Editor’s Word: The Thinking Christian

Pastor and theologian Alistair Begg said, “We need to do what the Bible has always entrusted us to do: Think.”

In different ways and in varying degrees, we are all thinkers. It is a God-given ability, and the Christian faith is a thinking faith. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think.” However, we are almost always thinking — even when we are asleep. The problem is not that we do not think, but how we think and what we think about.

Thoughts are the products of the mind, and they always have consequences. Proverbs 23:7a says, “As he thinks (or reasons) within himself, so he is.” Our mind is the faculty by which we think, feel, and act. Feelings and behaviors follow thoughts. Jonathan Edwards defined the will of a person, not as an entity of itself, but as the mind choosing. He stated that our choices are determined not by our wills directly, but by our minds choosing to will a choice. It is our minds, not our feelings, that direct our lives.

Christian psychologist Archibald Hart wrote in his book, “Habits of the Mind,” that thoughts are the “essential ingredients for living and underlie all our actions and feelings. Research has shown that one’s thought life influences every aspect of one’s being.” He emphasizes that our emotions can never transcend our thoughts.

Augustine observed, “Everything that is believed is believed after being preceded by thoughts.” He believed that our lives consist not of contemplation or action, but both.

The Christian faith is a thinking faith, and, as followers of Jesus, our lives should be characterized by at least four basic and growing dynamics:

1) Turn away from evil. First Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Abstain from every form of evil.”

2) Be accurate with Scripture. Second Timothy 2:15 states, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

3) Live in the truth. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” In His high priestly prayer, just before He went through the agony of Gethsemane and the brutality of the cross, He prayed in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth.”

4) Experience continuing transformation. Romans 12:2 counsels us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Hart writes, “Who you are as a Christian can be no better and no worse than the thoughts you entertain in your head.” Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

The French philosopher René Descartes famously said, “I think, therefore I am.” He explained that sentence by noting that we cannot doubt our existence because we exist. With apologies to Descartes, believers could say, “I am a Christian, therefore I think rightly (biblically).”

The mind can produce all sorts of thoughts, imaginations, ideas, and impressions. But the mind that thinks God’s truth and continually applies that truth in life is a blessed person like the person described in Psalm 1:2 who “delights in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he meditates day and night.”

Memorizing Scripture is important. Understanding what we memorize is even more important. Both memorization and understanding are products of the mind. When we meditate on the Word, we have an inner conversation with ourselves, and we focus, ponder, and think on the verse or verses of Scripture before us.

The Christian faith is a thinking faith, but it is more than just a thinking faith — it is a growing relationship with God through Christ. As followers of Jesus, that we think is not the objective but how we think. First Corinthians 14:20 says, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.”

God has planned good works for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), but to recognize them and do them in a manner that glorifies God, we need God Himself empowering us. Ephesians 3:20 describes God as “Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” In order to accept that verse, we must believe it is true. That involves thinking. The Christian faith is, indeed, a thinking faith.