Updated: Apr 22
Breaking or changing the ingrained patterns of thinking is a neurological process.
Posted by Chris Scott (Senior Leader Bridge Church)
You may or may not have heard of the term the ‘reality formula.’ It’s a term used in the world of neuroscience and describes the way the human mind works. It’s not a Christian term but I think it has much truth to it. The reality formula states ‘We think it. We believe it. We feel it. We act it. We prove it to ourselves and others’.
In short it purports that believing the thoughts we think is the driving force behind what we do. We think a thought and then automatically believe that thought to be true, and consequently we ‘take the ride’ on it, and this shapes the person that we become. This is nothing new of course. The ancient book of proverbs in the Bible nailed this centuries ago. Prov 23:7 says ‘As a man thinks so he is’
So working backwards, if we want to change the person we are, we must change how we act, therefore we must change how we feel, therefore we must change what we believe, and ultimately therefore we must change the way we think! Change originates in the mind.
In creating the brain God has given us a neurological handbook to go with it, the Bible. To live the life that God wants us to live, we have to continually embed its truths into our daily thinking. Breaking or changing the ingrained patterns of thinking is actually a neurological process. We are not born with addictive tendencies or mental strongholds but we develop them through what is often called ‘neurological rewards’ or association. In other words, the more we do something, so our brain associates that something with a good feeling, and then connects it to a specific stimuli or trigger. As this gets repeated again and again so the connection strengthens and becomes a default response to that particular stimuli.
Whether it’s food addiction, pornography or behavioural traits, those automatic responses get burned into our way of thinking and are difficult to reverse no matter how desperate we are to do so. Therefore when a new association comes along prompted by the Holy Spirit or the word of God we are thrown into a conflict of interests.
This is why we find it so hard to resist some things, even though we know it’s wrong and even when we don’t want to do it! It’s so frustrating isn’t it, or is that just me? The Apostle Paul himself was not immune to this either. In Rom 7:19 he says ‘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.’ He is describing the very same thing. He wants to change but recognises the default within himself to sin.
Here is a truth. Wanting to not do something is not enough to stop you doing it! Simply wanting to change is about as likely to redirect your life as a tissue channelling a waterfall. We have to re-programme our associations.
Why is it so hard? Simple. Because sin is habit-forming. Sin is not an isolated incident. It’s the product of something far more insidious and complex going on within our mind. The sinful act is just the outflow of a bathroom tap. The place from which that originates at some point is a huge, dark dirty reservoir somewhere within us. We will never fully deal with symptom unless we deal with cause.
Be encouraged however, God has wired us for great and awesome purposes. The problem is we have got our wires crossed and tangled. Ever tried to untangle a whole mesh of cables and wiring? The more you pull at it the tighter the tangle becomes. The only way to sort it is to work back to the source of the knot and free it up
God has designed our neurological networks, and pre-programed us with the image of God. We have a lot to be positive about because it means we can be successful in the process of re-coding our minds to serve him.
Don’t try to deal with everything in one go. Start with one cable and track it back to the snag. Identify a default way of thinking that you want to change. Commit it to God every day and begin the process of re-routing it. Before long you will begin to see changes on the outside that originated on the inside. The things you thought could never change (that’s a stronghold in itself) will have to bow to the renewing of your mind.