15Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
17Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. 18For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. 19Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; theirminds are set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
When you're hungry, you think about food; when you're thirsty, you think about water; when you're sleep-deprived, you think about your mattress. Our minds, in these cases, are driven by our bodily needs. But suppose our bodily needs are met. What then do we think about? Well, we think about what we see. A moment's reflection makes clear that what our eyes see often determines what we think. And we can of course add other physical inputs as well: what we feel, smell, taste, etc.
Now, besides these bodily triggered thoughts, what else do we think about? We think about what might happen, what we wish would happen, and what we hope will not happen. We daydream, we fantasize, we agonize, we worry, we contemplate, we consider, we calculate. All these are just different modes of thinking.
It's simply impossible to live from moment to moment in any given day without thinking! Some of our thoughts are reactions to what we encounter in our immediate context. We have our version of a dog's instinctual reaction -- hey, a squirrel! Hey, McRib! (I wish.) But not all our thoughts are reactions. Our thoughts in large part are the result of our will. We, all of us, choose to think certain thoughts. We choose to daydream about X, we choose to worry about Y, and so forth.
Why all this talk about different ways of thinking?
I believe -- more importantly, the Apostle Paul believes -- that our minds are crucial to our Christian walk. How we think and what we think about will shape how we live. Our thinking determines our living. A number of times in the passage above, the Apostle Paul uses the term phroneo [to think] to stress the importance of thinking Christianly, that is, thinking in light of the cross of Christ.
To fail to think in the light of Jesus entails one thing for the believer: to think in worldly terms. As Paul states, "their minds are set on earthly things." The contrast here is not so much on the what of our thoughts but on the from which perspective of our thoughts. When Paul says, "But our citizenship is in heaven," he is saying our perspective need to be from Heaven downward.
Books by Bill Johnson can be of help, like The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind:
Or, J.P. Moreland's Kingdom Triangle:
Or, any one of Dallas Willard's books, like Knowing Christ Today:
It's interesting that we need books to show us how to think from Heaven downward (which is a metaphorical way of saying "Christ-centered"). We need books because thinking in this biblical manner is not natural. It's a consciously intentional way of thinking based on Scripture and prayer and personal self-reflection. In other words, it takes work! The truth of course is this: the Holy Spirit helps us think Christ-centeredly. To say it slightly different, we need the grace of God at work in our thought life.
Now the good news: if we come before God in prayer seeking such a deeper transformation for how we think, God will help us. For the Lord desires that we base our thinking on True Reality.
Let's pray: Father God, we need your help for the most important need in our lives: to think as friends of the cross of Christ, and not as enemies of the cross of Christ. We need your help to redeem our daily thought life. We need your grace and Spirit to transform how we perceive, interpret, and understand the world that is broken yet loved by you. We need your heavenly reality to frame our hopes and dreams. We need your definition of what's possible and impossible so that we live properly within a world that you've created and that you are currently sustaining. We need to see that you are the One whose power and goodness manifest themselves in our own grace-infused lives. Help us to think in accordance to True Reality, which is in accordance to you and what you've accomplished through Christ! In Jesus' name, Amen.