If you would like to read my views on religion and how we got started with the ministry, you can read this.
[The following article is an edited transcription of the April 2008 Teaching of the Month, The Transformed Life by John W. Schoenheit.]
This month, I want to talk about the Transformed Life. I want to talk about you and me transforming our life so that we can live like Christ. I will tell you that a couple of dozen years ago, I would have titled this teaching The Renewed Mind. I now think differently about the renewed mind. I no longer think of the renewed mind as a goal to reach; but rather, renewing the mind is a process to reach the goal of the transformed life.
You and I have a constant battle going on in our lives between our mind and our heart. What is in the heart will win the battle. That is why when it comes to obeying God we need to remember Ephesians 5.
Ephesians 5:1 and 2
(1) Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
(2) and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
If we are going to obey God and live a life of love, then knowing the Bible is never enough. Actually, we should understand this from the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses taught us that knowing the Bible, or knowing what to do, was never enough.
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,
What does it mean here when it says, “What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature”? The Law had all the right commandments: do not lie, do not cheat, do not steal, love your neighbor etc. But you and I both know that knowing the commandments is not enough to obey them. If we are going to obey the commandments it is not enough to have knowledge. We have to transform are hearts. A constant battle is occurring between what we hold in the depths of our hearts and the information that we are holding in our minds.
This really came up for me a number of years ago. I had been raised atheist, and through my college life, I did not have the cleanest mouth. I used some profanity but I never really worked diligently to get it out of my life. I had a number of people tell me that it was wrong for me to use profanity. I would always say to them to take me to the Word and show me. To their shame, they never could. A few of them would take me to the commandment: “Thou shalt never take the name of the LORD your God in vain,” but that is not about profanity. Then I read:
Ephesians 5:3 and 4
(3) But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
(4) Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
I read those words, “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking” and it hit me so hard that I can tell you exactly where I was. It was 11:30 at night, and I was sitting on my bed. I read that and I thought, “this has got to be wrong.” I could not have been wrong in reading the Bible all these years. I jumped off my bed and being who I am and owning the research library that I do, I started pulling lexicons off the shelf: Bullinger, Bower, Thayer, Liddell and Scott, and Theological dictionaries. Sure enough, in the context of the Roman empire the Greek word which was translated “filthiness” in the King James Version was talking about obscenity. That is the major definition. That night I made my mind up not to use profanity. I said, “That is it, John, now that you found out that this is wrong in the eyes of God, you are done. No more profanity will be used in your life.” I can tell you that lasted until probably the middle of the next day. What was the problem? The problem was that my head knew that using profanity was wrong, but I had self-righteousness in my heart, I had anger in my heart, and I had bitterness in my heart. In the battle between your heart and your mind, what is in your heart will win. This is so important for us to understand. If you and I are going to live like Christians we need to understand what Romans 8:3 is saying to us. The Law could not make anyone righteous in the eyes of God because unless you clean up your heart, you do not have the power to do the Law.
I am sitting here looking at this verse that says that we should not use obscenity, and I did not have the power to live that law because what was in my heart was overriding what was in my head. When we talk about the renewed mind, it is a key to transforming our hearts. If you and I are going to live godly lives before God and before Christ, it is not going to be because we know the Bible. It is going to be because we clean out our hearts. In Matthew 12:34, Christ is speaking to the religious leaders.
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
We run some youth events at our camp, Camp Vision (in Bloomington, IN). It is a camp. We have cots. We do not have a shower in every room. It is not a hotel. It’s a camp. Sometimes we have campers who do not get enough sleep or it is not their mother’s kitchen and they have to eat camp food. They may have to wait in line at the bathhouse for a shower and occasionally they start griping. An incident occurred where a person was being pretty foul mouthed and just nasty in general. I confronted him about it, and he said, “Well, I am only like this when I am hungry and tired.” I thought to myself, “Well that is it.” What is going on in the heart? What is going on in the heart is privilege, me first, and self-centeredness. What happens when this person is hungry and tired? What happens is Matthew 12:34, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” All of a sudden the nastiness in the heart that is so concealed when everything is going your way comes out. It is like two people driving down the road in separate cars. One has love and joy and peace in his heart where he has worked on that and built that. The other person has selfishness and anger and bitterness in his heart. Both people are driving and have flat tires. The first man who has love and peace in his heart and has cultivated a clean heart, says, “Oh, a flat tire. Okay.” He gets out and takes care of his tire and drives on his way. The second man fixes his tire in the exact same amount of time and gets on his way but with an explosion of anger and profanity, kicking the tire, and throwing lug nuts. What is the difference between the two men? One person cleansed his heart, and the other person did not. Out of the overflow of the heart is what is going to come up and out in your life.
