Our Bible study group started studying the scriptures behind “renewing your mind” this week. Romans 12:2 says, “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.”
While doing some additional studying this morning I came across a powerful article on understanding what it means to renew your mind. I wanted to share that with you today.
The article is titled What Is Our Mind by Nancy Missler. It’s a two part message and it may feel a little long but my goodness it is powerful! Here it is.
What Is Our Mind (Part 1) by Nancy Missler
“I always wondered why Christians were not more noticeable in the world.”
Over the last couple of months, we have been exploring the importance of “renewing our minds.” Before we can go on and study exactly “how” to renew our minds, we must first understand what our minds are. We can’t renew them if we don’t really know what they are.
There is a lot of confusion concerning the “definition” of our minds. Physiologically, even doctors don’t agree. Are our minds just our conscious thoughts, our intellect, or our reason? Do our minds include our actions? Are our minds somehow different than our brains?
Dr. Hugh Ross, a renowned scientist in California, noted at one of his lectures that our minds are much more than our intellect or our conscious thoughts.
He then cited examples of comatose people who seem to know exactly what’s going on around them. He says it’s been proven that these unconscious people, even though they are physically unable to function, do hear and do understand.
Another scientist, the late Dr. Wilder Penfield, made the statement: “It is possible to be unconscious – and unable to think – and yet accomplish complex tasks.”1
Validating this statement, he cited a story of an epileptic train motorman who blacked out while driving a train. While unconscious, this gentleman took his train from the 125th Street Station right into Grand Central Station in New York City. Along the way, he followed all the correct red and green lights. Penfield went on to say, “Thinking – mind – would then have to be something quite different than simple brain activity.”
These are some of the things we want to explore from Scripture. What exactly does God tell us our “minds” are?
Much of the Scriptural misunderstanding over the word “mind” is caused by the liberal translation of the words “heart,” “mind” and “soul.” These words are often interchanged with each other in Scripture, thus causing confusion. An example is Proverbs 23:7 which says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” If you trace the word “heart” back to its original Hebrew, you’ll find the word is not really “heart” here, but soul (nephesh). Why didn’t the translators simply translate it “soul” and avoid all the confusion?
In the New Testament there are 11 different Greek words2 that are simply translated “mind.” Yet, each one of these words means something slightly different. For instance, in the First Commandment (Matthew 22:37), it says we are to “love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”
Mind here is the Greek word “dianoia”. “Dianoia,” more precisely translated, means willpower (or volition), and yet here it is simply translated “mind.” No wonder so much misunderstanding has occurred.
Most of the Church is living “half a Christian life” because we’re being conformed into the world’s image and not transformed out of it!
This confusion has caused many of us to be fuzzy in our thinking as to the real meaning of our minds. And guess who thrives on this confusion? Satan revels in it, because he knows that our minds are the “key” to our living the truth and the link to our transformation.
“Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed (how?) by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
Satan knows that if he can just keep us confused and ignorant as to what our minds are and “how” to renew them, then we’ll continue to depend on our own thinking, our own feelings and thus be guaranteed to be “conformed to this world,” and not “transformed out of it.”
Why Aren’t Christians More Noticeable?
Listen to some provocative observations a Messianic Jewish believer wrote me recently as she is beginning to understand the Mind of Christ:
“The thing that staggers me the most is that the Church doesn’t really know that they must choose to give up every scrap of self-protective, justified hurt, and that we cannot feel anything (negative) for anyone, but Christ’s Love. It seems to me that most of the Church is living “half” a Christian life. I always wondered why Christians were not more noticeable in the world.”
She is right. Most of the Church is living “half a Christian life” because we have not been taught that “all these things within us” (justified or not) will not only keep us half a Christian, but will also guarantee our not being noticed in this world. And the reason is this: we’re being conformed into the world’s image and not transformed out of it. This, of course, is Satan’s plan!
I encourage you, as you begin to learn the different words for heart, mind and soul, to put their “real” Hebrew and Greek meanings alongside the Scriptures in the margins of your Bibles. Then when you read, you’ll be assured that the word is “heart,” and not mind or vice versa.
Get a Strong’s Concordance and begin to learn the various Hebrew and Greek words. It will dynamically affect your walk with God and you’ll fall in love with the “treasure house” of God’s Word. Both The Way of Agape and Be Ye Transformed studies began as a result of personal word studies in the margins of my Bible.
Our minds filter out the debris and filth in our lives, and they regulate and control whose life will be lived in our souls – God’s or our own.
What Is Our Mind?
Nous (#3563 in Strong’s) is the Greek word for “mind” that we want to explore. This is the Greek word used in Romans 12:2 (“renewing of our minds”) and also 1 Corinthians 2:16 (“the Mind of Christ”). Strong’s defines nous as “the intellect, the mind in thought, feeling or will; the understanding.” Now, this definition still leaves us somewhat confused.
