“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, 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 renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I became a Christian 18 years ago. It was the best decision that I did not make and one that I have never regretted. I love God with all of my heart, all of my mind, all of my soul, and all of my strength. And I struggle with who I am. And I sometimes exhibit anger. And I sometimes get depressed. Now before someone goes and gets their knickers in a twist, please understand that I believe that what I cannot reveal, God cannot heal. And thus, I live my life as an open book for two reasons: First, I know God uses my struggles and my testimony to help someone else. And second, God knows everything about me so why should I care what man thinks?
There are a lot of people who love God with every ounce of their being, who struggle with something. People who face a battle within their mind every day. Yes, I know word on the street is that once you become a Christian the battle is over or sin magically disappears but is it really? God promises in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” But the distance between what God says and where we are is often times great.
I love God but I have moments when I’m insecure. I love God but I struggle with lust. I love God but I get depressed. I love God but I lack patience. I love God but I get angry sometimes. I love God but my thoughts can sometimes be evil. I love God and I strive daily to obey his word. I strive daily to grow spiritually. But I still fall short often. How is this possible? Because I, like many of God’s people, have an ongoing battle within our mind.
Satan, our number one enemy, has one job that he takes very seriously: “to kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10). Satan studies us. He takes the time to get to know us. He knows our likes and dislikes. He knows our weaknesses. He listens to our prayers. He…Is….On…His…Job! And the first thing he attacks is our mind! He wants us to believe that we can’t change or that we will never change. He does not want us to ever realize who we are. He wants us to always be insecure, lacking confidence, believing that we have nothing to offer the world. Satan works hard to keep us in bondage because he knows that God predestined each of us for greatness; and he does not want us to reach our full potential. He does not want us to become the men and women God created us to be. But the devil is a liar and the truth can not be found in him anywhere!!
So how do you and I begin to win the battle in our mind? How do we finally lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us (Hebrews 12:1). I am so glad you asked. God tells us to not conform to this world but to renew our mind. Yes, I understand that we live in this world and sadly through life experiences (our own and the experiences of others), what we allow into our ear gate and eye gate, as well as our thoughts, are shaped by the world. But in 1 Peter 2:9 God says, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” God has set us apart from the world. He says that we are in the world but not of this world; even as he is not of this world (John 17:16). And so we must be intentional about renewing our mind that we may have the mind of Christ and not the world.
So how do we do that? How do we renew my mind? Well meaning people will tell you to pray (I’m guilty) and that’s good. Prayer is necessary. But prayer isn’t enough. In Romans 2:12 God does not tell us to pray and ask him to renew our mind. He gives us a command to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. In other words, the process of renewing our mind is equally our responsibility as it is God’s; and I would argue that we share the bulk of the responsibility.
God promises to be with us through every situation (Deuteronomy 31:6). There is nothing that we will have to face alone when we are walking with God. Being freed from bondage can be scary and the enemy will use that moment to instill fear. For example, this year God told me that my focus is to be on (1) sowing, (2) giving, and (3) tithing. Not that I haven’t been doing these things, but I haven’t been consistent. So this is the year where I change that and it’s scary. And let me tell you, the enemy of my soul is trying to manipulate that. But the Bible says, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Making change is always frightening. Renewing our minds will be frightening. But understand that fear is not of God, it’s from the enemy. God promises to be with us. He promised to lead us to all truth. That’s his part. Our part is to seek his truth. Study his word. Let God in every area of our life; not just the areas that we want him him in. The Bible says “in all thy ways acknowledge him.” So we must also acknowledge him in our areas of struggle and know that he is with us.
We must also ask God for his wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). What does God say about insecurities? What does God say about the spirit of lust? What does God say about anger? Ask him! Ask him to lead you to his truth! He promised that he would give generously but we have to ask! God is faithful to do just what he said. We never have to wonder if God will keep his promises because he will. But we must also take responsibility for our actions.
There it is…..our part. We must acknowledge the part we play and take responsibility for it. Call a spade a spade. Take a look in the mirror and get completely raw with the person looking back at you. Admit that what you’ve been doing isn’t working and surrender to God so that he can change you from the inside. We have to admit that we can’t do this on our own. We need God every step of the way. But first we have to take responsibility.
I know that I can’t listen to certain songs; I can’t watch certain shows; I can’t read certain books; I can’t be around certain people. When I place myself in precarious situations I am setting myself up for failure. I have, in that moment, given the enemy that inch; and believe me when I tell you that the enemy does not play fair! Therefore, I have to be intentional about all that I do because when I am not I set the stage for the enemy to come in and trip me up. You know the saying, “Give a person an inch and they will take a mile? That’s how the enemy works. He’s watching and waiting for that inch. But let’s be intentional about not giving him the satisfaction. Remember, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy; think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” In the fight to win the battle of our mind we must think about good things. When we are thinking on things that are noble and pure and excellent and right, we have less time to think about bad things. And right thoughts often lead to right actions.
A great deal of what I’ve been taught and/or learned from the world is being challenged. And I am more determined than I have ever been to change how I’ve always thought. Philippians 2:5 says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” I desire the mind of Christ and so I am doing my part in the process to renew my mind, trusting that as I do my part God will also do his.