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him,
That is right, you and I need to learn the keys to store up good in our hearts. Christ went on to say:
and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
Christ also speaks about the same basic concept:
(21) For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
(22) greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
(23) All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'”
Absolutely! If you have theft, murder, adultery, greed, and deceit in your heart, you can read a commandment that says, “Thou shalt not lie,” and know the Bible says such a thing; however, when you are pressed, you are going to lie. Why? You will lie because what is in the heart is what will come out of you. That is why you and I need to think in terms of the transformed heart, not the renewed mind.
I want to talk to you a little bit about the heart and about the organs of the body. I was pretty deceived about this—I kind of thought that everything happened in the mind, the brain. I really got a wake up call one day when I was doing some translating work in the book of Revelation and I saw a very interesting occurrence.
In this teaching we are using the New International Version [NIV]—a Bible with which I have a love/hate relationship. This is one of the times that I hate it.
I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
That is great. It says that I search your hearts and your minds. Wonderful, except the Greek text reads, “I search your kidney and your heart.”
Revelation 2:23 (KJV)
And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
At that time, I was pretty arrogant and self-assured. I had read Bible dictionaries and Bible encyclopedias and studied the culture for years. I was well aware of the arguments of the scholars. They said, “Oh, those poor Greeks and Romans. They were so ignorant. They thought that some how the kidneys were involved in the thinking process.” I would read those articles and echo that also, “Those poor Greeks. They did not really know, so they say that God searches your kidney because they think your kidney is what actually thinks.” That is where I was living until a couple of years ago when I was trying to loose weight. A friend of mine sent me a book called The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin. I read something in his book that has sent me on a two year quest that has been truly mind blowing. I feel that this information is important enough to take some time out of this teaching and explore what science is now calling the Enteric Nervous System.
“People are taught from childhood to believe that the brain is essentially the boss of the body. While it is true that the brain is the centerpiece of our mental capacity of our nervous system, it is also a fact that there are nearly one hundred million nerve cells in the gut alone [Your gut is your esophagus, your stomach, and your intestines] about the same number that are found in the spinal chord. Fully one half of your nerve cells are located in the gut, so your capacity for feeling and emotional expression depends primarily on the gut and only to a lesser extent on your brain.”
I cannot tell you what that did to me when I read it. “Wow, the gut has as many nerves as the brain.” A lot of your feelings are located in your gut. This was amazing to me.
“Most people would say that the brain determines whether you are happy or sad, but they have their facts skewed. It seems that the gut is more responsible than we ever imagined for mental well-being and how we ‘feel’. Award winning science writer Sandra Blakesley specializes in cognitive neuroscience. This is what Sandra wrote: ‘Have you ever wondered why people get butterflies in the stomach before going on stage? Or why an impending job interview can cause an attack of intestinal cramps? And why do antidepressants targeted for the brain cause nausea or abdominal upset in millions of people who take such drugs? The reason for these common experiences is because each of us literally has two brains, the familiar one encased in our skulls and a lesser known but vitally important one found in the human gut. Like Siamese twins, the two brains are interconnected. When one gets upset the other does too. The second brain in the gut is called the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system processes a complex neural circuitry, and this second brain in your gut can act independently from the first brain in your body. Literally, it learns from experiences, remembers past actions and events and produces an entire range of ‘gut feelings’ that can influence your actions. Early in our embryo geneses [meaning when we were early on in the womb] a collection of tissue called the neural crest appears and divides during fetal development. One part turns into the central nervous system; the other migrates to become the enteric nervous system. Both thinking machines form simultaneously and independently of one another until a later stage of development. Dr. Michael Gresham, professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York described the body’s second nervous system in his book The Second Brain. ‘The brain is not the only place in the body full of neurotransmitters. A hundred million neurotransmitters line the length of the gut, approximately the same number that is found in the brain. The brain and the bowel has got to work correctly or no one will have the luxury to think at all.’
