The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

Are You the Person You Would Like to Be?

Posted on: June 07, 2016

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I remember when I was still a student, hearing theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer say one of the most liberating things I’ve ever heard. He said most people get their values the same way they get the measles; by being around others who have them. The result is that we sometimes end up with values which, upon further reflection, we might have chosen to avoid.

In a blinding flash of insight, I saw a menagerie of values I had as a young adult that upon further reflection – because of his comment – I decided I didn’t want anymore. I had been floating, like a cork, down the stream of life, going where external forces had taken me and were taking me. For the first time in my life that I remember, it consciously occurred to me that I could change. I could identify the values I didn’t want any more, as well as the ones I did, and embark on a process of change.

That set me on a lifetime of conscious effort to leave behind unhelpful attitudes, values, and behavior, and replace them with helpful ones.

It has been a long, hard road, peeling off the layers of the onion of self-awareness, coming to grips with the power of my self-protection strategies and making myself vulnerable to the Holy Spirit and others to change. And while I have failed to perfect that process, never the less, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “I became a much better person for trying and failing than if I had never tried at all.”

This, of course, is one of the major themes of the New Testament. God wants us to change from who we are to who he wants us to be. Romans 12:2 says it as concisely as it can be said: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is – that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Dallas Willard reinforced this idea when he said: “The main thing God gets out of your life is the person you become.” It is also true that the main thing you get out of your life is “the person you become”. This being true, then the main task of life is to become the greatest person we can become, in God’s eyes, before we die.

This means, of course, becoming as much like Christ as possible before we die.

Continuing this line of thought, many years ago, I read a quote that I use frequently: Every moment of every day, something in your soul is being fed and something is being starved.

Intuitively I knew that that was true, and terribly important. Today, however, as a result of major new breakthroughs in neuroscience, we have empirical data to prove that it is true. It used to be that we didn’t think our brain could change. That is what I was taught in college. Now we know that that is flamboyantly inaccurate. Now we know that not only can the brain change, the brain does change. And it always changes in the direction of that which is put into it, making it easier to move in the direction of what is being put into it, and harder to move in the direction of what is not being put into it. This is a great benefit if we are putting good things into our brain, and a great liability if we are putting bad things into our brain.

This has staggering implications for Christians.

It means that we can change our brain in the direction we want it to change simply by thinking the right thoughts often enough and long enough, and avoiding negative thought patterns. We can actually rewire our brain so that old toxic thought patterns degenerate, and new healthy thought patterns replace them.

Neuroscientists have a common expression: neurons that fire together wire together. This means as a new thought pattern is repeated over and over, the neural patterns in your brain literally wire themselves together, building a brand-new network of neurons, enabling our brain to change in more and greater ways.

It commonly takes about thirty days of consistently feeding the brain new information for our subconscious brain to rewire itself and give us a new capacity to view life. This suggests that if we are diligent in using our conscious brain to impact our subconscious brain, we can begin to change in important ways in as little as thirty days.

One way we use the conscious brain to impact our subconscious brain is to repeat thought patterns over and over again, causing neural patterns in the brain to rewire themselves, building a brand-new and even stronger network of neurons. This repetition, which is essential to the process, allows us to mentally own truths on a conscious level, and also drives the information into the subconscious mind, where it begins to affect us in fundamental ways.

So, as we identify the things about us in our attitudes, values and behavior that we want to subtract, and identify the things we want add, we can direct and accelerate the process of change by feeding our minds the things we want and starving the things we don’t want.

The purpose of this blog article is not to go into detail about how to change, but to make the point that we can change. My challenge to you is the same one I was given many years ago. Are you the person you would like to be? If not, what would you like to subtract? And just as important, what would you like to add?

As we feed the brain things that take it in the direction of what we want to be, and starve the brain of things we don’t want to be, the brain moves in the direction of our input, and we begin to change. Usually, we change more slowly than we want. In the early days, I changed so slowly that I doubted that it was working. But like all valuable things in life, like learning a musical instrument, or exercising, or learning a new skill, if we remain faithful over the long haul, we begin to realize our goals.

So, take the leap…do a self evaluation and, if you’re not the person you want to be, take heart – you can change!


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