The mind and the plan of salvation is a very important subject for study, because the brain is the only avenue by which the Holy Spirit has access to an individual and is the only agency by which Satan can influence the life. Moreover, we know that through the mind Satan will finally gain control of the majority, that is, every soul who is not firmly anchored to the Rock of Ages. "These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast" (Rev. 17:13).
The evil one has a multitude of ways in which he can appeal to every individual, and he can adapt his deceptions to the carnal desires and lusts and pet idols of every heart. One class may be misled by sensationalism, another by so-called logic or false science. Some fall for the grotesque and vulgar, others by fine oratory and social refinement. Truth is always a narrow line and there is only one approach God can use, namely, the drawing power of love with its demonstration in the lives of those who follow Him.
Our only safety is in clinging to Jesus and remembering that methods and the understanding of the principles can be of help only as they lead to God or are recognized as originating from Him. Faith is not our savior, but Jesus is. Faith is the avenue of approach to Him. A personal relationship with a living Saviour must be momentarily and continually exercised. The drawing, the guidance, the talents, the capabilities, all originate from Him. We respond like the strings of an instrument played by the Master's hand, when our wills are fully surrendered to Him.Not to experience and appreciate this truth may confuse us in our understanding of the relationship between faith and works. Theories may take the place of truth. But we are told that if the heart is right the actions will be right. The difficulty then must be with an unrenewed or unwilling heart.
The human brain is composed of approximately ten billion cells and numerous bundles of nerve connections. Even as the angels record every thought, motive, word, and action, so an impression is made in our minds the moment the stimulus is applied. The Spirit of Prophecy speaks of the avenues of the soul—the five senses, or the things we hear, see, smell, taste, or touch. New thoughts and ideas also leave their impress. The more vivid or striking the stimulus the deeper and more permanent will be the record. The thoughts and scenes of greater interest and vividness are less likely to be forgotten. We know the record is there as a tangible fact because we can immediately recall these events or thoughts any number of times. These are the result of repeated impressions of the same thought.
To every thought the individual responds. A pleasant scene in nature will call forth a feeling of appreciation. On the other hand, there are pictures presented to the mind that may cause emotions of disgust and horror. To obtain a general concept of contrasting emotions we may list those of love or hate, faith or doubt, pleasantness or unpleasantness, trust or fear, obedience or rebellion; and even the response, without marked feelings, of acceptance or rejection. All these responses are also recorded and influence the formation of the character and personality development.
Every initial thought stimulus immediately suggests other thoughts, or a train of thoughts and reactions depending partly on previous experience or records. Thus patterns are formed leading to formation of learned reactions and habits. A habit may be very complex, as that of typing, which uses the faculties of sight, touch, hearing, and the nerve muscle coordination of the correct finger applied to the proper key in the right sequence. At the same time the mind may be dwelling on an unrelated problem.
The connections between nerves are not made by direct contact but across tiny spaces at synapses or ganglia. One nerve may potentially have the possibility by choice of serving several others. In a fraction of a second as the impulse is transmitted across the space, acetylcholine is formed which is just as rapidly destroyed by cholinesterase. This electrochemical conduction theory is in harmony with the "electric power" of the nerves referred to by the Spirit of Prophecy. We are born with many of these reflex and habit patterns, inactive at first but which become operational as growth proceeds. These include native abilities and the inherited character traits, good and bad.
At birth the infant may only be able to cry and receive food, but as he grows older, reflexes for sitting up, creeping, and walking are added, and character traits reveal themselves as they are encouraged or discouraged, influenced by environmental as well as other factors.
To illustrate: In the diagram the impulse originating at 0 has the possibility of connecting with either one or two at station A. Ordinarily it will travel the easier way or the path of least resistance. This will naturally be the deeper groove or the connection that has been used the most. This path will be chosen more and more readily as it is strengthened. Conversely the path and connection that has been avoided by repeated determined effort will become less and less capable of attracting the impulse and at the same time gradually lose its impression. Good thoughts and habits are thus strengthened and bad habits overcome by setting up blocks in the natural pathways. This can be accomplished only through the mighty miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit through the process of the new birth. Only God can change the desires and affections and attract the soul to Himself, but we must cooperate and work with all the strength we have. Then God will supply the fact. "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). We work, we attempt, but God supplies the fact. "I can do all things through Christ" (Phil. 4:13). "Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Gal. 2:20). "Work out your own salvation. . . . For it is God which worketh in you" (Phil. 2:12, 13).
