For me, one of the exciting discoveries about the brain is what neuroscientists call the plasticity of the brain...that our brains can be "transformed." This has been seen in stroke victims as their brain reroutes around the damaged part of the brain to rebuild neural pathways for some specific function (such as moving the arm), to the brain learning how to direct the muscles to shoot a better free throw in the basketball game after the player repeatedly focuses on the correct form to shoot the free throw by watching a video and/or rehearsing the correct form in his mind. This same plasticity of the brain is also seen in how we can change our thinking patterns and emotional response patterns.
Perhaps this is what Paul was talking about in Romans 7:15-25 ”I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
Learning to think God’s thoughts and God’s truth becomes the transformational process of how the old man changes to the new man. That “sin living within us” may be those old patterns of thinking and responding that were based off the “untruthful” patterns of the world—patterns that are not consistent with God’s truth.
Roman 7:21 “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23. But I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25. Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
Paul gives us an example of this in I Corinthians 1:10 ff. 10. “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”
This is not the only passage Paul speaks about unity in thought, so obviously it is important. How can we come to have that unity? Perhaps it is through the transformation of our thoughts so that we begin to think God’s thoughts. Some might think that is impossible, but Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 2:16: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” Another passage that reflects this same idea with a little different wording is in Ephesians 3:19, “and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” I have desired to be filled to the fullness of God since my college days, but what exactly does that mean? I think it might mean coming to think God’s thoughts, which will in turn produce behavior that is Christ-like, "having the mind of Christ."
All of those old distorted thinking patterns “of the world” that are not consistent with “truth” need to be transformed in our thinking and response patterns. If the concept of the plasticity of the brain is correct, that means that we can be transformed at any age!
What does that mean for Christian counseling? It has a huge impact! Next week I will write about how these ideas can impact counseling.