God is a deep thinker, and He wants us to become deep thinkers too.
This world promotes shallowness. It distracts us with noise and triviality. It draws us away from reflection and contemplation.
This makes it harder to reach people with God’s message. It prevents people from focusing on the truth, studying and applying it rather than just skimming it.
God’s people are to come out of this world (Revelation 18:4). God wants us to fight screen addiction and social media shallowness. He wants us to clean out the clutter, simplify our lives—and clear space for more important things.
In an empty, inattentive world, God is challenging us to rewire our brains back to being able to think. God wants all of us to become deep thinkers like He is.
A Key Spiritual Tool
God gave us four primary spiritual tools in our Christian lives: prayer, Bible study, fasting and meditation. Meditation is an important spiritual skill in its own right. But it is also key to our success in using the other three.
If we don’t know how to think properly, then our prayers are scattered, sporadic, unfocused, or stuck in shallow loops. We fail to grow in skill as Spirit-minded intercessors.
If we don’t think properly, then our Bible study is superficial and ineffectual. It doesn’t take root in our minds and our lives, and we don’t change because of it.
If we are poor at meditation, when we fast we are merely going hungry. We can’t quite hear ourselves think over our growling belly.
To be effective at prayer, study and fasting, we must improve at meditation—directing the mind to think about the right things in the right way.
What is meditation? There is one definition: Meditation is directing the mind to think about the right things in the right way.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). God’s thoughts are so lofty and perfect—yet He shares those thoughts with us. He wants to elevate us to His level of thinking.
Here is another definition: Meditation is working to think God’s thoughts.It is striving to gain God’s perspective. That takes effort, because we don’t naturally think like God.
But here is a critical point: This is at the heart of conversion.
“Conversion is a lifelong process. To become converted is to have God’s thoughts—rather than carnal thoughts and emotions and desires,” Gerald Flurry writes in How to Be an Overcomer. “We must think like God! That is very difficult to accomplish, and a deep subject to think on. We must constantly grow in our conversion. Baptism is only the starting point” (emphasis added).
The whole process of conversion is about learning how to think properly—to think as God thinks. Coming to think like God means we are taking on the divine nature.
How much do your thoughts match God’s thoughts? What do you think about, and how do you think about these things? How much of your thinking is carnal, and how much is Christ-like and Spirit-led?
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Mr. Flurry based his 2004 college orientation lecture around this verse. “True education is reasoning with God,” he said. “God wants us to learn to reason with Him, to include Him in our deliberation and decision-making—to let His thoughts rule our thoughts!”
This verse connects such thinking with being cleansed of even our worst sins. Sin begins in the mind. Reasoning with God purifies our thinking, which flows out in our words, actions and interactions. If we reason with God, we are truly being converted. We are becoming more like God.
Following are eight points on practicing the art of godly thinking.
1) Become converted by reasoning with God.
We must learn to reason with God in all we do. Bring Him into your thoughts; let Him shape your desires and emotions. Exercise your mind, discernment and judgment. Work together with God in your decision-making. Get His counsel. Come, let us reason together, He says. Bring godly reasoning into the process. Learn to think together with him.
This is essentially the picture in John 1:1: The Word and God were perfectly united. They thought in perfect harmony. Together, they created the angels and the boundless universe.
How much did God and the Word meditate before taking action? They devised an incredible master plan—from angelic creation to material creation to Earth’s re-creation, sending the Word as a man so He could die, the resurrections, the Millennium, new Jerusalem and beyond. They had to envisage all the moves on the chessboard before they moved the first piece!
Then consider the intricacies involved in these specific elements: designing angels, determining their capabilities, limitations and responsibilities; engineering the universe and all aspects of physical creation from the most astronomical scale down to the subatomic level. They devised concepts like male and female, family, reproduction, healing, redemption and grace. What thought this all demanded—what concentration, focus, planning, perception, foresight, sophistication!
The Word was with God—He reasoned with God. Even when Christ came to Earth, He worked to think just like His Father. He continually sought to align His thoughts, heart and emotions with His Father.
We are also trying to be “with God.” This starts in the mind. God’s thinking is elegant and creative and multidimensional. It makes impressive connections. It is full of vision. It projects into the future. It is positive and hopeful, full of outgoing concern—agape love. The more we can reason with God, the higher we elevate our thinking.
God has a beautiful mind, and He says: Let this mind be in you (Philippians 2:5). He makes it available to us. He gives us the Holy Spirit, the mind of Christ in us—and He offers Christ’s mind to us in print: the Holy Bible.
