Christianity is a heart religion. In fact, the Bible refers to conversion as the “circumcision of the heart” (Rom. 2:29). As believers, we speak of inviting Jesus into our hearts. And, as more than one preacher has promised, “Jesus will give you a new heart for a new start.”
Additionally, one way we know the power of a sermon is its effect on the heart. At Pentecost, in Acts 2, after the apostle Peter delivered one of the most powerful sermons in church history, the crowd was “pierced to the heart” (Acts 2:37).
St. Augustine famously observed, “Thou hast made us for thyself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”1 That happens at conversion. Our hearts are satisfied, completely and eternally, through Christ. We then enjoy the inner peace we feel as we worship, pray, and draw near to God.
So, the gospel renews our heart, but it also renews our mind—and more so than most Christians realize. Like every other aspect of our lives, our minds are fallen, darkened by sin, and must be redeemed. The gospel does just that.
The Greatest Commandment
Did you ever notice the “Greatest Commandment” includes your mind? Recall the context. In the Gospels, the Pharisees repeatedly sought to entrap Jesus. They tried to ensnare him in complex, unanswerable questions. The Pharisees posed first-century versions of twenty-first-century trick questions, like the famous, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Either answer is problematic, implying guilt.
One such trick question the Pharisees posed to Christ pertained to the Greatest Commandment. The Pharisees were fascinated with the law, frantically trying to keep it. As they did, they cultivated a polished, external self-righteousness. To onlookers, they appeared righteous and in good standing before God and man, yet their hearts were far from God.
One such question posed by the Pharisees is recorded in multiple Gospels. It had to do with the Greatest Commandment. That is to say, the commandment which ought to be prioritized above all others, the one most urgently to be kept.
When the Pharisees heard that [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important command.” (Matt. 22:34–38)
Interestingly, in Jesus’ answer, he synthesized much of the Old Testament law. He rightly prioritizes the inner person, the heart. Yet, he also calls us to love God with all of our minds. Jesus, who pulled no punches when confronting the Pharisees, also called them to love God with their minds. The Pharisees seemed to have this part down.
They zealously studied the law, fanatically reflecting on its teaching. They read it, wrote it, recited it, memorized it, taught it, and preached it. Their work, to a fault, was mental work. Yet, Jesus does not throw out the baby with the bathwater. He instructs them to love the Lord with their heart, soul, and mind.
If the Pharisees raced to the mind while passing over the heart, twenty-first-century Christians tend toward the opposite. We tend to race to the heart, bypassing the mind. Yet, Jesus—and all of Scripture— calls us to glorify God with our minds as well as our hearts. However, due to our sin nature, obedience in this requires significant effort.
A Renewed Mind
The good news is, when we become Christians, God redeems our minds like the rest of our personhood. It does not mean that through conversion we receive a higher I.Q., but it does mean that, for once, we can truly honor God with our minds.
At conversion, we receive “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). Like other dimensions of the Christian life, this is something God does in us, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but it is also something we are responsible to pursue and cultivate.
To this end, let’s reflect more closely on two passages. First, writing to believers in Rome, the apostle Paul implores Christians, “do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
Additionally, consider Paul’s counsel to the believers in Colossae: “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:2–4).
In other words, Christians are to think Christianly.
*This is an excerpt from Dr. Jason Allen’s new book Being a Christian. You can purchase or find more information on the book at LifeWay Christian Resources*topicsBeing a Christian