Renew Your Minds!!!

Renewing our minds in Scripture is so important to your spiritual walk, that…basically… you cannot walk spiritually (as far as God is concerned) until you do. But, don’t take my word for it, let’s examine the Scriptures on the subject . . .

Romans 12:2
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.

Most of us do not come to the Lord until we are at least teenagers or early adults, by that time our minds have been so inundated by the ways and things of the world – meaning sinful things and sinful ways of thinking – that unless God completely changes the way we think at the moment we get saved (which I have seen, but not too often), then we need to swap those things out of our minds for the things of God. Why?

Because the saved, regenerated person now has two natures, where before we only had one – the sin nature, that is, as Paul puts it in Romans 7, the flesh. Sin dwells in our flesh, that’s why we will fight against sin for the rest of our lives on this planet, because the new nature that dwells within us, the new man, is constantly being attacked by the sin nature that dwells in the flesh. Paul puts it this way . . .

Romans 7:18-20
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but the evil that I do not want to do is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, then it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Again, here Paul is speaking about the flesh when he says the sin “that dwells within me,” he is not saying that sin dwells within us through-and-through, like some groups out there today teach. There is a separation between the flesh and the spirit, sin lives in the flesh, not the spirit of a person. If a person spends enough time in sin then it begins to affect his mind, and if he remains practicing sin long enough then it begins to seep from his mind into his spirit – but sin does not originate within one’s spirit. Again, a person’s spirit can become corrupted by becoming sin-stained (II Cor. 7:1), but sin does not originate within the spirit, nor was the human spirit damaged directly by the Fall.

Notice in Rom. 12:2 the result of renewing your mind . . . being transformed, the question is, transformed FROM what INTO what:

Ephesians 4:22-24
to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

God wants us to transform ourselves into the new man, here called “the new self,” which is created in the “likeness” of God by, and through, our walking in righteousness and holiness. Recall Genesis 1:26 when God created Adam and Eve; it says that He made man in His “image” (referring to our physical appearance – if you want to know what God looks like, just look into your mirror) and in His “likeness” (referring to His spiritual nature, that is, He created us as righteous and holy beings in spirit). That spiritual nature within man can be corrupted, as we addressed above, through the consistent practice of sinful, corrupting behavior.

God created us in such a way that our physical activities sway on our minds. If what we do is darkness, then our actions of darkness reinforce darkness within our minds, and eventually that darkness begins to stain our spirits. If what we do is light, then our actions of light reinforce the light within our minds, and we will eventually become in-tuned to our spirits and have greater capacity for communion with God. It is the same principle which Jesus speaks about here:

Matthew 6:21-23
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

When Jesus uses the word “eye” in the sentence, He was not just speaking about the physical eye, but also about the things that we purpose to look at, which is why verse 22 follows naturally after verse 21 – because both speak of the heart. If your heart is full of wicked desires, then what are you going to be looking at, what are you going to be planning to do? Whereas, if your heart is full of love for God, what are you going to be looking at, what are you desiring to do? In a way, things almost seem backwards, because the issues of life come out from the heart where our decisions are made, and while the heart affects our minds, our minds also affect the heart.

We can make a conscious decision to do good…but as Paul says, sometimes that conscious decision to do good does not affect the flesh, to give power to it in order to carry out that good thing. This is where renewing your mind comes into play, Paul says it like this:

Romans 8:5
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Romans 8:13
Because if you conduct your life according to the flesh, you will die; but, if you put to death the deeds of the flesh by walking in the Spirit, then you will live.

How can we put to death the actions and motions of sin in our flesh? By walking in the Spirit. How do we “walk in the Spirit?” According to the text, we walk in the Spirit by “minding” (thinking on, meditating on, having in the back of our minds, having our minds inundated and saturated by) the “things of the Spirit.” Yeeeeesssss! BUT – how do we come to the place that we can walk in the Spirit…we must first renew our minds with the Word of God.

I have learned this now, after 35 years walking with God…and can now look back and see why I struggled with certain sins all my life. Why I kept giving in to sin, why I kept fighting what seemed like a losing battle, and always turning back to God in tears because of my actions that – at a certain point in the struggle – I seemed to lose control and ended up doing what I did not really want to do. This is the reason, it took me years to learn exactly what renewing your mind means, and even longer to understand why we need to do it, and how it works.

Renewing our minds, as I stated at the outset of this entry, is so important to the person who desires to walk with God, because until we get the gunk out of our minds left over from our previous lives in the darkness of the world, there are many things that we just cannot do. Unless we renew our minds, we cannot walk in the Spirit; if we cannot walk in the Spirit, then we cannot put to death the motions of sin in our flesh, which means that we cannot consistently practice righteousness and holiness, we cannot set ourselves apart unto God – which is what sanctification is all about. We cannot consecrate ourselves wholly to God. The greater and greater that our minds are renewed, the greater and greater our walk with God becomes, the more we begin to hear His voice, the more we begin to be able to hear the voice and unctions of the Spirit in order to do what He would be leading us to do . . .

