The new heart, soul, strength and mind
The word, Christian, is derived from the Hebrew term “mashiach,” which refers to those who are anointed or who have a divine presence. It does not refer to people who merely attend church services or participate in Bible studies. To be a Christian involves much more. We are “Christian” when we bring God’s divine blessings, goodness, wisdom, and empowerment everywhere we go. This will require a transformation of our hearts, souls, strength and minds.
(See Chinese versions: 简体中文 > 新的心、魂、力量和心思意念 | 繁體中文 > 新的心、魂、力量和心思意念)
2 Peter 1:4 NLT And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to share in His divine nature and spiritual anointing. But first, we must consciously invite Jesus to restore all the parts that are stained with sin in our hearts, souls, strength and minds. Only when we do so, can we truly reflect more and more of God’s glory and live as Jesus would in our modern times.
2 Corinthians 3:16,18 ESV But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
1 John 2:6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
A journey towards fullness in Christ
The twelve apostles had the incredible privilege of becoming intimately acquainted with Jesus for three years, before the Son of God ascended into heaven. Yet, right up to the day that Jesus was to be crucified for their sins, the apostles showed themselves to suffer from spiritual blindness, greed, self-righteousness and pride.
Doesn’t being in the presence of God day in and day out help to transform people into godly disciples? Apparently not! In 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul said that we become new creations when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. The apostles’ lives are evidence that this transformation is not automatic.
In Ephesians, the apostle Paul elaborated on how we become new creations – we have to put on our new selves. To “put on” is an intentional conscious act, not an accidental or passive one. We become new creations by intentionally renewing our hearts, souls, strength and minds in Jesus Christ, so we can be gradually restored back into God’s perfect image.
Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
God knows human beings inside out. He knows our complexity and our frailty. Therefore, He specifically called us to love Him with all our hearts, souls, strength and minds – knowing that we need to conquer each of these parts in order for us to love and honour Him well, and leave sin behind us completely.
Luke 10:27 ESV He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’…
For example, we should not just persevere outwardly in hardship (strength) only to secretly indulge in our lustful appetites (soul) inwardly to compensate for the suffering we experience. We cannot just understand (mind) that emotions shouldn’t rule us, and then allow the pain of our trauma (soul) drive us to judge and slander others. Here is a very brief look at how our hearts, souls, strength and minds work.
Purifying our hearts: choosing God first
Our heart is our moral centre. It is the source of our conscience, motivations and inclinations. The heart can be righteous or unrighteous; from our hearts spring evil or good.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
God examines our hearts, not just our actions. He delights in those who desire to follow His will and bring Him glory. Even as believers, we can be driven by the fear or pride in our hearts more than we are by God’s love for others. We may fool ourselves about our personal motives and motivations when we serve in church, but we can’t hide the truth from God. He will weigh our hearts on His scales of justice.
1 Samuel 16:7 ESV … For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Job 31:6 NLT “Have I lied to anyone or deceived anyone? Let God weigh me on the scales of justice, for he knows my integrity.
A believer with an impure heart may think like this:
- “I prefer things to go my way, what’s wrong with that? Can’t God just bless me anyway?”
- “People should respect me because I serve in church and help so many others.”
- “I don’t believe God always has good plans. What if He gives me something I don’t want?”
- “Waiting on God’s answer is taking too long. I will just go ahead and do what I think is right.”
- “Look at them, they don’t know the right things to do (like I do).”
- “Next time I see that person, I will make sure he / she feels bad about the offence I have felt.”
Like King David who repeatedly sang in the Psalms, we need to pause and invite God to test our hearts and purify us from our sins.
Psalm 139:23-24 ESV Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 51:7,9,10 NLT Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Psalm 40:8 ESV I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
We can choose to purify our hearts as we:
- Study God’s Word and know His will and spiritual laws;
- Ask God to examine our hearts and reveal anything that is offensive to His Holiness;
- Be open and humble to receive correction and admonishment from the Holy Spirit as well as god-fearing believers in Christ;
- Be ready to confess our sins to God and reconcile with people; and
- Consciously choose to honour God first in our hearts so as to inherit His blessings, and not curses.
Deuteronomy 11:26-28 ESV “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God…
To learn how to choose God first in everything, it is helpful to study the Bible, undergo discipleship training, and be surrounded by godly role models.
Colossians 3:16 ESV Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…
Restoring our souls: being spiritually cleansed
Our soul is closely tied to our fleshly human nature, which includes our fleshly passions, emotions, desires and memories.
1 Peter 2:11 ESV Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
It is these passions that drive us to sin. The soul that sins against God is spiritually dead and condemned to eternal suffering and separation from our Heavenly Father. To be set free from the sinful nature of our fallen souls, we must accept the free gift of eternal life in Jesus and “become slaves of God” by submitting all our ways to His sovereign rule and guidance.
