RENEWING OUR MINDS
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2
When someone accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, “he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17.That is why Apostle Paul advises us in Romans 12:2 (our key text) “do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” But it doesn’t end there.
Nature abhors vacuums so when something is taken away from a space and that space is not quickly refilled, other things will start creeping in to fill up the space. The Bible gives an illustration of what happens when a vacuum is created in the life of a believer: “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, `I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”- Matthew 12:43-45.
A believer’s Christian experience is supposed to move from the initial phase of justification by faith in Christ, to daily sanctification for holy living, to glorification at Jesus’ second coming, and to eventual restoration to the pre-Fall harmony between God and man. Knowing that the heart of a believer cannot be left empty after clearing it of the worldly things, Paul gives the prescription for daily sanctification with which to fill the vacuum: “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
WHAT KIND OF TRANSFORMATION?
Transformation is defined as “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance or a metamorphosis during the life cycle of an animal.” We find these kinds of transformation happening all the time around us. Examples include a baby that we see twenty years later as an adult, a cancer survivor who has regained lost weight, a new mother we saw last when she was eight months pregnant.
I have seen many actors and actresses in real life whose faces do not look as flawless at close range as they do on TV. I now know that the credit for their on-screen transformation often belongs to makeup. Similarly, a smelly room can be transformed with air freshener, people with the right clothing, and a gloomy room with the right colours and objects.
No doubt all of these examples of transformation look good, but they are all external and non-lasting forms of transformation. They are definitely not the kind of transformation Paul has in mind as capable of filling the vacuum left by non-conformity with the world’s pattern. He says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The right kind of transformation that he’s talking about here is not the one that comes from make-up slathered on, or having a particular dress on, or the right colors thrown here and there. It is the kind that comes “by the renewing of the mind.” What then is the state of the human mind that it needs to be thus renewed?
RENEWING THE MIND
The Bible is clear on what the mind of every man born into this sinful world is like. The psalmist describes it well: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”-Psalm 51:5. Such a mind acquires the sinful thoughts and feelings of the world into which it is born and also ends up being nothing but a sinful mind, which as stated clearly, “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”– Romans 8:7.
By default, every one of us is wired to follow the world’s pattern, and none of us can on the basis of good intentions alone to have a godly mind and succeed on our own. Paul had earlier cried out his frustration: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” – Rom. 7:18-24.
Paul finds an answer in the same passage when he says “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord” – Romans 7:25. Through our union with Christ, we become transformed by “the renewing of the mind” – Romans 12:2b.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO RENEW THE MIND
Paul’s counsel is clear, “do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, for “those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”-Romans 8:5. Therefore, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”Some Biblical guidelines that are of immense benefit to those eager to guard the avenues of their minds and constantly renew are:
- GUARD YOUR EYES: “I will set before my eyes no vile thing…. I will have nothing to do with evil… My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me.” – Psalm 101:3, 6.
- PROTECT YOUR EARS: “Whoever slanders his neighbour in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure…. No-one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no-one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.” – Psalm 101:5, 7.
- WATCH YOUR MOUTH: “I will sing of your love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will sing praise.” Psalm 101:1. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. Exodus 20:16.
- NURTURE YOUR HEART: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” – Psalm 119:11. “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” – Joshua 1:8
We need to be patient though because transformation into Godlikeness is a long process, and not a one-time act. It will come gradually and visibly as our mind is being renewed daily. It won’t be hidden, for when our minds start getting renewed, it will reflect in our speech and actions. People will see and note the change. They will see a drift away from the pattern of the world that we used to be in conformity with, and realize that a metamorphosis is taking place.
In conclusion, Paul says: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”– Philippians 4:8.
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