Learning to THINK...Rooted in The Bible
Updated: Oct 26, 2021
How do we learn to make daily decisions that will carry the weight of righteous?
How often have we wondered, “what were you thinking?” If you have children you have undoubtedly passed through this experience more than once! I remember when our oldest son was about ten years old. We had bought a new car and it was parked in the garage. His bike was at the front of the garage and he wanted to get it out. Only problem was that there was just enough space between the car, the side of the garage and his bike handles to get out.... and leave a long scar in the paint from the front to the back! You know the rest of the story. “What was he thinking?”
I am still amazed at how often I have this same reaction to church leaders and Christians, and the decisions we make. The programs we start, the people we hire, the people we then fire, the amount of money we spend on social events, vacations, debt for education, on everything. It would appear that we believe that if we think it, God approves of it!
Mark Noll in "Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity" points us to history in this regard. "Throughout the entire history of Christianity, problems have constantly arisen when believers equate the human acts of the church with the acts of God, when Christians assume that using the name of God to justify their actions in space and time is the same as God himself acting."
There have been times of such great consternation at decisions that just didn’t seem to make any sense, at least to me, that I finally wrote a book. The book may not ever be a best seller but at least it forced me to ask questions about how we as church leaders and Christians think and therefore make decisions. That book is in the hands of my editor and will eventually see the light of day. When it does you can find it on www.scpglobal.org or dwightpaulsmith.com and it will be titled something along the lines of, “Even good people make bad decisions!”
I have spent more time over the last decade working with younger leaders and I keep coming back to that question, “what were you thinking?” In those initial years, somewhere between 20 and 30 years of age, they are making significant decisions; decisions that will shape the rest of their lives. Decisions that have the potential of making hell of their lives.
Who will they marry? Will they decide to follow Jesus no matter what the cost? How will they manage the assets that God puts into their hands for His glory? These are just a few. But the answer to each sets the trajectory of life.
As I have worked more intensively with these younger leaders over the last decade and have seen up close the decisions that they are making, I have concluded that all too often we are not thinking! Disciplines are not being put into place that will help them make decisions that will carry the weight of the righteousness that God has designed that we live.
There are undoubtedly lots of reasons for this lack of thinking, or maybe more fairly said, clear thinking.
The educational system of our day does not promote thinking. At best, it has become an arena where people called professors can foist their ideas, unchallenged, upon young and as yet largely unformed minds. Of course, the hope of the system is to use this “learning” environment to change society into their convictions. For the follower of Jesus there is little if anything left in the educational system that will feed God, righteousness or eternity.
The culture that is being formed out of this educational brainwashing thrives on not really pushing back on anything. Happiness comes from being yourself, appreciating yourself, enjoying yourself, accepting yourself! On the surface it says, be your own person. But under the surface is the unspoken and undeclared message, be like us. Be politically correct, have no real moral values, accept any and every lifestyle, and above all don’t advocate for any form of objective truth.
One would hope that the church would be the bastion of just the opposite of the above. That we would be a people who unapologetically declare that objective truth trumps all other truth. That eventually time will be overwhelmed by eternity. We ought not apologize that our message is strident, even while our application is compassionate.
But the churches are wavering. We have been assaulted by our society and found wanting. One church historian has said, “Cultural assimilation is all too often the prelude to ecclesial extinction.” Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth by Alister McGrath.
And even more telling as he points out the contrarianism of our Christian forefathers, “If the salt of the Christian faith were to lose its saltiness, what would remain? The church had to maintain its identity by safeguarding its distinctiveness.”Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth by Alister McGrath.
Among the many conclusions that we could extract from the need for the church to be a contrarian to our present reality is that at the hour of greatest need for the church to be more contrarian, we have lost the ability to think contrarian. We can teach, we can feel, and we can still gather. But our results leave me wondering, do we actually know how to think in ways that demonstrate God was indeed out in front of us. That if He didn’t unequivocally confirm and intimately provide, we were ready to decide not to move ahead?
On the other hand, we can learn to think; the thinking discipline can mature over the whole of our lives. And, this discipline can begin much earlier in life.
I am convinced that younger people can learn the role of spiritual discipline in their lives earlier than we anticipate or plan for. I am convinced that as they build these spiritual disciplines, they will grow “early onset” obedience to what God says to them through His word.
They will make better decisions about the outcomes of their lives. As a result, they will put God, His calling and His assets at the top of their lives. They will make better decisions about education, vocation, marriage, and spending their assets. They will stand stronger against the overwhelming tides that conspire against them. They will learn to think, from God’s point of view.
In our day of cultural uncertainty, the demand for humble yet wise, faithful and righteous leaders will be eternally vital to the residue of true Christians in our nation. And, will help to guide true Christians to mature in their relationship with God and do an ever better job of stewarding His assets.
But to learn to think as a child of God, means that we embrace convictions very contrary to our day and age.
We can grow in understanding wisdom first and foremost only from God’s point of view. “The wisdom of God thus is always consistent with the laws of God—that is, with the Scriptures.” (ICR daily devotional, October 12, 2019, The wisdom of God, 1 Kings 3:28). The source of reliable, safe, wise, eternal thinking is found first in the Bible. Paul tells the Colossians that when he prays for them he asks that, “you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” Colossians 1:9
The Bible is a source book for many things. Wherever it happens to touch issues of science, medicine, sociology, history, etc. it will be proven to be reliable and true. Even when some time may be needed to have the world’s knowledge about anyone of these issues to “catch up”.
The primary “reason” for the Biblical revelation is to reveal God Himself. In relationship to Him we discover the purpose and design for His creation of us, those created in His image and likeness. For those who have been born again in His Son Jesus Christ, it is the optimal relational tool. You can find more of my thoughts on that topic in Divine Design: In the beginning, www.dwightpaulsmith.com
The power of scripture in this relational aspect is that God intends for us to use it daily as a tool for the Holy Spirit to give us guidance in maturing righteousness and making decisions which he has designed beforehand that we should walk in, as Paul so clearly says in Ephesians 2:10. As we fill our minds with His inspired word, the Spirit feeds the new person within us, providing alert to danger, encouragement for disappointment, calls to righteous obedience, and, even and especially directions for the many decisions that we make daily that are the incarnation of our obedience and His righteousness living through us.
In short, our lives are founded upon scripture. It is our source of life and faith. Our daily lives are bounded by it. The affect is that anything (thoughts, actions, decisions) outside of the revelation of God in His word is always no. Inside of daily life lived rooted in Scripture, and listening to the Holy Spirit, we live 24 hours a day 7 days a week tethered to it and the Spirit. There is great freedom in this. The “environment” that this gives us means that we can be confident that the things that the Spirit brings our way are either yes, or a sanctified no, or maybe. He will ultimately clarify the maybe as we wait for Him to move out in front of us.
I have rapidly outlined these things because they form the backdrop, the crucible, for learning to think. Without them, we live at the whims of our flesh, or enticed by the world, or worse, too influenced by satanic forces. I think that this means that any kind of “occupation” that a follower of Jesus is led by the Spirit into, needs this same crucible. We are His, and He wants to orchestrate every dimension of our lives, to our health, and His glory!