Faith Challenges: the Renewal of our Minds
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:1-2)
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In this post, I take another look at the scriptural theme that we discussed in my prior article regarding our conformance to the “world” as being one of the primary impediments to fulfilling our purpose as Disciples of Christ. In that sharing I commented that the way we counter the enticement of the flesh to the ways of the world is by surrendering our very “selves” to the Holy Spirit in cooperation with His Grace so that He can begin the process of renewing our minds to enable us to discern the will of God’s in our lives.
Without such discernment and yielding to the will of the Father, we cannot truly become a living sacrifice because we will not have placed our own self-will on the altar of Love, as St. Paul exhorts us through the cited scripture. Unless we crucify the flesh (especially our egos) we will not be able to be fully responsive to carry out God’s will in our lives – because the ego is so deceptive that, unless we disconnect from it completely, even the religious things we do will be done to satisfy our “selves” and NOT for the Glory of the Father and His Son.
Jesus does not intend for us to bear this burden alone – indeed He offers to ease the burden by asking us to be yoked in Love to Himself (cf., Sweet Yoke of Love). For it is only in being yoked to Him and His Love that the Holy Spirit can begin the process of renewing our minds.
In this posting I intend to flesh out just what the “renewal of our minds” entails so we may more easily accommodate ourselves to the Graces the Holy Spirit will bring into our lives as He conforms us more and more to the image of Christ (cf., Rom. 8:29) by leading us to follow in His example:
“Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.” (Phil.2:4-8)
The renewing of our minds, then, is the process the Holy Spirit uses to bring us to the point where we no longer have to ask ourselves. “what would Jesus do?” but instead, without constraint and in response to the agape Love that has been deposited in us (Rom. 5:5)), we instinctively think and do what Jesus would do in similar circumstances. In bringing us to this point the Spirit works in the particular story of our life experiences to gradually bring the mind of Christ into manifestation in our lives so that we as the Apostle Paul may also say, “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” (1Cor. 2:16 )
Our access to the mind of Christ is not just an upgrading of our own natural mental processes but an entry into the divine wisdom of God through direct revelation by the power of the Holy Spirit. For as St. Paul also says,
“… a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God…” (1 Cor. 2:6-12)
For most of us, the renewal of our minds is indeed a difficult task, for first of all we must divest ourselves of the mindset that has been ingrained in us by the world culture since our youth – the self-centered attitude that we must “look out for number one” because if you don’t look out for ourselves no one else will. And the associated attitudes that say: “It matters not how straight the gate/how charged with punishment the scroll/ I am the master of my fate/ I am the captain of my soul” and, that, you must do whatever it takes to survive in human society regardless of the moral fences you have to break.
No my brothers and sisters the TRUTH is that we are not our own (1Cor.6:19-20)! We have been bought at a price through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross and the ONLY way we can fulfill our destiny is to yield ourselves to HIM and to HIM alone so that He and HIS LOVE reigns in our hearts. We must make a decision to renounce the world and the flesh and walk in the Spirit through the renewal of our minds.
“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. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom. 8:5-9)
In order to set your mind on the indwelling Spirit, you must rid yourself of all those attitudes that place you and your “self” at the center of your universe. You must renounce the false god of “self” and place Jesus at the center of all your life events, thoughts, actions and motivations. If you are to bear fruit for His Glory you must be firmly attached to the TRUE VINE (John 15:1), Jesus, the son of the Living God! For as He says, “without me you can do nothing” (Jn.15:5), and, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, No one comes to the Father but by me” (Jn.14:6).
Divesting ourselves of self-sufficiency, then, becomes one of our greatest challenges because it goes against the world mindset, But if we are attached to the TRUE VINE, He will be the provider of our strength, our resolve, and the faith that is required for the task. If we detach our selves from the vine we will be on our own and thus disable ourselves from brining forth fruit for His Kingdom!
Now, such a life dedicated to the Lord cannot be reached unless our relationship with Him deepens and we are able to discern His voice in us, through every moment of our lives (cf., On Hearing His Voice …) This level of communion and intimacy with the Divine requires that we go deeper and deeper in prayer through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the Light of His Word reaching our hearts. We cannot come to this level through mere perfunctory religious activity or rote recitation of scripted prayer — it involves our total giving of our deepest self and the emptying of our hearts to Him so that He can place His desires in us. Even in this He will help us if we give ourselves totally to Him.
It is very important brethren that we permit the Holy Spirit to activate and inspire our reading of His Word. For, it is only through His inspiration that the Word can break through the veil of our human minds and reveal and activate the truths He wishes us to act on in faith. The more we imbibe of His Word and interact with the Holy Spirit, the more and deeper our relationship to Jesus becomes to the point where we like Paul can also say, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).
