Yesterday we talked about guarding our minds and our hearts. In this morning’s Bible study was the following verse: “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) I am learning that the only way to let the Spirit control my mind is to ask for discernment and wisdom, while I spend time in His Word and in prayer. This verse drew me back to what I read last night in the first chapter of Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. This is a book about how to study the Bible. If I read the Bible looking for myself in the text before I look for God there, I may indeed learn that I should not be selfish. I may even try harder not to be selfish. But until I see my selfishness through the lens of the utter unselfishness of God, I have not properly understood its sinfulness. The Bible is a book about God. There can be no true knowledge of self apart from the knowledge of God. He is the only reference point that is reliable.
The heart, as it is spoken of in Scripture, is the seat of the will and emotions. It is our “feeler” and our “decision-maker”, and is the “I want”. The Bible commands us to love God with all of our hearts. “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). When we say that we love God with all of our hearts, we mean that we love Him completely with our emotions and with our wills.
We are told in (1 Chron. 22:19a), “Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.” The mind comes first. The writer of Romans tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Rom 12:2-3) The heart cannot love what the mind does not know. The mind alone affects transformation, and then runs to the heart.
Think about the relationship, possession, or interest you derive the most pleasure from. How did you develop that delight? Whether you are passionate about modern art, your car, conservation, your spouse, nutrition, education, or baseball, my guess is that you became that way by learning about the object of your passion—and that your pleasure in it grew as your knowledge grew.
Marriage may be the most obvious example of this process. Most people get married on very little information. Have you noticed this? We stake our future on a relatively short acquaintance, in large part due to a rush of emotion that hits us during the courtship phase. We marry, awash with feelings of love for our spouse, but knowing rather little about him in the grand scheme of things. Those initial feelings of love either dwindle or deepen, depending on how we nurture them.
Now think about your relationship to God in the same light. Most people come to faith in God on very little information. We understand that we need forgiveness and grace, and we’re ushered into the kingdom on a wave of deep emotion. But we hold only a small sense of the One who has brought us to himself. We suspect that He is all good things, but we have not yet made a study of Him. Like a new bride, we reach the end of the honeymoon phase and begin to wonder how we are to sustain and nurture this relationship.
The answer lies in knowing God, in loving Him with our minds. Never has the phrase “to know Him is to love Him” been more true. As we grow in the knowledge of God’s character through the study of His Word, we cannot help but grow into an exponentially deeper love for Him. This explains why Romans 12:2 says we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. We come to understand who God is, and we are changed—our affections detach from lesser things and attach to Him. If we want to feel a deeper love for God, we must learn to see Him more clearly for who He is. If we want to feel deeply about God, we must learn to think deeply about God.
The heart cannot love what the mind does not know. Yes, it is sinful to acquire knowledge for knowledge’s sake, but acquiring knowledge about One we love, for the sake of loving Him more deeply, will always be for our transformation. We must love God with our minds, allowing our intellect to inform our emotions, rather than the other way around.
Seeing ourselves in the Bible and engaging our emotions in loving God are beautiful things. But they belong in the back, a secondary reward for obediently seeking that which is primary. Bible study that equips does not neglect self-knowledge, but it puts self-knowledge in the right place: informed by the knowledge of God. Bible study that equips does not divorce the heart from study, but it puts the heart in the right place: informed by the mind.
Source: Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin