Sunday, March 18, 2007

Developing a Biblical PMA

Positive Mental Attitude

Don't discount the role of PMA in your life. Harnessing our mental faculties for creating positive environs for ourselves and other people is a laudable and attainable goal. In fact, it is a biblical mandate.

The Apostle Paul commends to us the pondering of those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil 4.8,9). If these aren't positive in nature then the adjective has no meaning. We are to think on, dwell upon these positive virtues.

Unfortunately, many of us have been taught that if a principle is popularized by the "self-help" movement or is taught by psychologists (gasp!) then it is automatically suspect. And, to be sure, we ought to use discernment when evaluating any teaching.

Especially now, relative to the current frenzy surrounding The Secret. It's easy to jump onto one of two bandwagons - either we buy into its teachings without question or reject everything to do with it without thinking. But if we're honest, we know the path is found somewhere between the two extremes.

Indeed, the Secret and the Bible have one thing in common at least. And that is the conviction that what we think about is undeniably important! So much so that the Apostle again writes to a local church, "Take captive every thought" (2 Cor 10.5). Both the Secret and the Bible teach us to control our thinking.

But here's the crucial difference. The Scripture teaches us to take every thought captive in order "to make it obedient to Christ." The media, our culture, other people, past experiences all shape how we think so it is incumbent upon us to monitor and control, as far as possible, these influencing factors. But the purpose, for the Christian, is to be conformed to the mind of Christ.

This speaks to our motivation. Why should we develop a positive mental attitude? Because the characteristics that describe such an attitude are the characteristics of Christ. And since Jesus is our model, teacher, and Lord, we will want to pattern our lives after him.

For further discussion (borrowed from my pastor, btw) here are some key differences between the world's take on PMA and developing a biblical PMA (feel free to comment below if you know of others):

  • Motivation ~ Followers of Jesus want to become like him and give glory to God, not simply utilize positive principles for our own benefit or even for those around us.
  • Goal ~ To serve others, witness to God's power, and build up the body of Christ, not simply accumulate money and become prosperous for our own benefit or even for those around us.
  • Means ~ The resource we have that enables us to develop a positive mental attitude is Jesus Christ himself ("I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" Phil 4.13) not some "higher self" or "infinite intelligence" or impersonal "universal energy."
  • Outlook ~ We have an eternal relationship with our Creator to look forward to - and our PMA is a result of this truth, not a means toward it. The world teaches techniques of positive thinking in order to attain some final state of being known variously as heaven, nirvana, enlightenment, or oneness with the universe.
So yes, by all means, let's control our thinking. We can all agree on that. And one of the best ways to start is to think about what we think about. This will help us evaluate the motive, goal, means, and outlook behind our desire for developing our PMA.

But may I suggest one thing more? That we think about how we think about God? For this will determine whether we're developing a PMA based on his truth or whether we're trying to go it alone.

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