Romans 8:14
Because as many as are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Now, I know that there will be those who read this and disagree because of the Calvinistic mindset they have been brainwashed with – but what is more important, taking the Word of God for what it teaches, or taking one’s bias over and above what the Scriptures teach? I think we all know which one we should be choosing, especially if we care more about our relationship with God than about doctrinal statements. Some people out there believe a naive way of thinking, and that is that God does everything, we don’t need to do anything. He does it all, and all we have to do is just sit back on our spiritual couch and wait until the end. Sorry, folks, but that is not what the Scriptures teach.

As the trail continues, when we renew our minds with the Word of God, our mindset begins to change, we begin to see what pleases God and what does not please Him, just as our first text states . . . “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Because people don’t renew their minds, they cannot test the things the world tells us about stuff against God’s will, to determine what is good and ACCEPTABLE to Him, and what is not. Hence we have people calling themselves Christians today, even pastors of supposedly Christian churches today, who are saying that God created people as homosexuals, so since God made them as homosexuals, He is OK with them as long as they are in “committed, loving relationships.” I will only say this much more on the issue, God’s condemnation of homosexuality has nothing to do with love or relationships, it has to do with perversion of His creation. God did not make Adam and Steve, He made Adam and Eve. I know that this is very simplistic as an answer, but the details of this subject matter is not the point of this entry.

If we do not understand what is good and acceptable to God, what His will is, then we cannot be led by the Spirit because we will reject what the Spirit may be trying to lead us to do. Look at Eph. 4:22-24 again . . .

Ephesians 4:22-24
to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

We are to “put off your old self,” the man of sin, the person that we used to be when we used to run around purposing to commit as much sin as we could. That man was “corrupt through deceitful desires,” but what does that mean? It means, in our worldly state of mind, we were deceived by desires that we could not discern as being evil and wicked. I know of a man who would put his hands upon his daughter’s body in an inappropriate way, but when he was taken by his wife to counselling, he honestly didn’t see anything wrong with it, “she is my daughter, after all,” was one of his comments early on in the sessions. After 6 months of counselling, he understood that his behavior was not appropriate, that a father should not be touching his daughter in sexual ways. What was going on? This was a man who had lived for 40 years in darkness, living a life of sin, looking at pornography and so on…and all that sin deceived his mind into deeper and darker sins.

Sin will always take you further than you wanted to go, deeper into depravity than you bargained for, and puts a hook into your nose to lead you into places that you never wanted to go into. It is deceptive, and forms addictions to sin, and works to destroy everything in your life . . . all through deceiving our minds from what is real and from what is right:

Hebrews 3:13
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

The only way to put the motions of sin in our flesh to death, or to mortify it as some Bible translations say, is to walk in the Spirit, but we cannot walk in the Spirit without renewing our minds. Further evidence of this is found in Galatians . . .

Galatians 5:16-17
But I say, walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Because the flesh wars against the spirit, and fights against the spirit, in order to keep you from doing the spiritual things that you want to do. 

The sin in the flesh fights against dong righteousness, because the very definition of sin is disobedience to God. The flesh always wants to do the exact opposite of whatever it is told to do, it always wants to live in complete selfishness, doing whatever it wants to do, regardless of the consequences. For example, in some of us, the flesh just wants to have sex, and doesn’t care where it gets it . . . whether it is a son or daughter, cousin, someone of the same sex, an animal, a stuffed toy, a dead body . . . after serving in law enforcement for 25 years, I have seen things that would probably make you sick. I know, they made me sick when I heard about them, too. The flesh unrestrained will lead people to do all kinds of heinous and gross, evil, wicked sins. The ONLY way to restrain that sin, is by walking in the Spirit, which first requires renewing our minds.

If we do not renew our minds so that we can walk in the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the flesh, the sin nature, then we will find it almost impossible to practice holiness and sanctification, it will be almost impossible for us to completely consecrate ourselves to God for His purposes. What does Scripture have to say about that?

Hebrews 12:14
Strive . . . to practice holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

Jesus said that unless we crucify the flesh, we will not be able to follow Him, we will not be able to be His disciples. Why? Because a mind, even a regenerated mind that is still filled with the thought patterns of the world from which we came out of, if it is still filled with worldly things, just as Paul states in Galatians, if we do not renew our minds so that we can walk in the Spirit and crucify the flesh, then the motions of sin in the flesh will always be fighting against us in order to keep us from walking in obedience to Christ. That is why we will not be able to follow Him and be His disciples if we do not put the deeds of the flesh to death. What Jesus said is the same as what Paul teaches, only they use different terms in saying it. Crucifying the flesh, and putting the deeds of the flesh to death, are the same thing.

