Romans 12:1-2. 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.2 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.
Praise God for mind renewal! Praise God that our brains are elastic, changeable, moldable. That our thinking never has to be stuck. How could any spiritual growth and transformation into Christ’s likeness be possible without a renewable mind? The renewal of our minds is the key to conformity to Christ, and the testing of the will of God. It’s a very big deal.
You may remember that each of us is made up of three parts: spirit, soul, body. When God created mankind he formed for them a body, he breathed into them a spirit, and then they became a living soul. For real transformation to occur, for conformity into Christ’s likeness to happen, we must be renewed in our spirit, and in our body, and thus in our soul.
So notice what Paul DOESN’T say in Romans 12. He doesn’t tell us to be renewed in our spirit or our body. Just our mind. Why is that? Because your spirit is already renewed. It has been joined to the Holy Spirit and is controlled by the indwelling life of Christ. And your body will not be renewed until the resurrection of the dead. As of right now, your body is still deeply affected by sin (“indwelling sin in your members” – Rom. 7). One day, praise God, your body will be made perfect like your spirit. But not yet.
That leaves the soul. And your mind is part of your soul. Your soul includes all the faculties of the mind – the five senses and the interpretation of incoming data, the reasoning, the imagination, the memory. The soul is how we interact with creation, each other, and our Creator. And all through the mind.
So what is this renewal of the mind that Paul is talking about?
Mind renewal is the ongoing act of faith whereby you are trusting the mercies of God moment by moment, by moment. It is the refreshing of the mindset away from conformity to this world, and unto conformity to the mind of Christ. Mind renewal comes as we think like Christ, in order to love and live like Christ. As Martin Luther once said, “faith is taking hold of Christ.”
But this is not merely “the power of positive thinking.” It is not a form of self-improvement. It’s not even “following in the footsteps of Jesus” as our mentor or model. All of that might still be done by ourselves for ourselves, using Jesus simply as our example instead of our Savior. Relying on my own ability to imitate Christ, rather than relying on the mercies of God.
Real mind renewal happens only from meditating upon the mercies of God. God’s grace in Christ must be our starting point. The mercies of God provide the lens for seeing all of life. Focusing on the mercies of God determines how we imagine God, and others, and ourselves. The mercies of God even change how we think and reason. Why? Because it is love that changes our reasoning, never hard facts alone. Hard facts will always be interpreted in light of what we love. Always. To change a person’s thinking, you must change their loves. God’s mercy proves we are loved and his mercy can change what we love, and therefore it can change what we believe to be true.
What are the mercies of God? Paul spent 11 chapters in Romans outlining the mercies of God for us. His covenant love and faithfulness. His imputed righteousness. His justification. His adoption. His forgiveness. His glorification. His salvation. In a word, his love. All for us and in us in Christ.
Beholding God’s mercy in Jesus Christ, and in his glorious cross alone, is what changes our hearts and thus renews our minds. By the cross and resurrection, we know that we are loved. By our death and resurrection with Christ we know that we are alive to God’s love. Now our union with Christ, and his love, allows us to renew our minds day after day. Slowly but surely. Pursuing a deeper affection for Christ and his saints. Presenting ourselves as living sacrifices of love and mercy. This is the will of God. This is “to live is Christ.”
What do you tend to think about all day?
You in Christ
How can knowing that you are loved by God fill you with love for others?
Christ in you
What is one way you could renew your mind with the mercies of God each day?
Playlist: Renew your mind