Be Transformed in Mind and Enlightened in Heart
“This, therefore, I say and bear witness to in the Lord, that you no longer go on walking just as the nations also walk.”—EPHESIANS 4:17.
1. What do our minds and hearts do for us?
THE mind and the heart are two of the most wonderful faculties possessed by humans. Though their operations are innumerable, they themselves are unique to each individual. Our personality, speech, conduct, emotions, and values are all deeply affected by the way in which our minds and hearts operate.
2, 3. (a) How does the Bible use the terms “heart” and “mind”? (b) Why must we be concerned about both the heart and the mind?
2 In the Bible, “heart” generally refers to motivation, emotions, and inner feelings, and “mind” to intellect and thinking faculties. Yet, they are not mutually exclusive. For example, Moses urged the Israelites: “You must call back to your heart [footnote, “must recall to your mind”] that Jehovah is the true God.” (Deuteronomy 4:39) To the scribes who were scheming against him, Jesus said: “Why are you thinking wicked things in your hearts?”—Matthew 9:4; Mark 2:6, 7.
3 This indicates that the mind and the heart are closely related. They interact with each other, sometimes reinforcing each other to work as a unified team, yet often battling each other in a struggle for dominance. (Matthew 22:37; compare Romans 7:23.) On this account, to gain Jehovah’s favor, not only must we be sure of the condition of our minds and hearts but we must also train them to work together harmoniously, to pull in the same direction. We must be transformed in mind and enlightened in heart.—Psalm 119:34; Proverbs 3:1.
‘The Way the Nations Walk’
4. How has Satan influenced people’s minds and hearts, and what is the outcome?
4 Satan is a master of deception and manipulation. He knows that to gain control of people, he must target their minds and hearts. Right from the beginning of human history, he has been using devices of one sort or another to achieve that end. As a result, “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) In fact, Satan has so successfully influenced the hearts and minds of the people of the world that the Bible describes them as “a crooked and twisted generation.” (Philippians 2:15) The apostle Paul vividly describes the condition of heart and mind of that crooked and twisted generation, and his words serve as a warning to all of us today. For example, please read Ephesians 4:17-19, and compare it with Paul’s words at Romans 1:21-24.
5. Why did Paul write strong counsel to the Ephesians?
5 We can appreciate why Paul wrote such strong words to the Christians in Ephesus when we remember that the city was notorious for its moral decadence and pagan idol worship. Though the Greeks had their famous thinkers and philosophers, it seems that Greek education gave many of the people greater capacity for evil, and their culture only made them more refined in their vices. Paul was deeply concerned about his fellow Christians living in such an environment. He knew that many of them were formerly people of the nations and had “walked according to the system of things of this world.” But now they had accepted the truth. Their minds had been transformed, and their hearts had been enlightened. Above all else, Paul wanted them to “walk worthily of the calling.”—Ephesians 2:2; 4:1.
6. Why should we be interested in Paul’s words?
6 The situation is similar today. We also live in a world of twisted values, bankrupt morals, and false religious practices. Many among us once lived according to the system of things of this world. Others of us have to rub shoulders with worldlings day in and day out. Some live in households where the worldly spirit prevails. It is, therefore, imperative that we understand the meaning of Paul’s words and benefit from his counsel.
Unprofitable and Darkened Minds
7. What did Paul mean by the expression “the unprofitableness of their minds”?
7 To give strong support for his exhortation that Christians “no longer go on walking just as the nations also walk,” Paul first mentioned “the unprofitableness of their minds.” (Ephesians 4:17) What does that mean? The word translated “unprofitableness,” according to The Anchor Bible, “implies emptiness, idleness, vanity, foolishness, purposelessness, and frustration.” Thus, Paul was pointing out that the fame and glory of the Greek and Roman world might have appeared impressive but pursuing them was really empty, foolish, and purposeless. Those who set their hearts on fame and glory would end up with nothing but frustration and disappointment. The same principle is true of the world today.
