For the past few days we have been dissecting Romans 12: 1-2 phrase by phrase and we have two more phrases to go. Today’s phrase is in verse 2 and it says, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Definitions:
- Transform: 1) to change in form or appearance; 2) to change in condition, nature or character; the witch transformed men into pigs; 3) to change one form of energy to another. A generator transforms mechanical energy to electrical energy. Transform suggests a fundamental change in the appearance, shape, or nature of a thing or person.
- Transformation: the act or process of transforming, or state of being transformed.
- Transformer: a person or thing that transforms. Is this a catalyst for transformation or the entity being transformed? Is it the Holy Spirit or us?
Several years ago, Chief of Staff of the Army GEN Eric Shenseki initiated a process of transformation for the service. New concepts were being developed, new weapons, new ways to fight wars, new organizations, etc. This new Army, called the “objective force” would be lighter, quicker, and easier to deploy than the force at that time and the general had issued some expectations on how quickly this force could be deployed. The Army leaders were very careful in discussing this process of transformation. It was never thought of as a modernization program, or upgrading, or improvement. It was described as a new way of business, radical, and thinking outside of the box was strongly encouraged. This was not an easy thing to do for an organization noted for traditions, conservatism, and “by-the-book” operating procedures.
Was GEN Shinseki a transformer? His position will not change; he will not get promoted because of his visionary thinking. In fact, he will no longer be in the Army when the transformation process delivers an objective force. It is doubtful that the Amy would have done this had the four-star boss not mandated that it happen. I think the general is an agent of transformation and the Army is the transformer, the entity being changed. If I project this analogy to Ro 12: 2 who is
the transformer and who is the agent of transformation? We are the transformers; the Holy Spirit is the Transforming Agent.
The Greek word Paul used for transformed is “metamorphoo”. This same word is used by Mathew when he described Jesus’ transfiguration [Matt 17: 1-3]. Since our word “metamorphosis” is a derivative of this word, we can get a feel for its meaning by looking at that process.
Butterflies- because they pass through four distinct phases, scientists consider them examples of complete metamorphosis; egg, larva, pupa, adult. Changes that occur include extreme physical changes as well as functional changes. The adult butterfly looks nothing at all like any of the other three stages of its life. It also has a completely different feeding system. The larva has chewing parts and eats greenery (in large quantities). The adult has sucking parts and feeds on nectar.
Frogs- lay their eggs in water and are born as tadpoles, which can only survive in water. Mature frogs can survive either on land or in water, and of course, bear no resemblance to a tadpole.
In his book “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” John Ortberg says this transformation in a Christian makes the change from caterpillar to butterfly hardly noticeable. When transformation happens, “I don’t just do the things that Jesus would do, I find myself wanting to do them. They appeal to me. They make sense. I don’t just go around trying to do right things, I become the right sort of person.” He further says that the primary goal of spiritual life is human transformation; that ordinary people can receive power for extraordinary change.
Ortberg says getting clear on what spiritual life looks like is no casual affair. He quotes Sheldon Van Auken as saying, “The strongest argument for Christianity is Christians, when they are drawing life from God. The strongest argument against Christianity? Also, Christians, when they become exclusive, self-righteous and complacent. Ortberg offer five questions we can ask ourselves to assess our spirituality:
- Am I spiritually “inauthentic”? Inauthenticity involves a preoccupation with appearing to be spiritual.
- Am I becoming judgmental, exclusive or proud? Pride is a potential problem for anyone who takes spiritual growth seriously. As soon as we start to pursue virtue, we begin to wonder why others aren’t as virtuous as we are.
- Am I becoming more approachable, or less? Jesus was the most approachable person His society had seen. The religious leaders had a kind of differentness that pushed people away. Jesus had a kind of differentness that drew people to Him. True spirituality is that way.
