As we are putting off sin and putting on righteousness, we should also be renewing our minds according to the pattern of Ephesians 4:22-24. These aren’t sequential steps that are left behind upon completion, but logical steps that are repeated in application.
1. Bible Intake
Bible-reading is one of the “twin pillars” of the Christian life, together with prayer. That Bible reading and prayer are pillars of the Christian walk is certain, but the imagery may not suffice. Two pillars won’t support much, but need at least a third pillar to constitute a proper structure.
Similarly, Bible reading and prayer inevitably lead to at least a third and fourth “pillar” for mind renewal.
Bible intake refers to the various aspects of how we encounter and relate to the Word of God in written form. There are four such aspects: Reading & Hearing; Studying; Meditating; and Memorizing.
Reading & Hearing the Bible is no more complicated than it sounds. When we read we are “hearing” the words in our head, and it is no accident that the heard word is crucial to God’s revealing himself to man. A good practice of Bible intake will include both reading and hearing the Bible, whether we hear as we read aloud, ourselves, or hear others read aloud. This is where Bible reading plans come into play, and involves regular intake of the Word in quantity.
Studying the Bible goes further than simply reading or hearing. This is where the various Bible study methods are employed (e.g., Observation, Interpretation, Application) and outside resources are consulted to help gain a better understanding of the text’s meaning. While Reading & Hearing are for the regular intake of the Word in quantity, Studying is for particular intake of the Word in quality.
Meditating on biblical truth is filling the mind with the truth of God’s word for personal application and change. Thomas Watson remarked that “The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.” Terms for meditation in Old Testament include aspects of “growling” and “murmuring”, and is why one commentator refers to biblical meditation as “muttering over” the Word. My grandfather would have called this “chewing the cud,” in homage to the cow, who will chew, swallow, and bring back up to chew some more.
Meditation might include such things as emphasizing different words in the text, writing the text in your own words, praying through the text, and deriving personal applications from the text.
Memorizing the Bible is almost a natural result from Reading, Studying and Meditating on it. In an age of instant access to the Internet and a plethora of Bible sources, memorization is a skill that has fallen on hard times. But as ubiquitous as Bible sources are for us, memorizing still has enormous benefits for us, spiritually.
If Bible intake is the primary means by which we hear God speaking to us, the primary means of our speaking to him is prayer. The “twin pillars” of Bible intake and Prayer form the facade, or entrance, of our disciplines structure.
Prayer should be natural to the believer, and for that reason times of spontaneous, informal prayer are those with which we are most familiar. But prayer should also include times of planned, intentional prayer. A good practice is to write a list of every person, circumstance, need and concern that naturally comes to mind, and every one that the Bible tells us to pray. This will demonstrate for us that another good tool in prayer is a schedule for regular prayer for all the people and concerns in our lives.
As Jesus’ pattern prayer demonstrates (Matthew 6:9-13), a key function of prayer is to re-orient our thinking and asking to God: “hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done.” This is mind-renewal at its core.
A life worth living is a live worth examining. Or, an unexamined life is not worth living. Someone said something similar, but the important thing is that God has told us in his word to examine ourselves. When we arrive at an understanding, however imperfect, of what God’s word says, the next thing to naturally assess is what it requires, of me.
Journaling is a key aspect of self-examination and reflection because it allow us to review previous conclusions about our reading and study, matters we’ve offered to God in prayer, and areas of needed improvement. If “journaling” is problematic, just make some notes about those things, and review them occasionally.
Whether or not you journal (or keep notes), it is vital to renewing our minds that we compare ourselves to the standard of God that he sets in Scripture.
It might seem redundant to list Learning after Bible intake and Prayer, or contrary to the idea that the Word is our necessary guide for all matters of life and faith. But we recognize that we learn in community with the family of faith, in discipling, in mentoring, and so forth. There are many good and useful books out there, after all.
Additionally, to apply biblical truth to all of life, exercising dominion as in the creation mandate, then we would also learn about aspects of life to which we want to apply it, such as politics, medicine, science, culture and so forth.
In an upcoming post we’ll talk about the Putting On practices of spiritual discipline.