 

Part II – How To Renew Our Minds

There are a couple of things to do to work on renewing our minds:

  1.  Read the Bible.

The problem with this, however, is that there is a lot of . . . for lack of a better term . . . “fluff” in just reading the Bible when it comes to working on renewing our minds. What am I talking about?

When it comes to renewing our minds, reading the Gospels, for example, does not do very much for us. There is the Sermon on the Mount where we find strong teaching on how we are to conduct our lives, but for the most part, there are few “life instructions” on how to walk as a Christian. This is the key – to find passages where “life instructions” are articulated, because these are the passages that address how we are to live and conduct our lives.

So, for another example, reading the book of Acts does not help a whole lot in the mind-renewal area, because we are looking for “new programming” in our minds, to actually re-program our thought patterns, and for that purpose simply reading the Scriptures as they are doesn’t really help a whole lot. Therefore, we have our second mind renewal technique:

2.  Make Scripture cards.

What I have done, which works really well, was to start from Matthew just so you don’t miss any good life-instruction passages, and make a list of the passages that stand out to you as life-instruction passages.

Then, when you are ready to copy the passages down onto a 3×5 card, bring up the passages one by one and write down either the verse word-for-word, or write down what the verse is saying. This is not memorization – it is not important to purposely set out to memorize these verses, that is not what we are doing, and that is not the goal in this exercise. For example, Mat. 5:6 says . . .

Matthew 5:6
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

So, the card that I wrote down for this verse, looks like this:

Mat. 5:6

Hunger and thirst to do righteousness.

I write the verse from which my wording comes from, just in case I ever want to review that passage, but I only write down on the card the main idea. For another example, Mat. 5:9 reads . . .

Matthew 5:9
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

So, the card that I wrote down for this verse looks like this:

Mat. 5:9

Strive for peace in every situation possible.

Is it registering yet? For one last example, here is what Mat. 25:31-46 says:

Matthew 25:31-46
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Now, there is DEFINITELY a lot of life-instruction going on in this passage that we don’t want to miss, but this is way too much information to place onto a 3×5 card. So, this is what my card on this passage looks like:

Mat. 25:31-46

Eternal life is reserved for those who love on Jesus by loving on others.

Then, after you go through the entire New Testament and have your cards all made out, set aside some time every day and do one of two reviews, or a combination of both – Review #1 – simply read the cards at least one time, at least two times a day. The more you read them, the more they sink in, and the faster you will renew your mind with Godly, Scriptural things – things of the Spirit. Review #2 – take the cards, and read them one by one, as many as you can in one sitting, but this time spend some quality time thinking and meditating upon what each one is saying. For example, here is my meditation and thoughts on Mat. 25:31-46 above:

Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey Him. The Scriptures tell us that we love on God by walking in obedience to Him. Walking in love fulfills God’s commandments of the New Covenant, so when we love on people, we are loving in God. The Scriptures tell us that when we love on people, thereby loving on God, that we are abiding in Him, in God and in Christ. Eternal life is found only in Christ, and according to I John, only those who have Christ have eternal life. We only have Christ by walking in love towards others and abiding in Him, because I John also says that when we are abiding in Him, then He is also abiding in us. How do we love on people? We love on people by doing good to them, by helping them, whether they are in need of help or not. Mowing my widow neighbor’s yard when she has to pay someone else to do it, because she cannot do it, is loving on her. Paying for someone’s groceries or meal at a restaurant is loving on people. Helping someone at work with their work when I am done with my work, whether they really need help or not, is loving on that person. We love on people when we see them in need, and take up that need to fill it. There are all kinds of ways to love on people: visiting them when they are sick, making them meals when they are sick, babysitting for someone who needs a babysitter, helping them paint their fence, etc., etc.

This is just a small sample, and the more Scripture you know, then the more you can connect the dots in Scriptural subjects, but again, the purpose here is not to so much memorize Scripture, the purpose here is to change how our minds work and think, and that is best accomplished by forcing it to think about the statement or Scripture that you have just read.

Don’t be like most of us…don’t just read your Bible here and there, so many times a week (if even that!), and take 50 years to renew your mind. Take steps to renew your mind right now, today, so that you can benefit GREATLY by doing so. Want to hear God’s voice? Want to hear or feel the leading of the Spirit? Want to know what God has in store for you? Do you want to be able to get passed living in Romans chapter 7 and get to the place where you can begin living Roman’s chapter 8? Then you MUST renew your mind, and the more actively you work on this process, the faster you will accomplish it, and then reap the rewards and intimate benefits of it as your walk with God can now grow deeper and more fulfilling.

Blessings!

 

 

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About newcovenantunderstanding

Dr. Dave A. Schoch, Th.D., New Testament Studies email: dkschoch@sbcglobal.net
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