The Christian’s Mindset: Seven Characteristics
One of the most prominent and under-noticed themes of the New Testament is thinking. From the Gospels to the Epistles, all people in general – and Christians in particular – are urged to use their minds, to think, and to ponder. One of the most practical passages on this subject is Ephesians 5:15-21, where Paul spells out seven characteristics that should define the Christian’s mindset. The apostle sets a tall order – no matter how long you have been a Christian, or how closely you have pursued the Lord, these seven characteristics are sure to challenge your mindset!
(1) Intentional Wisdom
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise. (v. 15)
Having warned about the dangers of the “unfruitful works of darkness,” the Apostle urges Christians to carefully consider how they live their lives. ‘Walking’ is a picture of daily life and conduct.
The image here is of a man who knows where he is going, and as he walks toward that goal, he pays attention to where his footsteps land. Unlike the fool, who is easily led out of the path or steps into a trap or landmine, the wise Christian is aware of the danger, directing his steps forward, charting a careful and intentional path between the hazards of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
(2) Time Management
Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (v. 16)
The word here is literally ‘redeeming the time.’ Yes, it is as if Christians are to buy back the time that they have in this world, carefully purchasing it and preserving it from any waste. The reason? The days are evil, we are in a battle, and this is no time to be indulging in indolent luxury.
Time management for the Christian doesn’t necessarily include scheduling or goal setting (though these are excellent tools to help us manage our time), but it does mean using our time wisely in the Lord’s service. It means taking advantage of every opportunity to advance our Lord’s cause – from sharing the Gospel with a stranger, to serving widows and orphans, to prioritizing the Word of God in our lives.
(3) Understanding God’s Will
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (v. 17)
It is an unfortunate reality, but far too often we waste precious opportunities through ‘foolishness’ rather than ‘understanding.’ When we are with friends, it is often easier to engage in small talk or useless games than to edify others through our discussions. Even when we aren’t engaged in all-out ‘foolishness,’ Christians are often far too slow to ‘understand what the will of the Lord is’ in each of the situations that they find themselves in.
Understanding God’s will, in this passage, doesn’t necessarily mean knowing what God wants you to do with your life. It means recognizing the situation that you are in, examining what would bring the most glory to God, and then acting on that course of action.
(4) Sober Spirit-Led Behavior
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. (v. 18)
The world loves amusement. Have you ever considered what that word means? To ‘muse’ is to think, and to be ‘a-mused’ is to be in a state of not having to think. Of course, one of the world’s favorite ways to be amused is through mind-altering substances – especially wine (and nowadays, drugs). While these substances suspend the use of the mind, the Christian is to ‘filled with the Spirit.’
To be ‘filled with the Spirit’ isn’t the Christian equivalent of drunkenness. Unlike wine, a Spirit-filled person has exceptionally sharp use of their senses. That is why we are to be filled with, rather than ‘drunk with’ the Spirit.
To be filled with the Spirit is to have God’s animating Spirit within us, guiding our actions and decisions, and directing our thoughts toward spiritual matters. The Spirit directs God’s children, and the Spirit-filled Christian is sensitive to that leading.
(5) Exhortation through Singing
Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart. (v. 19)
Notice the two-fold direction of our singing: we are to address one another, while making melody to the Lord. This means that our singing is not limited to ourselves. You can sing out loud, to the glory of God, and the edification of other Christians. Singing is an excellent way to get Biblical truth into your subconscious mind and assimilate it into your life.
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (v. 20)
The world has no problem with thanksgiving – it celebrates it every year (even if the trend is away from Thanksgiving to the ungrateful ‘Turkey Day’). However, the world’s thankfulness is not directed toward anyone. They certainly do not give thanks to God, the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Still, thankfulness is an essential part of the Biblical mindset. Seek to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving. Especially in prayer, remember that Paul urges us to let our requests be known ‘with thanksgiving.’ A grateful heart will seek to make the best use of every blessing that it possesses.
Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (v. 21).
While specific classes are urged to be subject to other classes (wives to husbands, citizens to the government, etc.), Paul urges us to a ‘general submission’ where we think of each other before ourselves. This isn’t intended as a strict law, as if we had to do everything that anyone asks us. Rather, it is part of the Christian mindset of loving, serving, and seeking the good of others, because we reverence Christ.
Just writing down this list of seven characteristics is challenging for me. It makes me re-examine my Christian life, wondering how well I am doing in each area. For myself, I recognize that numbers three and five need some improvement. I need to think about God’s will in each situation I find myself in, and I ought to sing more for the praise of God and encouragement of other believers. What about you? What aspects of this mindset are you deficient in?