If there was one verse that God seemed to bring to my attention over and over again this past year, it’d be Romans 12:2.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
The Amplified Bible adds, “be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes].” For some reason I’ve been fixated on the topic of “life change” this year. I’ve read books like “Heart Shift” by John Trent, “The Practice of Godliness” by Jerry Bridges, and “From Good to Great in God’s Eyes” by Chip Ingram. I’ve also listened to countless podcasts by Biblical teachers on the topic. What I’ve learned is fascinating and extremely encouraging to me.
Transformation begins in the mind. The Hebrew word “nacham” and the Greek word “metaneo” translated as “repent” in the Bible literally mean “to change one’s mind.” Let me give a few examples.
Jonah 3:10 says, “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did [it] not.” Our English word “repent” is often defined as “feeling sorry for,” but a much better translation for the above verse would be, “God relented and did not punish them.”
Similarly, in the New Testament both Matthew 3:1 and Acts 2:38, hearers are admonished to change their minds in the area of needing a Savior. At that time nobody was “on the fence” so-to-speak. You either wholeheartedly believed Jesus was the Son of God who came to take away the sin of the world, or you believed He was a liar and lunatic. If you believed the former, it drastically changed your life.
A changed way of thinking leads to changed attitudes and actions. What we believe to be true is shown clearly through our behavior. We may claim to believe one thing, but if our actions don’t line up with our words, clearly we believe something altogether different. Our minds are the control center that steers the rest of our bodies.
The brain is an amazing organ, capable of incredible feats. This past year my husband and I stumbled across material by Neuroscientist Daniel Amen. I learned from his videos and books that we can actually change the way our brain looks through various habits. Our brains can be trained and sculpted in the same way muscles are sculpted!
For example, practicing gratitude affects the cerebellum- the part of the brain that deals with fine motor skills. So essentially, the less thankful we are, the slower we are. Similarly, prayer and meditation increase the activity in the frontal lobes of our brain and studies have shown that practicing these disciplines regularly can improve the brain’s function.
Isn’t it interesting that hundreds of years before brain imaging scanning ever existed, God gave us the command to “renew our minds”? Scientific research is just now stumbling upon the benefits that such a practice has on our brains, but the Psalmist called the man who meditated upon God’s law night and day as “blessed” (see Psalm 1:1,2).
Jerry Bridges says, “There is a sense in which we are growing in our character every day. The question is, in which direction are we growing?”
Romans 12:2 was brought to my attention again in the summer while I was at CEF training in Maine. John Romano spoke one particular morning at chapel about this verse noting, “There are no short-cuts to growth in the Lord.” Renewing our mind takes discipline. It takes effort on our part. It takes time. It requires us to get into God’s Word, spend time in prayer, listen to Biblical teaching, fellowship with other believers, etc.
Then, most recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Chip Ingram’s podcasts; specifically his radio series on “Transformed” and “True Spirituality.” He notes that renewing one’s mind is key in the sanctification process. Ephesians 4:22-24 says,
“…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
Three steps must be taken for lasting change to occur:
- Put off old self: completely discard your former nature (AMP).
- “Continually renew” the spirit of your mind (AMP)
- Put on the new self.
If we skip step number two, failing to fill our minds with the truth of God’s Word, we won’t be able to fulfill step number three because we won’t know how God wants us to live. But saturating ourselves in God’s Word will slowly change our responses and actions. It may be so gradual we don’t even realize we’re changing, but His Word is living and active and powerfully transforms our lives.
This encourages me to press on know Him more, to memorize and meditate upon His Word continually, and to constantly pursue and think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). As we begin the new year of 2016, may we imitate God (Eph. 5:1) and learn what pleases Him (Eph. 5:10) in every way.