“We are transformed by the renewing of our minds, not by trying really hard to be good.” Josh Hunt nails the struggle of Christian discipleship for many people. Essentially he restates what Paul wrote in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” For many people, the struggle of becoming and then living as a Christian is the shift from thinking, speaking, and behaving according to the patterns, expectations, and lifestyles of the world to thinking, speaking, and behaving as someone directed by God’s will. While it’s easy to see the difference between the two, making the shift is often difficult, and many find themselves making the shift over and over again.
Changing your mind from the world’s patterns to God’s is life changing, but it doesn’t happen just by changing the things you do. John Piper once said, “Transformation is not switching from the to-do list of the flesh to the to-do list of the law.”1 It’s not a matter of going to church every Sunday, going to Bible study on Wednesday, or giving your money, time, or effort to the church. It’s not about cursing or drinking less – although there is often a resulting change in lifestyle. Paul says transformation comes from renewing our minds.
But how do we change our minds? Ultimately, it’s a matter of letting God change them for us. Paul also wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, “Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Verse 18 tells us that the transformation comes through the Holy Spirit; God actually does the transformation. However, verse 16 tells us that this applies only to those who turn to God.
In order to renew our minds, we have to turn to God, through Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit transform us. And how do we turn to God? Paul asks a similar question in Romans 10:14, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” We can only turn to God when we hear the Word of God, whether it’s through preaching or teaching or even reading it.
The renewal of our minds begins with the Word of God, and the transformation continues throughout our lives. It’s a process, as 2 Corinthians 3:18 says; we’re being “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.” So even though we’re not necessarily transformed because we’ve read the Bible, we can pursue transformation through reading God’s Word. It’s not that we’ve spent the time reading the Scriptures; it’s that the pursuit of God’s will and the exposure to God’s Word, to the example of God’s people found there, and to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles begins to change the way we think and speak and act.
So, as we focus on God’s Word, God focuses on changing our minds. And then we find ourselves focusing on God’s will and, then, doing God’s will. That’s why we find ourselves reading the Bible more and going more often to Bible studies. That’s why we change our schedules from sleeping in on Sunday morning to going to Sunday school and the worship service. The more we pursue God, the more he changes us, and the more he changes us, the more we pursue him, the more we worship him, the more we serve him. Let God transform you; it’s a change you won’t mind.
1. John Piper, “The Renewed Mind and How to Have It.”