March 27, 2020
Half of spiritual growth is learning what we don’t know. The other half is unlearning what we do know. And it is the failure to unlearn irrational fears and misconceptions that keeps us from becoming who God wants us to be.
The invalid in John 5 is a great example of the importance of unlearning. He had been crippled for thirty eight years when Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well. But the man believed there was only one way to be healed:
“I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” (John 5:7)
This man made an assumption that may have cost him thirty-eight years! He only had one category for healing. He assumed, based on ancient superstition, that he had to be the first one into the pool of Bethesda when the water was stirred in order to be healed. In a sense, he was imprisoned by what he knew. But Jesus uninstalled that mistaken belief with one sentence: “Stand up, pick up your sleeping mat, and walk!”
Now, here is what you need to see. Jesus didn’t just set this man free physically. He set him free cognitively. Faith is unlearning the senseless worries and misguided beliefs that keep us captive. It is far more complex than simply modifying behavior. Faith involves synaptogenesis. Faith is rewiring the human brain.
Neurologically speaking, that is what we do when we study Scripture. We are literally upgrading our minds by downloading the mind of Christ.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
Just as a computer hard drive needs to be defragmented to optimize performance, our minds need to be defragmented. So how do we defragment our faith? How do we renew our minds? How do we get ourselves out of the mental pit we’ve gotten ourselves into? The way to upgrade your mind is to download Scripture.
Let me put Paul’s instructions in neurological context.
Doctors Avi Karni and Leslie Ungerleider of the National Institute of Mental Health did a fascinating study asking subjects to perform a simple motor task—a finger-tapping exercise. As subjects tapped, the doctors conducted an MRI to identify what part of the brain was being activated. The subjects then practiced the finger-tapping exercise daily for four weeks. At the end of the four-week period, the brain scan was repeated. In each instance, it revealed that the area of the brain involved in the task had expanded. That simple task—a finger-tapping exercise—literally recruited new nerve cells and rewired neuronal connections.
When we read Scripture, we are recruiting new nerve cells and rewiring neuronal connections. In a sense, we are downloading a new operating system that reconfigures the mind. We stop thinking human thoughts and start thinking God thoughts.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
How do we accomplish that command?
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
When we read Scripture, we engage in spiritual tapping. Our brains are rewired in alignment with the Word, and we develop the mind of Christ.
In short, we think His thoughts.
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.
Mark’s book, In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, helps readers look back longingly on risks not taken, opportunities not seized, and dreams not pursued. Stop running away from what scares you most and start chasing the God-ordained opportunities that cross your path. In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day is inspired by one of the most obscure yet courageous acts recorded in Scripture, a blessed and audacious act that left no regrets: “Benaiah chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it” (2 Samuel 23:20 -21)