I grew up in a mid-sized town in the Panhandle area of Texas. The industries that kept the area alive were oil production, ranching, farming, etc. Pretty “hometown” if you ask me. Just last night I was talking with two people who grew up in New England. Their background and consequently their outlook on various things was completely different than mine – all because of where they grew up.
I’ve realized over the years that the way we are brought up radically effects the way we think. You can see that when you listen to the current political scene. It seems every candidate thinks their position is the “right” one – and for many it’s simply because that’s the way they’ve always thought about things (because it’s the way they learned to think about things), so of course, it’s the “right” way to think.
We don’t realize it, but we are “taught” how to to think. It’s subtle, it comes in many forms, and it’s not always intentional – but people, circumstances, etc. are always “teaching” us how to think.
The New Testament tells us that we “have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16). It tells us that we are to avoid being conformed to the way the world thinks and to instead renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2). It sounds like we have a responsibility, doesn’t it? It sounds like the “way we’ve always thought” about life isn’t going to cut it if we truly desire to be a passionate follower of Christ.
One of my favorites in this area is from Psalm 119:66. It shows the kind of attitude I believe God wants us to have. Once we realize that we are “taught” how to think, it only makes sense that we go to THE Teacher to be taught.
How does this impact everyday living? It’s probably more appropriate to flip the question around and ask, “How does it NOT impact everday living?” While I’m still a work in progress on this one, I must say that I see a wrong approach to this all the time as a Pastor. I wince at the things I see Christians doing. And shudder in my spirit when I realize that they have done exactly what they “thought” was the good thing to do, when in reality it’s many times exactly opposite of what God thinks on the subject at hand. It’s not always an issue of wrong action being the problem – it’s often an issue of wrong belief or wrong thinking being the problem. A few examples may serve us here…
- The Bible (God) gives clear instruction about issues like parenting – and much of it has to do with proper discipline (spanking in particular). Yet, many of us, because of “legal concerns” or our own abusive past, or the latest pop-psychology theories on child-rearing have been convinced that spanking is a tool in the discipline toolbox that we should NOT employ. We appeal to the risk of being accused of abusing our children, the fear we have about being “out of control” if we spank, etc. and we don’t realize this simple truth – GOD THINKS spanking is one of the best tools we can utilize when raising our children properly. In fact, He says that if we don’t spank our children when they need it, then we hate them. Pretty strong language – but it accurately reveals the degree to which God thinks spanking is appropriate. It’s interesting to consider that one of the most vital roles that adult Christians have (raising their children) has been undermined by a non-Godly way of thinking… (the day will come when I talk about appropriate use of spanking, etc. – stay tuned)
- Another example that’s easy for most Christians to relate to is the issue of serving others. It’s a clear Biblical principle, one that Jesus spoke on time and time again. It’s a discipline that we KNOW we are supposed to practice… but somewhere in the corners of our minds we believe that if we actually do consider others as more important than ourselves, we’ll get used, abused, and stung. No thanks (we quietly tell ourselves). Will some of those things happen? Of course they will, at times. But what else will happen? What other result might come from living a life of sacrifice like Jesus did? We become more like Jesus (shock!). Isn’t that often what we are praying to be? Yet when the opportunity comes to move in that direction our self-protective thinking kicks in and we run the other way. We’ve become convinced that God is actually a little off on this one – He really doesn’t know what He’s talking about…
- One final example – our entertainment choices. Somehow many Christians have come to think that since it’s “only a movie” it’s somehow O.K. to fill our minds with all kinds of garbage. We sit before a 2 story screen with surround sound and become the worst of voyeurs as we watch other people (they are actors, but yes, they are still real people) engage in sexual activity (often outside the context of marriage), abuse, murder, slander, rage, deceit, betrayal… (and much more) all for the sake of being “entertained.” And here’s the really amazing part – we’ve just spent 2+ hours completely immersed in that kind of filth and we walk out thinking that it has had absolutely no impact on us! Now take it a step farther and consider this – how many of those types of movies have your CHILDREN been exposed to? Do you think it’s not impacting them?
Thinking like God means that we see things as they really are – not through the rose-colored, stained-glass windows that we’ve adopted to make us feel O.K. with God and still allow us to do whatever we want. (by the way, what 80’s Christian band had a song by that title, “Rose colored, stained-glass windows?”) When we see life and the world the way it really is, and we compare that to the holy, righteous standard that our God wants for us (which is the best for us), then we begin to see that the way we’ve thought about things all of our lives has a lot of room for growth. In fact, maybe we should call the “Extreme Makeover” guys to come do an overhaul…