My Christian mind needs a good workout . . . regularly. And so does yours. But it won’t happen simply by reading books. One of the disappointing realities for our time is that people seem to count knowledge as a virtue in itself. Reading books about theology and the Christian life is then automatically deemed virtuous. But it’s not.
Don’t get me wrong—I love to read (about pretty much everything). I was an English major, after all. But people are the ones who possess knowledge; people are made in the image of an all-knowing, personal God. Knowledge doesn’t exist “out there,” as some good fruit to be plucked from the pages of books. Persons are knowing subjects. And that means what you do with the knowledge you have is what makes attaining that knowledge an act of virtue . . . or vice. I say all of this because one of the worst mistakes we can make is to think that we’re growing spiritually just because we’re reading spiritual content. We need more than this—much more. Spiritual formation, which includes the formation of our minds, happens when we habitually replace lies with truth.
After reading John Mark Comer’s Live No Lies and Craig Groeschel’s Winning the War in Your Mind, I thought it would be helpful to encourage others to do some “thought exercises” with me. Call it a workout for spiritual warfare, if you like. My aim is to be transparent with my own mental battles and to encourage others to develop a regular discipline of acting on (and not just acquiring) knowledge.
Since Groeschel’s book has been very popular of late, I’ll use some of the tools that he develops, providing examples from my own life (click HERE to see my review of Comer’s book, which will have an accompanying study guide soon). Maybe these examples will help you get real with your own spiritual formation. What I’ve learned is that healing and strength begin with transparency. Don’t be embarrassed about the lies you seem to believe. Just start by identifying them.
1. Identify a lie and replace it with the truth. “Our weakness is believing lies, and if we believe a lie, it will affect our lives as if it were true” (p. 204). Start by identifying a lie you tend to believe practically (even if, conceptually, you know it’s a lie). Write it down. Then prayerfully meditate on a biblical truth that counters it. Rehearse that truth. Memorize it. And then every time that lie enters your head, speak the truth. Assault the death-dealing lies of Satan with the life-giving words of God. Below are three examples from my own life. Work out three of your own.
- LIE: You are worthless. TRUTH: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died and rose for me, so I must be precious (Rom. 5:8).
- LIE: What you do defines your value. TRUTH: My value is decided based on what God did for me and is doing in me (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 2:13).
- LIE: You’re never going to be a truly selfless husband and father. TRUTH: Each day, I’m looking more and more like Jesus (Rom. 8:29). He’s making me a giver after his own heart (John 3:16; Acts 20:35). By the Spirit of God, I will be Christ to my wife and kids today.
2. Create trenches of truth. “Our brains have neural pathways—mental ruts we created through repeatedly thinking the same thoughts—which trigger our automatic response to external stimuli. To stop a behavior, we need to remove the lie behind it and replace the neural pathway” (p. 205). There’s obvious overlap here with the first tool, but this one can be developed even without having a lie to replace. These are your pathways of truth that you walk each day. Here are some examples.
- The God of all things knows my name and has planned out every action I will take today. AND he will help me do all I’m called to do. Nothing can stop him.
- There is no sin I can commit that Christ’s blood has not already atoned for.
- I have a hope that is stronger than death.
3. Reframe your perspective. “We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we perceive it” (p. 205). Sometimes I say to myself, perception is everything. What I mean by that is something close to what Groeschel has written. We’re all interpreters. Whenever something happens to us, we have to respond and give meaning to it (though God is truly the giver of all meaning). Sometimes the meanings we give align with biblical truth, but many times they don’t. Here’s the most potent example of my life: my father’s early death.
- EVENT: Your father died in front of you when you were 18.
- PERCEPTION (LIE): You lost someone you’ll never see again.
- PERCEPTION (TRUTH): Your dad is now safe from all harm and pain, in communion with the God he loves, and he’s waiting for you.
It’s not just what happens to us that matters; it’s how we interpret it. Perception is potent. It sets us on a spiritual and mental path. Unbiblical paths lead to dangerous places. When I’m tempted to magnify a particular problem in my day, I sometimes think of a video I watched about all the things that happen in the solar system in the blink of an eye. It helps me glimpse the greatness and magnitude of God in relation to my little problems.
4. Change your perspective through prayer and praise. Be mindful of God’s presence through prayer. Speak to him! And go to him in praise for all of the good things you have right now. Prayer is probably the most undervalued spiritual resource for Christians. Think about it for a second. You can talk to the God of the universe right now. And yet most of us don’t do this aside from meals. Talk with God. About anything. About everything. Make him your primary conversation partner.
As for praise, a great worship song will always help. There’s never a time when I haven’t felt overwhelmed by gratitude when I listen to Shane & Shane sing “His Mercy Is More.” I get holy goosebumps whenever I hear Elevation Worship sing a live version of “Graves into Gardens.” Everyone has their musical tastes. The important thing is to find songs that pull your soul towards praise and center you on the goodness of God.
Repetition Is Key
The key with these thought exercises is to do them repeatedly. Satan is going to keep lying to you. It’s just his nature (John 8). The lies will keep coming. Thank God that the truth is stronger. If we rehearse it, the truths of Scripture will root themselves in our minds. We’ll be ready to repel the slings and arrows of Satan. And we’ll notice the difference.
Like this post? Check out these related resources!
Note: This post contains affiliate links.