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A Renewal of the Mind

Ephesians 4:17-5:2

James R. Davis

We are constantly bombarded with conventional thinking. It usually comes in the form of pithy sayings. You know many of them. "If you give him an inch . . . he'll take a mile." "Two wrongs . . . don't make a right." "If you lay down with the dogs . . . you'll get up with the fleas." "God helps those who help themselves." Cleanliness . . . is next to godliness." "Don't get mad . . . get even." Someone improved on that saying by changing it slightly, "Don't get even . . . get ahead." "When in Rome . . . do as the Romans do." And finally, "A dog may be able to whip a skunk . . . but the fight just ain't worth it."

The trouble with conventional thinking is that on the surface it sounds great. But often it leads us astray. For example take the statement, "When in Rome . . . do as the Romans do." We are encouraged not to make waves. We are supposed to blend in. Don't swim against the current. Go with the flow. That is the way conventional thinking goes.

Conventional thinking many times encourages and condones wicked lifestyles as it encourages us to conform to ungodly standards. But the Bible encourages another kind of thinking.

Paul wrote, "If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Ephesians 4:21-24)

We are unique as God's creatures in that each of us has a mind with which we can do whatever we choose. We have the power of reason, the power of judgment and the power of imagination. You can do almost anything with your imagination. You can travel all over the world through the powers of imagination. We have power to invent, plan, execute, build, destroy, dominate and serve. A whole new world is at our beck and call through the power of the mind.

We have a saying; "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." In that God gave us minds, he is saying, "You are to use them properly, you are to take care of them, you are to develop them properly." We are the masters or the victors of how we choose to think. Today our lives are the result of all the choices that we have ever made. Tomorrow we will become what we think today.

Your Mind Is Satan's Target

The key to Christian living is being " . . . renewed in the spirit of your mind." (Ephesians 4:23) Spirituality truly centers in the mind. Communion with God is dependent upon the mind. If we commune with God, we will do it with our minds. Communion takes place inside us. We talk about loving and serving God but it all has to start in the mind.

Luke 10:27
He answered: "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, `Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Sometimes we may think, "It is my mind and I'll do with it what I please. I'll read what I want to read and I'll think what I want to think." Yet, Satan knows that our minds are the center of our being and he will aim everything things he has in his arsenal at your mind.

Satan's attack on our minds destroys our communion with God. Paul wrote, "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: [Emphasis mine] Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." (Ephesians 4:17-19)

2 Corinthians 4:4
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ . . .

Satan seeks to destroy our minds through mass media. It is easier to let others to do our thinking for us and we delegate this work to mass media. If you want to know how we should think or feel about what is happening take a poll. Have you ever sat down to watch television and soberly thought about how much of the programming is designed to change the way you think and live? Professional writers seek to make us laugh at things that are morally unacceptable to God. Humor is an excellent way of initially tearing down barriers to things that we reject. The plot of the movie The Titanic is built around a love affair and illicit immoral sex. Evolution is talked about on television so much that it is a foregone conclusion in the minds of most.

Pornography is another way that Satan seeks to destroy our minds. Vulgar, obscene literature will destroy the mind. Lenin said, "Destroy the morals of the youth of one generation and the next generation can be conquered without lifting a weapon." It has happened!

One way Satan will seek to destroy the stewardship of your mind is with intellectual laziness and idleness. Nearly all of us have to fight intellectual laziness. "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves [Emphasis mine] to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:14)

We understand the need of physical exercise. The need to exercise our physical hearts. What about my mind? What about yours? How much do you use your mind? How much do you read? How much do you stretch your mind? How active do you let it become? Someone said, "Few minds wear out; more rust out." The mind isn't worn out by use. Some people say, "I used to be able to comprehend and remember." What happened?

2 Corinthians 4:16
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Paul says our body is wearing out, but what about the inward man? What about the mind? Did he say it is decaying? No, he said that it is being renewed day by day. Our minds cease to work because we cease to use them.

Renewing Our Thinking Is Essential to Becoming A New Person

It is with the mind that we have power to refocus the way we live. Marcus Aurelius said, "Our life is what our thoughts make it." Jesus said, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." (Matthew 15:19-20) The mind is the reservoir of life. The culmination of our lives, what we are and what we will become always begins on the inside of us. Initially every battle in life begins with a new way of thinking. Right thinking precedes right actions.

