Christ followers believe in change. Change is a basic unit of value, a measuring stick, a vision that encourages us. Change is a catalyst for a lively,
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul says this, “”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.”
Talk is Good
To be “transformed by the renewal of our mind,” is often equated with positive thinking or a form of self-talk. I just came across a gem of a saying this morning that fits this profile,
“Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.” (Roosevelt) Now, just to be clear, I am a big fan of thinking positively. Eagerly expecting the best (or the worst) is a choice we all make. Daily.
Christians have rightly grabbed their share of this self-talk market. Publishers and manufacturers put bible slogans on trinkets, Christians tape scripture verses to their mirrors and hang them on our walls. Common wisdom says that people move toward that which has our focus. So, focusing on a life affirming message, even if it is only self-talk, is helpful.
Change is Better
The Apostle Paul preaches change because he experienced it first hand. A radical change moved him from zealous Judaism to Jesus. His worldview got significantly larger and his life more interesting when he encountered Christ. So, in Paul’s letters (which I often refer to as his “consultancy work”), we find this new, larger perspective. He wants people to catch his vision!
Paul envisioned an age to come which was a stark contrast to his present world. In the lingo of Jesus, being a Christ follower meant that he had become an agent, an ambassador for the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God, was the age to come. Following Christ meant changing into that reality as it breaks into our present experience.
Jesus, Paul reasoned, was a new equation that took us across the lines of our old experiences.
Age to Come
Sometimes we miss Paul’s emphasis on age to come.
What I mean is this; on any given Sunday, you can hear preachers across American suggesting that “mind” or “the renewal of our minds” refers to our cognitive capacity. That is, they preach that “mind” and the human brain are synonymous. They teach that biblical “mind” is the mechanism by which we have thoughts. So, “mind” in this sense is “nothing more than a function of the brain.”
But the misunderstanding grows deeper. In this view, the “mind” or “thought functions” are a kind of command and control center of our lives. And so, it is taught that thoughts and behavior form a simple causal relationship. Think good thoughts, experience good behavior.
What Paul is referring to when he says “mind” is more than the organ housed within our skull; it is more than the thoughts generated by our brain.
“Mind,” in biblical literature is a reference to our whole being. Our “mind” includes thoughts. But it also refers to our emotions and choices and will (Dunn, 75). This wasn’t an original Pauline thought. While the Old Testament does not use the word “mind” it does use the word leb which is translated “heart.” Like “mind”, “heart” refers to the immaterial you, the inner you: your thoughts, emotions, and choices. It is, in many ways close to the contemporary idea of emotional intelligence.
So, when Paul writes to the Romans to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” he is saying that in Christ we become new. Our new lives are both empowered by and a reflection of this new age (ie., the one in Christ). We are transformed: we live, love, serve, create, co-create, co-labor, lead, teach, parent, resolve conflict, govern, earn, eat, etc. in ways that reflect God’s kingdom. Once we were conformed to this age. Now, we transformed in our “minds” for life in the new age, the age of God’s kingdom.
Faith in Christ is about change. It requires change not because those are the rules, not because your thoughts need to agree with my thoughts. No, it requires change because change is the cutting edge, the crossover into the age of the kingdom.
So, work for change. Work for small changes. Work for large sweeping changes. Because change is that place that gives you and I the greatest leverage between what we are, and what we can be.
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