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  • Paul Reich

You Are What You Think! (Part 1)

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

Your thinking determines your choices, your emotions, and your behavior. It regulates your spiritual, moral, and relational health.

 
 

A popular statement by health and fitness professionals is “You are what you eat.” The truth is that what you eat can tell a lot about you. Though not foolproof, what you eat may say something about your culture, your upbringing, your self-discipline (or lack thereof), foods you enjoy, your socio-economic status, your dietary training, and more. But primarily, this statement is meant to teach that what you eat will determine your physical health. A diet high in sugar and processed foods will result in poor health, while a diet with the right balance of proteins, vegetables, and good fats will give you the essential nutrients to maintain good health. You become what you eat.


Similarly, you are what you think. Your thinking determines your spiritual, moral, and relational health. “What consumes your mind controls your life.”[1] The focus of your mind compels your choices, your emotions, and your behavior. As a result, your thinking influences virtually every area of your life.


If your mind is consumed with guilt, anger, bitterness, jealousy, lust, greed, hatred, and other destructive thoughts, these thoughts with their corresponding emotions will ooze out in destructive words and actions that will harm yourself and others.


Matthew 12:34b NKJV

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks


Matthew 15:18–19 NASB

“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders." [JESUS]


The heart in modern western culture is frequently associated with the emotions and is set in juxtaposition to the mind as the seat of thoughts and intellect. However, in Hebrew understanding the heart refers to the entirety of one’s inner being. Though the heart is sometimes mentioned as distinct from the mind for nuanced purposes in various biblical contexts, it includes the mind. The heart is the inner control center of our lives and is the seat of our mind, will, emotions, and conscience. As such …

  • The heart has thoughts and intents (Genesis 6:5, 8:21; 1 Chronicles 29:18; Psalm 139:23; Matthew 9:4, 15:19; Hebrews 4:12);

  • The heart can purpose a course of action and make plans and decisions (Nehemiah 2:12, 7:5; Isaiah 10:7; Jeremiah 23:20; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Revelation 17:17)

  • The heart experiences various emotions, longings, and desires (Psalm 4:7, 10:3, 20:4, 37:4; Proverbs 6:25, 13:12; Ecclesiastes 2:10, 7:9, 11:10; Isaiah 65:14; Romans 10:1)

  • The heart has the functions of conscience (2 Samuel 24:10; Acts 2:37; Romans 2:15; Hebrews 10:22)

The heart can be influenced by God (Nehemiah 2:12, 7:5) or it can be influenced by the devil (John 13:2; Acts 5:3). The heart can be good (Matthew 12:33-35; Luke 8:15) or it can be evil (Proverbs 6:18; Jeremiah 3:17). The Scriptures reveal that the evil heart can be deceitful, hardened, stubborn, blind, wayward, wicked, proud, malicious, greedy, and more. While the good heart is described in the Bible as clean, pure, repentant, upright, perfect, sincere, devout, wise, tender, humble, compassionate, and more. Because the heart can be influenced by both good and evil, we are warned by Solomon


Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.


Photo from IMGBIN


Because the heart is the control center of life, we need to protect our hearts from evil influences. Everything we say and do flows from the heart, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (NIV). One of Solomon’s primary purposes in writing Proverbs is to warn us against evil influences that can detour our lives onto paths of destruction. His instruction is given to protect our hearts from the evil counsel of sinners, scoffers, fools, and the strange woman. Instead of giving heed to their words, we are to incline our hearts toward wisdom, understanding, discernment and the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:1-5).


Solomon recognized God as the source of wisdom. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6). In Solomon’s case, the words from God’s mouth were recorded in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). He would also have had access to Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, and many of David’s Psalms. As believers, we consider the entire Bible, both Old and New Testaments, to be the Word of God.[2] God’s words as recorded in Scripture bring knowledge and understanding. It is only as our hearts grow in discernment from being saturated in God’s Word that they are protected from sinful influences.


Proverbs 2:7–11 (NASB)

7, He [God] stores up sound wisdom for the upright;

He is a shield to those who walk in integrity

8 Guarding the paths of justice,

And He preserves the way of His godly ones.

9 Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course.

10 For wisdom will enter your heart And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;

11 Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you,


As wisdom from God’s Word enters our hearts, we will know right from wrong, and discretion will protect us. It will deliver us …

  • From the way of evil (2:12a)

  • From the man who speaks perverse things (2:12b)

  • From those who leave the paths of uprightness (2:13a)

  • From the strange woman (2:16a)

  • From the adulteress who flatters with her words (2:16b)

Solomon’s injunction to guard our hearts is basically the same as Paul’s instruction to take every thought captive to obey Christ (see my previous blog series, Take Every Thought Captive). Guarding our hearts means protecting our hearts from evil counsel and filling it with wisdom from God’s Word. Moreover, since everything we do flows from our hearts, the key to changing our words, choices, and behaviors is to change our hearts. If the root is bad, the fruit will be bad. If the root is good, the fruit will also be good.


