Minds, Hearts, and Ice Cream
I love ice cream. Like, I REALLY LOVE ice cream. You could say it’s one of my love languages. If someone’s having a party and they tell me there will be ice cream, then I’m there! Eating good ice cream just makes me so happy!
I have to limit myself though. I don’t eat a scoop of moose tracks for breakfast everyday (every once in awhile is ok though!) because I know that’s not healthy for me. Early on in life, I learned that what I eat has an impact on how I feel. It’s basic biology. If you eat good, you feel good; if you eat crap, you feel like crap. That’s just how it works. What you put in your body is what fuels your body and ultimately determines what activities you’re able to do.
This concept is like common sense to most of us, but what many of us don’t realize is that the same thing happens in our spiritual lives. As intimately as the parts of our digestive system are connected, so are the parts of our spiritual system.
What I’m calling our “spiritual system” is our minds, hearts, and actions or words. While these are each separate things, they are not independent from each other. They all flow together from the inward out to determine what kind of person you will be.
Let’s start on the outside with our actions and words. This is what people see, what people judge us on. The things that we do and say are what determine whether people call us a friend or a jerk, so it’s pretty important that we get this right!
As followers of Christ, our words and actions should align with the Bible’s teaching, and when they don’t, we’ve got a problem. If we’re claiming to be Christians but all the time still acting like the nonbelieving world around us, that should be a major red flag. The worst case scenario being that you’re not even actually saved. James describes it like this saying, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 6:9–10) He goes on to explain how a fig tree cannot bear olives. Nature doesn’t work that way. If you’ve got a tree planted in your yard labeled “fig tree” but it keeps producing olives, then it’s an olive tree, not a fig tree. James is saying that in the same way, if you’re claiming to be a Christian but your life, your words and actions, are not producing “Christian fruit” (like the Fruit of the Spirit) then you’re just like that mislabeled tree and not actually a Christian. If this is you, your next step is to repent and truly let Jesus into your life.
So what if you’re not that worst case scenario? What if you’re like me, 100% sure that you’ve been saved and you’ve got the Holy Spirit living in you this very moment, but you still have days when your words and actions don’t align with Christ, aka you still sin? Then welcome to the club. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had days when we can identify with Paul when he says “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:15,19) Our next step is to go deeper.
Remember how I said the parts of the spiritual system are all connected? Well our words and actions are fueled by something, and that something is our hearts. “For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) What’s in our hearts is central to the rest of our lives and it’s what’s in our hearts that God ultimately cares about. All throughout the New Testament, Jesus constantly takes it back to the heart. He doesn’t stop with just the outward things, with following the letter of the law; He takes it one step further to the motives which come from the heart. In one instance He explains that “the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts — murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander,” (Matt. 15:18–19) and Jeremiah tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” (Jer. 17:9)
Jesus is basically saying that there’s junk (aka sin) in our hearts, and when there’s junk in our hearts, then it will be junk coming out in our words and actions. As humans living in a broken and sinful world, that’s the natural, original state of our hearts: sinful junk. That’s why we need Jesus to come save us and transform our hearts. This process of transformation takes time though, and even after we’re saved, there will still be pieces of junk in our hearts. If our words and actions are junk, then that means there’s junk in our hearts. An easy way to check what’s in your heart is to check what’s coming out of your mouth or through your hands.
Our words and actions are fueled by what’s in our hearts. That’s why God cares so much about our hearts. He wants our actions to show His love to the world but in order to do that, our hearts must first be full of that love.
So how do we do that? How do we fill our hearts with good things and get rid of all the junk? This is where the last part of our spiritual system comes in: our mind. Our hearts are filled by what we put in them. It’s pretty simple really. Just like our stomachs are filled by the food we put in our mouths, our hearts are filled by the thoughts we allow in our brains. And those thoughts are influenced by any number of things: the movies we watch, the songs we listen to, the friends we hang out with; the list goes on and on. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) The things we treasure are the things we think about, which means they are the things filling our hearts. If we want to change what’s in our hearts, we’ve got to change what we treasure and think about. Pastor Ben Stuart says “What you think about will be what you care about, and what you care about, you will chase.”
Do you see how this spiritual system works? The words and images we allow into our minds, the thoughts we dwell and focus on are what fills our hearts and ultimately flows out of our mouths and hands as words and actions. This means that we’ll never be able to control or change our words and actions until our hearts are right and our hearts will never be right until we fill them with the right things.
So what does all this mean? It means that if you’re like me and Paul (and every other Christian who ever lived) and you’re struggling with any particular sin in your life, simply changing the outward behavior isn’t gonna cut it. You’ve got to go deeper to the real issue, which is the heart, and then take it back to the source of the problem in your mind.