A very prominent doctor and Greek scholar wrote, “Nous is the area where contemplation and spiritual illumination from above take place.”3 This is helpful, but we still need more.
The Old Testament comes to our rescue and helps us out tremendously. In the Old Testament, the word “mind” was translated from three Hebrew words: reins, kidneys and spirit. The first two words, reins and kidneys, conjure up very graphic pictures of the importance and the significance of what our minds are.
What do reins do? Reins control, lead and direct action. Reins guide and make a horse do what the rider wants. Without reins, the horse will go where he wants!
It’s true. Years ago, when I was learning to ride with my girls, our trainer put us on a horse that had no reins at all, just a wire around his neck. The horse literally went in circles. He didn’t know what we wanted him to do or where we wanted him to go, because we weren’t telling or showing him.
Our minds are just like “reins”: They can guide and direct our lives (our souls) in a straight and Godly manner; or conversely, if we have quenched God’s Spirit, then our minds will guide our lives in a crooked and ungodly manner.
Scripture even speaks of “cords (reins, bands) of love” (Hosea 11:4) and also “cords (reins, bands) of sins.” (Proverbs 5:22) God continually tries to lead and guide our lives through His “bands (reins) of love”; i.e., the Mind of Christ. Conversely, Satan tries to direct our lives through his “chains of sin”; i.e., the flesh.4
So, our minds are like “reins” between our inner man (i.e., our spirit) and what is manifested out in our outer man (i.e., our souls). That’s why it’s so very critical to allow the Holy Spirit within us to be the reins by which God continually restrains, guides and controls us.
Interestingly, there are two types of horses: there is a “hard mouthed horse,” which is stubborn, willful, always pulling at his reins and wanting to go his own way; and there is a “soft mouthed horse,” which responds easily and quickly to any nudging of his rider.
As Psalm 32:9 tells us, “Be not as the horse (hard mouthed), or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle….”
But be so yielded, so open and so pliable that as Psalm 32:8 says, God is able to easily “guide” us with His “eye.” (“Eye” in Scripture often refers to mind or spiritual vision.)
Our minds are not just our brain, our conscious thoughts, or our intellect, but a whole conceptual process that begins with the spirit and ends with our life actions.
The second Old Testament word that helps us understand a little more clearly what our minds really are is the word “kidneys.”
What do kidneys do? Kidneys have two critical functions:
1) They filter out and eliminate all the debris, wastes and filth from our blood; and
2) they control and regulate the amount of bloodflow into our bodies.
Well, it’s the same analogy with our minds. If we are believers, then our minds are what filter out the debris and the filth in our lives (our hurts, resentments, unforgivenesses etc.), and our minds are what regulate and control whose life (whose blood) will be lived in our souls – God’s or our own.5
The third word used in Scripture to describe our mind is “spirit.” This, to me, is the most significant and descriptive of the three words. Our spirit is the “life source,” the “energy source,” or the “power source” of our lives. Our spirit resides at the core of our being. It’s what creates the thoughts of our hearts and it’s what produces them as actions in our lives.
In an unbeliever, that power source is going to be the human spirit (Job 32:8), whereas in a born again believer his “spirit” will be united with God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17). This is exactly what it means to be born again. It means our human spirit has been united with God’s Spirit, so we now have a new power source or life source.
In the article we mentioned earlier by Dr. Wilder Penfield, he states: “If we believe that our mind exists independently of the brain, then that mind must be viewed as a basic element in itself…that is to say, it has continuing existence.” In other words, “if the mind is to survive death, (then) it must establish a connection with a source of energy other than that of the brain.”
In an unbeliever, the human spirit has no other “source of energy” to establish a connection with. Whereas in a believer, our regenerated spirit has already established a connection with another source of energy – God’s Holy Spirit.6 Our mind (“reins,” “kidneys” or “spirit”), then, will survive death just as the Bible says.
A Whole Conceptual Process
Thus, our minds are not just our brain, our conscious thoughts, our intellect or our reason, but a whole conceptual process that begins with the spirit that resides at the core of our being and ends with the life actions that are produced in our souls.
In other words, our minds not only include the conception (or the creation) of an idea in our hearts, but also its fulfillment in action in our lives. This is what makes 1 Corinthians 2:16 such a fantastic Scripture! “We have the Mind of Christ.”
So from now on, when you think of “mind,” don’t just limit yourself to your thoughts, your intellect or your reason; our minds are much more than these individual things. Our minds not only initiate an idea in our hearts, but they also execute that idea in our souls.
Thus, you can see the critical importance of constantly “renewing our minds” so that it will be God’s Life that’s shown forth, and not our own.
“Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed (how?) by the renewing of your mind, so that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)