How can renewing your mind help you overcome emotional problems and negative thinking?
Let me back up and ask you a question. Are you one of the many Christians struggling with:
Maybe you feel you can’t share your emotional challenges or negative thoughts.
- You worry about being judged.
- Perhaps you live in shame or guilt.
- Or you think you are a “lesser Christian.”
But there is hope!
I. Renewing Your Mind Definition
I’m glad you’re reading this article if you’re struggling.
You will learn how to overcome your emotional struggles. Does that sound too good to be true?
If you are grappling with negative emotions, there are two reasons why you haven’t overcome them.
- Haven’t been taught practical biblical principles for dealing with emotional problems
- Choose to ignore sound biblical methods and refuse to do those things that will help you
My article “6 Cs for Understanding and Defeating Anxiety” explained biblical thinking.
Biblical thinking involves renewing your mind (Rom. 12:2) and regaining control of your thought life.
In Romans 12:2, Paul writes, “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.“
II. Effects of a Renewed Mind
As a result of renewing your mind, you will:
- Overcome emotional problems and negative thoughts
- Seek to live a more Christ-like lifestyle (John 8:29) that pleases God (Rom. 14:18; 2 Cor. 5:9; Eph. 5:10)
- Change your worldview into a Christlike way of looking at the world
- Transform and renew your understanding of the fundamental Christian doctrines
- Better discern God’s will
- Continually worship and glorify God
- Know what is good, pleasing, and perfect in God’s sight.
III. Renewing Your Mind Using Put Off & Put On Principle
You may ask, “A renewed mind sounds great, but you don’t know all the emotional baggage I carry. How do I practically renew my mind?
I am glad you asked!
Of course, renewing your mind can overcome your emotional problems. But most importantly, it starts with YOU!
You must undoubtedly commit 100% to take control of your thoughts.
In particular, you will apply the “put off and put on” principle taught in Ephesians 4:22-24. Paul writes, “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
But, I have to warn you, change is hard.
For example, Paul says you should not be conformed to this world. That may mean giving up all your ungodly or unhelpful thoughts and actions.
However, so long as you refuse to change, you cannot be helped. That is to say; you cannot be both godly and “worldly.”
On the other hand, you may be eager to get started. In that case, let’s explore the “put off and put on” principle that will teach you how to renew your mind. This principle:
- Takes control of your thoughts and ensures they’re focused on God
- At first, you will “put off” old thinking patterns of sin and self-focus (1 Pet. 5:7)
- Consequently, you will “put on” a new habit of centering your thoughts on God
IV. How to “Put off” Old Thinking Patterns
The first step in renewing your mind is to “put off” old thinking patterns.
Let’s be candid. By and large, where do you think your emotional struggles arise?
- Of course, they occasionally stem from outside us (evil people and situations)
- But undoubtedly, we cause most of our emotional problems
So firstly, accept that putting off sinful thoughts and actions will be challenging. It will also take time!
Secondly, stop being your own worst enemy! In particular, put off sinful or useless thinking or activities that keep you from succeeding. For instance:
- Sinful friendships
- Excessively intimate romantic relationships
- Wasted hours on social media or useless podcasts
- Uncensored computer or television viewing
- Immoral behavior at work to “get ahead”
Without a doubt, these steps are essential if you want to change your life.
Additionally, in order to turn away from your sin, you need to confess it to God.
- Confession is not “feeling sorry” for what you have done
- In other words, it is not emotion (feeling sorry). It’s motion (repentance)!
- To explain, repentance is choosing to turn away from your sinful behaviors
- After that, you ask Jesus for forgiveness
- As soon as you have asked for forgiveness, you consciously try not to do that thing again.
- Summing up, repentance and asking for forgiveness are vital if you want to live according to God’s will.
V. Put On: Practical Ways to Renew Your Mind
While a renewed mind starts with putting off sinful behavior, there is a second step. And that is subsequently putting on a new habit of centering your thoughts on God.
In other words, think about God frequently throughout the day.
You can fill your mind with thoughts about God and his love for you. When we focus on positive things, it’s easier to resist the temptation to sin.
You could ask, “That sounds great in theory, but how do I practically put on these God-centered thoughts?”
In brief, here are several practical ways to renew your mind:
- Firstly, relying on the indwelling Holy Spirit
- Secondly, prayer
- Thirdly, we need to become students of God’s Word
- Fourthly, and most importantly, we need to memorize the Scripture
- Fifthly, meditate on God’s Word throughout the day.
- Sixthly, obey what God tells us in His Word.
- Seventhly, share the gospel with others.
Let’s look at each of these steps in more detail
1. Relying on the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is God. He indwells every Christian. And it is the Holy Spirit who chiefly renews your mind (Titus 3:5).
He renews your mind through Scripture and spiritual disciplines. For example, he:
- Is the “Spirit of truth” leading you in truth and wisdom (John 16:13)
- Illuminates Scripture (1 Cor. 2:10-13) so you can understand and apply it
- Recalls memorized Scripture to help you defeat your emotional struggles
Secondly, he renews your mind by showing you Christ’s glory (2 Cor. 3:18).
