can I think new thoughts?
I’ve recently spent a considerable amount of time studying and learning more about how to align my thoughts with God’s thoughts.
I’ve been daily working through Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
There are days it feels like a futile endeavor when there seems to be no way my mind and thoughts want to submit to God’s divine perspective.
Do you feel this same tension? Your chaotic thoughts have taken over and left you ready to admit yourself to the psych ward because as Paul says in Romans,
“I’m a mystery to myself, for I want to do what is right, but end up doing what my moral instincts condemn.”Romans 7:15 (The Passion Translation)
I’ll know I need to think new thoughts but it’s hard because it doesn’t come naturally. What comes naturally doesn’t have to reign supreme, however, because I have a choice. I can choose to let God reign supreme even in my thoughts.
But it requires intentionality and for me it starts with pausing long enough to think about what I’m thinking about and then working through these 3 steps of allowing God to renew my mind and give me a divine perspective.
So, what do you do when you need new thoughts but your mind doesn’t want to submit?
1. Manage your expectations (Romans 3:23) The thoughts you think are directly impacted by your expectations. Expectations are the standard we place on ourselves on others. Expectations help us make sense of life.
You expect the other driver to stop at the red light and allow you to go on green. Our brains find comfort in knowing what to expect. So, in and of themselves, expectations are not the enemy until they become an unreasonable burden placed upon ourselves or someone else.
We may expect ourselves to do well, or expect to be treated fairly, or we may even expect life to be easy. But in real life, no one does well all the time, we are mistreated sometimes, and life is rarely easy.
Actually stop and ask yourself, what were my expectations in this situation?
God has an answer to the unrealized expectations we put on ourselves and on others.
It’s called grace.
And your new thoughts—the ones you choose to think—must be grace-filled.
The world’s way of thinking thrashes against unmet expectations—a renewed mind gives permission for yourself or someone else to make a mistake and trusts God to fill in the gaps.
2. Seek out the benefit of discomfort (James 1:2-4)
Check out this verse: Romans 7:23 (NLT) “But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power (we call it our flesh) makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.” Now tuck that away–you’ll need it in about 90 seconds.
My family recently moved from central Texas less than a year ago. And not long before we moved our air conditioner went out. Unlike north Alabama, there is literally no season the entire year when it is good for the air conditioner to go out. It is simply miserable virtually every day of the year without the respite of God’s gift to Texas in the form of air conditioning.
It just so happened that I was writing on discomfort on the same day our air conditioner went out—God’s tricky like that. He requires that I actually have to experience all these lessons I write and speak on—geez!!
But God reminded me as I sat in my steamy house with my thighs sticking together that there is a benefit of being uncomfortable. Follow me here.
By enduring something as insignificant as the temperature in my house, I was training my flesh to submit. Every time I experience discomfort, my flesh acknowledges its need for God.
Did you catch that? The flesh—the one you just read about 90 seconds ago that is waging war on your mind can be trained—but not without discomfort.
Our natural (flesh-driven) response to discomfort is avoidance. I protect myself from severe temperatures, awkward conversations or challenging circumstances and all the while my spiritual muscles get weaker and the power waging war on my mind is getting stronger.
But, wait, when I lean in and embrace hard things, I discover God’s power at work in me is unending. There is always more of God’s Spirit to tap into. I discover He’s giving me new thoughts—grace-filled, divine thoughts. (James 1:2-4)
The closer I walk with God, the more I recognize the importance of embracing the hard and uncomfortable. Hard seasons are invitations for God’s Spirit to wield the weapons of victory on our thoughts—to take our flesh-filled, toxic thoughts captive and become absolutely transformed.
Can you imagine? God is using hard things to actually re-train our brains to think new thoughts by not automatically fleeing the hard but buckling down, digging in and looking for God at work in our circumstances!!
3. Shift your focus (Isaiah 26:3)
There is an old legend about three men and their sacks. Each man had two sacks, one tied to front of his neck and the other tied on his back. When the first man was asked what was in his sacks, he said, “In the sack on my back are all the good things friends and family have done. That way they’re hidden from view. In the front sack are all the bad things that have happened to me. Every now and then I stop, open the front sack, take the things out, examine them and think about them.” Because he stopped so much to concentrate on all the bad stuff, he really didn’t make much progress in his life.
The 2nd man was asked about his sacks. He replied, “in the front sack are all the good things I’ve done. I like to see them, so quite often I take them out to show them off to people. The sack in the back? I keep all my mistakes in there and carry them all the time. Sure they’re heavy. They slow me down, but you know, for some reason I can’t put them down.”
When the 3rd man was asked about his sacks, he answered, “The sacks in front is great. There are positive thoughts I have about people, all the blessings I’ve experienced, all the great things other people and God has done for me. The weight isn’t a problem. The sack is like sails of a ship. It keeps me going forward.
The sack on my back is empty. There’s nothing in it. I cut a big hold in its bottom. In there I put all the bad things that I can think bout myself or hear about others. They go in one end and out the other, I don’t just want to focus on them, I don’t want to carry them around either.”
What thoughts are you carrying around?
What are you putting in front of you mind to focus upon?
Galatians 6:8 says “Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction, who ever sows to please the Spirt, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
What are you sowing in your mind?
Do you find your mind battling with comparison of others while you also spend hours on social media? Do you realize you are reinforcing toxic (read not-divine) thought patterns in your mind when you continually put the highlight reel of someone else’s life up to the all the time messiness of your own?
You reap what you sow—if you want new thoughts, you have to shift your focus. You have to acknowledge what you are sowing into your mind because what you sow, you will reap.
Do you struggle with negative self-talk—tearing yourself down and bringing up past mistakes? What do you need to do to change your focus?
- Is it surrounding yourself with a community of people who will encourage you, keep you accountable and speak truth into your life instead of the lies you tell yourself?
- Is it intentionally getting into God’s Word to uncover the truth about who God says you are because Eph. 2:10 says you were created as a masterpiece—a piece of art created for a purpose to fulfill!!
- Do you tempted by sins that you see celebrated on your favorite Netflix binge? You reap what you sow.
When you focus on what you can do—it changes your thoughts.
You have a choice to think new thoughts. Your old thoughts won’t go willingly. You have to wage war with the power inside you waging war on your mind. Thankfully, God has given you the weapons to fight and claim victory!