The Mind of Christ

I have heard it said that, “As I get older, of all the things I have lost, it is my mind that I miss the most!” How true! I sincerely love and hate my mind at the same time; it is a wonderful memory bank, and it can energize me, or it can let me down when I need it the most. In fact, there is nothing we use more than our minds!

In a recent JETS journal article (Journal of Evangelical Theological Society), noted biblical scholar Craig Keener wrote about “A Mind for the Body.” The article is an adaption of his 2020 presidential address to the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). I could write a whole bunch of blogs about Keener’s address, but today I would like to focus on what he has to say about the “mind of Christ,” and the “body of believers.”

God gave human beings an incredible mind, and a brain that surpasses that of any other creature on earth. I assume that God intends for us to use our minds, use them correctly, and put into them only healthy things. Yet, in this culture and time, we are constantly being bombarded by “facts,” figures, information, sights, sounds and events that overload our minds, creating stress and tension. Sometimes I think my head is about to burst. How do we sort through the immense haystack of information to find that one needle of data that makes a material difference in our lives?

For thousands of years, scholars and thinkers have emphasized human reason and rational thinking (think of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Plutarch). Debate and deliberation took precedence over “personal passions,” and human emotions. At the time of the Apostle Paul, intelligence, or cognitive abilities, were the strength and the crown of human achievers and their accomplishments. Even so, Paul opens his letter to the Romans with an evaluation of the human mind, showing evidence that “worldly [or “depraved”] minds are darkened” because of their rejection of God and his work in creation (Rom 1:28). Their minds were filled with “every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity….” (Rom 1:29-30). Because they refused to acknowledge God, they continued to “do what ought not be done” (1:28).

What I have come to realize is that actions are born out of thoughts. Sin is committed in the mind before it is accomplished through words or actions. It is easy to think sinful thoughts of judgment toward another person, or revenge, retaliation, lust, or hatred. “But, as long as I do not act on those evil thoughts, I have not sinned, right?”

Well…..Paul said that “sinful desires of the heart” (or the mind) are just as evil before a righteous God as words and actions. They are not hidden from God. Certainly, our thoughts and inclinations begin in the mind and then are carried out by the mouth or some other part of the body. Ordinarily, what comes out of our mouths reveals what is actually in our hearts and minds. “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence” (Prov 10:11); and, “The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives” (Prov 18:7). See similar wisdom in Psalm 14:1; Proverbs 1:7; 12:15, 23; 20:3; 29:5, 8-11.

Decisions are made in the mind, and carried out by the body. Keener said, “Neuroscientists speak of neuroplasticity: what we put into our brains shapes them.” What we put into the brains of our children stays there, ferments and plays out in their behavior and language. We are numbed by  social media, books, the internet, ads, television – it all fills our brains with what other people want us to know, and to believe. That dramatically affects the way we live! Even unconscious decisions, actions, and behavior ensue from what we ingest into our minds — positive or negative. Addictions and obsessions are created in the mind. We seldom stop and think about the drivel that besieges us. And, without thinking clearly, we just pass it on. Remember the adage GIGO (that is, “garbage in, garbage out”)?! Eventually, what we continually put into our minds will lead to life – or to death.

Doubtless, Christianity is a faith of both the “mind” and the “heart.” We must think and feel – then we can speak and act; we contemplate and we show compassion. Our brains and our hearts must work together, both under the direction of God. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord” (Jer 17:5). To Ezekiel, the Lord promised, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh…they will be my people and I will be their God” (Ezek 11:19-20).

That “new heart” is the “Spirit of Christ:” A child is told to accept Jesus “into your heart.” For all of us, when we receive Christ, we become “children of God” and are led by the Spirit (Rom 8:14-16). A sincere commitment to Jesus as Lord replaces one’s “old heart” with a “new heart,” and our proclamation of salvation comes out of our mouth (Rom 10:6-10). “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).

In fact, “God is not satisfied with mere intellectual knowledge alone. Our information should serve the purpose of transformation” (Keener). With a new heart we can live by the Spirit of Christ, and that changes our minds. Paul explained, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so…” (Rom 8:5-7).  This is learning to capture our thoughts and make them prisoners to Christ empowered by his Spirit.

Thus, it is the Spirit who “renews” our minds and reshapes our thinking; the Spirit who transforms our hearts and our minds: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12:2). The mind is repaired, restored and restarted by the Spirit so that we can be conformed to the image of Christ. Keener notes that, “it takes a renewed mind to trust God’s love and larger plan when we face hardship…and when judgment is falling around us. A Scripture-shaped mind will focus more on the how we can fit into God’s larger plan than on how he might fit into ours.” Ultimately, Paul said, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate [or “think deeply about”] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).

If, indeed, our thoughts precede our words and actions, then the Spirit-led Christ community must all come together and serve one another with “one mind” (Rom 15:6; 1 Cor 1:10; 2 Cor 13:11; Phil 2:2; 4:2). “The mind of Christ looks out for the body of Christ….Together, as Christ’s body, we can serve the purposes of Christ, the head” (Keener). The “mind of Christ” that is in and shared with all other believers is a “renewed mind” with a “renewed worldview, a renewed perspective” of the world. As Christ-followers, we are not to “think too highly of ourselves,” (Rom 12:2), but to think about the world from God’s point of view. Then, we should consider, “how can I contribute most fruitfully to Christ’s body?” (Rom 12:4-6).

I am still thinking about thinking. I noticed this poem in a magazine and it really spoke to me. I do not know the author, but he/she succinctly says what I am learning:

On Changing your Mind

You’ve only ever known this way of thinking.

It’s all you’ve ever been taught.

It feels comfortable, safe. It makes sense.

You’ve never heard it said like that, from that perspective,

From that point of view.

So you sit with it. You consider it.

You loosen your grip on how things have always been.

You open up yourself, your mind, your heart to possibilities.

You question everything. You reassess. You chew.

It hurts a little bit to learn new things.

And hurts even more to unlearn old things.

You keep some of the old – the stuff that still stands.

And you embrace the new – the stuff that moves you forward.


Author: Judy

Christian educator, writer, specializing in the New Testament

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