Dr. Gaspar F. Colon
Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministry
Columbia Union College
Summary: God has created us with amazing mental capacities to facilitate change is our lives. For positive and lasting mental health, Dr. Colon describes practical ways to change our thinking and behavior.
Spiritual principles of behavior change.
Using the following statements as a resource, have the group share what they believe the Scriptures and the Spirit of Prophecy mean.
1) What did the apostle Paul mean when he wrote: ?Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will? (Ro 12:2).
2) Ellen White brings out the fact that, when God wants to transform the mind, he is really making changes in the brain: ?The brain nerves which communicate with the entire system are the only medium through which heaven can communicate to man and affect his inmost life. Whatever disturbs the circulation of the electric currents of the nervous system lessens the strength of the vital powers, and the result is a deadening of the sensibilities of the mind (2T 347).
3) ?Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus? (Php 2:5 KJV).
Brain mechanisms for behavior change. In In His infinite wisdom, God created human beings with a multiplicity of brain mechanisms that facilitate changes in life. These sub-systems of the brain, while still at the cutting edge of scientific discovery, continually confirm that God created human beings with all the versatility that we need for our lives to be transformed under His guidance.
1) Attention vs. arousal—mediated by the reticular formation at the base of the brain. Fast-paced media has our society hooked on arousal. No sooner has an image or an idea been tossed at us, but then a slew of others follow. Before we realize it, our senses are overwhelmed and our knees become weak from the onslaught. Mental health professionals and educators realize that, for true lasting change to take place, there must be a focus which blocks out the extraneous and fixes the mind on the objective. In our walk with God we must take the time to go beyond mere exposure to concepts. We need to absorb, contextualize, nurture, and savor in order to internalize the word of God. Note the following passages: Pr 8:15; Ex 33:32; Zec 7:11; Mt 7:26; 13:19; Lu 8:15; Jm 1:23-24.
2) Conditional readiness—mediated by the limbic system of the brain. God created each of us with internal mechanisms in our brain which allow us to rehearse ideas, beliefs, concepts, and situations. Early childhood is characterized by incessant questions which help the individual to get a feel for what to expect when the need comes to respond to a particular situation. Teenagers learn best through activities that require them to role-play situations before they actually have to face the serious life issues. It is essential that we create an environment where it is safe to rehearse the values and behaviors that will equip us to face life as authentic representatives of Christ. Note the following passages: Dt 6:4-9; Php 2:5-11; 4:8-9; 1Th 5:17; Eph 6:18.
3) Temporal integration—mediated by the prefrontal cortex. What is it that keeps hope alive? After you have been promised something, how long does it take for you to give up? How do you keep hope alive? Believe it or not, the Bible is full of hints on this subject. One of the great signs of a mature Christian is his or her ability to keep the brain in a state of a) gratefulness for what God is doing, and, b) eager anticipation of what God has promised to do next. Hope is kept alive by certain behaviors which keep it from deteriorating over time.
Examples of these behaviors include: prayer, focused Bible study, rehearsed feelings of thankfulness, caring for the needs of others (ask the class to think of others), et cetera. Even preparation for and anticipation of the Sabbath can be a weekly rehearsal for the joy of anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus. Note the following passages: Php 3:12-14; Ro 4:18; 8:24; 15:4; 1P 3:15; 1J 3:3.
In His infinite wisdom, God built into us all that we need to take hold of what He offers. We are stewards of these mechanisms and He expects us to be accountable to Him for their proper use under His guidance. Remember, the nurture of your mind is your business!