The pathway of change
Change starts with our thinking, the Bible makes this very clear;
do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind Romans 12v2 (ESV)
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians10v5 (NIV)
Many would agree with this but still see little deep and lasting change in their lives. Ironically often the problem is that we are unaware of our misconceptions, our unhelpful thoughts, our misunderstanding of truth and lack of grasp of the gospel. We ‘think’ we believe it all but an inner emptiness and dissatisfaction can suggest otherwise.
Often ‘pretence’ or as the ESV puts it ‘lofty opinion’ is lurking more than we are aware of or would like to admit. If we are (I am) honest so much of our lives is not the real thing but as shell, a shadow, pride, a performance based not on Christ but on self.
It is fairly easy to hide what we really think and how we are really doing behind either our intellect or our behaviour. However, it is much harder to hide behind our emotions. We may be able to explain great doctrine but if this leaves us unmoved emotionally we can’t have really understood it, or at least how it applies to ourselves. We may perform all sorts of good activities but if we do not feel anything towards God and those the activity is supposedly for, then a performance is exactly all that it is.
It is surely our feelings and desires, or lack of, which reveal what we really think as they flow from our deepest thoughts, perceptions & understanding. And they speak of the authenticity of our behaviour as they are the motive & force behind it. Therefore, the appropriateness of what we feel is a thermometer of how we are spiritually, a gauge of our engagement with reality, an indicator of our grasp of truth, a measure of our appreciation of beauty.
Thoughts and feelings are coupled together so closely they cannot be separated. Wherever there is a feeling there is a thought or perception behind it that has produced it. So the only real way to change how we feel is to change how we think, and then in turn our new feelings empower a change in our behaviour. But it is our feelings, our emotions and desires which highlight our true thinking and understanding, showing us where our mind needs renewing and which thoughts need taking captive.
If we are prepared to be honest with ourselves and God (and each other) about how we feel and the roots of these feelings then we are in a place to start real deep change in our lives. Our thinking flows into our feelings which flow into our doing, so new thinking can transform our lives. However, to accurately and deeply change our thinking or renew our mind we need to be honest about our current feelings, so that our real thoughts, understanding and perceptions can be laid bare.