the same God who billions of years ago shaped that galaxy knows us by name and is our personal Savior!  We then should want to find out more about that galaxy to understand more about God and how He made it.  The pursuit of knowledge in the Christian world is a quest to better understand God in all of His attributes.

I pray that the Christian world would no longer shrink away from engaging the mind that God has given us and seek to employ it in the quest to see and know God.  There will be a day when we no longer have to study God indirectly.  When we see God face to face in heaven all will be revealed to us and we’ll see God in all His unbridled glory.  But we are not there yet.  This life is like a movie trailer.  We get to have glimpses of what the finished product is like but we are limited in what we can see.  If you’re eagerly anticipating a movie’s release of course you want to see the trailer as soon as possible.  It is the same with using our minds to get sneak-peeks and previews of the glory of God that will be revealed to us in full on that last day.  Until we’re united with God in heaven let’s work on rebuilding that majestic temple!  It is a daunting project to be sure, but we’ve been given the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us.  Let all you do be done for the glory of God.