September 26, 2013

A renewed mind . . . ?

Caught up in stinkin’ thinkin’? I prayed this morning about a thought pattern that is troubling me. I want it changed so my entire mind honors God rather than takes side trips down rabbit trails. After I prayed, I read this verse from today’s devotional reading!
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

I know that conformation to the world means thinking, talking and acting as if I did not know or belong to Jesus Christ. Even with His saving power, being transformed is a challenge. Had I been saved as a child, would it be as difficult as it is? Would I have better habits had I been raised in a Christian home? I don’t know. I do know that all are sinners and all struggle with something.

Verse 1 of Romans 12 tells me to offer myself to God as a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable. Holy has a lot to do with wholly, the whole person, all of me.

I first thought my actions might be the easier challenge, but if I listed them, how many would conform to actions that characterize those who are not Christians?

Words are just as difficult. As James says, bridling the tongue is a mark of the mature. For this, the power of God is my only source and recourse. He has been working to teach me when to shut up or speak up at His command, and to be transparent and truthful in all I say. The goal is to edify and encourage others. This also means a transformation.

The way I think seems to be the greatest challenge of all. My imagination is creative and my thoughts are easily distracted. The mind is also the realm of Satan. He knows if he can get me thinking wrong, then my words and actions are also his. Instead, I want to have a sanctified and holy imagination and thought life. Obviously God wants that also. He says my mind needs to be renewed and transformed, and I agree.

The first part of this command is non-conformity to the way the world thinks. The Bible says that apart from Christ, all are wholly perverted and do not seek God. I already realize that seeking all other interests pulls me away from Him. This list includes riches, glory, beauty of person, luxury, or of whatever else that might seem great. However, the stuff of this world is but a show and a mask without abiding substance. We use them to make ourselves appear better or more important, and think they will make us happy and comfortable, but all self-indulgences do not satisfy, nor do they last.

God says do not conform to this. Instead, think differently. Be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Virtue and the things of God may or may not have an outward appearance, but they do have a real form, a timeless beauty rather than the false and fleeting appeal of temporary things that soon vanish.

Today’s devotional writer says, “Throw the appearance aside, and you will speedily come to the form. For nothing is more strengthless than vice, nothing so easily wears old.”

I know that godless thoughts are like that. They can stay in the mind and come to nothing, or work their way into action and produce great sorrow and trouble. Either way, the fruit is rotten. How much better to have the mind of Christ transform all my worldliness into a life that God can use.

The biggest problem of aiming for a sanctified mind is that sins of the mind are much more pervasive than any other kind. If I control my actions and my mouth, my thoughts can still be bombarded with temptation and sinful ideas, every day and even in my sleep. This tells me that my mind needs renewal every day, even all day long and all night.

This transformation is something like the repair and maintenance of a home. As the building wears old, it needs renewal or it will fall apart, only the mind cannot be fixed with a mere paint job. My mind needs a renovation that acknowledges its condition and deterioration (repentance). It needs a trip to the Great Physician for new supplies, new ways to think. I also need the power and filling of the Holy Spirit so I have the self-control necessary to keep my mind stayed on course, discarding the old and retaining those new ways until they become part of who I am.

And I cannot ever think that I have arrived (pride goes before a fall) but persistently continue doing this until that day when the battle is over and I am with Jesus.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2–3)

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