Aerodynamics 101 says that when thrust overcomes drag, and lift overcomes weight, even a brick will fly. So it is with spiritual dynamics, as measurable as any physical science.
“Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isa. 40:31) New life is about joy in the midst of sadness, confidence in the midst of chaos, soaring in the midst of difficulty.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:2)
This is the beginning of repentance, the turning point where spiritual thrust and lift begin to overcome drag and weight to transform, or re-form, the entire person (soul). I wish I had known this decades ago! I’ll assume that others would like to know, too.
Let’s start with a good definition of faith/belief and see how that relates to body and behavior. Faith is more than acceptance or awareness; it’s confidence, certainty, even of things we don’t see with physical eyes. That’s because vision is rooted in ideas and images. This becomes action because faith always acts—good or bad—as if something were true. To put faith in Jesus means to put confidence in his ability, availability, and willingness to show us the Way to life.
Faith and belief are thus born in the mind/thought/emotion soul-ring of personhood. “Faith comes by hearing,” and, in modern times, by reading as well. The door that Christ knocks upon is the door of the mind, which we open to him. The mind’s eye catches his vision of life in the kingdom of heaven among us, for without that vision, no one can repent.
Sin also enters through the mind’s thought-life. “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Rom. 8:6-7)
In Scripture, the hand represents work and deeds; the forehead represents mind and thinking. For example, “Mystery Babylon” written on the Harlot’s forehead is about a mind-set. Conversely, the “name of God” is sealed on the foreheads of authentic believers.
If you go to Biblestudytools.com and search the Bible for the word “mind,” you’ll find many more instances. “The mind of Christ”; “This calls for a mind with wisdom”; “You do not have in mind the things of God”; “Make up your mind to not worry”; “Love God with all your heart, mind….” To keep God’s Law in mind is how it gets written in the heart.
The Mind Forms the Entire Person
There’s a specific sequence to spiritual formation in Christ. To repent, we don’t start with heart/will/spirit because that leaves us with nothing but willpower; and willpower has no transformative power. In fact, to rely on it is the very evidence that no substantial change has occurred.
We don’t start with the body, either. That’s the mistake the Pharisees made with circumcision, hand-washing, and so on. And we don’t start with behavior since anyone can do righteous acts but still be a nasty person inside, far from new life and well-being.
It starts with the mind and thoughts because this is the first sanctuary into which we invite God and where He first joins us. This is why the study of Jesus’ words, mind-pictures (parables), and behavior is crucial. Then we can “test and approve” what God’s will is, precisely because we’ll understand it, be certain of it.
From there, we build up speed and power since divine grace assists us the way an after-burner assists a jet fighter. Once this confidence settles deep into the heart/will/spirit, faith becomes acts of will that spread to the body—to the mouth (kinder speaking) and hands (right behavior).
When we ignore this dynamic between the inner and outer man—spirit and flesh, faith and deeds—we end up with either mechanical dead faith or hyper-active busywork in vain, neither of which God has in mind.
Repentance is Work, But Not “Works”
If we confuse work, effort, or obedience with earning—as Christians commonly do—we remain powerless invalids. Repentance is impossible because it leaves no “legitimate” means of human action other than, perhaps, prayer or confession. While those are clearly part of the Christian life, if that’s all we do, the result is a Church full of “believers” but few disciples.
Repentance is ongoing renewal of the mind, gaining wisdom. Thoughts feed the heart and re-form the will/spirit to shape character like Christ that increasingly behaves like Christ. We can’t force, fake, or side-step this order because it’s how God designed human beings.
Thus, pressuring people into “accepting the Lord” without taking time to understand the process short-circuits their faith. People often take, “Lean not on your own understanding” to mean, “Don’t understand it, just accept it,” but that’s a big mistake.
With the correct understanding and sequence, spiritual invalids and bricks will soon walk, run, and fly! No one floats on currents into new life; Jesus explains that those who don’t put his words into practice will surely crash. But those who do put them into practice will stand in the midst of storms, and even rise to soar. He used a house analogy, of course, but I think the airplane analogy works wonderfully, too.
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On a completely different note, subscribers to my blog will find a schedule change starting next week. I’m working heavily on edits to my book’s manuscript and cover design changes, so look for blog posts on Wednesdays from now on. In the meantime, your thoughts, comments, and emails are always appreciated!