The Renewed Mind: A Reflection on Romans 12:2

“…And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed in the renewing of your mind, in order to prove what the will of God is, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

A little while ago, I was challenged by an acquaintance to grow my universe. And so, I have been far more involved in social media over the past four months or so than I have ever been. It doesn’t take you long in your forays on the media to realize that there are well-meaning people out there that have very different perspectives and lifestyles than your own. Now, differences and variety are some of the things that make life interesting and even enriching. We live in a pluralistic society; differences are to be expected. But some differences spring from radically opposing worldviews. For example, one of the Watergate conspirators was quoted saying:

“I have found within myself all I need and all I ever shall need. I am a man

of great faith, but my faith is in George Gordon Liddy. I have never failed

me.”[i]

A well-known movie and theatre personality, Shirley Maclaine, has some memorable quotes to her name, one of which was:

“I don’t need anyone to rectify my existence. The most profound relationship we will ever have is the one with ourselves.”[ii]

I think it fair to say that Shirley Maclaine’s worldview is much the same as Gordon Liddy’s: one that is focussed on the self.  Paul the Apostle’s worldview was a biblical one and quite different. Romans 12 is a new section of the letter that begins to list some of the ways that Christians respond to God’s great mercy in sending us His Son as our Saviour. As noted above, Paul urges believers to refuse to be conformed to this age, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Earlier at chapter 1:28, Paul had written that because of idolatry God had handed human beings over to a “depraved mind”. This is a significant impediment. Whether thoughts from such a mind would lead to happiness is arguable. From a Christian perspective, whether such thoughts would lead to total destruction is incontestable.  To be clear, any mind that is focussed on anger, violence, hatred, greed, selfishness, malice, or illicit sexuality is by definition depraved and is a result of the fall of human beings. Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God came in the flesh to die for sinful human beings and give them the opportunity to be saved and to think with renewed minds; with the mind of Christ.

Dr Caroline Leaf, a scientist and Christian believer has written a book entitled, “Switch on Your Brain.” She explains that a few decades ago, scientists thought the brain to be a “fixed and hardwired machine.”[iii]Thus, any damage to the brain through events including accident, stroke, trauma, depression was seen as largely irreversible. [iv]However, Romans 12:2 deeply impressed her and she continued her research of the brain in the light of this scripture, ultimately finding that the mind can alter the brain even in the face of the most “…challenging neurological situations.”[v] She asserts that as our minds direct our thought processes, we can “…wire out toxic patterns of thinking and replace them with healthy thoughts.”[vi] Modern science is in effect proving the word of God.

The mind is the crossroads where the spirit and the body meet. It is also where Satan’s main attack against a person takes place. If he can control the thought life, he has access to the body and the spirit. Francis Frangipane[vii] noted that Jesus was crucified at the place of the skull, and to be effective in spiritual warfare we must understand that conflict with Satan takes place firstly in the battleground of the mind. He continues,

“For the territory of the uncrucified thought life is the beachhead of satanic

assault in our lives. To defeat the devil, we must be renewed in the spirit of our minds.”[viii]

However, defeating the devil in our minds has an important consequence in the world beyond our minds. Bill Johnson is pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California. He and his congregation have shown that the normal Christian life is one where there are signs and wonders[ix]. This comes from a renewed mind that aligns itself with the Risen Lord Jesus. If our minds are aligned with His, we will do the works that He did, and more. We will prove the will of God on earth. Many Christians live with unrenewed minds[x] that witness lives with little fruit. We need to repent of this. Bill Johnson states that this is not about whether we go to heaven or not, but about “how much of heaven”[xi] we want in our lives right now.  Folks, we need to turn to Jesus, and change our minds!

[i] Sermon Illustrations, “Self-Sufficiency”, quoted in The Christian Century, 9-28-77, p. 836.

[ii] Brainy Quote, Authors, “Relationship, Anyone, Ourselves,”

[iii] Dr. Caroline Leaf, Switch on Your Brain, (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2013) p.19

[iv] Ibid. p.20

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, (Arrow Publications, Cedar Rapids, IA, 1989) p. 9

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Bill Johnson, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind, (Destiny Image Publishers, Inc, Shippensburg, PA, 2005) pp. 29-36.

[x] Ibid. p. 43

[xi] Ibid p. 45

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