Every individual has a mind--a thinking, conscious, undying spirit--destined for great things: to honor God, to nurture itself and to bless others. If we choose to fulfill our destiny, we will submit our reason to God's will and ask Him to renew our mind, and we will maintain this renewal through daily communion with God and through determined rational thinking according to sound biblical standards.
This renewing transformation affects the mind's inclination, the substance of its thought, and creates a different attitude, a new way of thinking. The Christ-centered mind changes an irresolute person who blunders through life, persuaded by temporary excitement or enticement, into a stable and steadfast individual who moves steadily through life's calms and tumults, governed by God's wise and rational ways.
There is no place nor purpose for the old nature in the renewed mind.
In his translation of Ephesians 4:22-24, J. B. Phillips gives a vivid picture of the renewal process, writing that we must hurl away the foul, rotted garments of our old life. This divesting of these delusions makes it possible for God to recreate us mentally and spiritually.
In this stripping away of the old, we tend to focus on the conspicuous and fail to deal with the inconspicuous--the wrong desires, forbidden dreams and deliberate disobedience decaying and corrupting the recesses of our mind.
Our small son had a beloved plastic horse. Covered with bandages and tape to plug air leaks, it eventually seemed more patches than original horse. We threw it out. Quietly, he retrieved it from the rubbish. This process was repeated daily until finally we deflated the toy and stuffed it into the rubbish bin. He loved that horse and found security in its battered but familiar form. He had not yet learned that it was time to move on to something better. We are like this immature little boy. We try to retain or retrieve lost love, lesser dreams, grief--things that have become such a familiar part of our thinking we are unaware they are corrupting our minds and displacing God's new and better thoughts.
Grieving over what might have been, what could have been or what once was may be a natural process; however, we must consciously bring an end to the grieving and go on.
My mother died when we were pastoring. I had no opportunity to mourn, and eventually the inner pain became unbearable. I cried to God, "Please take away the pain. I can't live like this." God spoke quietly to my mind: "I want to comfort you, but you won't let me. You hold onto your grief, refusing to give it to Me." When I handed it to Him, He took the pain and renewed my joy.
God performs instant miracles in some lives, cleansing the mind by His Spirit in one single purging act; however, most of us must depend on His grace and power to help us clean away and dispose of the foul and rotting fetishes and fashions of our mind.
We must then flee from the rubbish heap of the past and cry out to God for His power to resist the desire to go back and retrieve them. But that is not enough. We must starve our mind's appetite, giving it nothing forbidden to feed upon, and, even more importantly, we must nourish our minds with the mind of Christ until His attitude and thoughts become ours.
If we think about something frequently and over an extended period of time, we come to a point when we cannot stop thinking about it. Our mind becomes set in a groove. We can choose to set our mind in the world's groove--flippant, cheap, light-minded, shabby, soiled, critical, bent upon revenge and vengeance. Or we can choose to set our mind on God's Word which brings the profitable, good thoughts--those that are true, trustworthy, honest and honourable; just toward God and toward persons; pure, undefiled, able to stand God's scrutiny; kind, patient, loving; of good report, gracious, fit for God's ear ( Philippians 4:6-9).
The result of the latter choice is a peaceful, stable and rational mind. God's peace abides in spite of trouble, not in trouble's absence. We cannot understand, nor acquire, nor invent this peace. It is God's gift.
My friend's husband emptied their joint bank account of her sizeable inheritance, fled to another country, and left her--a woman approaching mid-life without means of financial support or employable skills--with six children to raise. I've always remembered her words to me: "I took it all to the Lord," she said. "His peace flowed into my life; it moved into every space of my being. Then it solidified. Nothing could remove God's peace." Her attitude and her life testified to Isaiah's song of praise in which he affirms that God will keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is stayed on Him, because that person has placed his trust in God (Isaiah 26:3).
When an individual has a firm hold on God, he will have a firm hold on himself.
In the midst of life's uncertainties and unpredictable changes, there are stability and steadfastness in the inner person who sees and lives beyond the transitory visible things: small troubles, personal attacks, outward deterioration. The individual whose spirit is renewed lives in a new world because he knows that "though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16-18). This stability develops from fixing our mind on things that are unseen, the things of God that last forever.
The renewed mind is rational, because true abiding faith in God is rational. When fear, doubt and timidity try to take over, we remember Paul's admonition to young Timothy that "God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7, Phillips). A mind renewed by God keeps boldness, courage, power and confidence--not fear. Governed by love, this mind marshals a balanced and harmonious life. A sound mind is sensible, orderly, controlled, disciplined, and keeps a rein on desires, passions, fear and despondence.
Genuine spiritual renewal in Christ leads to godly wisdom when we maintain this renewal daily through personal communion with God and through determination to apply His rational and wise laws to our living.
Such spiritual sensitivity and aspiration can be worn down, however, and even obliterated when an individual refuses to live by God's laws or becomes entirely engrossed in the secular life. We can resist such wearing down and avoid such destruction by seizing the day for God's thoughts, asking Him to make the first impression upon our mind, rather than allowing the world to seize our thoughts and thereby to control our actions for the day. King David asked God to fashion a pure heart for him and to create in him a new spirit. This great king's writings are an enduring testament to a mind focused on God. Only when God's laws are in the mind and on the heart is it possible truly to know God.
This godly, renewed, rational mind is dynamic, prepared for action.
Trifles no longer appeal to nor consume its energy. Desires of past, ignorant days no longer govern. Consistent, determined, biblical convictions replace insignificant thoughts about spiritual and eternal values. Settled convictions of divine truth produce a stable and contented mind whose influence is of enduring substance and value. The mind Christ renews motivates a person to live with an undivided heart and decided resolution. Rational, Christ-centered, biblically nourished thinking does indeed propel the believer's mind--that intelligent, conscious, undying spirit--toward its greater destiny, that of blessing others and to honoring God.
Mary Ann earned a master's degree in Commonwealth literature and taught at the University of Saskatchewan. Currently, Paul and Mary Ann teach at the Theological Centre for Asia in Singapore and travel in ministry throughout the region. Their sons, Mark and Paul, and their families live in western Canada.