Principles for Personal Change: New Thinking

“Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT).

 

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Change requires new thinking. In order to change, we must learn about God’s truth and start making good choices, but we also must change the way we think.We’ve talked about this before: The battle over sin starts in your mind, not in your behavior. The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel determines the way you act. If you want to change the way you act, you start by changing the way you think. In addition, if you want to change the way you feel, you must start with the way you think.

Think – Feel – Act

For instance, I can say, “I need to love my kids more,” but that isn’t going to work. Or someone can say, “I need to love my spouse more,” but that isn’t going to work. You can’t fight your way into a feeling. You must change the way you think about your kids, about your husband, about your wife, and that will change the way you feel, which will then change the way you act. The Bible says,

“There must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT).

Let me sum it up this way: You are not what you think you are, but rather, what you think, you are. The battle for sin, the battle to deal with those defects in your life that you don’t like — it starts in your mind. If you want to change anything in your behavior or anything in your emotions, you start with your thoughts and your attitude.

The renewal of your mind is related to the word “repentance.” I know repentance is a dirty word for a lot of people. They think it means something bad, something you don’t really want to do, something painful. They think of a guy standing on a street corner with a sign that says, “Repent. The world’s about to end.”

Repentance has nothing to do with your behavior. It is about changing your mind, learning to think differently. “Repent” simply means to make a mental U-turn. It’s something you do in your mind, not with your behavior. Changing the way you think will then affect your emotions and affect your behavior.

When I repent, I make a mental U-turn. I turn from guilt to forgiveness. I turn from purposelessness to purpose in life. I turn from no hope to new hope. I turn from frustration to freedom. I turn from darkness to light. I turn from hell to heaven. I turn from hatred to love.

I also change the way that I think about God. He’s not mad at me; I’m deeply flawed, but I’m deeply loved. I change the way I think about you, I change the way I think about my kids, and I change the way I think about my wife. I change the way I think about the world, I change the way I think about the economy, and I change the way I think about my past, my present, and my future.

So being renewed in your mind means more than changing the way you think about God and Jesus; it also means you change the way you think about your own defects. The Bible tells us,

“Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 AMP).

Restoring Relationships: Talk to God

The first biblical step toward restoring a relationship is to talk to God before talking to the person.

If you’ll pray about the conflict first, instead of gossiping to a friend, you’ll often discover that either God changes your heart or he changes the other person without your help.

All your relationships would go smoother if you would just pray more about them. As David did with his Psalms, use prayer to ventilate vertically. Tell God your frustrations. Cry out to him. He’s never surprised or upset by your anger, hurt, insecurity, or any other emotions. So tell him exactly how you feel.

Most conflict is rooted in unmet needs and many of these needs can only be met by God. When you expect anyone – a friend, spouse, another pastor, or family member – to meet a need that only God can fulfill, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and bitterness. No one can meet all of your needs except God.

The apostle James noted that many of our conflicts are caused by prayerlessness:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? You want something but don’t get it. You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:1-2 NIV) 

Instead of looking to God, we look to others to make us happy and then get angry when they fail us. God says,

“Why don’t you come to me first?”
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