8. In what ways are the world’s endeavors unprofitable?
8 The world has its intellectuals and its elite to whom people look for answers to such profound questions as the origin and purpose of life and the destiny of mankind. But what insight and guidance do they have to offer? Atheism, agnosticism, evolution, and a host of other confusing and conflicting ideas and theories that are no more enlightening than the rituals and superstitions of the past. Many worldly pursuits also seem to offer a measure of satisfaction and fulfillment. People speak of success and achievement in science, art, music, sports, politics, and so on. They revel in their fleeting moments of glory. Nonetheless, the annals of history and the record books of today are full of forgotten heroes. All of this is nothing but emptiness, idleness, vanity, foolishness, purposelessness, and frustration.
9. What unprofitable pursuits do many turn to?
9 Recognizing the unprofitableness of such endeavors, many turn to materialistic pursuits—amassing money and getting the things money can buy—and make these pursuits their goal in life. They are convinced that happiness comes from wealth, possessions, and pleasure seeking. Not only do they put their minds to it but they are willing to sacrifice everything—health, family, even conscience. What is the result? Instead of being fulfilled, they have “stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:10) It is no wonder that Paul urged his fellow Christians to stop walking as the nations do on account of the unprofitableness of that line of thinking.
10. How are people of the world “in darkness mentally”?
10 To show that the world has nothing worthy of being envied or imitated, Paul next said that “they are in darkness mentally.” (Ephesians 4:18) Of course, the world does have intelligent and knowledgeable people in nearly every field of endeavor. Yet, Paul said that they are in darkness mentally. Why? His remarks are not about their mental expertise or abilities. The term “mind” can also refer to the center of human perception, the seat of understanding, the inner man. They are in darkness because they have no guiding light or sense of direction in their endeavors. This can be seen in their befuddled sense of right and wrong. People may think that today’s nonjudgmental, anything-goes mentality is enlightened, but it is really a darkened mentality, according to Paul. Spiritually, they are groping about in total darkness.—Job 12:25; 17:12; Isaiah 5:20; 59:6-10; 60:2; compare Ephesians 1:17, 18.
11. What is the cause of the mental darkness in the world?
11 Why is it that people can be intelligent, even brilliant, in so many things and yet be in spiritual darkness? At 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul gave us the answer: “The god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.” What a precious blessing it is that those who embrace the glorious good news have become transformed in mind and enlightened in heart!
Ignorant and Insensitive Hearts
12. In what way is the world “alienated from the life that belongs to God”?
12 To help us further see why we must be transformed in mind and enlightened in heart, Paul directed our attention to the fact that the way of the world is “alienated from the life that belongs to God.” (Ephesians 4:18) Not that people no longer believe in God or that they have become completely godless. One newspaper columnist put it this way: “Instead of godless, let’s invent a new word: less-God. Less-God people want credit for believing in the Deity while they simultaneously keep Him in a box, letting Him out only on Sunday morning and never allowing Him to impact their political world view or their personal lives between Sundays. [They] more or less believe in God but don’t think He has much to say about modern society.” Paul put it this way in his letter to the Romans: “Although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God nor did they thank him.” (Romans 1:21) Every day we see people who go through life with no thought of God whatsoever. Certainly, they give no honor or thanks to him.
13. What is “the life that belongs to God”?
13 The expression “the life that belongs to God” is a significant one. It further demonstrates how mental and spiritual darkness confound the people’s sense of values. The Greek word translated “life” here is not biʹos (from which come words like “biology,” “biography”), which means way of life, or life-style. Rather, it is zo·eʹ (from which come words like “zoo,” “zoology”). It means “life as a principle, life in the absolute sense, life as God has it. . . . From this life man has become alienated in consequence of the Fall,” according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Thus, Paul was telling us that mental and spiritual darkness has not only led the people of the world to corruption in the flesh but also separated them from the hope of everlasting life that God holds out. (Galatians 6:8) Why so? Paul went on to tell us the reasons.
14. What is one reason why the world is alienated from the life that belongs to God?
14 First of all, he said that it is “because of the ignorance that is in them.” (Ephesians 4:18) The phrase “that is in them” emphasizes that the ignorance is due not to lack of opportunity but to deliberate rejection of knowledge of God. Other renderings of this phrase are: “their inherent refusal to know God” (The Anchor Bible); “without knowledge because they have shut their hearts to it” (Jerusalem Bible). Because they reject, or willfully spurn, accurate knowledge of God, they have no basis for gaining the kind of life that Jehovah holds out for those who exercise faith in his Son, who said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3; 1 Timothy 6:19.