- Am I growing weary of pursuing spiritual growth? The pursuit of righteousness is an exhausting pursuit when it seeks a distorted goal. Steven Mosley says “tragically, conventional religious goodness manages to be both intimidating and unchallenging at the same time. Intimidating because it may involve thirty-nine rules about Sabbath-keeping alone. Unchallenging because we may devote our lives to observing all the rules and yet never open the heart to love or joy.”
- Am I measuring my spiritual life in superficial ways? The question is “am I growing in love for God and people?” The real issue is what kind of person I am becoming. Practices such as Bible study and prayer are important- not because they indicate how spiritual we are- but because God can use them to change us into what He means us to be.
Ortberg spends a chapter discussing “training vs. trying” and says “there is an immense difference between training to do something and trying to do something”. Spiritual transformation is a matter of training wisely, not trying harder. The mentor, Paul, tells the protégé Timothy, to “train yourself to be Godly” [1 Ti 4: 7-8]
Ortberg also identifies the obvious difference between disciple and discipline but dwells on the definition. “A disciplined person is not a highly systematic, rigidly scheduled, chart-making, gold-star-living early riser. The Pharisees were rigid and organized, but they were not disciplined persons in the sense required by true discipleship.
A disciplined follower of Jesus is someone who discerns when laughter, gentleness, silence, healing words or prophetic indignation is called for, and offers it promptly, effectively and lovingly.” He likens spiritual transformation to a sailor “catching the wind”. “We may be aggressively pursuing it, but we cannot turn it off and on. We can open ourselves to transformation through certain practices, but we cannot engineer it. We can take no credit for it.”
Ortberg then devotes the remainder of his book, one chapter at a time, discussing practices we can do to open ourselves to transformation. I don’t mean to trivialize this discussion; it is profound and made a tremendous difference to me. I will simply tell you the practices, but I strongly encourage you to read this book.
The practice of celebration
The practice of slowing
The practice of prayer
The practice of servanthood
Receiving guidance from the Holy Spirit
The practice of secrecy
The practice of reflection on scripture
Developing your own “rule of life”
The experience of suffering
Paul sums up the transformed life in his letter to the Colossians [3: 1-17]. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Paul also says in Ro 12: 2 the way to be transformed is by “the renewing of your mind”. How, exactly, would you go about renewing your mind? Is this a process? Is this something the Holy Spirit does? Or is this our responsibility? The way I read these two verses renewing our minds is the foundation that everything rests upon.
“Renew”- 1) to make new again; make like new; restore; 2) to make spiritually new: “Grant that we…may daily be renewed by the Holy Spirit (Book of Common Prayer); 3) to begin again; get again; say, do or give again: to renew one’s vows; 4) to replace by new material or a new thing of the same sort; 5) To give or get for a new period: we renewed our lease for another year.
Renew, restore, renovate mean to put back in a new or former condition. Renew means to put back in a condition like new something that has lost its freshness, force or vigor. Restore means to put back in its original, former, or normal condition something that has been damaged, worn out or partly ruined. Renovate means to put in good condition or make like new, as by cleaning, repairing and redecorating.
What causes Christians to need renewal? When we are saved, we are “born again”, new creations. Why don’t we just stay that way?
We live in a fallen world. Even if no major disaster has come your way the nits of life, John Eldredge calls them the arrows, chip away at our armor. The events of our lives cause us to view things in a particular way and a unique way. And remember, others “see” events from the perspective of what has happened in their lives.
Our objective is to see things as Christ would see them, and react as He would. This requires a different kind of vision, one that is only obtained in the transformation process, and one that requires training and practice. We must learn to see what is invisible. Paul explains in 2 Cor 4: 16-18 and he implies that this is one aspect of being renewed.
I believe “what we focus our eyes on” makes a profound difference in the way we live our lives and I think that message is clear in this verse from Paul. That is the first crucial step in renewing our minds. What is our attention focused on? What are we reading and studying? I believe this is what happened to me during the period of time I referenced earlier; just wandered off the trail, not paying attention and suddenly, a big mess!