Now, it is true that all those who abide in Him have access to “His mind”, but if we let the cares and worries of the world occupy us, the “mind” of Christ will never be able to surface in our lives. We, like Jesus, must set time apart from the world to still our hearts and commune with the Divine so that the Spirit of His Love that has been poured into us (Rom. 5:5) may take the appropriate place of dominance in our lives.
As our trust and communion with the Lord increases so will our ability to activate our faith to bring forth fruit for His Kingdom out of the circumstances that He places before us in our lives. So many of us don’t realize that the world systems in which we are embedded affect our ability to live out our faith. This is because the negative emotions and attitudes the world promotes weaken our faith, just as Peter’s faith was weakened by the roar of the waves and the wind when he attempted to walk on water at Jesus’ behest (cf., Matt.14:28-31). For that reason it is important to ignore whatever attitudes the world is attempting to impose on us and to place our entire focus trust and faith in Jesus and His Word regardless of what is going on around us!
Through the renewal of our minds and our renewed fellowship with Christ we develop an increase in trust in HIM, His promises and His directives to us. In this way whatever the world says or thinks is placed into the irrelevant background of our lives, as it rightly should.
As our faith and fellowship with Christ increases through the renewal of our minds so also our ability to enter into worship is increasingly enhanced by the Holy Spirit. Although we may not realize it, the activities we currently categorize as “worship” are really only the means the Lord uses to bring our spirit to the level of awareness where we can enter into and experience true worship “in the Spirit and in truth”. One of the main reasons we are hindered is that our natural minds “get in the way” and act as a veil before the Holy of Holies. The renewal of our minds rips out that veil of self-consciousness and permits us to enter into the Spirit (or God-consciousness) without our human intellects getting in the way.
As our minds continue in the renewal process we will find ourselves being drawn more and more by the Spirit into the true worship that the Father desires (cf., John 4:23), a worship where we lose all consciousness of “self” and are drawn in to a spiritual union with the Divine – a state where He and He alone matters and NOT the attitude and postures of ourselves or others around us. Worship, true worship, only starts when our surrender to Him is so total and complete that our only awareness is of Him and of being enveloped in His Glorious Presence. It is the point where we, like Jacob, personally experience a “Beth El” (cf., Gen.28:10-17) and we can, like Jacob, say ” truly I have been in the Presence Of God”! The Lord has graciously provided the spiritual gifts that enable this entry into His Presence – one of these being “Praying or Singing in the Spirit“. Praised be His Holy Name!
Now, you may say or think to yourself, ” but I know the life I have lived and I am not worthy to enter into His Presence”. That thought, in itself, brethren, is exactly what qualifies you to enter. For He himself said, “the first shall be last and the last first” (Matt. 19:30), whereas to the Scribes and the Pharisees, who thought themselves to be “first” He said, “…even the prostitutes and tax collectors enter in before you”(Matt.21:31). Yes you are qualified because, “…blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”.
Recognizing your own unworthiness indicates your poverty of spirit and Fear of the Lord. But the blessing comes with recognizing that He took on your unworthiness to give you His worthiness. All you need to do is throw yourself at His feet, repent and accept the robe of righteousness that He offers, His Robe of Glory that lets you come before the Heavenly Throne. Let yourself, then, be enveloped in Him and His Mercy by surrendering yourself to Him and His Love. Do this with a pure heart and you will enter into the Kingdom, and inherit the Promise of the Father!
In closing, brethren, I exhort you to deepen your relationship with Jesus so that you may fully realize the spiritual strength He provides us in facing the difficulties of life. He has not left us orphans (Jn. 14:18) to deal with the problems that face us on our own strength. Rather, He has sent us His Holy Spirit to indwell us, enlighten us, strengthen us and guide us through all the intricacies of our lives to reach the point where we are made whole in every sense, in spirit, soul and body. He desires to share with us every portion of our life experiences, our failures, and our successes, our pain and sorrows as well as our joy and happiness. He has a purpose for us but He can only achieve His purpose in us if we let Him.
As long as we want to be in control of our lives in both the material and spiritual spheres we will be disconnected from the TRUE VINE and really be “on our own”. I urge you therefore, do not cling to the world, do not cling to your fleshly pleasures and ambitions, cling only to the VINE. For only in abiding in HIM can the purposes of God for you be realized and you can bear fruit for His Glory!
Do not be afraid then of yielding yourselves to the Holy Spirit and receive all of the Gifts He has set aside for you – for other wise, how can He work in you and through you, if you, in your own willfulness and self-centeredness, refuse to accept the very Spiritual Gifts that will enable you to fulfill His purpose?
May the Lord renew your minds and bless you in all your undertakings for His Glory….. Bartimaeus
(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2011])