Do we need an attitude adjustment?


What mindset bends our habits of thought?

Belief and behavior influence a person’s being. Often neglected, building the interiority of one’s inner life is imperative. Character development is important within all educational opportunities. Attitudes are impacted over time, within community, by means of truth, through story. Ethical standards which transform are considered imperative worldwide. Since character and virtue are invisible, immaterial qualities, it seems the emphasis in Christian education settings should be developing that which is unseen.

Biblical Theology of Attitudes

The role of The Spirit in connecting truth with how people live is dependent upon their internal focus. The change agent is not up to the person, but The Spirit; transformation is impossible by oneself (Eph. 2:1-9). The Holy Spirit initiates the ongoing sanctification process through His indwelling creates the possibility for change in the Christian (Rom. 8:5-9). The interior life of the learner is built with the help of The Spirit, under authority of The Word of God, walking in God’s way (Gal. 5:13-6:5). Faulty desires are restrained and redirected through control of God’s law—literally “teaching”—which directs wise choices for living (Ps. 119:97; Pro. 3:1; 13:14).

Jesus changes Christians (1 Co. 1:30) through the work of the Holy Spirit at regeneration (Ti. 3:5). Sanctification begins at one’s conversion, the process is life long (2 Co 3:18), and is completed “at His coming” (1 Co. 15:23; Ph. 3:21). Sanctification is progressive: a continuous, ongoing development of being conformed to the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8:29). God is at work in the lives of believers (Ph. 2:13) to wholly sanctify them (1 The. 5:23). He equips (Heb. 13:20-21) through The Spirit who indwells saved people (2 The. 2:13; 1 Pe. 1:2) who are said to “walk in The Spirit” (Gal 5:16-18). The internal development of conformity to Christ looks forward (Ph. 3:13-14) but presently affects thinking (Col. 1:10), emotions (1 Jn. 2:15), will (Ph. 2:12), body (2 Co. 7:1) and spirit (1 Co. 7:34).

But believers will not continue to struggle against sin (1 Jn. 3:6, 9). Believers are to yield (Rom. 6:13), present (Rom. 12:1), strive (Heb. 12:14), purify (1 Jn 3:3), and make every effort (2 Pe. 1:5) to work out the sanctification process before God. Self-disciplined effort on the part of believers (Gal. 5:23; Ti. 1:8) is “keeping in step with The Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). Motivation for pursuing righteousness comes from love for God (Jn. 14:15, 21), fear of God (1 Pe. 1:17; 2:17), clear conscience (1 Tim. 1:5, 19), and increased effectiveness in the use of God-given gifts (2 Tim. 2:20-21).

Biblical Philosophy of Attitudes

Habits born of walking with The Spirit are developed, directed toward a Christian way life properly lived. Virtue is the proper ordering of one’s life after God ordained ends. Virtue is the development of these good habits. Virtue is creating a disposition toward the good. To do good is first to think and be good. Since Christians are new creations in Christ (2 Co. 5:17) good works should result (Gal. 6:9-10; Eph. 2:10) based on virtuous characteristics (2 Pe. 1:3-11).

Character intention and motivation are internally controlled by the governor of a life habitually connected to deliberation over what is good. A sanctified “conscience,” then, is the brake or gas pedal properly applied in loving God by loving others (Acts 23:1; 24:16; 2 Co. 1:12; 4:2; 1 Pe. 3:16, 21). In every case cited, one’s internal character is directly tied to one’s external commendation before other people. A person’s attitude is changed—at times, through adverse circumstances (Rom. 5:4). Preparation of mind coupled with self-control knowing one’s eternal destiny should cause a person to live a life of obedience (1 Pe. 1:13-14; 4:1-2).

Motivations and intentions can be self-centered (Pro. 16:2; Heb. 4:12-13; Jas. 4:1-3).  The thoughts of one’s inner life will be measured by God and seen in life (Num. 32:23; 1 Chr. 28:9; Ps. 44:21). The thoughts and intents of a God-shaped attitude would include a heart tested with integrity, willingness, honest intent, joy, loyalty, and wholehearted devotion (1 Chr. 29:14-19). The habits of one’s heart come from attitudes producing actions, proved by deeds (Acts 26:20; Jas 1:22-25; 2:14-26; Ti. 3:1, 9, 14).

Christian Practice of Attitudes

A Christian life changed through salvation in Christ, a renewed spirit by His Spirit, and attitudes formed through virtuous habits is intentional. Memorization of Scripture creates joy (Ps. 119:103; Jer. 15:13). Reading the histories and biographies of Christian leaders moves the reader to action (1 Chron 12). Internalization occurs in the study before the teacher teaches in the classroom (Eze. 2:9-3:3). The Christian teacher must teach as if the Christian viewpoint has already changed them (2 Co. 3:2). The source of goodness focuses attention on God whose Spirit is transplanted within us (2 Tim 1.14). A person becomes that which they love—an affective directive (2 Tim 4:10; 1 Jn 2:15).

Human beings are resistant to order. If there is a resistance to internal control, external controls will be necessary. All would like to have their own way, go their own way, and be their own person. Because people are resistant to order and just laws which proceed from it, they look for distractions and fulfill selfish vices. Children are incapable of developing good attitudes by themselves. There is a need for discipline of mind and appetite. To build virtuous attitudes, virtuous habits must be created through the virtue of manners. Virtue is the ordering of the person toward what is good in life based on God’s goodness. If pleasure is the end, goal, or focal point the individual is robbed of a complete life. Right attitudes are helped by the Christian community. Christian teaching helps attitude change by instilling virtuous stories.

Ultimately, Christian attitudes show love for God as Christians love people.

Other Helps

Glen G. Scorgie, et al, Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2011).

Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2001).

“Attitudes” © is one of 17 articles included in The Encyclopedia of Christian Education, Rowman & Littlefield, April, 2015 by Dr. Mark Eckel, Professor of Leadership, Education & Discipleship at Capital Seminary & Graduate School. 

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One comment

  1. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:21). I just finished an assignment for Psychology regarding “Motives”. Jesus teaches that evil things come from within, from the heart (Mk. 7:21). Any sin that manifested in outward action is merely a symptom of a heart issue. A man first covets before he decides to steal. Coveting is in the heart. Stealing is the outward action.

    The heart is deceitful and desperately sick (Jer. 17:9). In Ezekiel, we see God promise to replace people’s hearts of stone with hearts of flesh (Ezek. 36:26). And God does just that through the Holy Spirit. God always fulfills His promises. Always. And because we love Christ, our motives change. Our behavior changes, for we no longer seek the pleasures of this world but the honor and glory of God, to dwell in His temple forever (Ps. 23:6) and bask in His holiness.

    Unfortunately for us, our sinful flesh needs crucified on a daily basis. At the center of every human heart is idolatry. Idols constantly compete for our love and affections. Truly it is our responsibility to work out our progressive sanctification before God, just as you have said. And our good, holy, and loving God has given to us the Helper, the very Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit helps us. He prays with us and for us.

    Thank you for this article on behavior and motives, Dr. Eckel. What we believe directly affects how we act. For where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.

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