Practically, How Do We Renew our Minds?
As we come to an end in our series on renewing our minds, it's very important that we spend a few articles on the practical application of this message. How do we renew our minds daily? What are the Biblical steps to doing this?
In our November '97 issue of Personal UPDATE, we very briefly mentioned the steps that the Lord has laid out for us in Scripture in order to deal with our sin (anything that is not of faith). As we said, these were the steps that the priests of Solomon's Temple took in the Inner Court in order to deal with their own sin and be reconciled to God.
You might enjoy reading Chapter Thirteen in Be Ye Transformed, which deals specifically with the "Inner Court Ritual" in Solomon's Temple and all the details, not only the architecture and structure of the temple, but also its furniture. In this particular chapter we correlate all the furniture to our own internal architecture and how God desires that we cleanse ourselves every day. I believe the furniture and features of Solomon's Temple represent the different facets of the Seven-fold Spirit of God that produces the Mind of Christ in us. It's exciting to see how all these things line up perfectly with Scripture. For those of you interested in the "hidden riches" that God's Word avails us, you might find this chapter fascinating.
But in this article, I would like to focus on the practical application of renewing our minds. As David Needham, author of the book Birthright, states, "The big task is not the finding of the truth, but the living of it." And I agree with him completely. What good are God's principles if they really don't change our lives? So, with this in mind, let's put all we have talked about in this series into practical application. What are the moment-by-moment steps to renewing our minds?
My Survival Kit
I call these eight steps my Survival Kit because I literally go through these steps at least once a day-and the last four (the Inner Court Ritual) sometimes as many as two and three times a day if I'm dealing with something very difficult or extremely painful. The reason I call this my Survival Kit is because the word survival actually means "keeping alive against all odds." And that's exactly what these steps allow us to do in the middle of hard circumstances-keep alive against all odds.
The first four steps that we will talk about are simply attitudes that we need to form daily. These are not steps that we have to do each time we quench God's Spirit, but simply attitudes we need to have "on" in order to be transformed. It would be helpful to prayerfully go over each of these attitudes every morning (just like getting dressed) to remind ourselves of our need to be cleansed vessels.
Romans 8:6 tells us that we can either be "spiritually minded" (have an attitude resulting in life and peace) or we can be "carnally minded," which will result in our being separated from the source of life. (By "separation," I simply mean we have quenched His Spirit in us and, as a result, blocked our communion.)
Now, the final four steps (which we will cover in our upcoming articles) are
essential steps. These are the ones we must do each time we quench God's
Spirit and find ourselves separated from Him. I coined these last four
steps the "Inner Court Ritual" because again, they are the actual steps that the
priests took in the Inner Court in order to deal with their sin.
So, let's first explore the four "attitudes" that we must have on in order to, moment by moment, renew our minds. These attitudes are simply "predispositions" or specific ways of thinking that will keep us "willing" and "open" to putting off the garbage in our thinking and putting on the Mind of Christ. In other words, it's a mental state of openness and readiness. (I will only be able to cover three of the attitudes in this article. The fourth attitude-being willing to take every thought captive and dealing with it-we will discuss next issue. There is so much to be covered that I couldn't fit it all in one issue.)
First of all, we need to have an attitude of being continually willing to present our bodies [to God] as living sacrifices. (Romans 12:1) Daily, we need to willingly give God permission to walk through us and to expose anything that's not of faith. (Notice, by the way, Romans 12:1 says we are to be "living sacrifices," which means because we are living, we can get up off that altar any time we want. It's only by our own moment-by- moment choice that we choose to remain there.)
We need to be willing, on a moment-by-moment basis, to offer ourselves to God and to allow His Holy Spirit to expose what He wants in each of us. Again, we don't have to "feel" this first step. In fact, in most of these steps we will not "feel" at all, they will simply be "faith choices" or contrary choices (contrary to how we feel).
A good prayer to pray is Psalm 19:12-13, "...Cleanse Thou me from [hidden or] secret faults...Let them not have dominion over me...." Also, Psalm 139:23-24, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting."
God Loves Us
As we open ourselves up to God for His inspection, we must always remember just how much He loves us and that He will not allow anything to happen to us that is not "Father filtered."
