In 1 Corinthians 2:16 Paul says we have been given the mind of Christ. But how often do we still approach Jesus with only the cognitive part of our minds? In her book First Freedoms, Jennifer Barnett explains how we can use the other part of our minds to approach God.
This post by Jennifer Barnett is an adaptation from the “Family on Mission Workshop” at Church of the City in Spring Hill, Tennessee, on August 20–21, 2021. Used by permission.
We forget or perhaps never realize that we have this whole other part of our mind with which to approach God. Too often, we completely shut off that part of our mind to the Lord and what he may want to do in our lives.
In a household with four children, I am constantly asking them to clean out their closets and desk drawers. They are pack rats and love to hoard useless junk—old papers and trinkets, worn-out art supplies, and occasionally expired candy.
When they receive that treasured Christmas gift or birthday present, there is no place to put it in an already-cluttered room. Similarly, our brains are cluttered in a fast-paced and high-tech world, full of constant stimulation and noise. We are overloaded, and if we’re honest, we are overloaded with junk.
We, as followers of Christ, are supposed to have the mind of Christ, but what kind of mind do we end up having?
Unfortunately, we often have the mind of what we consume.
We have the mind of Netflix, CNN, FoxNews, or ESPN. Our minds spill over with social media and comparison, and finding space for treasured things is difficult.
Our minds so easily become cluttered with all the chaos the world throws at us. So then, if we’re honest, we somewhat end up having the mind of a raving lunatic, with channels changing quickly and an inability to settle, be at peace, and engage other parts of our brain. We are on overdrive.
If another person happened to hear what we think and say all the time in our head, how would they respond? More importantly, would we want to change the kind of mind we have if it were blasted on speakers for everyone to hear?
The mind is a powerful piece of creation that God gave us, and we tend to give him merely a small corner of it.
We wonder why we don’t have an abiding prayer life without stopping to see how our minds have become filled with so many other things, most of which are not holy.
The Mind Is a Powerful Gift From God
To come before God wholeheartedly, we must practice activating our spiritual eyes and ears. Unfortunately, we shut off so much of our heart and mind to God because we have never been discipled in how to activate them to connect with the Lord.
Each of us, at times, foolishly partakes in the religious habit of constraining God to a specific portion of our lives, hearts, and minds. Meanwhile, the world gets full access—without even our putting up much of a fight.
We are supposed to be wholeheartedly connected; in fact, we were created to be wholeheartedly connected. So it makes sense we would need to practice and maintain a habit of wholehearted connection to God.
Think about your mind as a great gift from God.
It’s ultimately his, and we should honor him for creating and giving us such a gift.
We are supposed to have our hearts and minds filled with Christ, yet we have corners of it filled—if we’re honest with ourselves—with all the things we take in from the world.
An overactive imagination can quickly consume the mind. Consider how many times after a confrontation you have replayed the whole conversation, repeating everything again in your mind to say all that you would have liked to have said. Our imaginations can take over and we “win” the argument in instant replay even if we barely spoke a word in the real conversation.
The mind is powerful. It can create and imagine so many things, but consider how much of it is useless and often self-serving. How much needs to be discarded or shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Since the mind is such a powerful force, we should want to activate the mind and let it be filled with Christ. We should want it to be connected with Christ because that’s what gives us life. Besides, our mind belongs to him anyway, right?
1. The Screen of ‘Imagination and Impression’
Let’s think about all this in relation to the idea of screens. Think of your mind like it’s split into three different television screens. This is a bit of practice in understanding how the mind works.
Close your eyes and think about something to drink. Picture it. See it. Really think about it.
One person might think of orange juice. They might think of a glass of orange juice, three-quarters of the way full, sitting on a counter in their kitchen.
Another person may attempt the same exercise and see a cup of coffee that they purchase every morning on the way to work, piping hot in a disposable cup with the restaurant emblem on the side.
This first screen in our mind, which we’ll call “imagination and impression,” allows us to “see” these items.
Who created our imagination and ability to form impressions of things? God, of course, and he wants the rights to it. He wants permission to fully access what he created.
Think for another moment about how we fill this screen of imagination and impression; think about how we manipulate that screen and allow evil things to enter that space.
On a lesser level, we even fill our minds with normal, harmless things—but things that carry zero eternal weight. Like papers in a junk drawer, these normal, everyday imaginations and impressions can take over the space and shut down our capacity to abide with God.
Having the mind of Christ means giving the whole mind over to Christ.
It belongs to him anyway.
With this experiment in mind, we can see why the Scriptures use parables frequently. We are visual, sensory people.
Wouldn’t it be amazing then, if in our abiding prayer life, in our connection to God, we said: “God, you have access to my mind. I submit it to you. Would you speak to me?”
