RENEWING THE MIND
By Larry White
(Originally delivered in Eagle Point, OR. July 14, 1985)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your rational service. And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may discern the will of God, the good and acceptable and perfect.
When we first become Christians there is a great desire in our hearts to become all that God wants us to be. We have tasted of the Lord, that he is gracious, and we have come to know the great love that God has toward us and we rejoice in his abundant mercy.
According to that loving mercy we respond in gratitude, and the one goal we have for our lives is to give ourselves to him, to his service; to walk with him and to come to know him more intimately and know his will and do what is pleasing in his sight. We present our bodies as living sacrifices to God - coming near to him - offering our lives to him to accomplish his will.
The thing I believe every Christian sincerely wants to do is not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed. But somehow or other we get bogged down in our attempts at this and many of us experience a frustration in our lives where we try to do what is right but the tug of the world is so great and the influence of the world so permeates our daily walk that we do not really understand why we cannot be the Christian we want to be - that God intended for us to be. How can we be transformed?
Paul says that it takes the renewing of our mind.
I ) Defining terms
First of all, what does he mean by "mind"?
The Greek word is nouV (nous) It includes the faculties of perceiving, understanding, feeling, judging, and determining. It is the faculty of intellect and of reason. It is the organ of moral thinking and knowing.
The fact that we need our minds renewed suggests that our minds were old or corrupted. We used to conform to the world's mind, the mind of this age or eon (aion). The mind, the moral understanding of this age, is not sophisticated or enlightened like they say, But it is willingly ignorant of the truth.
The mind of this age is striving to know itself and its potential and work out its own destiny. Because of its medical and technological marvels, it lays great hope in what it can become - but through secular humanism, it measures itself by itself and so becomes vain and futile in its thinking and understanding. The mind of this age not only does not know God, but it rejects the very idea of there being a God as not worthy of consideration. Paul shows what this course leads to in:
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, without natural affection, without pity;
who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Reprobate mind in the KJV is the idea of a debased or depraved mind, a mind void of discernment, a rejected mind. When they refuse to appreciate God then they lose their sense of moral appreciation.
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
The mind of this age loses its ability to tell right from wrong, decent from indecent, truth from error, and wisdom from folly. The mind of this world is corrupt. We are not to be conformed to this age or world. We are to be transformed.
The word conform carries the idea of looking around you, this way and that, to learn how to act. That is how we all grew up - everybody acted that way so we did too.
The word transform is the Greek metamorfousqe (be metamorphosed). That is what a caterpillar does when it changes into a butterfly. It is not just the imitation of an attitude but the result of an inner principle of life. We put ourselves under a new power or influence and we are transformed from the inside out.
II ) Renewing of our minds
The way this happens is by the renewing of our minds. The way our minds are renewed is by our understanding and belief of the truth coupled with the spiritual life reborn in us.
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard him and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the lusts of the deceit
and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
"The deceit" is the course of this world taken in its essence in one word. I call it the Big Lie. It is the modus operandi of Satan and his rebellion. It is characterized by lust. That is the moral vehicle by which we are tempted and drawn away into the passions of the flesh.
The other course is of the spiritual realm and called "the truth". It is the reality of the spirit and the spiritual realm. It is characterized by righteousness and holiness. To have our minds renewed is to take into account both of these realms and purposefully remain in the truth. Assuming the identity of the new man and walking in the light.
Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
The image of he who created us is spirit and light, truth and holiness, love and righteousness. We have found the truth, and we believe it.
It is the truth:
- That we are a new spiritual man created by God. "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature." (2Cor.5:7)
- That we are alive from the dead. We were dead in trespasses and sins. (Eph.2)
- That we have now, eternal life. We have a new resurrected life in the spirit.
- We have come to know God - we know he exists. We know his character - his love, his mercy, his righteousness and power.
- And God knows us, we have a communion with him, a covenant with him. He watches over us, he knows us and uses us to carry out his will in the earth.
- We know the truth that God wants everyone to be saved through Jesus Christ and come to a knowledge of the truth.
- We know the truth of the spirit. That we are not just what we appear to be. But man was created in God's image. Man is an intelligent, divine-like being who does not know who he is and for the most part is in rebellion against the everlasting being who created him. What we are here for in this life is to search for God and find him, and know his will, and regain his image and be and live what he intended for us to be.