‘We are still discovering ways that the enteric nervous system mirrors the central nervous system. Nearly every substance that helps run and control the brain has turned up in the gut. Major neurotransmitters associated with the brain including serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, noraepinephrine, and nitric oxide are found in plentiful amounts in the gut as well.”
Interestingly enough, we are going to find that if properly translated, the Bible is going to say that the modern research that is just being done in the last 20 years about the enteric nervous system is correct. By the way, why does this information about the enteric nervous system show up in a book about food and diet? The answer is, how many people do you know that are overweight or pudgy and they do not really feel good about themselves? The research is showing that the reason that people do not feel good about themselves if they are overweight is that you cannot fool the brain in your gut. It is trying to tell us to lose weight and get in shape. It produces feelings that, “I do not feel good about myself.” That was in The Maker’s Diet.
Once I realized that the Word of God had been telling me all along that my feelings and my thoughts were generated from more than just my brain, all of a sudden, what the Bible called the heart made sense. I had always known that the Greek word nous was the place in your mind where you think, as we read when Jesus Christ said, “Out of the heart comes all these thoughts.” The heart is not just a muscle. It is part of the enteric nervous system. Good independent research has been done that shows that the heart muscle even contains an independent memory. If we were to look in the Bible, we would see that it has been telling us this all along.
Psalm 26:2 (KJV)
Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.
The word “reins” is the Hebrew word for kidneys. In the Old Testament, it is saying just like Revelation 2:23, “Test my kidneys and my heart.”
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart [kidneys] instructs me.
The word “heart” in the Hebrew is kidneys. Your enteric nervous system, your second brain, is producing thoughts and emotions. How many of us at night have woken up with a good idea or had a dream that helped us, provided guidance, or insight into our lives? Look at this verse. This is the Word of God teaching us about ourselves. It says, “Even at night my kidneys instruct me.” Wow, a pretty powerful truth.
I am going to shift to the bowels. If you remember, the second brain also involves the neurons around the bowels.
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts [bowels] of the saints.
The Greek text reads “bowels” for the word “hearts”; you have refreshed my bowels. I do not understand how these neurons and everything work together, but I can tell you this. I have spent times with good friends where I will be down or stressed or up-tight or having a bad day, and a good friend will come and spend time with me and have a cup of coffee and talk, and then I feel so much better afterwards. It is not that you have a cognitive reason. You just feel better. That is what this verse is telling us. It is telling us that the whole second brain in the gut is producing thoughts and emotions and feelings. The Word tells us here that the “bowels are refreshed.”
I do not have time to go into the liver and belly verses. They are in the Word of God. That is why the Word of God has to be properly translated if we are going to derive truth from it. People sometimes say to me, “John, why are you [Spirit & Truth Fellowship International] working on a translation of the New Testament?” We are because these verses need to be translated properly if we are going to learn what God is telling us about Him and about us.
Why do I bring all this up in a teaching on the transformed life? I think that it is important when you and I go to become more like Christ, that we learn what is involved. We are not just a brain that is stacked on a bunch of muscles. God has just interwoven the emotion and the thinking and the life of God through our whole body. The brain does the thinking, yes, as when I memorize a scripture like, “thou shalt not steal,” and this is resident in my brain. If selfishness is in my heart, and by heart it can mean the inner core of the brain, but it means more than that—If selfishness is imbedded in the cellular memories of my body that exist in my heart muscle, my gut, and wherever else that they exist that we have not even found out about yet, I do not care if I memorize “thou shalt not steal” ten billion times and have it posted on every wall in my house, for I will end up stealing. Why? It is because what is in my heart will come out.
Thanks for reading.
(Comments have been turned off. The information is here to inform and bless you. God granted you the gift of free will – take it or leave it).