So, we can trust Him and rely upon Him no matter what we see or what we understand to be happening. I know this is so hard to do in practice, but this is exactly what faith is all about. Read in Romans 4:20-21 how Abraham was fully persuaded that God would perform all that He had promised him, even though physically and circumstantially it was impossible. We must know in our hearts that no matter what it looks like to us, God is working out His purposes in our lives in His perfect Way (we just often don't see or understand what He is doing).
If you have trouble believing that God loves you and that He will be faithful to perform what He has promised, I strongly suggest getting The Way of Agape book and specifically reading Chapter Seven: "How Do I Know God Loves Me?" You might also go over the Knowing God Loves Me Scriptures in the Appendix and, by faith, choose to believe what God says in those Scriptures.
(on the inside)
The second crucially important attitude we need to have "on" each day is that of being willing to continually deny ourselves-willing to set aside our own "justified" feelings, our own rights, our own frustrations, offenses, and anything that is not of faith, to do His Will. This is something that we do on the "inside." This internal denying of ourselves is often much harder to do than denying ourselves "outwardly" (our careers, our positions of status, our material things-houses, cars, clothes, etc.), because it affects who we really are-it's our personhood and our emotions are so involved. It hurts to set ourselves aside, especially when we know we are "justified" (by the world's standards) in thinking and feeling the way we do.
Each time we struggle with this, I would suggest reading Philippians 3:8-15, where Paul says, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord...." Note specifically verse 10, which says that the reason we are to "count all things but loss" is so that we may "know (intimately experience) Him and be made conformable to His death." (Read John 3:30 and 2 Corinthians 4:10-11.)
We must continually ask ourselves, "Am I really more concerned with doing God's Will in my life than I am my own happiness?" There will be many times in our lives when we must choose to do God's Will, knowing that temporarily it will not bring us happiness. Of course, the long-lasting joy and peace that comes from being in the center of God's Will is something to which nothing can ever compare. (Psalm 73:25)
An Example: A Miracle
I met a woman several years ago who was convinced that God wanted her to stay in her marriage, regardless of the horrible circumstances. Her husband (also a "professing" Christian) no longer loved her and he had bluntly told her so. He had tired of her and wanted her out of his life. Therefore, he was doing everything he could to make her life miserable so that she would file for the divorce.
Certainly, she would have been much "happier" out of her marriage and away from her abuser, and yet she knew in her heart that God had not given her permission to leave. And she was more concerned about doing His Will than she was with her own happiness.
I happened to see this lady at a party not too long ago, and she had absolutely incredible news. Something major had happened in her husband's life and God had totally changed his heart. He had privately and publicly repented about the abuse of his wife, and was now doing everything he could to love her and make things up to her. God eventually did restore their marriage and they not only began to experience Agape Love for each other, but also a restoration of all the human loves.
This is a true story and I believe the miracle is due to the fact that this lady was more concerned about doing God's Will than she was about her own happiness.
Luke 14:26 reminds us that we really cannot be God's disciples unless we are "willing to" (not wanting to or feeling like it, but simply willing to) lay everything down (father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters). "Yea," He says, "even our very own lives" (all of our justified hurts). Again, we don't have to "feel" like doing this; we simply must "be willing" to do this!
Several years ago, I went to lunch with some dear old friends, and we began to talk about how very important it is for us to "be willing" to deny ourselves and to follow God. One of the ladies said, "Nancy, I don't agree with you. I think some people just don't have the ability or the capability to lay everything down and do it God's way." She then gave various reasons why she was convinced they couldn't do this: dysfunctional families, co-dependency, poor marriages, physical abuse, emotional problems, and other environmental circumstances.
I thought about it a moment and then said, "Ruth, if these people are Christians, then God is in them. Right?" She said, "Sure." "Well then," I offered, "He is the One who will make them capable and give them the ability to deny themselves. I think the bottom line is that all Christians are capable of laying themselves aside (because God is in them), but not all Christians are willing to do so!"
The people my friend was talking about simply weren't willing to lay themselves down. Their excuses ranged from "dysfunctional families," to "my husband is not trying." But I don't believe these things were the "real" problem, because God has all the Love, Wisdom and Power they need. The real problem was that they just weren't willing to set themselves aside so that God could perform these things through them.
