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

How Christians Can Escape the Rip-Tide of Modern Culture – Part III of III

Posted on: March 28, 2017

NEUROSCIENCE REVEALS HOW TO ACCELERATE THE PROCESS OF RENEWING OUR MINDS

In Part I of this series, I made the point that the first step in escaping the riptide of modern culture is simply realizing that modern culture has a powerful negative influence on an authentic Christian experience.

In Part II, last week, we saw that Scripture reveals the key to escaping the cultural riptide: transforming our lives by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2)

This week, we look at what modern neuroscience reveals about: 

How we can accelerate the process of renewing our minds.        

  1. The Power of Repetition

First, modern neuroscience reveals the power of repetition.

A National Geographic article, “The New Science in the Brain,” reveals that the electrical activity in the brain includes 100,000 miles of nerve fibers that connects the various components of the mind, giving rise to everything we think, feel, and perceive.

Every time we think a thought, it takes the same route along those hundred thousand miles of nerve fibers. So when we think a thought over and over again, and it takes the same route, it becomes easier and easier for that thought to go through the brain, like cutting a path through the jungle.

If we decide that we don’t like an old thought pattern and we want to counter it with a new thought pattern, we have to consciously force new thoughts down a new pathway. Whenever a circumstance comes up that might typically spark a thought to go down the old pathway, we must catch that thought, kick it out, and force a new thought down a new pathway.

Or, failing at that, we must rehearse the new thoughts over and over again before the situation comes up that sparks the old thought pattern. As we do this over and over again, the new thought pathway becomes deeper and deeper.

In addition, as the old pathway gets less use, like the jungle overtaking Mayan ruins, the old pathway begins to fall into disrepair. And eventually, we come to a tipping point at which it is easier for the thought to go down the new pathway than the old. At that point we experience rapid and powerful change in our lives.

For example, Philippians 4:19 says, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” We know that. It’s lodged in our memory bank.

But… when we are faced with a serious financial crisis, we typically react with volcanic fear and anxiety.

Why? Because we are not sure if Philippians 4:19 is true. Or, we fear that the Lord may meet our needs, but not in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed. So we are still harboring the world’s values. When those values are threatened, we respond with the world’s response: fear and anxiety.

So we must take the appropriate Scripture through our brains over and over again until the truth of the Scripture begins to sink deeply into our subconscious where it begins to change our fundamental attitudes, values and behavior.

Dr. Caroline Leaf writes in her book, The Switched on Brain:

“Self-directed neuroplasticity is a general description of the principle that deep thinking changes brain structure and function. It is the key to transformation.

“When you understand the power of your thought life, you truly begin to get a glimpse of how important it is to take responsibility for what you are thinking. God was so serious about us capturing our thoughts and renewing our minds that he gave us science as an encouragement.

“Whatever you think about the most will grow, so the more you think a particular thought, the stronger it grows. You can’t just apply a thought once and think change has happened.

After a period of repeated thinking about a choice over and over, the new thought moves into the subconscious level, where it becomes part of our internal perception. It is at this level that we are deeply changed.”

  1. The Power of Focused Attention

Second, there is also great power in focused attention.

Research has shown, Dr. Leaf reports, that a minimum of 5 to 15 minutes a day of focused, meditative thinking shifts frontal brain states that enable us to more effectively interact with circumstances. When we direct our mind in introspection, self-reflection, and prayer; when we catch our thoughts and make them go where we want them to go, rather than allowing them to run amok; when we memorize and mentally recite Scripture; and when we develop our mind intellectually, those very behaviors improve brain function and mental, physical, and spiritual health. When we pay deep, focused attention to one task at a time, our brain responds with healthy patterns, circuits, and neurochemicals.

This behavior stimulates activity in the brain, growing more branches and integrating and linking thoughts, all of which translates into increased intelligence, wisdom and peace.

  1. The Power of Applied Wisdom

Finally, there is the power of applied wisdom.

The brain cannot tell the difference between a real and a vividly imagined experience, so you can encourage personal transformation by consistently vividly imagining right thinking and behavior.

We can visualize the kind of behavior we want to exhibit in life’s difficult situations. We can ponder how we might have better handled a situation that we actually handled poorly. (Note: This is NOT rehashing your “failures” and putting yourself on a guilt trip – guilt is dealt with through repentance – rather, it is replaying the situation in your mind to vividly imagine yourself handling that situation in a biblical way.)

Visualizing the right attitudes, values and behavior – over and over again – helps us handle those situations well in the future.

Conclusion

More fully understanding the power of repetition encourages us to memorize and meditate upon Scripture to create new pathways in our brain, enabling us to live out the truth of those Scriptures more effectively.

More fully understanding the power of focused attention encourages us to spend time daily, reading Scripture, meditating, reading devotional material and praying at least 15 minutes a day.

More fully understanding the power of applied wisdom encourages us to purposefully recall situations in which we failed to respond biblically and to mentally rehearse responding biblically in those same situations, to create a path of a right response next time.

These strategies are all behaviors that God encourages over and over again in the Scriptures. What modern neuroscience has so wonderfully done for us is to show us how these activities actually renew our minds.

By applying what modern neuroscience has shown us, we can accelerate the mental renewal process for becoming transformed so that we are living demonstrations of the fact that the will of God is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

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