Diet of the Mind
I’m still working on finishing up the next animation, so today’s post is another guest entry – and a very special guest entry at that, since its written by my younger brother, Sean Powers.
Sean and his wife are preparing to be missionaries and trusting the Lord to lead them to the right people and place in His timing. While they are waiting, Sean is using his skills as a black smith to save up money for their overseas gospel work (you can check out his stuff here). In today’s post he is leading us into a mini-study of what the Bible has to say about the “diet of our minds.” I pray that these words will be a means of grace for us as we seek to grow in our love of God in Christ and, as a result, our love for each other.
Have you ever heard a friend – or perhaps yourself – say something along the lines of, “Well, I can watch this because it doesn’t affect me.” I can watch the organ factories of Walking Dead, I can watch the sex in Game of Thrones, I can watch the diabolic scenarios in Saw and Paranormal Activity…they don’t affect me.”
Well, the Bible has a lot to say about what we choose to put in our mind and what we dwell on, and it does affect us. It affects us immensely. There are many examples of this teaching in the Word, but for the sake of time, let’s do a mini case study with Peter.
Where We Set Our Minds
In Matthew 16:21-23, Jesus foretells his own destruction, making clear to the disciples that he would not be conquering Rome, but offering himself up to die. ” And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him saying,’ Far be it from you Lord!'” Jesus response is very telling, ” Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are setting your mind on the things of man”
Jesus instantly targets the mind, knowing actions will not go where the mind has not gone. Peter had all this time been thinking in a worldly manner (many assume he thought Jesus would overthrow Rome and establish a Kingdom) and it was this worldly thought which produced the bitter fruit of Peter’s actions here. Not only did his thoughts produce an inappropriate action (rebuking Jesus) but also an action hindering to Jesus ministry…all this from a thought.
Paul, in Romans, also has much to say about the mind and its effects on our actions. He states in Romans 8:6 “…to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace. For the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God…” . Again, Paul’s says in Romans 12:2 ” do not be conformed to the image of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
We Are What We Dwell On…
So what is this biblical correlation between our mind and actions, which works both negatively and positively? This illustration may help. The mind is the soul’s diet. As you are what you eat, your soul is what you think on. To say I can watch, listen to, read, something abhorrent to God and not be affected is the same thing as saying “I can eat Big Macs all day, they don’t affect me”. One may think ” well I don’t go out killing after watching a Saw movie, and I don’t lose all self-control after watching American Pie”…well you don’t turn into a hamburger after eating one either, however there are delayed, deceptive, harmful effects. Before you know it you’ve gained weight, lost energy and have a less healthy heart. What you “eat” with your mind absolutely affects the “fitness” of your soul.
Now, this is a positive thing as well. As I said earlier, the mind can produce bad or good fruit as we dwell and worldly or God-glorifying things. Remember, Paul tells us we are transformed when our mind is renewed, but how do we practically do this? Simply living in the flagrantly evil culture in which we do, where evil is displayed openly as good, how can we keep our mental diet healthy?
A Healthy Mental Diet
Aside from being careful what we take in, we can also be careful what we dwell on. We cannot completely control what thoughts enter our head, but we can choose which ones we think on often…or as Martin Luther put it “you can’t stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from making a nest in your hair.”
This concept also comes from the Bible. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul is speaking to the Corinthians about the false teachers they are currently following, defending his own ministry against that of the teachers. Paul says of his own conduct that he destroys “arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” and that he takes “every thought captive to Christ”. There is the answer.
As Christians, we cannot let our thoughts run wild, they will affect our soul and actions. We need to intentionally regulate what we think and dwell on just as we regulate what we physically eat. Paul saying he takes all thoughts captive to Christ means that he assesses what he is thinking on in light of Christ and the gospel. If we honestly take a thought before Christ, and that thought is evil, it will, of course, be shown to be so, and we must neglect it.
And just as we intentionally put out of our mind, we must intentionally put into our mind. In the last chapter of Philippians, Paul lays out some guidelines as to the sort of things we ought to dwell on, the sort of things that are healthy, that will help to transform us:
” Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things”
– Philippians 4:8
Two Points To Take Away
Now of course not everything we think about needs to fit into one of the categories above, but it’s a great example of the types of things we should dwell on, especially when thinking about other people. So let’s sum all this up so we have something condensed to walk away with.
1.) We should have a healthy mental diet, understanding that what we take in transforms us for the better or worse (Matthew 16:21-21, Romans 12:2, 8:6)
2.) Though we don’t have always have control over what enters our head, we have control over what we choose to dwell on ( 2 Corinthians 10:5, Philippians 4:8)
One last thing! The Bible is filled with this concept of the mind, and if you keep this concept in the back of your head as you read the Bible, you’ll see it popping up all over. I’ve chosen some of the more clearly stated verses, but as I read I’m really amazed at what the Bible has to say about the mind and the importance of feeding it good things. Thanks for reading!