It's relatively easy to notice changes in our actions and behavior. Because of this we can begin to think our Christian growth is mainly in our actions, that the Bible is a list of do's and do not's, of things we are to perform or avoid, that adhering to these is how we bring about change.
But what if we're more complex than that? What if actions arise from the heart? Jesus said they do (Mark 7:21), and if this is true then what matters is not only what we do but what we love.
And what if the state of our heart arises from how we think, from our minds? If this is true then what matters is not only what we do and what we love but what we think.
It's not just how we conduct ourselves, nor only what we care about that is significant, but—to use a biblical word—what we consider?
Thinking Emphasized in the Bible
The Bible puts a high emphasis on such intentional thinking, which can be hard for many of us—bred in the atmosphere of evangelical anti-intellectualism—to swallow. Thinking to us is the least important, for we know people who 'know' a lot but don't do. We've witnessed 'Christians' who love theological ideas but don't love people. Such an objection is biblical and valid: loveless, action-less thinking is worthless. “If I understand all knowledge…but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
But this does not mean the head is unimportant or even the least important. As discussed above, in many ways the mind is the avenue to the heart, and the heart is the avenue to action.
Considering in Christian Living
This is why the apostle Paul, in his main chapter about holy living (aka. 'sanctification') in the book of Romans, instructs us: "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11). When discussing what it means to live as a Christian, his emphasis is on truth, and on us considering truth about God and ourselves.
Such a fact is worth stopping to dwell on for a second. In Romans 1-3 he explains sin. Following this through Romans 5 he details faith and salvation in Christ. Then finally, in chapter 6, he gets to what we all love—to what gets the most clicks online and what sells most in Christian bookstores—Christian living.
What then does Paul talk about first in discussing Christian living? Answer: Truths to consider.
Read it for yourself in Romans 6:1-11. To paraphrase his points: How do we live as Christians? Why don't we go on living in sin? We've died with Christ, we've risen with Christ to a new life, a new self. (Which brings us to verse 11 again). "So you must consider yourself alive to God and in Christ Jesus."
Christian living then heavily involves considering.*
Why Considering is So Powerful
Considering is powerful. The verb, "consider" is defined as "to think about carefully" (according to Merriam-Webster). So, why is it effective, life-changing, Christian living-altering to 'consider'?
It's how God designed us. When we think carefully, when we "consider" and dwell on truths—truths about theology, who God is, who we are, what matters in life—it changes us. Thinking certain things alters our thinking, which alters our hearts, which alters our actions.
We've each experienced this. When we learn certain information, particularly God-centered information, we don't dwell on it and then separately try to change our hearts. Rather, the dwelling itself changes our hearts. It's not a separate act; the head and heart are too interrelated. Instead, it's in considering that the heart is changed. We don't focus on the heart. We focus on truths. But by focusing on truths—by seeing how good, true, and beautiful they are—our hearts are changed. And since our hearts are changed, it's by considering that leads to changed actions too (Mark 7:21).
It's Not Information-Gathering, It's Heart-Transforming
Therefore, Bible study, reading good books, having deep conversations, listening to sermons or lectures impact who we are. It's not just 'information' we're gathering, it's our hearts we're transforming. Notice more biblical examples showing the power of considering:
Considering has power as we seek to become more like Jesus: "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Considering is powerful as we seek to avoid becoming like the world: "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" (Romans 12:2).
Considering is powerful as we seek to bear patiently and trust God in suffering: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18). "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (James 1:2-3).
Our heart-change comes through consideration.
Why Do We Want to Fixate on Feelings and Actions?
One last question: If this is true, why is it so hard for this to stick? Why do we want to fixate on feelings and actions?
I think the answer is that considering is not measurable. It's much easier to tally our doings. We remember actions. We can see things we used to not do, and now, by God's grace, we actually do. We can mark things we used to do, and now, by God's grace, don't do. It's noticeable, measurable, and gratifying to see such change.
Yet how do we measure how much we've considered Christ? Perhaps we can count the years we've gone faithfully to church, or how many times we've read through the Bible, or how many books we've read, etc. But so what? We know that's not necessarily the same as true considering—we can read the Bible for a while and have it go through us like water through a pipe. It's hard to quantify how much we've "beheld the glory of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18). So, we downplay it. We like concrete, measurable goals and change. Consideration doesn't offer this as much as action.
Consider Him to Change
But what we can't measure, God can. He sees the depth of our hearts (Jeremiah 17:10). He alone knows the transformation of our hearts. Calculating our sanctification is not our job. Exact measurement is not our responsibility. God alone sees our growth and holiness.
What is our job, our delight, is to consider him. He's made that clear. It is here that we grow, even if we can't measure that growth. Because of what the Bible teaches, we know it is here, over time, through beholding with our minds his glory, that we are transformed from the inside out. And this, in the end, is what God wants for us, for his glory and our good.
So, let's consider.
*It's true and biblical that in light of this consideration, we are to fight sin (which is a resulting action). As Paul says in the next verse, "Let not sin therefore sin in your mortal bodies" (Romans 6:12). But even there, his emphasis again falls on truths to consider: We are to strive against sin "because sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). Truth is put forth for us to know, to consider, and such considering is the foundation for feeling and action.