Apostles' Teaching: The Battle for Your Mind
Forming our minds to the teachings of Jesus and the Church is one of the four essential habits of a disciple, as described in Acts 2:42. This article lays out the importance of being "transformed by the renewal of [our] minds" by immersing ourselves in Scripture, the teachings of the Church, and other sources of truth and goodness.
Optional Lectio Divina Prayer
- Read Proverbs 2:1-5.
- Meditate on the words.
- Speak to Christ about this passage.
- Rest and listen in God’s presence.
- Discuss together.
A conversation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate on Good Friday reveals two different ways of looking at reality.
Jesus of Nazareth says he comes to bear witness to the truth. Pilate sarcastically responds, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38).
The idea of truth—a truth that applies to everyone, a truth that points to what is right and wrong and illuminates the path to human happiness—was not something Pilate cared about. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent and that the real reason the Jewish authorities were accusing him was because they were envious (Mt 27:18).
But the truth of Jesus’ innocence didn’t matter. Pilate had “his own truth”: He wanted to save his career. The Jewish leaders were threatening him, saying, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend” (Jn 19:12). Pilate feared a riot would break out, and he had to protect his reputation before Caesar’s authority. So, to advance his own interests, he appeased the crowds and sent an innocent man away to be crucified.
Discuss: Have you ever encountered Pilate’s “What is truth?” philosophy? How does this philosophy affect the way that people live?
JESUS, THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE
Without truth as a compass, we make our choices based on fears, passions, emotions, and whims. We do whatever we want without asking the question of truth—of whether what we want is good and will lead us to lasting happiness and to becoming the kind of person we want to become.
Pilate’s “What is truth?” philosophy of life may be attractive to some in our modern world—but we must remember that truth is not an abstract idea. Truth is a Person: Jesus Christ. After all, Jesus is not merely one of the world’s many moral teachers; he is God become man. He doesn’t simply show us a way to God; he is the way. And he doesn’t just reveal truth about God; he is the truth. He came into the world to bear witness to the truth so that we might know how to be happy in this life and live with him forever in heaven.
So here’s the crucial question every Christian must face: Will we truly follow Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6) and allow his teachings to shape our lives—or will we follow in the footsteps of Pilate, who preferred to make up his own “truth”?
Discuss: How does the fact that Jesus is the truth affect you? What difference does it make?
DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD
If Jesus is the truth, it changes the way we view the popular opinions and philosophies we encounter in our world. Like the early Christians who lived in a pagan world that always competed for their attention, we too face a constant battle for how we look at reality: what love is, what makes us happy, where we come from, where we’re going, what life is all about. Consider the crucial advice St. Paul gave to the Christians living in pagan Rome:
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the
renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of
God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2)
Just like these early Christians in Rome, we too can become conformed to this world. Much of what we absorb from our secular culture—about love, success, beauty, happiness, what is right and wrong—not only excludes the light of faith but often undermines what Jesus reveals about these important matters. If we’re not careful, we might find ourselves trusting in the wisdom of the world more than the truth Jesus revealed.
Discuss: Have you ever encountered a battle for truth in your own mind? Have you ever struggled with being “conformed to this world”?
RENEWING OUR MINDS
In light of the dangers we face in being conformed to this world, how can we take St. Paul’s advice and “be transformed by the renewal of [our] minds”? Many different ways are available to us. Let’s look at three that are the most foundational for any disciple of Jesus:
First, a disciple renews his mind through regular reading of Scripture. The Bible is no ordinary book: It’s inspired by God. It is God’s Word in the language of men. Those divine words written thousands of years ago reach across the centuries to continue to touch people’s hearts and minds today. When we read the Bible, we aren’t just reading an old, irrelevant text; we are encountering God speaking to us—personally, in this moment. Consider what the Church and Scripture teach about the power of the Bible in our lives:
“For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them”13 (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 21).
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12).
Second, a disciple renews his mind by encountering what Jesus teaches through the Catholic Church. As the God who became man, Jesus Christ is the fullness of God’s revelation; he entrusted this revelation to his closest friends—the Apostles—who in turn entrusted it to their successors (the bishops) throughout the ages, so that all nations and all generations could know the truth and path to happiness (Mt 16:18–19; 18:18; 28:18–20).
I am the way, the truth and the life.
What a tremendous gift Jesus has left us! And yet, do we take time to learn what Jesus is teaching us through the Catholic Church? A disciple makes formation in the Catholic Faith a priority. There are many good programs, retreats, books, and resources about the Catholic Faith. But one basic place to start is the Catechism of the Catholic Church—the official modern-day summary of what the Apostles have passed on to us today. When we read the Catechism, we can be sure we are reading God’s truth.
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
Third, we must be careful about what we put into our minds— what we watch on screens, what we listen to, what we read and what we look at. We are made in such a way that what we put into our minds changes us. It shapes how we look at reality and perceive what is good. It influences our desires and what we want to pursue in life. Does the media I take in reflect what is true, good and beautiful? Or do I watch shows that fill my mind with a vision of life, beauty, love and sexuality that is contrary to what Jesus teaches about these matters?
Being transformed by the renewal of our minds often means taking a hard look at what we take in, and seriously asking ourselves whether it strengthens or hinders our view reality. But it also means finding time to fill our minds with good things like the Bible and the Catechism. There are also many good, faithful Catholic books, resources and devotional texts. By regularly taking in good Catholic content, our minds are slowly being conformed to the mind of Christ. Imagine how differently we would think and live if we put down some of the music, media, and shows that constantly affect our thoughts, desires and emotions, and replaced those with images and words that elevated our minds to consider the things of God.
Discuss: How can we renew our minds? What things do you need to make more a part of your life and what things do you need to get rid of?
How can you begin to build a habit of renewing your mind? Pick out a good book, the Scriptures, or the Catechism, and carve out time in your day for a little bit of spiritual reading.
Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
What we put into our minds changes us. It becomes a part of us, shaping how we look at reality and what we perceive as good and influencing our desires. This is why we want to make it a priority to form our minds with the Faith.
13 Second Vatican Council. (1965). Dei Verbum. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/