“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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 12:1-2, NIV.
It seems the enemy has mislead us a bit in our thinking. I meet so many people who dread even the thought of developing the discipline of partnering with their transformation. Whether it's physical or mental (it's all spiritual.) The more I study this the more I realize, it's not the work of the discipline that tires us, it's the weight of the undisciplined.
You see, we were created to be like Jesus. To live, to love and to feel like Him, but that doesn't happen instantly. The disciples spent large amounts of time with Jesus. During that time they learned from Jesus how to be like Jesus. Still they had to partner with their transformation by discipling themselves to let go of the things weighing them down as they traveled. Their old mind continually crashed into Jesus's abundant mind set. The two together just didn't work. Thus the need for them to lay their thoughts and natural reactions down and pick up ones that looked a little more like Jesus. The joy of being with Jesus seemed to motivate them more than the work surrender could sometimes prove to be. Jesus seemed to make change lighter.
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
Matthew 11:28-30, MSG.
Jesus knew the way to live freely and lightly in the middle of really hard things and even really high emotions. He showed us, we can do difficult things without losing our true selves. There can be a lack of peace all around us and yet the peace of God alive within us steadies, guides and controls. The renewed mind is connected to Holy Spirit in a life giving way and this connection changes the weight of transformation.
Mind renewal is right on the other side of transformation.
"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
We do not wage war as the world does. Our weapons are not worldly weapons. The weapons we have give us the power to break down strongholds, demolish arguments and any belief sitting itself up against the knowledge of God. A stronghold is anything that has a strong hold on you and they are dangerous. The enemy works to build up lies in our mind, those lies become like fortified towers where he can then hide and further deceive us with his words and temptations. We can see a fiery arrow (a lie) coming at us when there are no walls damaging our view. But because of strongholds, he is often able to stay hidden and shoot arrows from places we can't see, making it much more difficult to dodge and protect ourselves with our shield of faith.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,"
2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV.
By catching our thoughts and directing them toward the Good News of the Gospel we will tear down strongholds leading to death and destruction and instead begin to build roads leading to life and liberty.
Paul shows us (from the 2 previous posts...)
1. Real transformation always starts on the inside
The Father is not about behavior management, He is about heart transformation. Real change starts from the inside and flows easily to the outside. You clean the inside of the cup and the outside will be clean. You show me a changed life and I will show you a changed mind.
2. The mind doesn't change by doing what it always does
You cannot just keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results. If you want change, then it's safe to say you need to change the way you go about your change. Real change starts by noticing your thoughts, capturing them and resending them in the right direction. A lot of times this means you have to unlearn the wrong way and relearn the right way. But it starts with you getting sick of feeling stuck.
3. Nothing is just the way it is
Until you are an exact replica of Jesus, body, mind and spirit, then that is absolutely not just how you are. You have been given the mind of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit, the keys to the Kingdom and an invitation to know, look and feel like Jesus. Too often you settle for less than who he is which leaving you on this side of transformation and unable to know the good, pleasing and perfect will of God that happens post mind renewal.
And the final point for today.....
4. Our responses and reactions are very important
Response is the word I will use for - action under control. Reaction is the word I will use for - actions not under control. That being said, our reactions and responses tell us a lot about our current pathways. When a thought drops into our head we do one of two things with it. We respond or we react. What we do shows us who we are at the core.
For example; I may say I trust my husbands driving but last year as we drove up the side of a volcano in Maui, my reactions showed differently. The more appropriate statement would have been, I trust my husbands driving in normal driving conditions. What I showed him and my girls was that, when
driving conditions aren't just right, trust is hard for me. Anxiety flooded my body as I sat up straight, locked my eyes on the road and the cliff beside us, threatened everyone to keep the noise to a minimum and white knocked the side of our jeep.
We might think we know what we believe, but the moments our circumstances shift and the winds pick up, we see what we actually believe. What do you do when your kids catch you off guard? How do you respond when your husband announces he has to work late, again? What about when that unexpected bill comes in the mail, or the car brakes down, or your job threatens to make budget cuts? What about having teenagers and seeing them start to do things on their own?
There are so many situations we could list in the above paragraph. Situations that, as we would put it, sometimes 'get the best of us.' How we react or respond in these type of situations will tell us a lot about the state of our mind.
Does your mind tend to gravitate toward Good News? Believing the best about hardship? Does it see impossibilities as opportunities instead of problematic sentences? Do you tend to believe the best in those around you or are you more likely to jump straight to the worst, playing out a story line in your head that probably isn't true?
It's important to pay attention to which way we gravitate so we can discipline ourselves to think like He thinks. In Matthew chapter 14, the disciples saw an issue. Over five thousand people had gathered to listen to Jesus that day by the seashore. It was an amazing day of teaching and miracles, but it was getting late and soon everyone would be hungry.
"'Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food,' Jesus replied, 'They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.' 'We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,' they answered,"
Matthew 14:15-17, NIV.
You probably know the story. Jesus takes their five loaves and two fish and multiplies it to feed the masses. The disciples picked up twelve baskets of left overs when the feast was finished. Jesus took their not enough and provided them with more than enough. After the miracle the disciples loaded onto a boat to cross to the other side while Jesus stayed behind to pray. A few verses down in Matthew it says that later into the night the disciples started to panic as they saw what looked like a ghost walking toward them on the water. Peter speaks up first, "Lord, if it is you, then tell me to come."
"Come," Jesus says and just like that Peter is stepping out of the boat. Peter is walking on water. With the first gust of wind Peter looked around and panic set in causing him to sink. Jesus reached out, pulled him up and guided him back into the boat. If you jump over to Mark's version of the story Mark says the disciples simply hadn't understood the miracles of the fish and the loaves and because of that their hard hearts they were unable to see what was available to them.
In other words, their hearts, in that moment were unable to believe that they could walk on water. That they could do what Jesus did. Their hearts were hardened and because of that they struggled to walk out their belief. Peter did it, for a minute. And for a minute it was great - but almost as quickly as his mind set itself on the things of Christ it also reverted back to the ways of Peter and he began to sink.
It's likely this is our process too. We see the miracles of Jesus, experience the love of the Father and yet when our circumstances begin to tense up, we quickly revert back too old ways of thinking. Here's what I think it looks like; I think when times get tough we have the opportunity to respond out of what we know or we can react from what we feel. Peter and the disciples could feel fear and a lack of control, but in that moment they also knew Jesus as their Savior, their provider, their Rescuer. He had just taken their broken bread and multiplied it to feed everyone on the lakeshore. Surely walking on water was also on His resume of impossibilities.
Once the Father has revealed himself to us, we don't have the invitation to forget his revelation and react because of our feelings. We now have the responsibility to focus our feelings in on the promises of the Father and direct them in the way of the cross. I know that betrayal feels hard, but forgiveness is right. I know money feels tight, but trust is the way. I know you don't know what will happen tomorrow but peace will enable you to sleep at night. These are all responses chosen and put in place by the discipline of taking our thoughts captive. Our mind only goes where we allow it.
So where is yours going?
What are you thinking?
What's driving your reactions?
Are you a responder or a reactor?
I hope this mini series has been helpful. I know learning about the process of renewal and transformation sure has helped me submit to it over and over again. My prayers is that you learn to pay attention to your thoughts in a way that sets you free.