Matthew 12:33–35 (NASB)

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.

34 “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.

35 “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.



When we come to Christ and the Holy Spirit indwells us, we are given a new heart. Our stony hearts that were hardened in sin, rebellion, and resistance to God are replaced with tender hearts of flesh that are now responsive to His working in our lives. His Spirit also enables us to walk in His ways (Ezekiel 26:26-27). Primarily, this new heart refers to a new disposition toward God and a new capacity to know Him and follow Him. It speaks of a tender repentant heart that desires to please God, though it is not yet perfect.


Though we are forgiven and cleansed from sin with humble, contrite, and teachable hearts before God, this does not mean that everything in our hearts has been instantly transformed. There is still much growth and change that needs to take place. Often, strongholds in our thinking must be torn down and new thinking structures erected as lies are exposed and displaced with truth. Childhood wounds may need to be healed as the Holy Spirit touches the broken places in our hearts that still hold us captive. Unhealthy emotions and conditioned responses may need to be transformed to overcome sinful habits. As new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), we now have new life and vitality, new power, and new purpose, but the work of transformation has just begun. The new birth is just the beginning of our new life in Christ. We must now grow up. We have not yet arrived. It will take a lifetime to grow and mature as followers of Jesus.


As we continue to learn and obey Christ’s teaching, we prove ourselves to truly be His disciples and we will know the truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32). It is only as we abide in Christ and both He and His words abide in us that we bear much fruit, thereby proving to be His disciples and bringing glory to His Father (John 15:1-8). To grow spiritually and to become fruitful requires that we daily walk dependent on Christ and continually feed on His Word. Christ and His Word are the very source of our spiritual vitality and fruitfulness. Apart from Him we can do nothing.


As noted in previous blogs, it is only as our minds are renewed by the word of God that we are increasingly transformed into the image of Christ (Romans 12:2). His word shapes our thinking, changes our attitudes, determines our moral ethics, directs our choices, and instructs our behavior.


This requires that we feed regularly on God’s word. “You are what you eat.” What you feed your mind will determine your spiritual health. Hence, you are what you think! “What consumes your mind controls your life.” I’d like to rephrase this last statement to “What your mind consumes controls your life.” You must first feed your mind before thoughts can dominate your mind. If you want to change harmful thinking that is consuming your mind and controlling your life, you must change your mental diet. You need to begin feeding on those things that are spiritual healthy (Philippians 4:8).


Your primary source for gaining wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and discernment is God’s Word. Though worship, prayer, and Christian fellowship are all important to nurture your faith, and the indwelling Holy Spirit is your life source and guide, your primary spiritual food is the Word of God. God’s Word is described as:

  • Bread to nourish your soul (Matthew 4:4)

  • Milk to help you grow (1 Peter 2:2)

  • Meat to make you strong (1 Corinthians 3:1-2)

  • Honey to satisfy your heart (Psalm 19:7-10, 119:103)

Job considered the words of God as more necessary than food, “I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12 NASB). Jeremiah delighted in eating God’s words, “Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;” (Jeremiah 15:16 NASB). When God called Ezekiel into ministry, He fed him a scroll saying, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth. Then He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. (Ezekiel 3:3-4 NASB). Finally, after fasting for 40 days, the devil tempted Jesus to turn stones in to bread. Emphasizing the priority of God’s Word even over physical food, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).


To guard our hearts and to be spiritually strong, we must feed regularly on God’s Word. There are five ways to ingest God’s word

  1. HEARING (Matthew 13:20-23; Luke 8:21, 11:28; Acts 10:33, 13:44; Romans 10:13-17; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:2; James 1:22-25).

  2. READING (Nehemiah 8:1-8; Luke 4:16-21; Acts 13:15, 15:21; 2 Corinthians 3:14-15; 1 Timothy 4:13; Revelation 1:3)

  3. MEMORIZING (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:18-21; Psalm 37:31, 40:8, 119:9-11, 16; Hosea 4:6; Mathew 4:1-11; 1 John 15:7; Colossians 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 3:15)

  4. STUDYING (Ezra 7:10; Psalm 119:18; Proverbs 2:1-11; Isaiah 28:9-10; Matthew 22:29; John 5:39; Acts 17:2-3, 11; Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 2:15, 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20)

  5. MEDITATING (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3, 119:15, 23, 48, 78, 87, 99, 148; John 15:7; Philippians 4:8)

Each of these ways of eating God’s Word is important. Sadly, most Christians only ingest God’s Word on Sunday morning if/when they go to church. As important as hearing God’s word is for growing in our faith and walk with God, listening to preaching only once each week (less for many) is insufficient to sustain a healthy spiritual life. Just as eating food only once a week results in physical malnourishment, eating God’s Word only once a week results in spiritual malnourishment. This is why many believers in North America are spiritually weak and are more influenced by the world around them than by the Scriptures. They feed more on the junk food of the world than on the milk, bread, and meat of God’s Word. This results in their minds being shaped more by media and the influence of friends than by the Bible. As a consequence, they are more worldly in their beliefs, values, words, and behaviors than they are like Christ.


