November 1, 2014

Mind renewal vs. worldly thinking

Today begins a new two-month series using a devotional book by Selwyn Hughes called, “The Mind of the Christian.” I approach it still feeling wounded from the spiritual wars of the past two years in which my enemy continually hammered my thoughts. His goal was to distract me from God, spiritual disciplines like prayer, and from thinking and acting like a Christian. The Bible says that those who believe in Jesus have the mind of Christ, but for many months I felt as if I was losing it.

What a struggle! However, this booklet jumped off the shelf and said, “Study me,” so here goes. Day One points to the charge to think in new ways. Having a mind-change is actually part of worshiping God . . .  

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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 12:1–2)

These two verses begin a chapter that describes what it means to think Christianly. One of the first descriptions is about humility. Paul says in verse 3 that I am not to think of myself more highly than I ought. Pride is always a problem, but this goes deeper than that. One of my study books says that this passage treats self-conceit as a species of insanity. This means that a sound-thinking person has no foundation for conceit!

Instead, I’m supposed to think with sober judgment, or make a reasonable assessment “according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3) This verse pairs a reasonable assessment with faith, which means that I need to measure myself by what God says about me. I cannot form my own opinion (which will be either pride or self-pity), nor can I rely on the opinions of others. If I do that, I’d be like a thirteen-year-old who is happy with herself one minute and in the next minute she thinks everyone hates her, putting her mind on a roller-coaster along with her emotions.

According to these verses, measuring who I am is one small part of choosing my way or God’s way. My entire value system is covered here. It can be like that of non-believing people, or it can be God’s values. They are not the same. The world is all for power, control, comfort, and no harsh problems. God is all for helplessness, yielded control (called meekness), and testing our faith with trials in order to perfect it. This does not make sense to the un-renewed mind, but the Bible clearly puts these things into the will of God.

Of course God wants me to discern His will and see that it is good, acceptable, and perfect. There is deception and even rebellion in thinking like most of humanity thinks. I can assume that I know what is good for me. I can have strong opinions on what is acceptable and perfect. If I go that route, then when life hands me something I do not approve, I fight it — rather than see how God can use it for good in my life (Romans 8:28-29).

Other things can happen, like I might begin thinking like a victim instead of the conqueror that God says I am. I will feel sorry for myself and upset with my lot in life. I may take matters into my own hands instead of bringing those issues to God and trusting Him with them, and with me, missing out on something grand in favor of having my own way.

God gave me a new life more than forty years ago, yet this life still fights (and often fails) to get out from under all the layers of selfish values and worldly thinking that I’ve piled on in efforts to protect my ego and my comfort. I trust Him in a myriad of ways yet each test brings out another part of me that needs renewal.

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