The well-known British theologian John Stott once told a story of two women talking. One asked the other why she seemed so anxious. “I am worried,” replied her friend. “I keep thinking about the world situation.” The other woman advised, “You should stop thinking and take things more philosophically.” That humorous little anecdote reflects how many people think about the Christian faith. They view it as a religion of the heart and that it loses its joy whenever it gets too cerebral.
In his famous work Pensées, Blaise Pascal wrote: “Man is obviously made for thinking. Therein lies all his dignity and his merit; and his whole duty is to think as he ought.” Especially in a secular culture, it behooves Christians to think rightly. Our Lord Jesus instructed that the greatest command in Scripture is to love God with all our heart and mind. (see Matthew 22:37) In a 1996 interview in Christianity Today, Carl F. Henry said, “If we neglect the life of the mind, our pagan culture is going to overwhelm us.”
A balanced Christian life understands that both heart and mind are important and should be cultivated. George Guthrie wrote: “In a holistic approach to Christian faith, heart and head, co-lovers of God, dance.” But what does it mean to love God with all our mind? I believe there are at least four ways we can obey this greatest of all commands.
1. Restraining wrong thinking.
Numerous commands in the New Testament relate to our thinking. These scriptural injunctions make it clear that we are responsible for our thoughts. In the sermon on the mount Jesus taught that we sin in our minds by entertaining lustful thoughts. In today’s world, Christian men in particular face a constant battle to maintain purity of mind. Therefore, we must purposely strive to avoid wrong thinking. As Martin Luther said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
Wrong thinking often enters through the eye gate. Therefore, we must take the advice of the Psalmist and “set no wicked thing before our eyes.” (Psalm 101:3) Loving God with our minds means we think on things that are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8) It means we “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
2. Seeking God in the Word.
I once had the privilege of meeting Pat Kelly, former outfielder for the Orioles. We had invited him to speak at our church, and when he walked into my office the first words out of his mouth were, “Brother Paul, are you in the Word and is the Word in you?” Loving God with our minds also involves growing in our knowledge of him through His Word. Pat was right, the only way the Word will abide in you is by you abiding in the Word.
In Romans 12, the apostle Paul taught that spiritual transformation comes from renewing our minds. That means we allow the Scriptures to shape the way we think because the way we think determines the way we live. As A.W. Tozer famously said, “To be right we must think right.” Therefore, seek the Lord daily in his Word and you will “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)
3. Counting your blessings.
Perhaps the most obvious way to love the Lord with all your mind is by counting your blessings. This is an intentional, purposeful pondering of all we have received from God’s hand. Nothing says, “I love you Lord” like the “fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) The Bible says God is enthroned on the praises of his people. (Psalm 22:3) Contemplating God’s goodness and praising him for who he is is the blessed junction where heart and mind meet. The deeper our thoughts of his love, the higher our praises will go.
4. Cultivating mental health.
Finally, loving God with our minds requires that we cultivate mental health. Wise Solomon exhorted, “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.” (Ecclesiastes 10:10) According to WebMD, “Stretching your brain keeps your mind sharp. People who are more active in mentally challenging activities are more likely to stay sharp.”
There are many ways to stay mentally sharp. Read good books, learn a language, eat healthy, stay active, get plenty of sleep, do word puzzles, build your vocabulary, just to name a few. To love God with our minds means being a good steward of this incredible gift we call the brain.
These are just thoughts that came to me as I pondered how I could love the Lord with my mind. Perhaps you could come up with more, like limiting your TV viewing to meditate, writing out a prayer, or memorizing a Psalm. Remember, a mind’s not only a terrible thing to waste, it’s a sin.