Too many times we struggle to have self-induced happy thoughts and self-generated self-improvement plans. All of this is commendable because it points to a desire to think right. Yet God has a better plan to help us renew our thinking and our lives.

Ephesians 4:20-24
But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Romans 12:1-3
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Psalms 1:1-2
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

A preacher once visited in the home of a young couple. The wife said to him, "We're new Christians, and although I'm saved, I have the background of a worldly life--swearing, carousing, and all those things. As a result, the past keeps coming back, and I'm troubled. Bad thoughts are destroying my peace of mind." "Let me make a suggestion," replied the preacher. "When something like that comes to mind, analyze it and recognize its evil source. Then reject it and with God's help put it out of your life. Finally, replace it by saturating your mind with His truth!" She took the advice and learned to control her thoughts. A few months later she said, "I'm now one of the happiest women in this city. By filling my mind with the Scriptures, I'm no longer being defeated by my past".

We must have a desirous anticipation to learn. How many of you came to church this thinking that something might be said that would change the way you live for the rest of your life? How many have come to sit in the seat of the scornful? You don't have to prove much to a person who is expecting God to say something to him. We need to be prepared and programmed to think. Sometimes I think speakers unintentionally persuade people to leave their brains at the front door of the church building. We need to be prepared to think through issues, concepts, and changes that need to occur. We need people are proficient or skilled or highly competent. Have you ever thought about your need to be a highly discerning thinker?

A friend once told the poet Coleridge he didn't believe in giving religious instruction to a small child. He insisted that every young person must have an open mind when he chooses his faith. Without replying to his statements, Coleridge invited his visitor into the backyard to look at his garden. The man was surprised to see that part of it was badly in need of attention. "Why, you have nothing here but weeds!" he exclaimed. The poet answered, "I didn't wish to infringe in any way upon the liberty of this plot of ground, so I gave it a chance to express itself and choose its own product." The guest got the point!

The mind is not fallow ground but fertile soil. We must cultivate our minds. If we don't, they will become briar patches of tangled thoughts.

An Alabama 5-year-old was reunited with his mother after recognizing himself on a TV show about missing children. Because of complex family problems, the boy had come to believe that he was where he was supposed to be. But when he saw himself on a television special about missing persons, he realized that he was separated from the one to whom he belonged. He told his baby-sitter, whom then called authorities. Before long, he was in the arms of his mother.

This is similar to what happened to King Josiah in 2 Kings 22. He had assumed that he and his nation were spiritually where they were supposed to be. But one day Hilkiah the priest found the long-lost law of God and read it to Josiah. The king suddenly saw that he and his people had been separated from their God by their sins. He tore his clothes as a token of his own personal repentance and concern for his people. As a result, the nation repented and returned to the God to whom they belonged. It all came about because Josiah saw himself and his people in the words of the Scriptures.

Paul gives us a picture of what the new man is like and he indicates that right thinking precedes right actions. Paul wrote, "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind . . . " We note that they were walking according to the way their vain minds were thinking. There were living lascivious, unclean and greedy lives because their hearts were blinded by the way they were thinking.

The Results of A Renewed Mind Is Becoming A New Person

Many of us know something about reprogramming a computer. We update from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 and our computer becomes a different computer altogether just because we have programmed it to think different. This reprogramming has amazing results. So it is when God reprograms us to think different as we study his word. We must heed a warning at this point. If we think different and don't act different the word probably has taken root in our heart. Then we only have a head religion and not a religion of the heart. The best way to get the word to take root in our hearts is through prayerful seeking, asking and knocking on the door of God's heart.

The purpose of this new creation in Christ (Ephesians 2:10) is to become a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). And Paul tells us the result of this new life in Christ.

Ephesians 4:23-5:2
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. [Emphasis mine.]

We must be reprogrammed to put away lying, anger, stealing, corrupt speaking. We must learn to think properly as our minds are renewed by meditating on the Word of God.

Conclusion:

We are actually speaking of repentance that takes place in the mind. For repentance is a change mind that results in a new direction for living. C. S. Lewis said that repentance "is not something God demands of you before He will take you back . . . it is simply a description of what going back is like."

The new birth spoken of in John 3 has to do with the rebirth of our entire thinking as we check out how we think in light of what the Bible teaches.

Being renewed in the spirit of our minds allows our lives to become a living sacrifice.

Eph 5:1-2
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
 
 

 

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