If we are not meditating and developing the art of godly thinking, then we are left with our own carnal thinking. The Bible repeatedly warns how dangerous it is when our minds are far from God. Our reasoning becomes futile; our foolish hearts become darkened and reprobate (Romans 1:21-22, 28). Apart from God, all the thoughts of man are vanity.
We all have a wicked heart that feeds the mind vain thoughts—a heart that must be washed so we can be saved (e.g. Jeremiah 4:14; Matthew 15:19). We need God to create a clean heart in us (Psalm 51:10), a heart like His own. If the heart is right, then so are the thoughts. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he …” (Proverbs 23:7). Thoughts make the man—or woman, or teen, or child. You are what you think.
In one sense this is a very spiritual process: It is God re-creating Himself in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. That is God’s greatest creative accomplishment! But there is also a real element of self-discipline involved. We must use that power of God to control our thoughts, and exert effort to master our minds. We must gain skill at recognizing wrong thoughts and purging them, then fixing our minds on what we should be thinking about. And we must work to think about those things as God does, and more and more deeply as God does. Master your thoughts, and you master your tongue, and you master your deeds.
This is clearly something you need God’s help with—and need to devote your full attention to.
2) Bring every thought into captivity.
A powerful passage in 2 Corinthians 10 reveals the help God will give us if we look to Him. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (verses 3-5). A Christian’s mind is the battleground of a fierce spiritual war. God has equipped us with mighty weapons that can topple the fortresses and strongholds of sin in our thinking.
Do you have vain reasonings? Do you have wrong ideas and emotions? At times we can let our minds go without even being especially aware of it. Do your thoughts get away from you? Do you ever have an unhealthy, ungodly thought, or a destructive emotion, and can’t shake it? God gives you weapons that can throw down those wrong thoughts—weapons that can bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ! We need to be using these weapons.We must go to God to empower us with those weapons of mental discipline.
These are verses worth meditating on. How powerful to bring every single thought into captivity! That is conversion. That is letting the mind of Christ in you—being “with God.” And God commands it, so it must be possible. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
3) Set your affections on the things of God.
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). Seek the spiritual things. Seek means to find out by thinking, meditating, reasoning; to inquire into. “Set your affection [or mind, margin] on things above, not on things on the earth” (verse 2). You must set your mind. This means exercising mental discipline—steering the ship of your mind.
Years ago, when Mr. Flurry pastored congregations in the Northwest in the Worldwide Church of God, during his ministerial travels he would use a Dictaphone to record his thoughts and meditations. As he commuted, he would examine himself, considering how to improve and ways to better help people. He thought about subjects he was reading, conversations he had had, counseling and correction he had given and received. One thing he meditated a lot about was meditation.
More recently at a ministerial conference, Mr. Flurry shared with the ministry a transcript of some of these recorded meditations. Here is one: “The one thing that we have to do if we’re going to really grow is continually strain to get away from the natural, habitual way of thinking and doing things. We simply cannot think naturally—and the way we’ve grown up thinking, and according to the natural habits we have—and really excel in our thinking or our developing and growing the way we should, getting good insights and good understanding and new original thoughts …. We must get out of that habitual way of thinking, and fight and struggle against that all the time—the natural, easy, drifting way of thought that we tend to get into and stay in all the time. We have to break out of that if we’re going to excel and really grow.”
This is superb insight. If you are not fighting and struggling to think right, then you are not growing. You are drifting and getting mired in old habits.
Paul admonished us to kill off earthly things, wrong thoughts and actions. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (verse 5). That means fighting against wrong thinking. “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (verse 8). Continually strain to get away from those evils. Put them out of mind, and put on the new man (verses 10-12). Clearly God is involved, but you must make conscious decisions about what you let in your mind and how you direct your thoughts.
4) Carefully watch your mental diet.
What you eat largely determines your health. Sugar and junk food weaken you and sap your energy, harm your immunity, and increase susceptibility to sickness. The same principle applies mentally. This world teems with mental junk food—empty or noxious content that stimulates and titillates. Fill up on that, and you lack time and space for better mental nutrition. Shun it, and you make room for higher-quality thought.
“For they that are after the flesh do mind [or think about] the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). Do you think about the things of the flesh, or the things of the Spirit? These are two incompatible and contradictory ways of life. It can’t be both, certainly not at the same time. Paul says bluntly that one way leads to death, the other to life and peace (verse 6).
What you think about is a matter of life and death.
“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (verses 13-14). Allow yourself to be led by God’s Spirit, and you are reasoning with God (verse 16).
