From the May/June 2017 issue of Discern Magazine

How to Have a Sound Mind

What is going on? Why all the violence, hatred and evil in the world? What is causing the unsound thinking, and what is the key to sound mindedness?

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Viewing and reading about all the terrible things occurring today, we might question whether anyone has a sound mind. Human thinking can be so biased and distorted with human emotion and false premises.

Is it even possible to have sound mindedness in this day and age?

The Bible tells us yes, it is possible. But in order to have right thinking, we need to acknowledge a few things first.

The unsound mind

The apostle Paul plainly gives a cause for wrong thinking in Romans 1:21: “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Paul describes the end result of deliberately rejecting the existence of God in verse 28: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind.” A debased mind is not a sound mind. Looking at verses 28-32, we can see all kinds of problems that are now extant in the world around us—all because of people’s rejection of God and His words.

In fact, King David writes, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works” (Psalm 14:1).

History shows us that humans have almost always given preference to their own knowledge over the revealed knowledge that comes from God. The result of human thinking, apart from God, has caused untold chaos.

Human thinking

Many people today think their reasoning is just fine, and they don’t really consider God. The prophet Isaiah warns against this attitude: “Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; for shall the thing made say of him who made it, ‘He did not make me’? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” (Isaiah 29:16).

For instance, Sigmund Freud described God as an illusion, created by humanity to fulfill our infantile need for a strong father figure. According to this thinking, religion may have been useful for controlling the violent tendencies of a developing civilization, but is unnecessary now when we can turn to reason and science.

How’s that working out for this world? Looking at the continuing conflicts between people and nations and the deepening confusion about how to achieve lasting happiness and avoid devastating heartache, it seems humanity has not truly found sound reasoning.

God tells us the real solution in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

The prophet Isaiah also records a related warning from God: “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ says the LORD, ‘Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin” (Isaiah 30:1).

Human reasoning, apart from God, cannot develop a mind that is sound.

How to have a sound mind

The Bible tells us the real source: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

What is Paul saying here? God’s Spirit, which is His power and mind essence, actually allows us to develop a mind that is temperate, disciplined and self-controlled. It is peaceful and full of wisdom.

The Amplified Bible translates this verse as: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].”

The apostle James delineates the differences between the wisdom that comes from God and the thinking that is in the world around us. “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:16-17).

On the spiritual level, right thinking can only come through exercising God’s Holy Spirit.People today often seek to achieve sound mindedness through the behavioral sciences; they strive to attain peace, wisdom and good judgment simply by personal commitments to do so. Of course, people can learn to reason clearly and develop common sense on the physical level. But on the spiritual level, right thinking can only come through exercising God’s Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12-14).

How do we receive God’s Spirit?

In Acts 2:1-4 the disciples were gathered together keeping the Day of Pentecost and were filled with the Holy Spirit. People from all over could not understand how they were hearing these Galileans in their own languages (verses 7-12). The people were amazed, and so Peter explained that what they were witnessing was foretold by the prophet Joel, who said that the Holy Spirit would be poured out (verses 16-18).

So how do we receive that Spirit? Peter says in verse 38, “Repent”—this means to turn away from sin, from breaking God’s laws—“and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Peter continues by saying that the promise to receive the Holy Spirit is “to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (verse 39).

So, to receive the gift of the Spirit that allows us to develop a sound mind—thinking from God’s viewpoint—one has to repent of sin and be baptized. This is truly a major behavioral change on our part. We have to realize that God is real and that we need Him—His power, love and His sound mind—within us. (For more details about receiving God’s Spirit, read our booklet Change Your Life!)

A sound mind carries responsibilities

Once God imbues us with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we must not quench it (1 Thessalonians 5:19). In other words, we have to determine that our way of thinking must now be godly and not human-driven. In fact, we are told to have the very mind of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul also gives examples of that mind-set:

  • “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5).
  • “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:25-26).

Can we even imagine a world like that? Where people would always show concern for others? Where people would give deference to others, and where selfishness and conceit would be removed from one’s thinking? Where people would be calm and peaceful and willing to yield?

That is the kind of world God desires for all peoples—and it will come once Jesus Christ returns!

Endure to the end

But until the Kingdom of God begins to rule on earth, the pressure is on. The world’s thinking is so pervasive that we must be careful not to fall back into having an unsound mind. For example, consider the many angry opinions and vicious comments that are posted to articles and news releases on the web. Everyone thinks his or her opinion is right. And even with the Holy Spirit, we must be careful not to get caught up in conceit or provocation, as “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

The apostle Peter also reminds us in 2 Peter 3:17-18: “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Godly thinking helps us to never forget that God gives us His laws for our own good (Deuteronomy 6:24). And, as we internalize His way of thinking now, we will develop a sound mindedness that truly is a blessing—one that is made possible through having His Holy Spirit.

So who will have a sound mind? Those who repent, are baptized and receive God’s Spirit.

And the most important question: Will you do what it takes to develop that sound mind God promises? If so, be assured that is the direction God wants you to go!

For a deeper study of your next steps, download Change Your Life!

About the Author

John Foster

John Foster

John Foster grew up in the Chicago, Illinois, area and began attending the Church of God with his parents in 1958.

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