Drawing by Jack Hamm


Polls show that most Christians are not self-feeders, spiritually speaking. They will eat a well-prepared meal delivered by a pastor or teacher who has put the work into predigesting the Scriptures and presenting it in a captivating way, but they themselves do not read the Bible on a regular basis, let alone memorize, study, or mediated on it. Moreover, many don't know how to go about studying or meditating on Scripture. This greatly hinders their ability to digest, correctly interpret, and regularly apply its truths to their lives.


Having been in full-time ministry for more than 40 years and being a Bible teacher myself, I recognize that God has given men and women to the church who are trained to do in-depth study of God’s Word and who are capable of instructing believers to better understand and apply the Scriptures to their lives. But this doesn’t absolve believers of their individual responsibility to actively maintain a personal walk with Christ, including daily feeding on His Word.


All five methods of ingesting the Scriptures are helpful for Christian growth, and all believers can be trained with practical skills to implement these practices on a regular basis. By learning a few skills and through regular practice, you will find that your understanding of God’s word will grow, and you will develop a new level of competence in “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NASB). Regularly feeding on God's Word and accurately interpreting it are critical for spiritual health and growth.


Yet, as important as hearing, reading, memorizing, mediating, and studying God’s Word are, the goal is not that we simply know more, but rather that our minds be renewed so that we see and respond to life from God’s perspective, rather than from a worldly perspective. The goal is that we become doers of the Word and not forgetful hearers (James 1:22-25). Though a healthy spiritual life requires regular ingestion of God's Word, we are not to be feeders only. We are to move from being feeders on God's Word to becoming heeders of God’s Word.


Jesus likens the one who only hears God’s Word and doesn’t obey it to a man who built his house on sand. When the storms came, the man’s house collapsed. Sadly, this true for many believers who are living defeated lives, who cave in trial, who compromise to the world’s pressures, and who are ineffective influencers for Christ. The Word of God must be obeyed and applied daily to our lives for us to build strong houses on the Rock that will withstand the storms of life that come our way.


Closing and Looking Forward


We are what we think. Everything we do flows from our hearts. What our minds consume will control our lives. If we are truly Christ’s disciples, we will feed regularly on God’s Word so that our thoughts, words, choices, and behaviors reflect His character, obey His commands, and are honoring to Him. There are five biblical ways that we can ingest God’s Word – hearing, reading, memorizing, studying, and mediating. The goal of feeding on God’s Word is to renew our minds and transform our lives so we are more like Christ and fulfill His purposes as we obey His teaching.


My goal in this new blog series is to provide insights and skills to help you become more consistent and competent in your intake and understanding of God’s Word. My hope is that I can rouse in you a greater hunger for God’s Word and provide some practical instruction to help you better ingest, digest, and apply the Scriptures to your life.


In closing, thank you for your continued prayers for Lynn and me and our family. As of this writing, Lynn has had five chemo treatments. She has her good days and bad days. In addition to chemo, she receives other treatments and medications to handle pain, nausea, and to keep her neutrophil count up. She spends significant time sleeping and resting to replenish her strength. When feeling good, she especially enjoys time with the kids and grandkids. She finds this very nurturing. Please continue to stand with us as we trust God for a healing miracle.


REFERENCES

[1] This popular quote is often cited as “Anonymous.” While some attribute this quote to Mel Robbins, it is difficult to find if she is the true author of this quote or if she merely popularized it.

[2] The inspiration and authority of Scripture will be covered in future blogs.

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3 Comments


sharon
Oct 26, 2021

Paul I hope you're putting all this in a book! It will make excellent discipleship material. This blog is a great resource for what I'm teaching right now in Soul Care. I will use it. Thank you for your careful research and strong biblical support.

It was good to hear the update on Lynn. I'm still keeping your family in prayer, asking God to intervene in your situation.

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Shirley Brownell
Shirley Brownell
Oct 25, 2021

The five ways of taking in the Word of God are all so necessary, completing one another. Thanks for your input.

I am praying for Lynn and the family.

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Allan Pole
Allan Pole
Oct 24, 2021

Thank you, Paul. This is a very important topic! In a world that's filled with brain candy, let's feed our minds with food from above.


Lord, would you please touch Lynn and bring healing to her? We ask that your power would flow through Lynn and raise her up in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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