How can I Change my Mind?

By Keith Miller | September 23, 2010

Keith, I’ve recently become a Christian.  Everybody says I’ve got to be willing to let God into my life, and to let God guide my life.  So I finally am willing, but nothing has happened.  Can you help me?

This is an excellent question, maybe the best anyone could ask who wants to lead a spiritual life.  My problem is that most of my life I’ve lived in my head, that is, in my thoughts.  If I thought of something, I thought I’d done it.  But Jesus seemed to be teaching that everything we commit to do in our heads has an appropriate behavior in the real world to accompany it.  In other words, if you commit to loving God, then you’ll do certain things that God would have you to do.  The questions are: what are those things, and how do we get these things out of our heads and out into our real, behavioral world.

I guess what I’m saying is that willingness is the true beginning.  But willingness means that you move toward actually doing the things that God wants you to.  And as you begin to do them you experiment with how to do them, what your style is and how it works for you.

To find out where that guidance is accessible, I began to look in the scriptures for the kinds of things that would help me change my life.  The Apostle Paul spent a good bit of his time teaching people how to do these things.  At one point, he said that we’re supposed to surrender our everyday ordinary lives—our eating, sleeping, walking around, going to work lives to God. (Romans 12:1)

So I said, “Okay, I’m  willing to do that.”  But then someone pointed out to me that I needed to start doing it.  So I began to think about God when I went to work at the office.  At the end of the first day, I realized that I forgot about God as soon as I got out of the car in the parking lot.  So how did I get God from inside my head out into actions at my work place?

I created some personal reminders.  For example, I wrote on an index card, “Listen to this person.  God may have a message for you.”  Then I put this note card in the lap drawer of my desk.  Every time someone walked into my office, I’d open my lap drawer,  take out a pencil and pad and put them on the desk.  And as I did that, I’d see the note card with the reminder on it.  I began to listen to people better, and as I got to know them I could pray for them.

When I went to get a drink at the drinking fountain down the hall, I’d pray silently for the people as I passed them.  These were some ways I began to bring my willingness to have God in my life out into actually doing things in my real life, without making a big sanctimonious show of it.

As I read scripture, I found that Paul described very simply one way this life is transmitted to others.  He said, “Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard, and saw, and realized.  Do that and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”  (Phil. 4:8) In other words, if you’re willing to get worked into God’s plans, then he said to the people following him:

1.  First put into practice what they heard.  They heard Paul say that Christ lived in him and had changed him from “the chief of sinners” into someone who was willing to risk talking about and living for Christ.

2.  Then the next thing is “what they saw.”  After people heard Paul talk about risking his life, they saw him do it.  For example, they saw him get arrested for believing.  They saw him take chances of all kinds with his real life, his vocation, everything.

3.  And then, after they’d heard and seen him, they realized, “I could do this too.”  Something clicks over in one’s minds when he or she actually see someone else taking the risk of really trying to live for Christ in ways the beginner is afraid to do.  Christian mentors don’t have to talk about the life they are trying to live all the time.  They just live their life in line with what they teach and witnesses to. But it’s obvious that God is always a part of what they’re doing and being when one is with them.

When people asked Paul how to change the inside of one’s mind  so these outward behaviors would follow, he said in effect, to change the content of what you put into your mind.  The only way into your mind is through your senses, your eyes and ears and so forth—what you listen to and what you watch.  You have some control over that.  You can choose what you watch and read and listen to.  Is it porn?  Is it the market place? Is it football?  What is it that you put into your mind?

Paul’s advice was to put good things in there that will replace the bad things.  You don’t try to ferret out the bad things.  You put the good things in and there isn’t room for any more, so something has to go.  You can ask God for guidance about which things to eliminate when you put in prayer, meditation and reading the scriptures and other helpful books.  Paul said it this way.  “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling and gracious.  The best, not the worst, the beautiful not the ugly, things to praise, not things to curse.”  (Phil. 4:7)

It also helped me to tell some people (e.g. my mentor, or people in the small group I’m in) that I’m willing to be God’s person.  And then I  began to do some of these things and share what happened to me—good and bad—when I tried to change the habitual content I’d taken in.  And they had heard me talk about this, and then they saw me doing it, and then they started asking the real questions, like you’re asking.  So I became a Christian who likes to help people find out who they are and what God may have for them to do with their lives.

Another change I made came when I had trouble sleeping.  Twenty years ago I began to memorize certain prayers and scripture passages about what I wanted to be.  These passages include the two that I just mentioned and two other passages on love:  1 John 4, and the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians.  I also memorized the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm.    So when I couldn’t sleep at night, I would lie in bed and repeat these things, putting these things into my mind instead of the terrors of the night or my fears or anxieties about the future. After I got them memorized, I wouldn’t have to get up and turn on the light (which often got me out of my funk) and I would go back to sleep.  I would replace the sleep-depriving thoughts with these great statements about how to live for Christ.

Almost all the great heroes of the faith have wound up seeing and telling the people to whom they wrote that loving people and God both in their minds and in their behaviors is the goal of the life Jesus offered us in God’s name.

“We cannot help conforming ourselves to what we love.” Francis de Sales

Lord, thank you that you do not try to make us pious, “successful” looking people  we are not, but that you offer us a way to live and love that fits us and can release us from the fears and limitations that keep us from being the honest, free and loving people we’ve always hoped we could be.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another.  In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35  The Message

“My beloved friends…everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love, so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him.” 1 John 4:7 The Message

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” 1 John 4:17-18 The Message

Keith mentioned ways that he has moved from “willingness” to “action”.  Share your experience with this and have you encountered any blocks that have kept you from doing things you believe God would have you to do?  If so, what are they?

2 comments | Add One

  1. Jessica Lyon - 09/23/2010 at 11:30 am

    Keith, your post really resonated with me today! Thank you. This line especially: “The only way into your mind is through your senses, your eyes and ears and so forth—what you listen to and what you watch. You have some control over that. You can choose what you watch and read and listen to. Is it porn? Is it the market place? Is it football? What is it that you put into your mind?”

    Sometimes (well, a lot of the time) I just fill my mind with worries and fears about life and they are not even the result of me listening to or reading anything in particular… it’s just me doing a bunch of “thinking” but on the other hand if I combat that with scripture, positive, loving support from my small group, and prayers of thanksgiving, then I am able to move into action for God.

  2. Jean Strasma - 09/24/2010 at 8:41 am

    Keith, After reading your post it reminded me once again to do a better job of loving others just as they are. I am thankful that Jesus loves me just as I am.

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With clear analysis and poignant witness, Keith leads us into wise intimacies of the soul with God. The Taste of New Wine, fresh reporting on the life of Christ, was important; this one, wisdom from a veteran, is necessary.
Eugene H. Peterson, author/translator of The Message
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