Perhaps you have invited Christ into your heart, but have you invited Christ into your mind?
Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians 2:5 “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” And to the Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
As a pastor I have long wondered how one actually obtains the mind of Christ. And believe me thousands of gallons of ink have been spilled on this subject. The basic answer is through faith and practice. And if you ask most Christians about what practice looks like they will tell you: prayer, study of the Bible, worship, participating in the Sacraments, and doing some form of service or mission. And yes, this is what I have said a thousand times.
But my question is: how do we open ourselves more deeply to these practices so that they actually bring true transformation?
Research in the field of neuroscience has revealed that the brain itself can be rewired and in fact can grow new neurons. This is incredible news for those who are interested in human transformation (psychiatrists, psychologists, pastors, and coaches among others) because it means that humanity is not stuck in genetic predeterminism or, for the Christian, original sin. We are capable of doing exactly what Paul says: our minds can be transformed into the mind of Christ.
I am certainly of the belief that the Bible contains what we need for salvation, and I also believe that Christians can benefit greatly from practices from other religions. In many ways Christianity lacks the spiritual technology needed for transformation. We cannot be transformed without the Holy Spirit, nor can we be transformed without our own cooperation. If that weren’t so then all Christians would be transformed just by inviting Christ into their hearts. Until we change our thinking we will not change our behavior. Certainly it begins in the heart, but it doesn’t end there.
Neurobiologists have discovered that there are three practices that can prime the brain for being reshaped through the process of neuroplasticity: 1) Aerobic activity, 2) Novel learning experiences (like learning a new language or quilting), and 3) Mindfulness practices (meditation, centering prayer, yoga, etc).
Eastern religions have long understood the significance of mindfulness. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Christians have long understood the significance of Christ. Add the two together and you have something extremely powerful: Christ-mindfulness.Being mindful of Christ means that you maintain a moment-by-moment of awareness of Christ and his thoughts and feelings.
It is my belief that by adding these neuro-friendly practices to existing Christian practices, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, our minds can and will be transformed into the mind of Christ. We will see the fruits of the Spirit abounding in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
This blog will be devoted to sharing the connections between Christian transformation, neurobiology, and mindfulness practice.
So today, I encourage you to invite Christ not only into your heart but into your mind as well that you will experience the transformation that he so desires for you.