This is why it is SO IMPORTANT that we “take our thoughts captive” (2 Cor. 10:5) and “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Col. 3:2) The thoughts we allow in our brains literally have the power to impact every aspect of who we are. If all our thoughts are good ones, then that’s great! But often times they’re not and this is where we run into problems. (For more on controlling our thoughts, see this earlier blog I wrote.)
As followers of Christ, we want to be filling our minds with things like truth, joy, gratitude, peace, contentment, and love because these are things we want in our hearts and flowing out into our words and actions. And guess what? The best way to do this is to spend time with the source of all truth and love, God Himself, through studying His Word and talking to Him in prayer.
If you’re like me trying to kick sin habits out of your life, then time with God is where you need to start. But that’s not the only thing you can do. Here are a few other tips:
-Pray for God’s help, asking Him to fill your heart with good things. I know I said this before, but prayer is the most powerful weapon we have to fight against the enemy. Remember, this is a spiritual battle that we’re fighting in and Satan does NOT want us to win. He wants us to look as little like Jesus as possible, so when we start to shake things up, he’s going to come after us and we’ve got to be ready. We’ve got to put on our full Armor of God everyday and start each morning with prayer so that we can be prepared for the battle ahead. (To learn how to put on your armor, check out this study The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer)
-Call out the lies and dwell on truth. The belt of truth is a part of the Armor of God, so this kinda goes along with the last one, but it’s so important that I’m saying it again. We choose to fill our minds with and dwell on what we feel is true and important, unfortunately, sometimes these are lies. If we’re believing the lies of the enemy (which are often fed to us by the culture) or if we’re not trusting God in some area of our lives, we will be filling our minds with things related to those lies or lack of trust. This in turn will fill our hearts with lies and all kinds of negativity which will flow out and create this ugly cycle. But if we’re believing truth and trusting God to take care of us, we will be filling our minds with truth, which will fill our hearts with things like gratitude, joy, and contentment, which will flow out to make a much more enjoyable environment to live in. This is why it’s so important to be in God’s Word and know what He says is true, instead of finding “your truth” from the culture around you.
-Limit your screen time, especially social media. I’m not saying cut it out completely, there are a lot of benefits to social media (it’s probably where you found this blog to read) but it also tends to breed discontentment and comparison. Imagine how different your life would be if you were always content in every situation you found yourself in and you never cared what anyone thought of you? That means maybe you need to unfollow some of those fitness accounts or farmhouse decorating pins, or stop watching certain tv shows. You have the responsibility to choose what you allow into your mind to fill your heart, so you need to analyze it all and determine whether it’s healthy or toxic to your spiritual system.
-Keep a gratitude journal. I started doing this a few years ago and was shocked by how much it has helped me view things in a positive way. I just pick out one or two things that I’m grateful for each day and tell God about them, specifically thanking Him for allowing them in my life. Some days this is much harder than others, but those are the days when I need it the most. When I can find things to be grateful for, even in the hard situations, that’s what helps me to be content where I am. (If you want to go further with this, I recommend the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.)
-Be intentional about your community. The saying “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future” has a lot of truth to it. No matter how hard we try, we almost always end up picking up little bits of the people we’re around and we become a little bit more like them. If you’ve surrounded yourself with positive Godly people, then this is great, but if that’s not the kind of person you spend most of your time with, then it’s a problem. I heard it explained that if you would rate the spirituality of the 5–10 people you spend the most time with then find the average, that’s a good indicator of your level of spirituality, so if you want to grow, you’ll need to change some of who you spend your time with. As a pastor at The Porch in Dallas describes it, “if you want to change your life, you’ve got to change your playmates and change your playground.”
Just like God designed our digestive system to work together to help our bodies function properly, He designed our spiritual system to work the same way. Then in His word, He gave us all the instructions we needed to live it out and stay spiritually healthy.
How’s the health of your spiritual system?
Lately, God has been teaching me a lot of different things that I wanted to share with you, things that I thought could help and encourage you, and I realized they all fit around the theme of how we are designed. God created us to live and function in a very specific way, but more often than not, I haven’t been living that way and chances are, you haven’t been either. So from now until I don’t know when, I’m going to be digging into this, I’m going to study our Designer and the way He designed us. I don’t quite know what this will look like yet but I invite you to learn along with me! Each area of design that I learn about, I will be posting about so that you can learn as well. Let’s learn to live the way we were designed!
P.S. If you’ve read this far, I give you permission to eat ice cream for breakfast tomorrow, because why not?! :)