Have you ever heard the phrase “garbage in, garbage out?” It is an old computer phrase intended to explain that what comes out of a computer will only ever be as useful as the quality of the data going into it. If the computer is printing out bad data, it will be because it is receiving bad data. Our heart is a little like that too. What comes out of us is a result of what is in our hearts (Matt 15:19). So how does reading the Bible lead to life transformation? You know that one of the three functions of the heart is cognition, by which we mean things like thinking, believing and conviction, but we also need to know that in God’s economy this is the the lead function of the heart. Simply put, God intends that the mind is the primary function by which He changes our desires and volition. Let me show you.
God intends that the mind is the primary function by which He changes our desires and volition.
Cognition and sanctificationFor this reason, the Bible commands and exhorts us to focus on the life of the mind. Take the following verses:
- Rom 12:2 – Be transformed by the renewing of your mind
- Phil 4:8 – whatever is true… honorable… right… pure… lovely… of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on [lit. think about] these things.
- Col 3:1-2 – set your minds on the things above
- Rom 8:5-8 – the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of god, for it is not even able to do so.
- Phil 3:18-19 – For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ… who set their minds on earthly things.
Our cognition, mind or thought life is the means to change our desires and commitments.When discussing the three functions of the heart, I gave the example of being led by desires. I used the example of desiring something and this desire determining our volition to do it. I also explained that our desires can affect our mind, which you’ve probably experienced when you’ve tried to justify in your mind something you want to have or do. This is an example of being led by affections. This is not how the Bible says we are to be led. We are to be led by His Word, functioning in our mind. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind.
Transforming desiresWhen it comes to commands such as “love one another” (John 13:34), this doesn’t just mean doing things for others. It really means that your emotions (affections) are to be set toward that person. Yes, in the Bible God commands us to have pure emotions. How is this possible? God tells us what is good (Micah 6:8), and as we think about and understand God’s reasoning, it will transform our desires. Yet, this also means when we read the Bible, we need to analyze our desires. Evil desires remind us of our brokenness, and need to be repented of. Evil desires should lead us to the forgiveness found in Christ, resulting in joy in Christ even while our hatred (emotional word) of sin grows. Can you imagine the power of a transformed life, where you act in purity because you want to? This is what God wants from us. It is possible since we have God’s Word, and by reading it, we learn what pleases Him, and because this is the goal of every follower of Christ (2 Cor 5:9), we can put off evil desires and deeds (things that do not please God) while resting in the forgiveness given to us once for all through Christ. This transformation begins by reading the Bible and honestly assessing our heart before God as we do. Then we can respond biblically to Him, seek forgiveness where we need to, and find out what pleases Him and begin to do that.
Has there been something you read or remembered from the Bible recently that has been purifying? You’ll sometimes hear people say that love in the Bible means service. This is not incorrect, but it is not complete. Love necessarily includes emotion. God wants us to serve him with our whole heart, and He doesn’t expect us to use our mind and volition without our desires.