In Paul’s letters to various churches, the first part explains what Christians believe. The remainder describes how we therefore should live. This shows how belief determines values and world view, and those values determine behavior.
Besides sin, this explains much of the horrible things people do. For instance, if I believe humans are evolved apes, I would not have the same respect as I have from believing humans are created in the image of God. If I believe there is no God, I would not have any motivation to live a godly life.
The letter to the church of Rome gives a magnificent description of Christian beliefs. The next section begins with linking those beliefs and values to Christian behavior:
“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. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:1–5)
These verses are very familiar to me, yet this morning I noticed that to behave like a Christian means to first offer my body as a sacrifice and in worship to God. He didn’t begin with mind, intellect, emotions, or my will, but with the most external part of me — my body. Other passages affirm that my body belongs to God (see the two previous posts) and this one also links salvation with the way I respond to His grace — in my body:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” (Titus 2:11–12)
The next issue is the mind. If I am going to live out Christian beliefs and values, then I need to reject the beliefs and values of the world and let God renew my mind with His thoughts. This makes sense. It also explains why many Christians have learned to guard what they read or watch on television and in movies. How can I renew my mind if I continually expose it to the thoughts and values of the world? As one Christian said, ‘Being a Christian is like having two dogs fighting inside you” and the one that wins? It will be the one I feed the most!
One important aspect of my mind is how I think about God and about myself. My first ideas about God were much like the concept I had of my parents. They spoiled me for they were told I would die before growing up. After I became a Christian, I soon realized that God was not going to indulge me, yet that idea was deeply rooted and ‘renewal’ has taken a long time.
The above passage in Romans says I need to think less highly of myself with ‘soberly wise’ judgment based on faith and based on truth that I am part of the Body of Christ with many other believers. This is both a strong privilege and solidly humbling. We are in this together, but we are not identical. The passage goes on to describes how we are gifted in different ways, yet even with those differences, much of what we do is alike and like Christ who saved us.
Mind renewal happens in several ways. First, those who are saved are given the mind of Christ who comes to live in us. (1 Corinthians 2:16). His mind brings an entire new set of values and a different worldview, one that conflicts with my former way of thinking. Paul says testing is part of proving that His way of thinking is right and true. I need that because not every new thought is from God (the devil wants to confuse and distract with his thoughts). Mind renewal involves reading the Bible to confirm His thoughts. Obedience also confirms them. Or I can learn the hard way — by the experience of foolish choices.
Jesus, dear Jesus, when Mary sat at Your feet and listened to Your word, You told her sister Martha that only one thing was necessary and “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42) My experience has taught me that why that sitting at Your feet is necessary. Psalm 119:9 is true: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” What makes me sad is that experience IS the long way as well as the hard way, much like my Swedish granny used to say: “Too old too soon too late smart.” Thank You for your great patience and mercy.