Over the years I’ve thought quite a bit about why some Christians mature over time and some seem to stay in the same place. What is it that makes the difference? I’ve come to believe that in order for true spiritual transformation/maturity to happen, three areas of a person must be affected. These are:
- The emotions: what the person is feeling
- The mind: how the person is thinking
- The will: what the person is doing
For teaching, preaching and discipling to really result in God-honoring transformation, all three of these need to be addressed. Let’s take them one at a time.
It seems to me that there is an over emphasis on head knowledge among believers today. We can be intellectually rich and emotionally poor. We are strongly encouraged over and over again in God’s Word to worship Him with all our heart–not just all our mind (Matthew 22:37). In this verse, The Message renders the word heart as “passion,” which is truly an emotional response. One of the ways I engage my heart is through music: worship songs that move my heart in a way which deepens my love for the Lord. When I began to more deeply worship via music, my walk deepened exponentially. If we reach the mind and the will but leave out the emotions (the heart, the passion,) we easily bypass a part of who God made us to be at our core in our walk with the Lord. We then won’t enjoy Him as we could and should. Our doctrine can be on ice or on fire. I want mine to be on fire. I especially love worship music which asks for a response.I addressed this in a recent post titled, “George Beverly and Bethel music. I want them both.”
Years ago, the late English Anglican cleric and theologian John Stott wrote a book titled, “Your Mind Matters:” The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life. This book was a huge help to me in teaching me how to think. Paul refers to this in Romans 12:2 where he encourages us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. We don’t want to make the mistake of experiencing God emotionally but not grow in learning how to think as well.
Thinking deeply about anything is becoming a lost art today. We are tempted to just accept what others whom we admire and respect say and not really think deeply and critically about what we hear, see and read.
In Acts 17:11 we note that the Jewish Bereans did their homework and just didn’t accept at face value what was told them. They searched and examined the Scriptures daily to confirm what they were hearing. Someone told me years ago: “Think…There’s so little competition!” There’s even less competition today than when I was first encouraged to learn how to think. Cults are born when people just accept so-called truth without using their minds to think deeply and critically about what they hear and read. We need to approach truth with our minds as well as with our emotions.
Being encouraged to both feel and think about “Truth” should lead us to engage the volitional part of who we are and do something with what we feel and think about. Yes, it’s good to feel a certain way about God and it’s good to think through what we are receiving, but what good, in actuality, is feeling and thinking if it does not move us to act in responsive obedience. Spiritual transformation takes place when we respond–not simply know. We, by His grace, should want to live with an “Applicational mind-set”…by continually asking ourselves what Jesus wants us to do with what we are feeling and thinking. The blessed Holy Spirit will help us both to will and to do what he desires. (Philippians 2:13).
Three questions to ask ourselves when we are presented with scriptural truth:
- What does it say?
- What does it mean?
- What will I do about it?
In closing, allow me to observe that in some charismatic circles it’s become all about emotions and experience, with not enough attention given to thinking carefully and critically and taking action. It’s perhaps believed that feeling a certain way is all that God wants from us.
In some reformed circles, emotions are looked upon with a bit of skepticism and it’s become all about what’s going on in my head—simply having the correct theology is what’s communicated as being most important. Across the board we could all do a better job of teaching people to obey (John 13:17, Matthew 28:20), not just feeling and thinking. It’s never either/or but always both/ and.
If you are involved in preaching, teaching and discipling others, be sure to appeal to all three– not just one or two. To become fully-devoted disciples and leaders who make disciples and develop leaders, we all need to worship Him with all our heart, soul and mind and remind others to do the same. By His grace, may it be so!