15. What contributes to this world’s alienation from the life that belongs to God?
15 Another reason that the world in general is alienated from the life that belongs to God, according to Paul, is “the insensibility of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:18) “Insensibility” here basically means a hardening, as if covered by calluses. All of us know how calluses develop. The skin may at first be soft and sensitive, but if it is repeatedly exposed to a certain pressure or friction, it hardens and thickens, forming a callus. It no longer feels the irritation. Likewise, people are not born with a hardened or callous heart so that they are automatically unfeeling toward God. But because we live in the world and are exposed to its spirit, it does not take long for the heart to become callous or hardened if it is not safeguarded. That is why Paul warned: “Beware . . . for fear any one of you should become hardened by the deceptive power of sin.” (Hebrews 3:7-13; Psalm 95:8-10) How urgent it is, therefore, that we remain transformed in mind and enlightened in heart!
“Past All Moral Sense”
16. What is the consequence of the world’s mental darkness and alienation from the life that belongs to God?
16 The consequence of such darkness and alienation is summed up by Paul’s further words: “Having come to be past all moral sense, they gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.” (Ephesians 4:19) The expression “having come to be past all moral sense” literally means “having ceased to feel pain,” moral pain. That is how a callous heart comes to be. Once it ceases to feel pangs of conscience and a sense of accountability before God, there is no longer any restraint. Thus, Paul said that “they gave themselves over” to loose conduct and uncleanness. It is a deliberate, willful step. “Loose conduct,” as used in the Bible, denotes a brazen, shameless attitude, contemptuous of law and authority. Likewise, “uncleanness of every sort” includes not only sexual perversions but also the depraved things done in the name of religion, such as the fertility rites and rituals performed at the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, with which Paul’s readers were well acquainted.—Acts 19:27, 35.
17. Why did Paul say that people who are past all moral sense sin “with greediness”?
17 As if unrestrained indulgence in loose conduct and uncleanness of every sort were not bad enough, Paul adds that such persons act “with greediness.” When people who still possess a measure of moral sense commit a sin, they may at least feel remorseful and try hard not to repeat it. But those who have “come to be past all moral sense” sin “with greediness” (“and still ask for more,” The Anchor Bible). A radio commentator once put it this way: “If you paint the town red tonight, you have to have a bigger bucket and a bigger brush for tomorrow night.” They eagerly enter a vicious downward spiral until they sink to the very depths of depravity—and think nothing of it. What an accurate depiction of “the will of the nations”!—1 Peter 4:3, 4.
18. To summarize, what kind of picture did Paul present of the world’s mental and spiritual state?
18 In just three verses, Ephesians 4:17-19, Paul thus uncovers the true moral and spiritual state of the world. He points out that the ideas and theories advanced by worldly thinkers and the relentless pursuit of wealth and pleasure are completely unprofitable. He makes clear that because of mental and spiritual darkness, the world is in a moral quagmire, sinking ever lower. Finally, because of self-imposed ignorance and insensibility, the world has become hopelessly alienated from the life that belongs to God. Surely, we have good reasons not to go on walking just as the nations also walk!
19. What essential questions must yet be considered?
19 Since it is darkness in the mind and heart that causes the world to become alienated from Jehovah God, how can we do away with all darkness from our minds and hearts? Yes, what should we do so that we can go on walking as children of light and retain God’s favor? This will be considered in the next article.
Can You Explain?
□ What prompted Paul’s strong counsel at Ephesians 4:17-19?
□ Why are the world’s ways unprofitable and in darkness?
□ What is meant by the expression “alienated from the life that belongs to God”?
□ What are the consequences of a darkened mind and an insensitive heart?
[Pictures on page 9]
Ephesus was notorious for its moral decadence and idol worship
1. Roman gladiator at Ephesus
2. Ruins of the temple of Artemis
3. Theater at Ephesus
4. Ephesian Artemis, fertility goddess
[Picture on page 10]
What insight do the elite of the world have to offer?
Musei Capitolini, Roma