“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (EPH 4:22-24 NIV)
When we think about changing our minds and how we think, we often think of the perfectionism or fears we live with, and focus on how to get rid of them. We don’t often focus on the person we wish to become, other than in general terms: “I want to be kinder; I want to be nicer; I don’t want to get angry as much.” We live with “shoulds” not desires: “I should really be more giving;” “I shouldn’t judge her;” “I really ought to eat better.”
Paul reminds us that changing our thinking patterns is as much about becoming the person we desire as putting off the person we were before we knew Christ. “You were taught…to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self.” What is this new self? Who are we looking to become? I’ll bet the answer you just gave was to be just like Christ. I disagree.
Paul also reminds us in 1Corinthians 7b, “But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” Later, in 1Corinthians 12:18-19, he adds, “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” We are not called to be Christ. We are called to be Christ-like, but not to be Christ. Jesus was designed for a purpose, which he fulfilled. That only he could fulfill.
In the same way, God created us to fulfill a specific purpose, to glorify him in a particular way. That only we can fulfill. As we work our way to becoming that person – the person that God designed and desires us to be – and living out our purpose. we often need to change our ways of thinking and responding.
Christian therapists pray and they practice evidence-based therapy, techniques that are studied and researched for their effectiveness. God gives us two outlets to become the person He desires: prayer, and working with the members of the Body of Christ who can help lead us and guide us on the path to healing and renewal.
Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one way to work on changing our thinking distortions. As we identify the shortcuts our brains take, as we identify the thoughts running on the automatic tapes in our heads, we are able to bring them to the Light, to shine the Truth on them. God, in His kindness and wisdom, shares that wisdom with us, that we may see the errors in our thinking and renew our minds with new thoughts. Because we are human, and therefore all sinners, sometimes we need to come to Him time and again before the message takes root in our minds.
We’re not alone in this; the apostles did the same to Jesus. Matthew tells us a story of a time when Jesus got utterly fed up with them for not understanding. “Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up?…Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread?” (Matthew 16:5-12) It’s not the only time we see Jesus give a figurative eye roll at the denseness of the apostles, and it’s one of my favorite versions of it.
So as we tackle our Thinking Distortions and do CBT exercises, let’s remember that we work on our thinking habits not out of a “should,” but out of a desire to become the person God made. We work to be “made new in our minds; and put on the new self,” that we may live out the life and purpose God planned for us. We walk through the new door God opens for us, into the person He designed us to be.
Have you chosen to walk through God’s door to put on your new self? What’s holding you back? What encourages you?
For more information on Thinking Distortions and CBT, check out this post. To learn how to battle Thinking Distortions, we go into detail here. To get a list of 14 Common Thinking Distortions and a worksheet, sign up for our newsletter!