We continue our ESN Book Club discussion of John Stott’s Your Mind Matters with chapter 3, “The Mind in Christian Life.” Stott “examines six spheres of Christian living, each of which is impossible without the proper use of the mind,” namely:
- Christian worship
- Christian faith
- Christian holiness
- Christian guidance
- Christian evangelism
- Christian ministry
We could discuss all of these if we had time, but two items on this list which particularly struck me were holiness and guidance.
I, for one, don’t usually associate my mind with personal holiness (perhaps that’s a problem with my mind!) but Stott emphasizes that, without right thinking, holiness is impossible. After all, we have to know what it means to be holy, by studying God’s word. But:
It is not enough to know what we should be, however. We must go further and set our mind upon it. The battle is nearly always won in the mind. It is by the renewal of our mind that our character and behavior become transformed. So Scripture calls us again and again to mental discipline in this respect. “Whatever is true,” it says, “whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
The second area that struck me as surprising was Christian guidance. Stott criticizes Christians who claim to know God’s specific will for their lives through a direct communication from God or an unusual interpretation of a passage of Scripture. Stott notes that, while this may happen occasionally, “this is not God’s usual way.”
Instead, citing Psalm 32:8-9 (“Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding…”), Stott argues that God instructs us, then trusts us to make our own decisions.
…although God promises to guide us, we must not expect him to do so in the way in which we guide horses and mules. He will not use a bit and bridle with us. For we are not horses or mules; we are human beings.
God has instructed, but has also given us intelligence and will to make our own decisions. To tell you the truth, this passage greatly relieved me – while I pray for important decisions, prayer is only one part of my process, and I’ve often wondered if I lean too much on my own understanding. I’m sure that it’s possible to do so and thus ignore God as a result, but Stott reminds me that God made me with a mind so that I could make these decisions.
How else do Christians neglect our minds in our practices of holiness, guidance, or other areas on Stott’s list?
Do any of the aspects in Stott’s list strike you as unexpected?
How else do you see the use of our minds as vital to Christian living?
In contrast, do you see aspects of Christian living where use of the mind is overemphasized?
What about the minds of other Christians? Stott doesn’t write much (in this book) about the role of community or the church. How can other people’s minds help us in Christian living?
Note: For the next post in the series go to Your Mind Matters 4: Acting on Our Knowledge.