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When you first hear the terms heart and mind, perhaps you think of the Great Commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). Jesus is reminding His listeners that they should love the Lord with their whole being. While it sometimes seems as though these terms are used interchangeably, they can be distinguished from one another. The soul is often used to describe the entirety of one’s being that continues to exist eternally (16:26). The rest of this article will unpack the biblical nuances of the mind and the heart.

Most simply put, the mind concerns our thoughts. The heart reflects our affections, what we really care about. Concerning the Great Commandment to love the Lord with all our heart and mind, it is clear that we fall far short of this standard. In reality, we don’t even come close. The Scriptures teach that our hearts and our minds are corrupted by sin. Jeremiah teaches that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Concerning the mind, the Bible outlines the noetic impact of the first couple’s fall. Noetic comes from the Greek word for “mind” (nous). Speaking of fallen thinking, Paul writes, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God” (Rom. 8:7).

It would be a mistake, however, to think that heart and mind are mutually exclusive or that they operate independently. The Scriptures identify the heart, the seat of affection, as the operating system for the rest. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23). The orientation of the heart affects our thinking and our actions, for that matter. Notice how the two are linked in Genesis 6:5: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The heart is the source of wicked intentions and thoughts. Paul links the two in Ephesians 4:18: “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (emphasis added). The reason for their “darkened . . . understanding” and ignorance is the hardness of their hearts.

We are called to strengthen and fortify our hearts for God through the engagement of our minds.

Jesus makes the same connection when challenging His enemies on being superficial and legalistic: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). The connection is extended from the heart to our words and behavior.

This is the reason that you cannot “argue” someone into the kingdom. Yes, Christianity is quite logical and rational, but neither can be seen without a transformed heart. The heart, one’s operating system, must be transformed. This is exactly what the Lord promises in Ezekiel 36:26: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” It is only when we are given a new heart that the transformation of our thoughts can truly begin.

Both mind and heart are involved in this process of transformation. Concerning the mind, it is necessary to know the facts of the gospel (notitia). It is not just enough to know the facts, but one must affirm the facts of the gospel (assensus). It is also necessary that this truth be warmly embraced and received (fiducia). This final embrace of the truth engages the heart in a full-orbed description of saving faith.

All this leads to a new orientation to all of life. From this point on, we are called to strengthen and fortify our hearts for God through the engagement of our minds. The New Testament contains some remarkable language about this. In his letter to the Romans, 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” (Rom. 12:2). The word translated “transformed” is the word from which we get our word metamorphosis. When we hear that word, we often think of the gradual change that occurs in the development of a butterfly. The similarity to us is that there is a gradual transformation of the way we think. We are no longer to be earthbound in our thoughts, but we are to develop a new perspective that expands from the horizontal to include a godly vertical perspective. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Colossians:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:1–3)

It is important to recognize that Paul’s line of argumentation is not intended to communicate an approach that is “so heavenly-minded that it is no earthly good.” Quite the contrary: looking back at his words in Romans shows us that the renewal of our minds is designed to help us “discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect,” with the implication that it will translate into the way of life that reveals our love for our Creator and Redeemer. While our love will never be perfect this side of heaven, He has given His Spirit and His Word to feed the flame in our hearts and minds until we meet Him.


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