Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
Last week I wrote about Scripture having restorative power and medicinal-like qualities. This week I’m writing about why our heart, soul, mind and spirit need the tonic Scripture offers us.
Before the Israelites entered the promised land Moses instructed them to take God’s words, spoken through him, and recite them often, talk about them continually with their children, and write them on their door-posts and the on walls of their houses, so that they would always be visible (Deuteronomy 6:7-9). Moses understood the power words and images have in shaping and forming human character and actions. He knew the word of God would build and sustain a faithful life, provide a holy sense of identity, and give assurance of God’s love and protection in time of need – if ingested regularly. God’s words were given so that they would be absorbed into the hearts, minds, and souls of his people.
Today, there are a lot of words and images vying for our attention. They stick in our minds, sometimes serving no purpose – or even playing a detrimental role. The words to old songs, images from magazines, scenes and dialogue from movies or television shows and commercials can run through our thoughts during the day subtly influencing how we think about ourselves and the world. The verse above, from Paul’s letter to the Romans, addresses the same concern Moses had. Here is a helpful paraphrase of that verse: Stop being molded by the external and fleeting fashions of this age, but undergo a deep inner change – a transfiguration – by the renovation of your mind. (borrowed from The Complete Word Study Dictionary/New Testament, edited by Spiros Zodhiates, p. 1350)
Scripture can renovate our minds and hearts when we read it regularly and use it in prayer, as well as memorize, study and contemplate it – practices which Christians (and our Jewish forebears) have done for centuries. Today, however, it may be far easier to recall the images and message of a commercial shown frequently on our favorite sports channel than to recall the apostle Paul’s moving words about the nature of love in his first letter to the Corinthians. Our children may more readily model the cynicism portrayed in many of the cartoons they watch and video games they play than the behavior commended in the second chapter of Philippians.
I am not suggesting we cancel our cable subscription, or stop going to the movies, or avoid looking at magazines and reading the newspaper. We ought to be engaged with the world around us and cognizant of the principles that underscore it. Besides, plenty of what we hear, see, and read about is not incompatible with a life of faith.
However, we ought to be conscious of the power words and images have and how they can influence the way we think about ourselves and relate to those around us. That is why it is important we make a point of soaking up ones we find in Scripture, ones which are guaranteed to offer an authentic and hopeful view of life lived under God’s domain, and the assurance, that through the grace of Jesus Christ, what was intended for harm can be used by God for something good (Genesis 50:20).
When I allow images, verses, or stories from the Bible to run through my mind during the day it has a stabilizing effect on me. My thoughts then tend to revolve around the lovely and true things of God instead of the inane, anxious or depraved things that are of this world. I can attest to the fact that it’s possible to replace the unhealthy, false, materialistic, and ego-centric messages that may currently vie for room in your mind and imagination with God’s true, pleasing and hopeful thoughts and messages.
As an instrument of healing, the word of God can bring about a transformation of the soul, setting us free from destructive behaviors and unhelpful thought patterns. With a mind renewed by Scripture we will then be able to “test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Beginning next week: Incorporating Scripture into our lives: the disciplines of reading, study, prayer, memorization and contemplation.
“Stop being molded by the external and fleeting fashions of this age, but undergo a deep inner change – a transfiguration – by the renovation of your mind.” This reminds me of a PBS special we saw part of last night, “God in America”. Probably the main thing that stood out to me from what we saw was that people who did this caused problems for people who didn’t, or who thought they did, but really used the Bible to re-inforce those “external and fleeting fashions of this age”. It was stated that those who believed that they had a personal connection with God were not controllable, and that the fear of those “in control” of society was that the society would go out of control, which of course it did not, and that religion would stop being a central part of American society, which of course it did. Religion is not what God has ever been after. Relationship of us with Him is. And regardless of what mankind may think, God is in control, not man. And lest we think this is an issue from history only, it isn’t. We need to read the word, and listen to God’s Spirit. But we need to realize it makes those who think they are in control, who don’t or can’t listen to God’s voice, very uncomfortable, at the least for those who do are not controllable.
Rick, you’ve just described the difference between those who have faith and those who are held by faith (I think that phrase (or something like it) comes from Soren Kierkegaard, originally). Those who have faith often feel uncomfortable around those who are held by faith. And you’re right, control is the issue here. If we claim Jesus as “Lord” then that means we’ve given him control of our life — and we are held by faith. The word “Lord” means Master, or Owner. So Jesus, and not societal norms, should direct our life. I’ll be writing more on this topic in my upcoming series, “Losing Control.” Thanks so much for your comment. Claudia
Yes! Exactly! I haven’t heard that terminology before, but from the definitions you give, that’s exactly it! Sadly, more and more I am coming to think that many more of those who attend church and profess Christ as Savior and Lord are operating in those “external and fleeting fashions of this age” than I had ever thought. I may be wrong, but more and more I feel I see this, and am not terribly happy about seeing it. I hope I’m wrong. At least we can pray that God sends forth His Word in a purposeful way to bring us all to our senses however much we conform to the world rather than being transformed by His Spirit from the inside out by the renewing of our minds.
I’m looking forward to your upcoming series on “Losing Control”.
Rick, we’re all vulnerable to the temptation of conforming to the external and fleeting fashions of this age (especially clergy!). I agree: prayer for the church and fellow Christians is essential. If the Holy Spirit is placing this on your heart, go with it. Wouldn’t it be great if at least a few Christians in every church were praying about this? Thanks again for writing. Claudia
Claudia, I have been trying so hard to concentrate on the Trinity being the ultimate reality and the world being the “Shadowlands” as C.S. Lewis called it. Your message was very timely in encouraging me to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.
What peace there is in knowing that God is eternal and the things of this world only temporary! Thank you, Claudia. Lynn
Lynn, thank you so much for your comment. Claudia
Yes, we are all vulnerable. I do pray for the church for this. And likely won’t stop. If I do, I’m reminded. 😉
I’ve really been enjoying this series on the Word. Thank you!
Lisa, I am thankful to hear the posts are a blessing to you. Praise the Lord! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. Claudia
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