Romans 12:1-2 tells us that the way we are "transformed," the way we learn to live Christ's Life, is by the renewing of our minds - putting off our own negative and corrupt thinking and putting on God's Thoughts. As we continue in our series on being transformed by the renewing of our minds , we want to cover two important questions. 1) What is "mind renewal?" and, 2) Why is "mind renewal" so important?
Ephesians 4:22-24 exhorts us to "... put off concerning the former conversation (behavior) the old man (old self), which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind ; and that ye put on the new man (the new self), which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
A "renewed mind," then, is one that has done two things: It has "put off" any sin (any hurt, doubt, fear, rebellion, self-centeredness, lust, bitterness, etc.), any corrupt thinking, or any barrier that would quench God's Spirit and has "put on" the Mind of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Renewing our minds is not simply "changing" our thoughts, but actually putting off the old, negative thoughts as well as putting on God's Thoughts. In other words, we can't just say to God, "Lord, give me Your Thoughts," and somehow expect Him to "automatically" give us His Mind. We must first put off our own self-centered thinking by confessing, repenting, and then giving it to God. At this point, we can then put on the Mind of Christ.
Hal Lindsey points out that "to renew" means to exchange one thing for another. In other words, when we put off and put on, we're exchanging our thinking for God's. If we're not willing to yield, set aside and relinquish our own thoughts, however, then our thinking process will never be renewed and our lives will never be transformed.
Reasons Mind Renewal Is So Important
There are many reasons why "mind renewal" is critical. But there are several reasons worth pointing out in this series: God wants us to have His Mind (His thoughts, His viewpoint) in every situation. He wants us to have the supernatural ability to discern everything that happens to us from His vantage point and His perspective, and not get bogged down and buried by our own negative thoughts and feelings or by what we can "see" going on. If we can see from His perspective, then we'll be able to "soar" above our circumstances, our problems, and our trials and not get buried under them.
A Perfect Example
Joseph in the Old Testament, I believe, is a wonderful example of someone who was able to see all that happened to him from God's perspective.
The story goes like this: Joseph, the most beloved of all the sons of Jacob, had a dream. However, he made the mistake of telling his brothers the dream. His brothers were already jealous of him because he was their father's favorite. But after hearing Joseph's dream, they were irate and determined to get rid of him any way they could.
The brothers put Joseph in a pit and finally sold him to the Midianites. The Midianites, in turn, sold Joseph to Potiphar, an officer in Pharaoh's guard. After an incident with Potiphar's wife, however, in which she tricked Joseph by making it look like he had seduced her, Joseph was sent to prison (Genesis 39).
While in prison, Joseph met the King's baker and butler and did them a favor by interpreting their dreams. He begged them to remember him when they were released from jail. However, when it came time that the chief butler was released, he soon forgot Joseph and his favors.
I'm sure you know the rest of the story. Two more years went by when Pharoah dreamed a dream and the chief butler finally remembered Joseph in prison and the interpretation of his own dreams. Pharoah's men contacted Joseph, released him, and eventually Joseph became Pharoah's right-hand man.
Joseph was only 17 years old when his brothers threw him into the pit to be sold, and he was well over 30 when Pharoah finally released him. He had been "in bondage" for over 13 years!
Now you know Joseph must have struggled with "justified" hurts, resentments and bitterness. He was not a "supersaint," but human just like us. Scripture tells us, however, that all who saw Joseph "knew God was with him." (Genesis 39:3) Somehow, in spite of all the horrendous circumstances and all the justified natural emotions Joseph must have had, his countenance and his life actions still showed forth his love of God.
The only way Joseph could possibly have made this impression was by constantly "putting off" his own natural bitterness and resentments and putting on God's wisdom and understanding, thereby being able to see all that happened to him not from his own viewpoint, but from God's.
This is validated in Genesis 50:20 when Joseph finally meets up with his brothers and says to them, "...ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive."
This is an incredible response. It's not a natural reaction. Humanly, I'm sure Joseph would have loved to have had his revenge, but that's not how he acted. He saw all things that had happened to him as being used for God's purposes in his own life.
Do we "see" like this in our own trials? Do we see all the things that God has allowed in our lives as being used for our good? I know I still have a long way to go in being able to do this continually.
By the way, there were no psychologists and no psychiatrists in Joseph's day. Yet somehow, Joseph was able to become freed from his traumatic past (and his dysfunctional family), and his life was transformed anyway.
If Only I Could Have
Fifteen years ago, when Chuck and I were going through all our marital trials, if I could only have seen my circumstances from God's perspective, through His Mind (and not through my own emotional way of thinking), I might have been more of a genuine witness and a true representative of Christ going through the trials , just as Joseph was. But I wasn't able to see from God's perspective because I got buried in my own hurts and my own circumstances. Thus, God's Life in me became quenched and I couldn't "live the truth."
Remember, our "witness" is not in what we "say"; the witness people notice and relate to most is our life actions (especially when we are going through difficult times). Do we still show forth God's Life? Does it still work for us then - even in the hard places?
It takes constant discipline not to give in to our negative thoughts and emotions that are trying to crush and drown us. Often, it seems like it would just be easier to give in and let our own feelings rule. But, you know what happens if we do that? Those negative thoughts and emotions "take us captive," and then we'll drown for sure.
This, of course, is exactly what Satan wants! He revels in our bondage to our own negative thoughts. He wants us totally immersed and consumed in our own problems, bound to him by our hurts, our fears, our pain, our wounds and our circumstances (chains of sin) because then we'll see everything that happens to us from our own horizontal viewpoint and not from God's perspective or the Mind of Christ. As a result, we won't be transformed into God's image, but simply conformed to the world's image and the Gospel won't be passed on.
Scripture often refers to the eagle as a symbol of this renewing process. Psalm 103:5 says that "our youth will be renewed like the eagle." "Youth" here, I believe, refers to the "original image" that God created us to have - His Love, His Wisdom and His Power. As we renew our minds, it's true, we'll be transformed back into God's Image, which is what God intended for us all along.
One of the reasons I believe God uses the eagle as a symbol of this transformation process is that the eagle is the only bird whose whole physical strength is literally renewed after each molting season. In other words, only after the eagle has "put off" his old feathers, so to speak, does he actually receive "new" physical strength to soar above his enemies.
And it's the same with us. When we "put off" the old and "put on" the new, we too receive God's supernatural strength to soar above our enemies (Isaiah 59:19).
Another reason I believe God uses the eagle as a symbol of our renewal and transformation is because the eagle again comes from the only bird family that has "telescopic sight," a kind of "zoom-in-focus" lens. An eagle can search out objects literally miles away (indistinguishable to the human eye). Eagles can see a quarter from over 200 yards away and a rabbit from over a mile away. This, of course, increases their ability to judge and discern the true situation.
It's the same with us. Our minds, when renewed by God's Spirit, have the same supernatural ability. We are able to judge, discern and pick up things that the natural eye (natural mind) would never be able to see or understand. We are given the supernatural wisdom and ability to discern the true situation and see everything that happens to us from God's vantage point.
Isaiah 40:31, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
These are the true over-comers. "Overcoming" simply means freedom from self, freedom from our circumstances and freedom from others' responses.
Having a renewed mind, putting off our own negative thoughts and putting on the Mind of Christ is the only way we can begin to see everything that happens to us from God's perspective and not get buried by our own.
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To be continued in "No Mind Change - No Life Change".
More reasons why "mind renewal" is so important: 1) Whoever directs our minds is ultimately going to direct our lives; and 2) If there is no "mind" change, then there will never be any "life" change either.