These truths are hidden from the man of the world who gives himself to the mind of this age. The reason is that man is carnal and is dominated by the flesh and cannot come to realize the life of the Spirit by his fleshly mind. Of course he could if he turned to the Lord.
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things about to come, but the substance is of Christ.
Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
But their minds were hardened. For until the present day the same veil remains unlifted on the reading of the Old Covenant, which veil is being taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, forth from glory unto glory, just as forth from the Lord the Spirit.
When we come to Christ we are set free from the dominion of the flesh and we are made alive spiritually.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit, the things of the spirit.
For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the spirit is life and peace. Because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.
The Christian is not in the flesh anymore, he is not dominated by a fleshly mind. But the Christian is in the spirit, he is dominated by the Spirit. He is led of the Spirit because the Spirit of God dwells in him. I think this is why it is called the renewing of the Holy Spirit.
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
These two things - 1. Our renewal of knowledge by our belief of the truth and, 2. The spiritual new birth we have in Christ, the renewal of life from the Spirit, is what can renew our minds and transform us into the creature God intended for us to be.
Here, again, are the two renewing factors. We cannot get by with one or the other, we have to have both.
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which he called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now that we have our renewed mind we can prove, i.e. appreciate or discern what the will of the Lord is - that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom.12:2) By means of our renewed mind the Christian can recognize in each circumstance in his everyday life, the will of God for him. We are raised in out thinking and our perception to God's viewpoint and from God's perspective we can look with new eyes on our circumstances.
But a natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But he who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is rightly discerned by no one.
For “Who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
Our minds are renewed into the image of Christ's mind as we know and believe the truth and walk in the Spirit. Therefore our eyes are opened to discern all things.
III ) The Problem
So why isn't every Christian like that? Why do we have problems?
Paul was talking to Christians in Romans 12. Be transformed! Have your mind renewed! There is something obviously lacking on our part when we do not have these things realized in our lives.
The thing that is lacking is the same thing that is always the root of our problems. A lack of faith. If we really believed the truth, then we would live it. We may think we believe it - but then why do we find ourselves trying to conform to the world and also be transformed into the image of Christ at the same time?
We have to love the truth more. It is an evil heart of unbelief that departs from the living God. We Christians need to give some serious consideration to what we believe and why the life of Christ has a hard time being manifested in our life. When we are not living the life we should live - a lack of obedience is not the problem. It is a lack of faith. When we really believe the truth, then our obedience and transformation will come along in due course. Disobedience is unbelief.
IV ) Applications
What about some application of this renewed mind - What happens?
First, you walk in the joy and peace of believing. Knowing God and knowing his will for our life in every circumstance is the best thing that ever happened to us. It is very exciting to know the truth. The knowledge of the riches of the promises we have received far out weighs the sad knowledge of the world's condition.
Second, When you go about your day and really live the truth, then you will immediately come into conflict with the minds of the world - your friends and neighbors. When this conflict happens, the mind of this age will first ridicule you and if that does not dampen your fire, then they will reject you and what you have to say.
The way we should respond is to do what we think is best according to the truth that we know. We do not make others obey us, but I am going to do what is right whether they do it or not.
That is the attitude of not being conformed to this age. We love others, we love their souls (because we know the truth) and as much as is in us we will live peaceably with all men - but we will not conform to their life and mind.
This type of practical application is what Paul also does in the remainder of Chapters 12 and 13 of Romans. [Review]
Paul is not laying down a law of statues here, but these are practical applications of the new life and the renewed mind that we have in Christ. These are exhortations and examples of how the transformed life will act and live.
Paul says the mind of the world is corrupt according to the lusts of the deceit. The world system and its mind is deceitful and is characterized by lust - the flesh and its gratification. Lust is a lie. The Spirit is the truth.
If you find yourself deceived by the mind of this age and want to come out of it, if you want to know the truth and the love of God, then the first step is to come to Christ and obey the gospel. (Faith in sacrificial death of Jesus for your sins, repentance and immersion for remission of sins) You can have a new life and a new mind. God can create a new heart within you, make you clean from all unrighteousness and day by day, open your eyes to a new understanding and cause you to grow into the image of Christ.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
In the world there is only corruption, blindness and decay - just like our outward man decays - but the inner man, the life of the spirit is renewed day by day. You can have that ever new, ever increasing life if you obey the gospel today.