NOTE:This Discipleship Model is a special 7-part series showing a clear path to spiritual victory. One step will be posted each day for a calendar week. After completion of this series Abundant Life Now will “resume regular programming.”
Attitudes have a lot to do with what life is all about. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:5). But how do you transform your attitude? First you must understand what an attitude is.
In simple terms your attitude is a habitual pattern of thinking. For example, when you hear words or phrases you have automatic thoughts. What are your automatic responses when you hear the following: taxes, Congress, Post Office, God, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Chevrolet, love, mother, the IRS? Your thought response is a large part of your attitude toward each of those words.
Your attitude is formed by repeatedly thinking the same way about something. Those words in the list to which you had no strong responses are ones for which you have not formed strong opinions (attitudes).
Attitudes are insidious. We think a particular way once. The next time it easy to think the way we did the last time on a particular issue. That is why it is critical to constantly test the correctness of our thinking.
To change your attitude you must change your pattern of thought with regard to the particular issue. There are a number of ways you can do this. One is with an affirmation (affirmative statement), or what I like to call the use of replacement.
Replacement ~Imagine a glass which is half-full of milk and is glued to a surface. Your task is to fill the glass with pure water. One way of accomplishing that is to pour a pitcher of pure water into the glass. As the glass fills it becomes half water and half milk. As you continue to pour, the water replaces more and more of the milk until eventually the glass contents are as pure as the water in the pitcher. You have replaced the milk with water. It was a conscious effort on your part! It took some work—but it worked! The same principle works in our thought lives.
Suppose you have a negative attitude toward the Post Office. But then you read the following newspaper story about a young boy who wrote to God. Since the local post office didn't know quite what to do with the letter addressed to the Almighty, they decided to open it.
“Dear God, My name is Jimmie, I am eight years old. I don't got no parents, and my sister is real sick. I need $500 real bad!” The guys in the post office were moved, and they took up a collection. They sent Jimmie $300 in cash. Later there was a second letter in the dead-letter file from Jimmie: “Dear God, The Post Office ripped off $200 of your dollars!”
Would your attitude toward the Post Office change a little?
Habituation~A traumatic event may change an attitude almost instantly, however most of the time are attitudes are formed by habituation. An example of habituation is the gradual dulling of our sense of outrage resulting in a slow acceptance of society's degenerating moral standards. A common example is those who were once shocked at reports of marital infidelity, divorce, and premarital sex who now regard these practices as inevitable, especially among young people.
The route to effective discipleship is to “be made new in the attitude of your minds” (Ephesians 4:23).
Our Pattern~“Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2, emphasis added). “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:5, emphasis added). “We [disciples] take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (Corinthians 10:5b, emphasis added).
Step 1:Paradox~Understand your partnership with God.
Step 2:Thinking~Choose to control your thoughts!
Step 3:Attitude~Increasingly rely on properly cultivated attitudes.
The next step will focus on your reasons for your actions.