Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
This is a “go-to” verse for me when I am talking with counselees. I have found that many of them are well aware of that first command, which is stated in the negative: Do not be conformed to this world. Most find it fairly easy to understand that they must resist the temptations of the world, and avoid situations that might draw them to sin. Some have a long list of “don’ts” and they are eager to avoid those things that are clearly sinful. Some even teeter on the edge of legalism, thinking that they can achieve holiness by the things that they don’t do.
In our pursuit of holiness, it is true that we must avoid sin, but there is more to it than that. Paul goes on to tell us that we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind, not just reformed from sinful worldliness. But what does it mean to renew your mind? Well, when we think about making something new, the implication is that the old is no longer satisfactory or functional. When we are fed up with a certain besetting sin, or crushed under the weight of a life-dominating sin, then we know that the old has got to go, and the new must be put on. This is one thing that must be present in order to renew your mind: A strong distaste for the sin, and a heart that is determined to change.
A second necessary tool for mind renewal is the Word of God and a desire to read, understand, study and memorize it. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). If you are unsure of how to change, your best guidance will come from the Word of God. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16). Your mind needs the reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness that only God’s Word can provide.
The final and most important thing that must be present if you are truly to renew your mind is conviction of sin and true repentance, both of which can come only from the Spirit of God (2 Timothy 2:25). You will know when God has granted you true repentance, because your zeal for reform will be unquenchable. You will be determined, well beyond your own will, to kill the sin that has taken up residence in your heart. You will be willing to do anything to be rid of it. Even if you have tried many times before to renew your mind in a particular area, this time will be different. The difference is that you are not trying to change under your own power, but under the power of the living Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Think about that. The same power that brought Jesus up from the grave is living inside you right now and is available to help you quench the power of sin in your heart. All you have to do is submit your will to His, and He will give you the power to change.
Next time we’ll talk in a little more detail about what true repentance looks like. Since mind renewal simply won’t happen without it, it’s important that we understand exactly what the real thing looks like, so we can recognize the counterfeit, even if it is in our own heart. Meanwhile, dig into the Scriptures and begin to read about the mechanics of mind renewal. I would suggest you start with Ephesians 4:17-24. Meditate on this passage, and search your heart and life for evidences of the things listed there that must be put off. Begin to ask the Lord to reveal to you the areas where you need true repentance. He is faithful and just, and will do it!