Here we find ourselves two days into a new year. The holidays are over. People are sliding back into their familiar routines, ready to embrace what the new year has in store. Many have made resolutions or set goals. For those of us that are Christ followers, might I add another goal to your list? Let’s all be thinking Christians this year. Let’s employ our mental faculties with concentrated effort as a collective whole. Why? Well, there are several reasons for this challenge.
First, as believers, we are instructed to think. When asked, “What is the greatest commandment” Jesus responded with, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” It is less of a challenge for people to love or serve God with their emotions than it is their mind. So often, the mind gets glossed over in this commandment. How do we love God with our minds? We do so by employing them in learning, thinking, and application. God invites us to make logic a part of our everyday lives. He states, “Come, let us reason together.”
Second, let us not give people the impression that we do not think things through. It isn’t enough to simply say, “Here is what I believe.” We must follow with, “And here is why I believe it.” We must not exercise our Christianity with sloppy thinking.
Third, in order to share what we believe to be true we must be able to answer questions and objections. We cannot answer questions if we have not thought things through!
So there are a few reasons as to why you should be resolved to use your mind more effectively this year, but what are some practical ways that we can do this? What are some activities, exercises, or habits we can develop to better stretch our minds? Here are some suggestions:
- Read your Bible. A recent study published by Lifeway found that 80% of church goers do not read their Bible daily. How can we expect to know what we believe if we do not study what we believe? Read your Bible! You can get through the entire New Testament in a year by reading for ten minutes, five days a week. If we can’t spare ten minutes in a day, we are booking ourselves way to tight. Don’t just say, “I will read my Bible.” Find yourself a plan. It will keep you focused and structured. If you have a smart phone download the Youversion app and browse their bible reading plans. It makes monitoring your progress incredibly simple.
- Limit the time you spend doing mindless activities. How much time do you spend reading pointless updates on Facebook or looking at pictures of friend’s lunches on instagram? I love social media as much as the next guy, but it does little in developing our capacity to think. What about pointless television shows? The average American will spend two solid months watching TV nonstop during 2013. That is a lot of wasted time that does not challenge us to think! Some shows actually lower your capacity to think. Jersey Shore anyone?
- Ask questions. Find out what other people believe. What questions are important for a time such as this? During Bible studies, small groups and Sunday school classes think of questions that you can ask. All it takes is one person to break the ice for other people to start asking questions. You will be surprised the amount of learning that can take place if people would simply ask questions.
- Everything you read, watch, or listen to ask yourself, “What worldview is being promoted here?” Rarely is anything theologically or philosophically neutral in the arts. Some worldview is being promoted by the artist. What is it? This is actually a fun exercise, especially in cinema. When you watch a movie, ask yourself what question is being posed or answered here? Look for themes. How does what is conveyed on the screen interact with the Gospel?
- Read books. It is alright to read some fun books. I think we can learn a lot through good fiction. I am not talking about the Twilight novels here. Also read some books that will challenge you to think. There are some wonderful books on Christianity, Theology, and Apologetics. Give some a try. I will be happy to recommend some if you would like! Set yourself a goal on how many books you would like to read for the year and aim at hitting the goal.
- Think critically about what information is presented to you. Learn the difference between an opinion and fact. So many people peddle their opinions in the marketplace of ideas as a fact when they are mere opinions or conjectures. When people make a statement ask for resources or information to substantiate their claim. When someone says, “Well the Bible says _______.” Ask them where the Bible says it.
- Volunteer to teach a lesson or give devotion. Preparing to give a presentation will help you learn a great deal about a certain topic. There is no better way to learn than to teach.
- Be teachable. Learn from others. Don’t assume that you have every argument cinched up. Be willing to take benefit of the research and study done by others (but check their resources of course).
- Take some time to put your thoughts into words. Write them down. When you read a book or the Bible write down, in a few sentences, what you learned.
- Don’t let emotion drive your life. Emotions are wonderful, but they must not override a person’s thought life. So often we let our emotions take precedence over our thoughts. We are tempted to live our lives based off emotion when they can lead us down blind alleys. Giving credence to our thoughts can be extremely beneficial. As the saying goes, emotions make a wonderful caboose, but a lousy engine.
Christians, let’s find the intestinal fortitude and resolve to use our minds for God during this fresh new year we have been given. Christians that don’t think tend to get swept into the cultural current of false ideas and hollow philosophies. THINK!
Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral. As Christians, their minds are going to waste. One result of this is an immature, superficial faith. People who simply ride the roller coaster of emotional experience are cheating themselves out of a deeper and richer Christian faith by neglecting the intellectual side of that faith. They know little of the riches of deep understanding of Christian truth, of the confidence inspired by the discovery that one’s faith is logical and fits the facts of experience, of the stability brought to one’s life by the conviction that one’s faith is objectively true. -William Lane Craig
What suggestions do you have to help us exercise our minds? Tell us about them!
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.