Ephesians 2:1 ESV And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
Romans 6:22-23 ESV But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We fall into sin when we choose to live outside of God’s design for the world. As a result of knowingly or unknowingly rebelling against God’s will, we end up hurting ourselves and others. Many people are unaware that they go through life with hurting, wounded souls as a result of sin, both their own as well as other people’s sins against them. These invisible “trauma” wounds to our souls desperately need God’s deep spiritual cleansing and healing.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines trauma as “a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems, usually for a long time.” Traumatic events such as an unexpected death, divorce, bullying, parental neglect, betrayal, verbal abuse, rape or rejection can have a negative impact on our thought processes and emotional health for a long time.
The resulting guilt, grief or shame from sin can then continue to manifest as anger, anxiety, heartaches, restlessness or stress and last a lifetime if left unaddressed. There is a high emotional, psychological and even physical cost for sin. Research by the Boston Children’s Hospital has shown that children who have been bullied when young tend to suffer from poorer mental and physical health, increased symptoms of depression and lower self-esteem, even as adults.
Other research has shown that pent-up negative emotions will harm our health and shorten our lifespans. Chronic stress severely affects the neurotransmitters in our brains and nervous systems, which are responsible for our emotional and physical reactions to external circumstances, and go on to change the chemical composition in many parts of our brains.
We only need to look at the effects of hurt, trauma and wounds to realise that sin has serious, unwanted negative effects. Emotions that are freely experienced and expressed without judgment or attachment tend to flow fluidly. Suppressed fear and other negative emotions in our souls however, deplete us of mental energy and hope, which in turn, can lead to hypertension, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and high blood pressure. They even damage our immune systems. Over time, repressed negative emotions will shorten the “end caps” of our DNA strands that influence ageing and shorten our life expectancies.
As a result of invisible emotional wounds from sin and trauma in the past, we may experience a lack of inner peace, deep joy, patience, and self-control – essentially, the effects of sin robs us of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The Bible states that Jesus came to save the world from our sins and heal the brokenhearted. Everyone has suffered the effects of sin and trauma in some form or other, and we are told not to “keep going and pay the penalty” for covering them up. God invites us to go to Him with our pain because He wants to heal our souls.
Psalm 147:3 ESV He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Proverbs 22:3 ESV The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
When people do not know how to bring their unresolved emotional pains and past sins to God, they will usually resort to covering them up through a variety of unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Some indications that may possibly suggest a wounded soul include:
- Anxiety (constant)
- Binge eating, drinking or shopping
- Crying for no reason
- Lack of self-control
- Lying and self-delusion
- Obsessions with sex, sports, people etc.
- Tendency to please people all the time
We can never heal our own wounded souls without the help of the One who created us. God will restore our souls to full spiritual health, if we choose to:
- Bring our emotional wounds to Jesus for healing;
- Release forgiveness to those who have hurt us;
- Repent of our sinful nature and self-destructive inner vows;
- Make a covenant to follow God 100%;
- Demolish spiritual strongholds and lies from Satan that we have believed;
- Command any spirits that have built strongholds in the darkness of our sins and pain to leave in Jesus’ name;
- Invite Jesus to heal us and shine His light into our past darkness;
- Ask to be released from the impact of our parents’ and ancestors’ sins in Jesus’ name;
- Learn what it means to turn away from our past bondage to sin;
- Train ourselves to build our faith and strength in God alone;
- Learn to comfort our souls by speaking God’s Word; and
- Learn to put on our spiritual armour every day.
We need Jesus to shine His light into our wounded souls and drive away the darkness of our shame and guilt. Jesus died to take on our guilt so that we never have to feel ashamed again. He promises He is near us and will never forsake us. Jesus will personally comfort us and turn our darkness, mourning and despair into something beautiful. What a privilege to be redeemed and restored by God Himself who personally comes to heal us.
Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Isaiah 42:16 And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.
Building our strength: growing in faith, hope, and love
Strength is not only a physical attribute; it is an important personality trait. Every athlete is familiar with the concept of strength training. It involves exerting our muscles against an external resistance in order to build muscle strength, endurance, and size. Similarly, spiritual strength training involves learning to resist the corruption of this world, so that our “spiritual muscles” become stronger and more resilient, and we grow in godly endurance and perseverance over time.
It takes discipline to develop personal strength and resolve. Human beings have an inborn tendency to escape discipline. We have very limited resolve and determination of our own. True spiritual strength and training come from following God’s Holy Spirit.
Philippians 4:13 ESV I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
1 Timothy 4:8 NLT “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
Endurance is critical if we wish to be transformed as a Christian because learning new habits takes time. It normally takes a human being anywhere between one to eight months to develop a new habit. This is one reason why many new year resolutions don’t work. People cannot just resolve to do something. We need to put our resolutions into action and practice them over and over again until they become second nature.
The apostle Paul is an exceptional example of godly endurance. In his zeal for the Lord, he experienced whipping, beating, stoning, shipwreck, hunger and many dangers. If it were not for Paul’s strength in the Lord, we would not be blessed by his large number of writings in the New Testament today. Paul was able to endure because he had a clear heavenly goal in mind and exercised much faith, patience, love and steadfastness. He trusted the promises of God and never lost hope. We may never have to bear the sufferings that Paul did, but we do live in a world that is still fallen. Nonetheless, we called to grow in spiritual strength, endurance and self-control because a true follower of Jesus will have to turn away from many of the world’s temptations.
