Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
”It is easy to use the phrase ‘God’s will for my life’ as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience. … My hope is that instead of searching for ‘God’s will for my life’ each of us would learn to seek hard after ‘the Spirit’s leading in my life today.’ May we learn to pray for an open and willing heart, to surrender to the Spirit’s leading with that friend, child, spouse, circumstance, or decision in our lives right now.”
Have you ever changed your mind about something? Maybe it was something minor like what you wanted for dinner last Tuesday night. Or maybe it was a bit more significant like changing your major as a Junior in college, or changing a career, or changing who you want to spend the rest of your life with. Either way, big or small, minor or major, your mind went through a renewal process…a sort of decision-making turn.
This renewal process is exactly what the Apostle Paul speaks of in Romans 12:2, but let’s look at verses 1 and 2 together…
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
In the first verse, Paul is stating that we are called to be sacrificial in how we live our lives, holy, pleasing to God as a legitimate act of worshipping Him as the One True God. And then he gives a warning/command that Christians should no longer look to this world for fulfillment, clarity, or hope. Instead we are to be being transformed (literal translation) as an ongoing action verb, by the “renewing of our minds.” If we look deeper into the Greek text, we can deduce that the words “mind” and “heart” are synonymous and interchangeable throughout the whole New Testament.
Therefore, when Paul says that we are to “renew our minds,” he is actually telling us that our hearts are being renewed. You see, in the first century world in which Paul lived, specifically informed religious groups…and dare I say common people as well…understood that the epicenter for all of living was in one’s heart. This was not strictly understood from a physical/ biological standpoint only. It was relegated to the spiritual life as well. Which is why Jesus was able to say in Mark 7 that the things that go into a man don’t make him unclean because they go into his stomach and get expelled out of the body. But the things from within out of a man’s HEART are what make him unclean.
It is only when we undertake this needed role of renewing our mind/heart that we will then be able to test and approve what God’s will is for our lives. It comes through the process of ceaseless prayer. It is possible only when we are intimately connected to God through the renewal process day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment.
Let me give you an example to help us out with this. My in-laws just took Christie and I to the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. Aside from the fact that it was quite amazing all around going to both of these locations, meeting Ken Hamm (Creationist who publicly refuted Bill Nye the Science Guy and created the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter) after hearing him speak, and the mind-blowing immensity of the full-sized Ark that God told Noah to build, I was struck by a singular thought.
“How much real grit, perseverance, and renewing of the mind/heart did Noah have to embody to do what the Lord had commanded him to do?”
Think about a few things for a moment with me. Noah was over 500 years old when God called on him to build this Ark. If you can’t wrap your brain around the sheer immensity of this ship, it’s estimated that it’s the largest, free-standing, completely wooden structure IN THE WORLD as of 2019. It took Noah upwards of 75-100 years to build this monstrous ship, all while the weather was sunny and warm, for the most part. No cause to think any huge “flood” was coming on the horizon. It was estimated to be the length of at least 450 feet, 1 ½ football fields end zone to end zone.
We’re not talking about a dumb, unmotivated man here. Noah had to be a brilliant carpenter and farmer. The architecture alone is staggering to get upwards of 1,400 animal kinds…7,000 animals with sleeping quarters, food, water, and waste removal for over a year. Not to mention sleeping arrangements and living quarters for Noah, his wife, their 3 sons, and their son’s wives. It was astonishing to see even a remake in person.
But the Flood account in Scripture states that the people of Noah’s day continued to do evil day after day, with a lust for corruption and violence. God saw how corrupt the people of the earth were and would exact judgment on all people because of this by bringing forth a great flood to wipe humanity from the earth.
This setting, of people being horribly harsh, corrupt, evil, heartless individuals is the same setting Noah found himself in as he was attempting to build the Ark and stay faithful to his God. Can you imagine the ridicule, jeers, snarky comments, and even violence people would have placed on Noah and his family? They, no doubt, thought Noah was a complete nut job for building this “unnecessary” and “massive” structure, and would have stopped at nothing to thwart his efforts and derail his thoughts.
Think about it. How many times do you think Noah had to renew his heart and mind through this 75-year process? How many times do you think seeds of doubt were planted in his head? How much ridicule could Noah face before he went off on somebody do you think? Yet, Noah’s faith was unwavering toward the task the Lord required of him. I have to believe this faith was not a dainty, meek, quiet, or wishy-washy faith. Noah’s faith was bold, outspoken, cutting, hard-hitting, perseverant, and gritty faith in the face of countless voices attempting to decimate his character and derail his faith in God! But how?
Noah renewed his heart and mind hour by hour, rehearsing truths that God had instilled in him for this immense undertaking. No question, Noah had times of doubt and discouragement. But he looked to Yahweh for strength and courage in the face of such a monumental task.
The last part of Romans 12:2 states, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.” The word “Then” at the beginning of this sentence indicates that there needs to be an action before we are able to discern what God’s will is. What is it? To be transformed more and more into the image of Christ by renewing our hearts and minds…the same way Noah had to centuries ago. It’s only when we make it a priority to focus and renew our hearts that we see some of God’s plan and purpose for our lives. As our focus turns away from our circumstances and toward the One who can do something about them, we are changed within and can focus on the renewal process and intimacy through prayer. As we do this God’s will, then, is close at hand.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for blessing us with the instruction of Your Word. Thank You also for giving us examples of faithfulness like Noah. I pray that You would help me renew my mind/heart to focus on Your will for my life. Bolster my faith and bring me closer to You. Thank You that Your Son gave us the ability to have our hearts renewed by His incredible sacrifice. In His mighty name I pray, Amen!
Clayton J. Elliott
Director of Pastoral Ministries and Prayer, KMUSA