The Preacher and His MindJuly 2, 2013
“When any new fact enters the human mind it must proceed to make itself at home; it must proceed to introduce itself to the previous denizens of the house” said J. Gresham Machen. Furthermore, Machen contends, “That process of introduction of new facts is called thinking. And, contrary to what seems to be quite generally opposed, thinking cannot be avoided by the Christian man.” I would add, especially when that Christian man is a man of God.
As a younger preacher I gave little thought to the magnitude of thinking. But as Jerry Bridges puts it, our minds are “mental greenhouses” that enable us to consider, meditate, and cultivate the truth of God’s Word. I am finding a certain reality in my study: the older I get, the more time I give to thinking. I am not talking about thinking that revolves around my selfish desires, but thinking that is grounded in Scripture. Scripture itself promotes the practice of thinking-it is the very words that derive from the thoughts of God.
God commands us, even as He commanded Joshua, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night.” Joshua’s ability to communicate, obey, prosper, and ultimately succeed was contingent upon his meditation of God’s Word. Critical thinking therefore is critical in the life of a preacher.
This is not foreign to biblical teaching. Our minds are integral to our ministry. We are instructed to
- Gird up the loins of our minds (because our minds are at enmity with God)
- Obtain the mind of Christ
- Be spiritually minded
- Renew our minds
- Think on things that are good, pure, and lovely…
- Meditate upon Scripture continually
- Love the Lord God with all of our minds
So how does this relate to the preacher and his time in study? I would submit four observations regarding the preacher and his mind:
1. The Integrity of the Mind
Allow me to finish the previous quote by Bridges, “Our minds are mental greenhouses where unlawful thoughts, once planted, are nurtured and watered before being transplanted into the real world of unlawful actions.” No wonder Simon Peter instructed us to “gird up the loins” of our minds, or quite literally, rid our minds of the encumbrances that can defile and distract us.
The mind, much like a computer system, records, files, and transmits thoughts into actions. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Therefore, as we approach the study, it is imperative that we rid our minds of impure thoughts. This should be a continual process throughout our lives. The reason why we give little attention to thinking while in the study is because much of our minds are polluted with worldly contaminants.
2. The Isolation of the Mind
Ridding the mind of impurities is only the beginning; we must then focus on what is good. There is a negative and a positive here. We forsake the ungodly while at the same time focus on the godly. We zone out so we can zone in. Much like a microscope, we must center our attention on the principle thing while we dismiss at large the world around us.
I am finding more and more distractions that deter my study time. Media, ministry, and multiple mandates preoccupy my time, my attention, and if I am not careful, my thinking. I have literally spent hours in the study only to leave without understanding any of what I read. I contribute this to poor thinking. Resources are wonderful, but nothing substitutes the power of the Holy Spirit as He illuminates the Scripture in our hearts and minds. This only occurs when we free our thoughts from many interruptions of life.
3. The Investigation of the Mind
Once again Jerry Bridges is helpful when he asks, “What does your mind turn to when it is free to turn to anything?” When we approach Scripture, are we clearly thinking about what God is saying? Too often my mind wonders while reading and studying. Therefore I must constantly ask questions: Who is writing this? Who is the audience? What is the context? What is the practical application? What is God saying to me? What does God want me to say?
I know this may sound silly, but I have often found myself reading a portion of Scripture just staring into another world. It may appear to the naked eye that I am doing nothing, when in reality my mind is laboring, looking, longing for answers. It is as though my mind is searching in the desert for the deep well of truth; truth that cannot be discovered through simple or logical research. We must investigate Scripture with the mind in order to leave the study with life-changing content.
4. The Intention of the Mind
In his book Christlike, Bill Hull observes, “A renewed mind, fueled by a Holy-Spirit birthed desire, creates new actions, which become habits, and habits make our character.” We leave the study not so we can have a message, or outline, in our hands; but rather so we can have a witness of Christ in our hearts. Moses came down the mountain with the Ten Commandments. Forty days and forty nights without food, but he did eat. He descended with the Word of God in his hands, the Worship of God in his heart, but the Witness of God on his head. It was evident to all that he had been with the Lord.
We must intentionally approach our time in study with a desire to revolutionize our character, which is a product of our minds. I conclude with the words of the apostle Paul, “…Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Just a thought…..