2 Corinthians 11:24-27 ESV Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
1 Corinthians 9:25 ESV Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
We can build our spiritual strength as we:
- Put our hope in God, not in people or our circumstances;
- Choose to thank God and praise Him in all circumstances, both good and bad;
- Submit to His will and rely on Him to carry us through difficult times;
- Actively follow the Holy Spirit as He guides and leads us in our walk with God;
- Engage in a godly community that will pray for and encourage us in our spiritual development;
- Pray with fellow believers regularly for mutual edification, protection and blessing;
- Remind ourselves to be patient and not to forfeit our spiritual blessings because of a moment of spiritual weakness; and
- Choose to always testify how God always delivers us from difficult times.
To build spiritual strength and endurance, all of us need the encouragement and accountability from a godly community. Being able to observe godly role models and testimonies of how Jesus rescues those who endure is also very beneficial.
Lastly, serving in ministry is a real test and exercise of our love, faith and hope, which in turn helps to train us in our spiritual strength.
Transforming our minds: growing in our knowledge of God’s will
Our minds give us the ability to assess, discern, imagine, remember, meditate, judge, choose and decide. It is the filter for the motivations of our hearts and souls, and determines our actions.
Many people use their minds to merely acquire technical knowledge of things that are temporal. The promise for believers is so much more. We can acquire amazing eternal spiritual understanding and wisdom from God’s Word and His Holy Spirit. Growing in wisdom and knowledge of God however, takes great conscious effort in a world filled with distracting, insubstantial and meaningless noise.
Most of us are unaware that we are passively (subconsciously) learning all the time. Our brains act like sponges and constantly soak up information and signals from our environment. These are then organised and “filed” to form building blocks for our mindset, which make up how we subconsciously see the world. Our mindsets eventually form the basis for how we react to real-life circumstances, as if we are operating on “auto pilot.”
In 2011, researchers from Yale and Good Think, Inc. showed different videos about the effects of stress to two groups of managers from UBS, a financial services firm. The first group watched a video that detailed scientific findings about how stress is debilitating, while the second group was shown a video about how stress enhances the human brain and body.
As a result, the second group subsequently used stress to their advantage, feeling more productive and energetic. They reported significantly fewer physical symptoms associated with distress (such as headaches, backaches, fatigue) and scored higher on life satisfaction. All this was the result of watching one video, which goes to show that what we expose our minds to has the power to influence our lives.
As followers of Jesus, we are to make 100% of our minds obedient to Christ. The challenge is that only 10% of our minds are conscious. We need to use this 10% to consciously decide what gets stored in the 90% that is subconscious.
The good news is that God created man to have the ability to literally “rewire” our brains’ pathways, by training ourselves to focus on the types of thoughts and beliefs we want to store in our minds. This is the renewal of our mind as mentioned in Romans 12:2. Hence, we can truly overcome old ways of thinking that go “against the knowledge of God” and renew our minds in Christ at any age, even in our nineties. Not too long ago, scientists uncovered neuroplasticity, which refers to the way our brain physically changes its thought “pathways” through repetition. The more we reinforce certain new thoughts or emotions, the more we change the way our brains work and how we react. This neuroplasticity lasts a lifetime.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
Thank God that we can transform our minds when we:
- Study God’s Word and everything He has done and plans to do in the near future;
- Meditate on God’s Word and memorise Bible verses;
- Learn about spiritual realities and how to defend our minds against spiritual attacks;
- Learn to recognise Satan’s lies and deceptions; and
- Learn to overcome ungodly patterns of thinking, and our “old self” when it tries to resurrect itself, by remembering God’s Word.
To grow in wisdom and knowledge of God’s will, we should make an effort to study the Bible, serve others in church or other ministries, and undergo discipleship training.
1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Restoration within a Godly community
Restoration to fullness in Christ is best done within a community of god-fearing believers. After all, we are called to encourage and lift one another up.
Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Choosing to be involved with a godly community will:
- Provide a good platform for studying God’s Word with others and putting it into practice;
- Provide godly influences over our lives, in contrast to the other secular influences in our lives;
- Reveal our own issues to us as we encounter new people and new challenges in relationships;
- Provide us with much needed emotional, practical and spiritual support;
- Help us grow in our understanding of people as we share our burdens with each other;
- Teach us to see others the way God sees them, and learn to put others before ourselves;
- Make us more aware of other people’s needs and nudge us to be less self-centred;
- Teach us how to work through conflict;
- Give us the opportunity to meet others’ practical needs;
- Give us opportunities to forgive others and demonstrate God’s grace;
- Provide a good platform to confess our sins and seek inner healing;
- Provide us with good role models and testimonies to build our faith and understanding of our Father in heaven;
- Witness God’s work in others;
- Help us discover our spiritual gifts and talents; and
- Provide opportunities for us to serve and encourage others.
The Bible warns us to choose our friends carefully. The company we keep greatly influences the direction of our lives. Our companions invariably impact the way we think, feel and behave. They also influence us to either follow wicked or righteous ways of living. Learning to live like Jesus Christ is a community effort.
Proverbs 12:26 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
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