Perhaps this helps us to understand Matthew 24:12 a little more clearly. This Scripture says that in the end times "...because iniquity shall abound, the Agape of many will grow cold." This is simply saying that in the end times, many Christians (who are the only ones who possess Agape) will choose to hold on to their own justified hurts, unforgiveness, etc., rather than be willing to deny themselves. Therefore, just as this Scripture predicts, God's Agape Love in them will grow cold. So again, all Christians have God's Love in them, but not all Christians are willing to set themselves aside to let it flow.
God promises us in Luke 18:30 (as well as many other places) that if we are willing to deny ourselves, He will return a hundredfold, "in this life" as well as in the world to come, all that we have chosen to surrender. In my own life, it seems the more I'm willing to lay at God's feet, the more He returns a hundredfold! My book, Why Should I Be the First to Change?, shares how God has restored a hundredfold, my marriage, my family, my kids, etc., because I'm learning how to surrender and deny myself first. The more I learn to give myself to God, the more I get of Him. Now, I'm certainly not any more capable than anybody else, but one thing is for certain. I am willing. And that seems to be all that's necessary!
1 Corinthians 2:9 says, "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love [agapao-totally give themselves over to] Him."
Get Up and Do What God Says
Another crucial attitude we must have "on" in order to have our lives transformed, is that of being willing to obey God's Will, no matter what He tells us to do. No matter how we feel, what we think or what we want, we are to be willing to get up and do exactly what God has asked us to do. 2 Corinthians 8:11 says, "...As there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also...."
The attitude we spoke about in step #2 (denying ourselves) really concerns our "inner man" (setting aside our own thoughts, emotions and desires-our self-life-so that God's Life can come forth). This third step of "obeying God's Will" is different. It concerns our "outer man"-our outward actions. It's now getting up and doing in action what God has called us to do, saying, "...not as I will, but as Thou wilt...." (Matthew 26:39) Or, like Peter said, "...at Thy word I will...." (Luke 5:5) Again, we're simply trusting that God will perform His Will and His Life through us no matter how we feel. If this is a difficult step, I would suggest reading Philippians 2:5-9. This is where God talks about being "obedient unto death" (getting up and actually doing in action whatever God has called us to do).
Example: "Obedient Unto Death"
Here is a wonderful example of how one of my dearest friends overcame her pride, humbled herself, and became "obedient unto death." Sarah is only five feet tall and weighs about 100 pounds soaking wet. Many years ago (before she became a Christian) her husband had an affair with a lady who worked in his office. Sarah found out about it and was violently angry. The next day she marched down to her husband's office and literally beat the woman up.
A year or so later (after their separation and divorce), God got hold of Sarah (she became born again) and He began to transform her life. One of the things God began to speak to her about was her behavior to this lady at the office. He convinced Sarah that it was His Will for her to go back to the office and ask this lady's forgiveness. My precious friend not only chose to deny herself (by setting aside her own "justified" feelings and emotions), but she was also willing to get up and do what God had asked her to do (go to her husband's office and ask forgiveness of this lady). Could you have done that?
When the lady at the office saw Sarah coming, she understandably ran. Sarah pursued her, however, and they finally began to talk. Sarah asked the lady's forgiveness for beating her up, and then she told the lady that she forgave her for "taking her husband away." The lady was so amazed at what was happening, that Sarah sensed an opportunity to talk more and asked if she would like to go to lunch. The lady agreed. At lunch, Sarah had a chance to share what God was doing in her own life and the lady sought to know more. They became friends and to this day, I believe, they are still friends. Only in God's Kingdom could something like this occur! Sarah is a real, true and precious friend of mine. Again I believe much of the miracle happened because she was willing, in action, to "be obedient unto death."
Do you love God that much? Are you willing, not only to deny what you think, what you feel and what you desire, but also willing to get up and do what God has called you to do? This is what God is asking each of us daily.
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To be continued next month: Taking every thought captive and being willing to
deal with anything that is not of faith (2 Cor 10:5). This article has
been excerpted from Chuck and Nan's book, Be Ye Transformed.