It is possible that he would speak by showing you something on that screen and communicate, instruct, or counsel through an impression or picture, just as he used parables to communicate.
A picture really is worth a thousand words, and God uses the screen of imagination and impression to speak what words cannot.
Scripture contains stories for us to picture.
Pictures speak easily to us. That’s why Scripture is filled to the brim with parables, details, and stories. The meaning and truths of Scripture are layered within.
For those who may be worried about the idea of “seeing” from God, bear in mind that God is good. We know the character of God.
Anything that enters our mind from God will be good and holy, and anything misaligned with his truth, nature, or Scripture is not from him.
Again, think of all the weight and junk with which we fill the space of our mind. Remember, God wants access to that same space to speak deep truths and the understanding that we need on our Christian journey.
He wants to give us exactly what we need to be on the right path, the narrow path with “a lamp for [our] feet, a light on [our] path” (Ps. 119:105)—which, as we notice, even that description is pictorial. We immediately visualize it.
2. The Screen of ‘Memory and Analysis’
Now let’s visualize something else. Think about the best birthday party you ever had.
Think about the cake, the place, the people, and so on. Were your friends there? Did everyone sing to you? What kind of food did you eat?
The memory is simple in its expression but likely carries with it a deep warmth of emotion from being cared for and loved so deeply. That party likely made you feel joyful, surprised, and loved.
Returning for a moment to the screens in your mind, we’re going to call this second one “memory and analysis.” This is where you recall events and memories and the emotion connected to them.
Who owns this screen?
Who created it?
Who wants access to the screen to communicate with you?
He is omnipotent and omnipresent, and he owns time.
He could step out of it because it’s his, but he chooses to work within it.
If you asked God, “Why do I feel this way inside?” He could answer with a memory from ten years ago when you may have walked through a hard season.
Or he could show you pieces of yourself and your life that you felt never truly became restored. He may then speak to those hurts and give you his truth to redeem your heart more fully.
Thus, God can redeem our minds to be the mind of Christ.
If we give God access to that part of our mind, he can commune in that place of connection and abiding. He can restore the parts of our mind carrying sin or wounds or false beliefs.
Those hindrances get unblocked with his truth as he speaks to the things in our past that bind us. He can point to a memory that sums up a stronghold that has been prevalent our entire life.
In his holy efficiency, that one memory can speak to a thousand like it, where over time arguments were subtly set up against the knowledge of God.
He can use one memory to help us identify negative patterns and defenses. By allowing him access to this screen, he can speak truth to one moment that produces a future of many restored moments.
3. The Screen of ‘Senses and Drive’
The third screen in your mind contains your senses and your drive—what you feel from the world around you and what moves you to do the things you do.
Consider how powerful our senses can be. If we’re hungry, we immediately want to remedy that feeling and go find something to eat.
Or if we’re hot, we want to change things as fast as possible to make ourselves not hot anymore.
And if we’re cold or tired, we fix the feeling as soon as we can without thinking too much about it.
Those senses and drives, again, belong to God. And who wants to fill and satisfy those drives? God.
This is why the Scriptures teach us Jesus is the Bread of Life, which Jesus preached himself.
Jesus told the woman at the well—and he tells us—one could drink of the living water and then never thirst again. God knows how strong and unrelenting our drives can be.
He knows, and that is why when we must step away from those drives for a moment and give God a chance to fill them, powerful things begin to happen.
When we grasp what it means to hand God our senses and drives, we will surely see the atmosphere in our spirit begin to shift. This points to why fasting can be such a good thing.
Giving up things that have a hold on us is so powerful for our lives and minds because doing so realigns our senses and drives back to God.
Give Your Mind Fully to God
When my children clear out their closets and drawers that were cluttered, they realize they had space of which they were unaware. What once seemed so small is actually larger than they thought; their drawers can hold treasures after the junk is clear.
Similarly, we tend to “live” in one spot in our mind with God. Normally, it is a cognitive space, full of good theology and regulations, while the rest of our mind is closed off to him.
Sadly, in being closed off to God, the mind is wide open for the things of the world to fill it. Our active senses are in overdrive to the world’s stimuli, and as we relegate God to a corner of our mind, the world quickly takes over. And we wonder why we lack peace and why Sabbath rest feels far from our grasp.
If we are willing to give God our minds fully, he can begin to fill fully and own what is rightly his. Our capacities to imagine, carry impression, recall and react, and be driven from a sensory level belong to him.
His invitation is true and freeing: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).
Most of our mind has been given to other things, but he wants it all, and giving him access to every corner allows us to have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).
Read Jennifer Barnett’s First Freedoms to learn more about cultivating a wholehearted prayer life in close proximity to God.