I recall a conversation I had with a coworker at a new job. We had a lot of drive time together so I attempted to get to know him and his life better so I could introduce the Gospel into his life. He shared that he was not religious at all but had begun to ask questions about God. On the other hand, he said his girlfriend and her mom were very religious. He said that his girlfriend had a tattoo of Romans 12:2 “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Now found this to be very ironic considering what I already knew about his and her lifestyle, partying and sleeping together. I wanted to get to the point where I could have a Bible Study with him and even her at some point. Unfortunately, I was not given that opportunity as he quit that job the next week and did not respond to my communication very much after that. Obviously, the girlfriend had a serious disconnect with what the verse that she had tattooed on herself really meant. I would say that we too often have a real disconnect with what it means to have a renewed mind. Let’s see if I can shed a little light on this concept so that it is more than an empty platitude.
Over and over again we find this concept of a renewed or transformed mind in the Scriptures. This is an idea that relates to our sanctification process, that is the process that God uses to help our actions progressively come into conformity with our Holy position in Christ. Put another way, God accepts me “Just as I am” when He saves me, but He never leaves me “Just as I am,” as He is desirous that I grow in godly living. So where do we learn about a renewed mind? Let’s take a look at some of Paul’s letters and it will quickly become apparent that this is a repeated theme in his teaching.
For starters, lets observe some contrasts in mindsets. We already mentioned Romans 12:2. Here we are told that the believer should actively avoid the default position that the world is trying to press on us. We need to be transformed into something different by a completely different way of thinking. In Romans 8 we know that a mind set on things of the flesh is one that cannot be at peace with God because a mind of the flesh leads to death but a mind set on the Spirit leads to life and peace. This connects to Galatians 6:8 where Paul says he who sows to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption and he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. In Colossians 3:2 we read, “Set your mind on things above and not on things on this earth.” We can see over and over again that if we want to change our actions, we must first change what we think about. We have to train our minds to follow the truth and to not follow our flesh. How do we do that?
Let us look at what we can do to have a renewed mind that will result in renewed actions. First, I want to point out that all of us are born in sin and corruption and left to our own natures we will always have minds set on the flesh. It takes the Spirit of God breathing life into our dead souls for us to even be able to grasp the truth of God. In John 3 Jesus says, “unless one is born of the water and by the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” God has to first send His Spirit into our hearts and sprinkle our eyes with clean water before we can accept Him. That is when the sanctification process begins. Because, even though we are already a new creation because of our position in Christ, we still have the indwelling flesh within us. That is why Galatians says that the Spirit is at war with the flesh. So again, what can the believer do to have a new mindset that leads to godly actions?
This is the answer, Colossians 3:10 says we must be renewed in knowledge of our Savior and Creator. In order for us to imitate something or rather someone, we must know a lot about them. An actor who is to study a real-life character must study that person in every detail, learning their unique quirks and mannerisms so as to make the imitation believable. In a much greater way, if we want to imitate Christ, we must study Him to the highest degree possible. This is the job of every Christian. It is not just for pastors to learn what Christ is like but for all of us. So, what are some practical ways we can have a renewed mind? Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Literally the Word needs to live inside us. This is an idea that the Word wakes up inside us, and goes to sleep inside us, eats its meals inside us. We are the primary residence of the Word. We are not the vacation home or the weekend getaway spot where the Word visits us on Sunday then goes back to its regular home during the week. It should live in us continually. This means we read it daily, we memorize it, we pray it, we sing it. In addition, we teach it and are taught it by others in our local church. What do you think it means when the same verse says, “teaching and admonishing one another?” We are to learn the Word in the context of other believers.
Believer, are you struggling to live a life that is dominated by the Spirit and not the flesh? Why not start taking advantage of God’s common means of grace, God’s Word and God’s people? If you want a renewed mind, it is impossible to do this without the means that God has blessed us with. Just like my coworker and his girlfriend were clearly not possessing a renewed mind, so I fear many so called Christians have abandoned the regular means of God’s grace and wonder why they do not have victory over sin and the flesh.