If you are accustomed to junk food, that is all you want. You crave sugar and empty calories; nutritious food is unpalatable. You have developed a taste for the wrong things. The only solution is to quit it. You must reeducate your palate and learn how to appreciate healthy food. Likewise with mental food: Smartphones, web surfing and binge television watching create cravings and addictions that weaken us and deprive us of the joy and pleasure in healthy mental and spiritual nutrition. Cut those out, and discipline yourself to really enjoy wholesome stimulation and godly thinking.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Guard your heart. Be vigilant about what you allow in, and be a watchman over your thoughts. Everything in your life flows from that, so you must be careful.
5) Decide what to think on and stick with it.
Proverbs 4:25 has another practical point about directing your thinking: “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.” Distractions are everywhere. Meditation is concentration. It is focusing your thoughts, fixing your attention on something worthwhile without outside stimulus—not letting it dissipate and disperse.
If you want heat on a cold winter evening, you don’t light 10 or 20 candles. You build one good fire. That is what to do with your mental energy: Don’t spread it out—concentrate it on one thing.
This is why our Wi-Fi world is so damaging: It’s so easy for a distraction to pull us away before we’ve thought something through. There is always another shiny object to draw the attention. So we develop the habit of fragmented, shallow thinking.
A wonderful chapter in How to Be an Overcomer is “The Science of Spiritual War.” Mr. Flurry discusses the need for concentration in overcoming problems: “[C]oncentrate everything you have on that problem. Bring everything possible to bear on solving it.” He quotes Napoleon, who wrote: “In military, public or administrative affairs, there is a need for deep thought as well as deep analysis, and also for an ability to concentrate on subjects for a long time without fatigue.” This is something Christ did perfectly.
Mr. Flurry continues, “Some of us have health problems that prevent intense concentration—but if you are fatigued, ask yourself why. Is it because you are losing battles? Is it because you’re not fighting with a system? What is the reason? Do you have trouble staying alert? Can you concentrate on subjects for a long time without fatigue? … That is an amazing ability to have. We can do that too—because we have all the power in the world if Christ is living in us! If you get fatigued too easily, you need to attack that problem! You have to get yourself in physical and mental shape to do that—and spiritual shape, most of all.”
Quality meditation requires sticking with a thing. If you’re thinking through a problem, don’t be content with the first or second solution that comes to mind. Keep devising new solutions. One exercise I do from time to time is create a “100 List.” Think of 100 solutions to a problem. That is really difficult, and I don’t often finish it, but the later solutions can be excellent.
6) Meditate on effects and results.
“Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established” (Proverbs 4:26). Don’t aimlessly wander—think about what you are doing. Think: Where is this path leading me? If I keep doing this, where will I end up? Is this taking me where I want to go? Everything you do, every choice you make, is leading in a direction. Meditate about that—project out.
Meditation is vision. It is projection—seeing where things are leading. Many scriptures say to “consider the latter end” of your actions (e.g. Deuteronomy 32:29). If you keep feeding your mind with junk, how will that affect your relationship with God? What are the ramifications, the effects, of this choice or that? Think on the future that will follow from your present course.
On Jan. 19, 2006, scientists launched a probe called New Horizons on a 10-year, 3 billion-mile journey to inspect Pluto. They had to calculate everything perfectly enough that it would fly right by Pluto, which, during that decade, would migrate 874 million miles along its orbital path. This was a perfectly timed 80-yard touchdown pass on a cosmic scale! A quarterback doesn’t throw straight to his receiver—he throws to where his outstretched hands will be by the time the football finishes its flight path. That is what scientists had to do.
After 3,463 days—July 14, 2015—New Horizons passed Pluto within a phenomenal 72 seconds and 43 miles of its targeted course. That was the product of exceptional calculations, all based on projections founded on law. God’s creation operates according to law, which makes it predictable. That is true not only of physical law, but also God’s spiritual law. The law is, effectively, prophetic: Do this, and that will be the outcome. We must have faith in God’s law to trust the outcome.
This is the basis of prophecy. God tells the end from the beginning. He sees the trajectory. Again, God is a planner, a visionary. So if we are reasoning with God, then we can see far ahead. This is a critical aspect of meditation: vision!
7) Always meditate on what you study.
“I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies” (Psalm 119:59). God expects His people to examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5). Quality self-examination requires quality meditation.
Meditate on God’s law, then on your own ways, and reconcile the two. Ask: How can I live in more perfect accordance with the law? Meditate about your weaknesses and faults and what you must do to overcome them. David said, “[M]y sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3).
“I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments” (Psalm 119:59-60). These two verses provide three steps to conquering sin, starting with meditation: 1) think on your ways; 2) turn to God’s testimonies—study God’s Word; and 3) make haste to overcome and obey God—don’t delay.
Learning to think like God means building our meditation around what God has revealed in the Bible—Christ’s mind in print. Let your Bible study inform your meditation. Study it, then meditate about your study. Bible study feeds right meditation.