Prayer is a spiritual conversation with God that draws you into greater intimacy with him. It
- Focuses you on God and not on yourself
- Takes time, effort, and practice to do well!
- Should be a priority, so set aside time daily for it.
- Depends on the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) and the Scripture
One way to pray well is by spending time in prayer while reading His Word.
When struggling with negative emotions, try “praying the Bible.”
I learned this method from Dr. Donald Whitney’s book “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.“
In this method, select Scripture about your challenge. Then slowly pray these passages back to God, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
- Read the same passages repeatedly
- But each time, emphasize different words or phrases
- As you do this, you will start to see things from God’s perspective instead of your own
It is important to realize Jesus promised to answer our prayers (Matt. 7:8). But a point often overlooked is that the answer is not always what we want or expect.
3. Becoming a Student of God’s Word
Becoming a student of God’s Word is especially important for renewing your mind.
- If you want a renewed mind, fill it with God’s Word
- Build regular habits of reading, studying, and meditating on Scripture
- You can’t just read the Bible occasionally and expect a transformed mind
4. Scripture Memorization
One of the unquestionably most valuable ways to renew your mind is through Scripture memorization.
- When you memorize Scripture, you are planting it deep in your heart, and it becomes part of you
- Internalized Scripture can overcome temptation or negative thoughts
- As a result, the Holy Spirit can recall memorized Scripture during challenges
5. Meditating on God’s Word Throughout the Day
If you want to renew your mind, take time each day to meditate on Scripture.
- Meditation means thinking about how Scripture applies to your life
- It also means asking God to help you apply His truth to your life in every situation you face
- If you are regularly memorizing Scripture, those passages are perfect for meditation throughout the day
6. Obeying What God Tells Us in His Word
In addition, John tells us to renew our minds by obeying Scripture (John 14:15)
- By obeying Scripture, you are aligning your thoughts and actions with God’s truth
- As a result, you are thinking and acting like Jesus in every area of your life
7. Sharing the Gospel with Others
If you want to renew your mind, share the gospel with those around you regularly.
- Culturally sensitive evangelism keeps your mind focused on Christ
- And not on your sinful desires and thoughts
As you evangelize, you are preaching the gospel to yourself.
- That means reminding yourself of what Jesus did for you
- And also how much he loves you no matter how flawed and imperfect you may be
VI. The Train Analogy for Renewing Your Mind
Now I expect you to push back after all this. “You don’t get it! I have already heard a lot of this before. But when I am so emotionally upset, I can’t think straight!
And that is EXACTLY THE PROBLEM! It must be remembered the Bible never commands us to change our feelings. That is impossible.
Let me start by telling you that even though you feel out of control, you are not! You can take back control!
As an illustration, consider a train with an engine, boxcar, and caboose.
To begin with, the engine is analogous to the mind (our thoughts). And in this case, it should lead and direct our behavior (boxcar).
Finally, the caboose comes up last, representing our emotions or feelings.
To summarize, our mind (engine) drives our thoughts and behavior. And our thoughts and behavior determine our emotions.
VII. When Your Emotions are Driving the Train
But when you are emotionally struggling, the whole process is backward. Under these circumstances, your:
- Emotions control your behaviors or actions
- Behaviors will influence your thinking
And you will feel emotionally overwhelmed or out of control
Ultimately, to overcome your emotional struggles, you must put your mind (thinking) in charge. Most importantly, you CHOOSE to concentrate on God’s Word and trust him.
To put it another way, when you choose to obey Scripture, you control your thinking.
- Above all, your “mind” controls your attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and actions (Eph. 4:22–23)
- You can expect godly thoughts and behavior to follow if you choose to fill your mind with godly thoughts
- And after a while, your emotions will align with your thoughts and action
- Then you are no longer at the mercy of your emotions
To conclude, let’s apply what you learned to the train analogy.
- Your mind and thoughts (engine) must control your behavior or actions (boxcar)
- And then, your thoughts and actions will guide your emotions (caboose)
- It may be a struggle at first to put your thoughts in control when you are dealing with emotional problems
- But putting on godly thoughts and behaviors becomes easier the more you practice them
VIII. What’s Your Next Step?
Are you struggling with negative thoughts and emotions?
As a Christian, one of the most important things you can do is Scripturally renew your mind. A renewed mind:
- Is a biblical way to take control of your thoughts
- Correctly center your thoughts on God
- Is better able to overcome emotional problems
Renewing your mind is not a quick fix. It takes effort and intentionality.
- But it’s a guaranteed way to gain victory over your thought life
- And it is the key to overcoming emotional problems
Renewing your mind uses the put off and put on principle. This principle involves:
- Firstly, putting off old patterns of sin and self-focus
- Secondly, putting on new habits that are greater than what you are giving up
- Living according to God’s will
Gruenler, Royce G. “Romans.” In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995
Witherington, Ben, III, and Darlene Hyatt. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004.
Witmer, John A. “Romans.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, vol. 2, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.