"Godlikeness, manifesting itself in growth and improvement, is the constant motivation which will result in the development of a righteous character." Nothing but our best is acceptable to God. Satan, on the other hand, has thousands of alternatives. Let us picture ourselves playing the game of life somewhat like anagrams. Our minds are filled with many cards representing inherited abilities, native and acquired habit patterns, learned responses, conditioned reflexes, decisions, judgments, facts, thoughts, et cetera. Every day of our lives we endeavor to form larger and better words, rearranging the cards, leaving out the bad, adding the good, all the time under the influence of the voice behind us saying, "Why don't you do it this way?" "This is a better way" "Use this combination" "It will make Jesus happy, for this is how He did it."
Our growth depends on responding willing obedience to the point where our actions become spontaneous. These are real processes that result in definite physiological changes taking place every moment of our lives; we actually understand very little, but this little can be seen to be a beautiful object lesson of what God can and is doing in our spiritual development at the same time.
The value of this knowledge is seen in its application to the science of redemption and soul winning. The mind will adapt itself to subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell; therefore, it is important to fill the brain with thoughts and responses of gratitude, praise, and appreciation. Literally crowd out the evil because there is a limit to the electrical capacity of the mind. David says, "My cup runneth over" (Ps. 23:5). If it is all used for good, there will be no space or time for the undesirable. Of Jesus it was said, "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (Ps. 45:7). Love for righteousness and hatred for iniquity cultivated in the heart will grow by the process of addition. By the laws of physiology these responses will become more distinct and they must; for we will not finally cease from sin until we hate it so thoroughly that we will desire to have nothing more to do with it, and the fact of the justice and mercy of God's dealings with us will be forever settled in our hearts.
The brain with its thought patterns is a physiological unit; a wonderful structure just like so many wires and connecting stations made up of chemical elements, but very useless and insignificant without the energizing life from God. Satan, too, can energize these pathways to his own purpose and the destruction of the soul. He has the power to suggest "thoughts." The more talented and developed the network, the greater will be the potential for evil. Should the soul at any moment sever spiritual connection with the Creator, Satan takes immediate control.
Righteousness by faith means rightdoing—by faith. A good habit potentially present may become a bad habit if used in the wrong way at the wrong time in the wrong place, or motivated by selfishness. A cup of cold water given in His name will be a powerful influence for good but the same cup given under the guidance of the evil spirit may cause harm. We must form the habit of resisting temptation, of setting up firm blocks in undesirable pathways, but only God can help us do this. And God can only work when we realize our helplessness and weakness.
This is where the modern concept of psychiatry and the science of redemption, which includes healing of body and soul, are dangerously, and too often imperceptibly, at cross purposes. If the physician does not lead his patients to the only true source of help, they will give glory to the physician and not to the Divine Healer. The physician must be led to see his own unworthiness, weakness, and frailty, his utter inability to improve himself. If he does not call on God for help, he may take glory to himself. The glory must be directed to God.
The tendency and danger in all counseling and psychology is to direct the attention of the patient to the importance of "methods" that is, an overemphasis of these to a point where self-improvement becomes selfishness. It is not enough to improve that which we have. Self-discipline is the goal in salvation, but this "self" is the God-given kingly power of the will momentarily exercised under the direction of His Spirit. We have nothing of ourselves, we can only cooperate and even that can be done only with the physical and spiritual power supplied moment by moment. It may appear that we are exercising a talent that we possess of ourselves, but we should realize that this talent is a gift from God. The Spirit of Prophecy explanation is that we must work as though everything depends on us, knowing at the same time that it all depends on Him.
It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit works with what we have and by natural laws as we understand them, but is not limited by them. He never annuls the laws of health. Man's knowledge is so limited. "Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of Him? but the thunder of His power who can understand?" (Job 26:14). Beyond our comprehension the Creator has an infinite supply of laws by which He can work to modify or even reverse many of the effects that we ordinarily expect. For our good and advancement physically and spiritually, however, He has ordained that we work in cooperation with Him, and as we gain a deeper understanding of His laws we become more capable and efficient as co-workers with Him.
The study of the science of the mind can be very beautiful and lead us deeper into communion with the Infinite One. We can go about practicing thanksgiving and praise at every remembrance of Him, as we seek, like Jesus, to draw object lessons from all experience and scenes of daily life to be used in helping others. This is communion with the mind of God. Indeed, this may be an actual foretaste of the continuing development of the mind throughout all eternity.