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.