A second crucial step to renewal is control our minds and thought patterns. Notice that you can’t do step 2 without doing step 1; we are building serially. Paul tells the Colossians [3:9-10] that our new creations are being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Paul even tells us what to think in Philippians 4: 8. Satan’s initial attack is always on the mind. He attacks our thought patterns to separate us from God. The actions we pursue are a result of the attack on our minds.
Next step is to guard our hearts. John Eldredge talked a lot about our hearts in The Sacred Romance and Wild at Heart. We are cautioned repeatedly about this in scripture [Prov 4: 23 and Ps 19: 14 for example]. Eldredge is a strong advocate for never losing our passion for life. We must continue the pursuit of our dreams and we should live enthusiastically!
Guard our eyes, guard our minds, guard our hearts, and then guard our bodies. Having our eyes, minds, and hearts in the right place will enable us to physically align our living patterns. We must align from the inside out and the outside is what will reveal the inner man [Prov 27: 19]
I believe these steps of renewing not only lead to an “abundant life” but they lead to a happy, fulfilled and energetic life [Is 40: 28-31]. I believe renewing our minds will lead to physical renewal as well and I think that is what the prophet implies.
Paul’s use of “renewing“ instead of “be renewed” suggests that this is a continual process. These four steps must be repeated every day. In this life, we are constantly renewing, day by day as Paul said in 2 Cor 3: 16-18. He also said in this passage that we will not always have an easy life, but he refers to our troubles as “light and momentary”.
Armed with this discussion, here are some points on renewing the mind from Casey Treat’s book entitled “Renewing the Mind”:
RENEWING THE MIND KEYS
- You can change to make your life what you want it to be
- The new birth changes your spirit- renewing the mind changes the soul
- You can be on your way to heaven, but live in hell on earth
- Renewing the mind is more than learning; it is changing
- Renewing the mind is a lifestyle, not an experience
- Renewing the mind involves taking off the old carnal thoughts of the flesh and putting on the new spiritual thoughts of God
- Taking off the old man is as important as putting on the new
- Change must be a positive part of our lives, not something we avoid
- Your soul, mind, emotions and will must prosper before your life will prosper
- The soul and spirit of man make up the heart of man
- The prosperous soul hears and agrees with the Spirit
- Through the Word of God and sincere effort, the poor soul can be made prosperous
- God created you to prosper and be healthy- poverty and sickness are not His will
- God’s Word is the Truth- the basis for all success in life
- To have the Truth in us is to live it every day
- Where you set your mind will control where you go in life
- As you refocus your mind, you take a new picture of your future
- We can capture every thought and bring it to the obedience of the Word of God
- God enables us to have sound, disciplined minds
- We all meditate every day, but what are we meditating on?
- You may have to build new friendships before you can renew your mind
- We can exchange our lack for God’s abundance
- As we renew our minds with God’s higher thoughts, we begin to experience God’s higher ways
- Only when you let go of the low life will you live the high life
- The biggest change you may have to make is with whom you spend your time
- To make growth and change a part of your lifestyle, you must love it
- Most people spend their adult years defending what they know, rather than seeking to grow
- There’s more to life than making a living
- You are a mighty man or woman of valor, and it’s time you found the real you
FIVE AREAS IN WHICH OUR MINDS MUST BE RENEWED
- We must believe that God has a plan and a destiny for our lives
- We must believe that what’s inside us- not circumstances outside us- controls our lives
- We must believe that if we give the best, we will have the best
- We must order our lives in a balanced way and keep our priorities in line with God’s will
- We must be excellent!
THE FIVE R’s OF CHANGE
- Take responsibility for yourself and your life
- Rethink what you believe
- Reject your old ways
- Review your new way of thinking
- Let your thoughts resound out loud
THE SEVEN D’s OF MIND RENEWAL
- Make a decision to change
- Possess a strong desire to change
- Deepen your knowledge base (of yourself and your world)
- Diligently apply the truths you learn
- Defend your mind against the old thoughts
- Disassociate from the past
- Depend on God and others for support