Don’t just read, read, read. Read—then think, think think! Ask yourself how what you’ve studied applies to you, what lessons you should take. When you read a principle of Christian living, ask yourself whether you are obeying it. When you face a decision, think on the biblical instruction you’ve read and which scriptures apply to the situation. When you read prophecy, consider whether there is current fulfillment; then, when you read the news, ask yourself which prophecies are being fulfilled. In spare moments throughout the day, think about what you have been studying.
The July-August 1970 Good News gives this analogy: “We need to be educational ruminants. Ruminants are animals that chew their cud. They swallow large chunks of food. And then at a more leisurely time, they belch up those chunks and chew it up, mixing it well with their saliva so it will be properly digested. Perhaps if we would do that in principle, … weighing and mixing in our minds the things we have gulped down in ‘large chunks,’ this would help us vastly in remembering.”
Psalm 119 is filled with meditation on the law of God. Jeremiah thought deeply about it, and this psalm repeatedly, specifically mentions meditation. “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (verse 97). Jeremiah loved studying God’s law, and spent time in deep, quiet contemplation of its finer points. This gave him insight and wisdom beyond his years (verses 98-99). “My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate upon thy promise” (verse 148; Revised Standard Version). He stayed awake to think on God’s promises. The more Jeremiah used the tool of meditation, the more he thought like God.
Meditate on God’s law day and night, and delight in it. This will cause you to prosper like a tree by the river (Psalm 1:1-3). Meditation leads to flourishing! Failing to do so makes you shallow, living a life without substance, like chaff (verse 4).
8) Journal your meditation.
The Bible was authored by men moved by God’s inspiration through the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21). Much of it clearly reflects the deep thinking of these men, who then wrote down these inspired words. Deuteronomy records Moses thinking on the law. Proverbs is the product of godly meditation (besides being filled with nuggets of wisdom to meditate on). The book of Jeremiah conveys the prophet’s deep, godly emotion borne of meditation. The Gospel of John was written after years of reflection on Christ’s time on Earth. Paul’s epistles are the result of his contemplating problems within the congregations and addressing them.
The book of Psalms is filled with deep, God-inspired meditation, even prayers. Thankfully, David and other authors wrote these down. Psalm 19 is a marvelous example of the art of godly thinking. David meditated on creation (verses 1-2), the law (verse 7), and self-examination (verses 11-12). And it led to this wonderful prayer: “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (verses 13-14). What a blessing to us that David took time, after uttering such prayers to God, to record them.
The act of writing preserved these thoughts for others, but surely it also did a lot to clarify, vivify and cement them in the minds of their authors. Follow this example: Practice recording your meditations, and see if it doesn’t aid your thinking process, improve your fellowship as you share those thoughts with others, and bring other gratifying benefits as well.
The great men and women of the Bible were thinkers. They meditated to summon godly emotion and motivation, and to build godly love. Their attentiveness to this crucial spiritual tool enabled God to shape them into His very character image.
God is a deep thinker. And He wants us to be deep thinkers, too. Devote time and effort to growing in the art of godly thinking—and you will become more and more like God!
Sidebar: Things to Think On
Meditate on God’s character: There is no limit to God’s goodness to animate your thinking: His perfection, His lovingkindness, His judgment, His compassion, His universe-sized ambition (e.g. Psalm 36:5-7). Think on Christ and His example. “[F]ix your thoughts on Jesus … our apostle and high priest” (Hebrews 3:1; New International Version). Think on His sinless example in the flesh, His sacrifice, His love (Hebrews 12:3). Fill your thoughts with God’s virtues, and your love for God will grow.
Meditate on God’s works: David’s meditation on creation drove him to think on God’s plan for man (Psalm 8:3-4). In his mind, one point led to another, with God at the center of it all. Meditate on history (Psalm 77:11-12; 143:5). Meditate on God’s miracles, God’s spiritual creation, God’s master plan.
Meditate on God’s working in your life: Think about God’s answers to your prayers; if you’re not paying attention, you will miss them. Be attentive to His direction, His guidance and correction. Consider His miracles in your life. “Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24).
Meditate on people from God’s view: Think about those in the Family of God: the work God is accomplishing in them, their trials and difficulties, their needs. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Hebrews 10:24). This takes thought. Get God’s view about them from Scripture, then let that inform your thoughts about them. For example, view the affliction of the fatherless and widows as God does. Recognize how precious each member is in the Father’s eyes.
Meditate on world conditions and other problems from God’s view: What is the cause? How is it breaking God’s law? How is this fulfilling prophecy? What is God’s solution?