When did you last change your mind?

Fri, 08/12/2017 - 10:30 -- James Oakley
Change your mind
Image Credit: geralt

Christian, I'd like to ask you a question: When did you last change your mind?

Last week I wrote a post looking at the question of remarriage after divorce. That may not be a topic that interests you, and it was quite a long post, so maybe you didn't read it. But it was an example where I changed my mind on a topic, and I could give others.

It makes me want to ask the question: If you are a Christian, how often do you change your mind on something? What is healthy?

There are two dangers to avoid here, I think

Never changing your mind

As Christians, our more foundational creed is that "Jesus Christ is Lord". Jesus told us that the most important commandment was:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30)

As we seek to serve God, as his renewed people, born again, we do so as living sacrifices, says Romans 12:1. But here's the next sentence:

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Jesus calls us to have him as lord of every area of our lives, including how we think. It means he gets to tell us how we should think about ourselves, about God, about life, about right and wrong, and so on.

We don't become perfect, the moment we become Christians. God needs to reshape us continually, little by little leading us to become the people he wants us to be.

All of which means: If I cannot remember the last time I changed my mind on something, I should be asking if I'm really a Christian.

Sure, the longer you go on in the Christian life, the more God will have straightened out the foundational items in your thinking. But it should be a regular experience of Christian discipleship that, from time to time, God says something to us in his word and we change our thinking accordingly. We should be reading and studying the Bible, and sometimes that should trigger us to say: "I now need to change my view on X", whether X be major or minor. Sometimes, this is hard. If we don't like being told what to do, we like being told even less what to think.

But such is being a Christian. A Christian is someone who has died to self, died to sin, and now lives to God. He gets to tell us what to think as well as what to do. It may be we don't want to change our thinking in the way we realise we need to, but life is no longer about what I want. If that's not happening, is the lordship of Jesus a functional reality, or an empty creed?

Changing your mind too readily?

The Christian life is about perseverance. We persevere in trusting God; we persevere in living the right way even when it's costly or inconvenient. We also persevere in the beliefs we hold.

"What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." (2 Timothy 1:13-14)

Sometimes, those beliefs will be costly and inconvenient. They may put us at odds with the prevailing culture outside the church. There is surely pressure to compromise one's beliefs, to make them jar less.

"Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme." (1 Timothy 1:18-20)

It's possible to abandon "the faith", the "good deposit" that Jesus passed onto his first apostles, and that God asks the church to guard. Doubtless it's possible to do this whilst believing you've simply moved around within the Christian faith. The Christians in Corinth were assailed by false teaching. What they were facing was not an explicit move away from the Christian faith; the new teachers were still teaching about Jesus, but "another" one, not the real one.

"For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough." (2 Corinthians 11:4)

So, if one danger is that we never change our mind, the other is that we do so too readily, or too fundamentally. We are asking God to lead us, through his written word, illuminated by the Spirit, to greater conformity to the things he's revealed.

All of this means, I think, that the longer someone is a Christian, the way they change their mind will change. In the earliest days, we're having our thinking reshaped at a foundational level: Who Jesus is, what he's done, my sin, my status as an adopted child of God, the future hope I now have. In the next few years, we regularly find some quite big areas where we're continuing to learn some maybe quite basic things.

Then as the years and decades pass, we settle down into a healthy stability. But we do not stagnate. We should, fairly regularly, find minor areas where we think: "Oh, I need to change my thinking on that". And we should be open to carefully re-examining more major areas, so that we do not readily change them but we are ready to change them.

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