Improvement of the Mind

By J. L. Leifeste

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” — Col. 3:2

Muscles, other tissues, and even the brain grow stronger as they are used correctly. They grow weaker when not used. Different types of work or play strengthen various parts of the body. However, our beliefs, attitudes, and dispositions affect every part of our life. Therefore, we should mentally exercise in moral and optimistic values to strengthen our mind.

In Col. 3:2, the phrase “set your mind on things above” is translated from Greek, which contains the idea of exercising the mind. It means mentally pointing oneself toward, and intensely interesting oneself in, godly things. It involves concern, obedience, decent reflection, and moral attention, not mere opinions. We can find the correct method for this improvement of the mind in the surrounding scriptures and other related scriptures in the New Testament.


Prior to any exercise, we should know our present condition. This gives us a starting point and helps us plan for improvement. Colossians 2:8-13 tells us to be careful and not follow the ways of men or the ways of the world. It reminds us that Christ is the authority (Isa. 9:6-7; Matt. 8:27; 28:18; Eph. 1:19-23; Col. 1:18-19; 1 Pet. 3:22). The New Testament teaches that our salvation depends on believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Mk. 16:15-16; Jn. 3:16; 8:24; 20:31), repenting of our sins (Lk. 13:3; 24:46-47; Acts 2:38; 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:9), confessing our belief before others (Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:10; Phil. 2:11; Acts 8:37), and being baptized (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 16:32-33; 22:16; Gal. 3:27; 1 Pet. 3:20-21). Verse 12 shows that being “buried with Him” in baptism is part of becoming a Christian: “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Coming up out of the water of baptism, we are “raised with Him,” which is a spiritual parallel to Christ’s resurrection from death. At baptism, we receive spiritual life as a free gift from God. See Rom. 6:3-6, 23.

So we must first make sure that we are Christians as taught in the New Testament. Yet, after becoming Christians, we should not allow that spiritual life to grow weak. We must exercise for spiritual growth.


Colossians 3:1-4 presents our main goal: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. (2) Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (3) For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (4) When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

The Christian sets his or her mind upon godly things because spiritual life rests with Christ in God (Eph. 1:3; 2:4-7). Christians should consider themselves dead to the worldly ways of sin (Rom. 6:2-5; 2 Cor. 5:17). Having spiritual life in Christ, we will appear with Him in glory when He returns (1 Jn. 3:2). This is the aim of which we must constantly remind ourselves. It is the most important goal of a person’s life. Its reward surpasses imagining. Achieving it, through the grace of God, is well worth our every effort (see Phil. 3:12-14; Eph. 3:20-21).


In exercising the mind, we must rid ourselves of some things. Many people of the world may give little thought to committing sins. They may think of some sins as simple actions that affect nothing. But Colossians 3:5-7 lists some of the evils that we must avoid: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (6) Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, (7) in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.”

Verse 5 mentions sexual activities between people who are not married, evil desires, and coveting — desiring things owned by others. Verse 6 then warns that God’s wrath will come to those who do these things (see Prov. 11:19; Rom. 1:18; 2:8; 6:23). Verse 7 reminds the readers that they once lived these ways before becoming Christians. Every Christian needs to remember that he or she has changed. Verses 8-9 resume by listing things Christians must avoid: “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. (9) Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds.”

By becoming a Christian, we put off the “old man” of sin (Eph. 4:22-24). Therefore, we now avoid ungodly thoughts and actions. Also see Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 5:19-21. When a Christian sets his or her mind upon the “things above,” it is easier to resist temptation and elude sins. However, exercising the mind also includes adding certain favorable attributes to our lives.


Colossians 3:10 reminds us that, as Christians, we have put on newness or “the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” To have that knowledge, we must study the New Testament, where we continue to find and understand all Christian traits. We then add each trait to our own character. For example, see Rom. 5:3-4; 6:10-13; Gal. 5:24-6:10; Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:11-12; and 2 Pet. 1:5-7.

Verse 11 emphasizes the equality of all Christians: “where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” See also Gal. 3:26-29. God wants all people to hear and obey the gospel of Jesus (Mk. 16:15-16; Rom. 3:21-23; 10:8-13). Separations between Christians, which would exist in the eyes of worldly people, do not exist in Christ. All of us have sinned (Rom. 3:21-26), and all of us depend on Christ for our spiritual life. So, there is true equality among all Christians. This concept of equality should help motivate us to set our mind upon the things above.

Verses 12-16 list many of the qualities we should add to improve ourselves: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (13) bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (14) But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. (15) And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. (16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

The terms “elect, holy, and beloved” show how special a Christian is to God. The verse then lists the Christian qualities of compassion, humility (mental modesty), gentleness, and longsuffering (patient endurance). Verse 13 adds our responsibility of endurance and forgiveness, especially toward other Christians. See also Gal. 5:22-23.

Verses 14-15 begin a conclusion of mental improvement. We must include godly love, the uniting link of being spiritually complete. The peace of God (Rom. 5:1, 8:6; Phil 4:7) must govern our hearts because He “called” (invited) us to obey the gospel of Christ and become part of the one body, the church of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4; Rom. 16:16). Having become Christians, our response should be continuous thankfulness to God. Verse 16 urges us to let the word of Christ richly live in us so that we may wisely teach and admonish each other through songs. This is part of godly love. See Eph. 5:19-20.

Finally, in verse 17, we are given the summary of mental improvement. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” We must allow the authority of Christ to discipline our words and actions, with all credit and thanks pointing to God the Father through Christ. Therefore, prayer is also a vital part of improving of the mind (Rom 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:17).

Colossians 3:1-17 gives us a wonderful plan and abundant help for improving the Christian’s mind. However, an essential part of improvement lies in our applying these principles. Each exercise requires practice. Just as we can strengthen our physical bodies, we must continue and practice the Christian characteristics of these and other scriptures to remain mentally strong and continue to improve (Rom. 12:9).

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).