A pastor recently pointed out that almost every Christian experiences marked emotional swells when they sing these famous words written by Horatio Spafford. “My sin oh the bliss of this glorious thought / my sin not in part but the whole, / Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, / praise the Lord praise the Lord oh my soul.” Why do we feel those words so deeply? Why do our affections rise as we sing them? Why do we sing that stanza louder and with more zeal? I think that part of the answer is to be found in the fact that it expresses a truth we deeply believe about the glorious wonder of what Christ achieved for us. Thus deep Christian affection and devotion is inextricably tied to treasured biblical truths you believe with all your mind.
As our minds master truth – and are in turn mastered by it – the rest of our being inevitably follows. Hence we find ourselves experiencing greater love for God as we hear, sing and speak of the truths we know. Truths grasped in your mind can be tasted and savoured.
True Christian affection and devotion is inextricably tied to treasured biblical truths in the Christian mind
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). This, the greatest commandment, calls us to love God with our whole being. We are to be vigorous in every one of our faculties, cultivating devotion to God. Surely our minds are not excluded.
Loving With All Your Mind
One of the trends we should be wary of in our lives and our churches is that tendency to separate the content of Christianity from the emotional experience of it. If we hollow out the doctrinal material of our faith and seek to produce artificial emotional experiences, we will find ourselves dissatisfied and empty. Therefore, you must love God with all your mind. This takes hard work and effort. Yet it proves its worth over time. For it yields great dividends for spiritual development, discernment, maturity, and worship.
So as we move into the New Year, here are five practical suggestions to help you as you seek to love God with all your mind:
1. Read the Bible Actively
What passes as Bible reading for many of us is actually passive reading. The results of this is often captured in statements such as, ‘I didn’t get anything from reading my Bible today,’ and ‘I wasn’t feeling my reading this morning.’ Why do we say these sorts of things? Because we were hoping that something will leap off the page and strike us between the eyes. We are expecting that with little to no effort we will become theological ninjas. But that will not happen. We must switch from passive to active reading.
Active Bible reading is like drilling for oil. It demands time and concentrated effort. But when you strike oil, it enriches the soul
Active reading calls us, with pen and paper, to think carefully and prayerfully through a passage’s message, meaning and implication for our lives (see Knowable Word). It requires more than a brief glance at a passage, skimming the sentences. Active Bible reading is like drilling for oil. It demands time and concentrated effort. But when you strike oil, it enriches the soul. Then proceed to pray those truths into your soul and seek to live them out in your life.
2. Master a Book of the Bible
Beyond active Bible reading, choose one book of the Bible this year and master it. Become an expert on its authorship, themes, purpose, message, style and place in God’s redemptive history. Seek to discover how it relates to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Seek to understand its relevance for us today.
Turn this knowledge into adoration and praise in your prayer times and use it as daily a refuge as you walk through life this year
All the tools for such an undertaking are readily available online (see the abundance of resources at TGC, TGC Africa’s Exposit videos, John Piper’s Look at the Book, or Sam Storm’s extensive book studies). There are also plenty of Bible reading tools available for free download (e-Sword and the NET). One of the greatest benefits of making yourself familiar with a single book is the ability to reflect on it even when you don’t have a Bible in front of you. Additionally, as you read other parts of the Bible the links to the book you chose will be evident, as well as fruitful.
Over time, you will notice that you begin to put the Bible together as one great and beautiful narrative. Behind that, it will give you a more comprehensive knowledge of God’s character and actions. Turn this knowledge into adoration and praise in your prayer times and use it as a daily refuge as you walk through life this year.
3. Read Theology
Many Christians have been sold a lie. It is this, ‘Theology is for academics, and then pastors.’ The problem with this statement is that it suggests that only professional teachers should know God. Theology literally means ‘God knowledge’. Everyone, then, is a theologian. All of us hold notions of God in our minds. The question is whether those notions are true or false, deep or shallow. One of the ways to develop our theology is through disciplined study (you can find free books at 9 Marks and Desiring God).
In order to heighten our worship, we must deepen our theology
They say that a high theology leads to a high doxology. Simply put, in order to heighten our worship, we must deepen our theology. If our knowledge of God is to be right and deep, we must pick up books that will cause progress in that area. J. I. Packer’s classic Knowing God comes to mind. There is also A. W. Tozer’s Knowledge of The Holy and A. W. Pink’s Attributes of God.
4. Pay Attention to What you Sing
A friend once said ‘In worship on Sunday I want every emotion a song makes me feel to be tied to a particular truth. I am skeptical of feeling things as we sing that I cannot trace to a specific truth that my mind grasps.’ Simply put, my friend was saying: let us bring our minds into corporate worship. We all need rebuke here. For many of us our emotions during worship on Sundays are due to everything else but the truth: voices, harmonies, riffs and musical interludes.
For many of us our emotions during worship on Sundays are due to everything else but the truth: voices, harmonies, riffs and musical interludes
Train yourself to think with all your mind about the words of the songs your congregation is singing. You may find that that gives you deeper and more durable affections for God. Thus we may need to rethink some of the songs that we sing, and replace them with others that have more substantial truth to meditate on.
5. Meditate on the Sermon Texts
This is an excellent way that I recently learned to maximise sermons. Ask your pastor what he intends to preach in the upcoming week. Then take time to read and reflect on his text before Sunday. Begin to pray the truths of that text into your heart and the hearts of your brothers and sisters. When Sunday comes, you will have cultivated a heightened anticipation for the Word. Instead of taking the posture of one waiting for a movie to begin, you will find yourself assuming the posture of a student eager to learn.
The preacher’s calling is to lead you to the pasture, yours is to eat it
As the sermon is going along, follow it in your Bible. Note how the points being made arise out of the passage. Remember, the preacher is not called by God to entertain you. He is called to teach you God’s word (2 Timothy 2:14-16). His calling is to lead you to the pasture. Yours is to eat it and not to marvel at how green it is.
Practices like these help to train our minds to think on God. They help us to mentally scale the mountains of doctrine so as to reach heights of knowledge from which we can better behold awe inspiring and soul satisfying views of God. How would your Christian life change if you made the attempt to love God with all your mind this year?