Welcome to week one of our Renew Your Mind Challenge! I am so glad you have joined us! In this 13-week challenge, I am sharing with you the single most life-changing truth I have personally discovered.
I will update the links below as I post them.
1. Back to the Beginning
2. Fix Your Mind
3. Accepting His Love
4. Love Into Joy
5. Joy Into Peace
6. Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness
9. Overcome Evil With Good
I used to be depressed, needy, easily offended, anxious, stressed – the list goes on. Now I am happy, fulfilled, and at peace. I discovered the answer at 29 years of age. The secret to happiness lies in your inner response to life: perceptions, intentions, feelings, thought patterns, beliefs. Come along with me and let your faith come alive to you in a new way – a way that will change everything. Each week, we will focus on one small yet powerful action we can take to change our inner life, and renew ourselves into the love of God. Welcome to week one!
The other day, I was reading a children’s devotional to my daughter, and before I realized what I was saying, I spoke this line:
“‘Righteousness means right living, or living how you know you should.”
I had to pause for a moment and take a step back. I looked at Audrey and said, “No. No it doesn’t. Righteousness is not about living right on the outside. Righteousness is having the love of God in your heart.”
I told her “It doesn’t matter if you say the right words, do the right actions, or live the right life, if you have wrong thoughts in your mind or wrong feelings in your heart. If the heart response is not motivated by love, the actions are not “righteous,” no matter how ‘good’ they may be.”
This message of outer righteousness, of forcing correct actions over an empty or broken heart response, is everywhere, especially in the Christian church. And this focus on how our life looks from the outside is the exact opposite of the message of Jesus. It puts a huge burden on people to perform, to force something out of an emptiness and brokenness inside. It makes religion about a list of do’s and don’ts, about following the law.
Jesus said he came to “fulfill the law” (ten commandments). This means that he came to show us what the law is supposed to look like. What is the law supposed to look like? Jesus said the sum of the law is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:37,38]
I’ll be honest. I think religion, in general, makes things way too complicated. It’s very simple. It’s about one thing. It’s about love. Love IS the measure of “righteousness” or the law.
The whole point of the law was to teach us to love. First by receiving the love of God for us (what the Bible calls salvation) and then by letting that love flow through us to touch others.
Love changes the heart – the inside of a person. The point of the law was to show us what our actions would look like if our hearts were full of love. But we, as a human race, have continually missed the point! We think righteousness is “doing the right thing” even while we’re grumbling about it, or feeling angry, offended, and irritated on the inside. We think righteousness is “showing love to someone” out of duty, even while we’re wishing we didn’t have to. It’s that whole “keep your mouth shut and don’t say what you’re really thinking” attitude. “Do the right thing, even when you don’t feel like it.” The gospel wants more than that – it is so much deeper! The message of Jesus is about inner transformation!
The message of Jesus is a religion of the heart. We don’t have to live focused on our actions, trying to be “righteous” or do all the right things, all the while fighting with inner demons of depression, anger, worry, shame, or whatever our personal struggles may be. Life can be so much better than that. It is possible to be at rest and at peace inside, and this begins by allowing the love of God to change us on the inside.
To become more aware of our inner world, we need to focus on our thought patterns, feelings, perceptions, and internal responses to ourselves, others, and our circumstances. All of these things make up our mindset, and our mindset determines who we are as a person. The Bible says “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” [Proverbs 23:7]
The first step is to ask ourselves these questions: Are our thoughts, feelings, and inner responses mostly positive or negative? Are we angry, easily irritated or offended, stressed, anxious, depressed, or fearful inside? Or are we at peace, joyful, patient, understanding, and confident inside? Are our inner responses coming out of a place of need and emptiness, or out of a place of satisfaction and fulfillment?
To put it simply: does our inner life speak of self, emptiness, and need, or does it speak of fulfillment in love?
What is our normal pattern of thoughts and feelings telling us about ourselves – our hearts?
For 29 years, I would have had to answer “no,” to the above questions. I was not at peace. I was not positive. I was not fulfilled. Oh sure, I loved Jesus and I believed the gospel. But my inner life was in turmoil. I was depressed to the point of being suicidal in highschool. I had regular anxiety attacks and nervous breakdowns. I was dysfunctional in relationships, fearful, stressed, and completely unfulfilled. I was ruled by negative thought patterns and emotions.
I am confident I’m not the only one! In fact, I think many people are just like I was! No-one should have to live the way I did. That’s why, over the next twelve weeks I am going to walk you through some very simple steps that can completely transform your inner life, and in so doing, the rest of life too. These steps are exactly what I did, in pretty much the same order.
This week, let’s go back to the beginning and make this really simple. The challenge this week is to become more aware of our inner responses. When you’re in those moments that you feel stressed, anxious, fearful, nervous, depressed, or angry, pause and focus on the thoughts running through your mind. Say them out loud if it helps. Write them down. Over time, see which ones are most prominent.
Week One Challenge: Go back to the beginning. It’s all about love – it’s all about what’s in your heart. Do you feel empty or filled inside? Pay attention to your thought patterns and feelings – your inner reactions, especially to the hard things and people in life. Are they negative or positive, fearful or confident, depressed or joyful, needy/hurt/bitter or loving?