Letter 1: Setting and Renewing Your Mind
Tommy Belk M.A.; M.Div.; LPC
Dear (young friend at college Im encouraging),
I know that you are getting lots of responses and input from a lot of people about issues in your life, about this religion college course, about which college you should be in, about being friends with guys and girls with whoever. I certainly dont want to add to the content of any confusion.
When I care for people I influence as a shepherd or as a counselor, what I want to focus on is how can I be used of God to empower them. I wonder things like, "How can I assist them to build their own useful process of how to make their own minds up? How can they best structure their own lives to become the full individual God calls them to be as they seek to follow the Lord and also be close to those they love?"
One of the best ways to do this is for them, in prayer with their minds, to rise above all the "stuff" happening to them and go to the Lord. Many dont realize that your mind can really do this. There is a place in your mind that represents this reality. You go there, and then, from that position stake out what are the big, important, guiding concepts and permeating attitudes they want to set up and operate under day to day. And to be practical, write down what comes to mind on paper.
This is a way to do what I think the Lord means to "set your mind on what is above, not on the things that are on the earth." Paul says that the basis of this setting our minds process rests on the fact that we have already been "raised up with Christ" (literally in the Greek, "co-resurrected") and are "seated with Him at His right hand." So since by the Work of Gods grace you are already there spiritually "where Christ is," "keep seeking the things above." Colossians 3:1-2. One commentator pointed that Paul is not just saying you must not only seek the things above, but think them.
Both the seeking and setting are grammatically in present tense meaning they are a continual process to keep on doing all the time. This is the normal Christian life. Actually, Paul learned this from Jesus. Consider the Lords Prayer where Jesus is answering the disciples request to "teach us to pray." The first petition sends our minds directly up to heaven. "Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name." Then Jesus sends our minds back down to apply heaven to earth. "Thy kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Wow!
"Above" is a pretty lofty place from which to operate all the way down into our "stuff." The Bible just assumes that you are able to do that with your mind, that you need to do it, and that His Spirit will enable you to do it. You can be a proactive, responsible agent, not a reactionary victim of all the "stuff" in you and around you. Being responsible not only means accountable but also means you are "response--able" to handle life in the Lord.
So, to learn the skill of setting your mind on the things above, and then work out of that to the things below is a great thing. It really is not as hard as you might think, and it can resolve a lot of conflicts that go on down there inside of your self.
A problem with such high states of mind, however, is that after being filled, we leak. These concepts and attitudes we set up while personally with the Lord can evaporate, disintegrate, etc. as the constant pressures of whats out there pull and push on us. We can be tempted to focus on "my problem ball" that I am grasping instead focusing on whats above. A lot of people get "stuck" there.
So the next skill to master, after we begin to set up great concepts and attitudes in that high position in our minds is how to renew our minds. This means we keep habitually refreshing and rebuilding by Biblically meditating and praying through these things based on Gods Word, and by talking things out in close fellowship. We keep doing this over and over, day in and day out its really important. This is what is meant by walking in the Lord, or also called , walking in the Spirit. It is a state of being filled with Him personally and His thoughts and attitudes.
As you keep renewing, you need to not only repeat a lot, but do it with lots of emotional "juice," so you keep getting into it. Go for ways to make vividly real in your mind whatever you specifically see, hear, feel about the higher thoughts and attitudes you are getting with the Lord.
Eventually it becomes more automatically installed, like when you are driving your car and you no longer have to be thinking about driving. It becomes a God filled canopy of awareness you live under in your mind. It wonderfully filters everything as you move through life.
However, the wrong things installed up there in your mind can also become automatic and then they become an overarching frame that is more like an engulfing prison you live in. In addition to the mental programming resulting from our own choices in life, whether good or bad, a lot of things have been installed when we were younger and when we have let others run our brains because we did not know how. But with God all change is possible.
Thats just the way the mind works. The mind is neurologically designed as a self-organizing, self-reinforcing system. Whatever the higher meta* mind state or frame is, it will modulate and govern the lower. Proverbs 23:6 says, "As a man thinketh, so is he." What are set and reinforced as your states or frames of mind up there will magnetically attract and collapse into the lower, and will organize and drive the lower. They can be self-fulfilling prophesies for good or for bad.
But without this higher thought influencing the lower, you would stay a little child or an animal, just floating through your raw streams of consciousness just reacting to stimulation out there. (Unfortunately, many people still do that in a lot of areas.) The higher level states use language a lot more than the lower. Words, and words about words, symbolize reality more than in the lower, more primary states with its more direct represent-ations of pictures, sounds, and feelings in the body.
At any rate, we are self-reflexive, and we can self reflect on what our self just reflected on. That is, we can mentally go even higher than the above control state we were using and choose a lot of what we want up there in those even more over arching control regions of our mind. So, you can choose to be proactive, and choose your priorities before things happen, not just go through life reacting to "stuff." When looking at self organizing systems, what Einstein said is helpful, "You cant solve a problem from the same place it was created." You have to go a different, higher perspective level. Thats a beautiful thing about how God created us in His image!
And now, as you look at this religion course, which friendships with guys and girls, what school, what dreams for the future, ask yourself, "Have I first gone to the Lord and from that enthroned place with Him worked out more clearly what are the over arching, important ideas and attitudes that I can choose to live under?" And then, dare to dream and make real to yourself how various outcomes of this could specifically look, sound, and feel like, as if they have already happened.
And to help step out of the old "frames" that we are to put off, what Paul calls the old man, Ephesians 4:22, and from an away from, above mental place in your mind, picture a specific mental scene for each separate issue in your mind. And as you review each one at time ask things like, "Is what I am actually doing, what Im thinking-feeling-doing now about this really working? Is it useful? What does it really mean to me? What do I believe and really hold valuable about that any way? Does it move me towards or away from where I have set my mind to go? Whats a better plan? Etc." Again, write down your thoughts on paper to keep on reflecting and praying about them.
You will be amazed how well your mind, with the Lord, can do things. Also, a counselor friend told me that one approach in therapy says that some kinds of anxiety are really just normal excitement energy (healthy passion) that has been feared, suppressed and reflected back on its self. This being afraid of passionate excitement itself causes all kinds of stressful problems in both mind and body. Understanding that meant a lot to me. You know, the mind, at its lower biological and emotional levels, does not even know the difference between pain and pleasure, and uses the exact same hormones to do both. The difference is up to the higher level functions of interpretive thinking. So, find and set your mind on Gods higher things and really, really go all out for it!
If you want to talk through any of these things, let me know. Ill be praying.
Yours in Christ,
PS I dont want to take credit for all of these thoughts. They mostly come from my friend Dr. Michael Hall, Ph.D. who is a minister, clinical psychologist, researcher, and NLP trainer.
*meta =away from and above; overarching, abstracted higher level; thus we can have meta-states of mind; meta-frames; meta-programs, etc.
(c)1997 Tommy Belk. All rights reserved.