When a friend first said it, I was skeptical, but now am convinced --- “Sometimes you have to act right before you can think right.”
I’ve struggled with thinking right, particularly with keeping idolatrous thoughts out of my head. (Idolatry = trusting anything other than God.) So far, all efforts to change that have been mostly cerebral. However, God shows me that a change in the order of things may be the answer. In this study called “No other gods” today’s emphasis is on replacing attention on thinking right with deliberate action of putting my attention on others. Notice the steps in these two verses . . .
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1–2)
These verses say to first present my body in worship (which boils down to honoring God with obedience) and then be transformed by a renewal of the mind. This is not to say that the mind and body are separate entities, but that the way I act will affect the way I think. If my life becomes so engrossed in trying to change me, then I will not be changed. God works transformation when I consider others and make their needs more significant than my own.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. . . . so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-4, 10–11)
There is a progression here too. The Lord Jesus Christ is honored when His people are humbly caring for one another. We are supposed to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10) which echoes the Old Testament commandment . . .
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
A good place to focus on honoring one another is in how I speak to them and about them. I have a friend who somehow manages to say good things about people, no matter what they are doing. He elevates rather than puts them down. This makes others feel their value in the sight of God. His actions have an effect on my attitude too. God nudges me to ‘tear a page out of his book’ and be more like that in the way I talk to others.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:10–12)
It isn’t that I have been pointedly mean or unkind. I’m just too silent. This example shows the importance of greater effort to verbally honor others. From the above verses, honoring others will honor Christ. It will also have an impact on the need in my heart to think right and topple those persistent idols that I’ve not been able to get rid of any other way.