HolinessTheme

What do people mean when they say, I have changed my mind? Most often they mean they are going to do something differently from what they had previously planned. But that is not the only way the assertion can be taken. Sometimes it means they have a different view of something – I have changed my mind about that or him or her, etc. Occasionally it may mean that a different choice is in order. In any case, changing your mind is something we all do, frequently! New facts, different feelings, unanticipated circumstances, a change in moods, almost anything can precipitate a change of mind, and out of that change of mind come a whole new set of decisions, actions and attitudes. 



Changing your mind leads to a new way of doing things, and sometimes to a whole new way of life. Very few people will have the courage to radically change their minds to the extent that it will uproot everything and change their whole life, though. But that is what the gospel calls for, a radical change of mind toward God and about sin (cf. 1 Kings 8:44-51; 1 Chron. 6:36-39; Isa. 30:15; Jer. 15:19; Ezek. 18:30-32; 33:12; Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:4, 15; 6:12; Luke 5:32; 13:3, 5; 15:7, 10; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 11:18; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20; 2 Cor. 7:10; 2 Pet. 3:9). There is no doubt that the problems faced by the world today are exacerbated by evil and malevolence everywhere we look. The criminality in our society, the oppression of people by governments, the terrorization of countries and populations by radical groups bent on imposing their religious or political systems and views on everyone, and everyday immorality, including lying, cheating, greediness, exploitation, sexual deviancy and the plain selfishness of folks, has made the world a place to be more feared than enjoyed. It is from all of these things that the Bible calls us to turn through a radical change of heart and mind, which it calls repentance. The price for not repenting is to die shackled to the old ways of life that eventually lead to final death and destruction, not least of which is the judgment of God. The only way out is to turn to God and to reject sin – to have a radical change of heart and mind (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 18:30-32; 36:16-32; John 3:3-8). 



So what is your greatest ambition as a Christian? Most of us would say to do the will of the God – to please him and to obey the leading of the Spirit. Paul makes a very interesting comment about how to live a “holy life” (a life in which we consistently practice righteousness in our conduct). He says we should “keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16, 25). In that context he argues for a life no longer controlled by surrender to the promptings of the flesh, but rather a life that surrenders consistently to the promptings of the Spirit. This is the sanctified life. In other words, obedience to God is not a matter of “turning over a new leaf,” or “making a New Year’s resolution,” it is in fact a matter of a radical surrender to the will of God. As Wesleyans we believe in this surrender to God. The transformation of salvation is radical, and is morally and spiritually pervasive in the life of the believer, but there is still room for further surrender, and for adopting an attitude that embraces the promptings of the Spirit as a new rule of life. In fact, as life goes on, we are likely to find that we will need to surrender often to God. Such surrenders may be viewed as moments of a change of mind. 



Paul argues for a radical transformation of our way of thinking as believers, in order to set our direction away from the trajectory of the culture of our world, or age (Rom. 12:2a). The tendency of our world (the culture of our age) is to demand conformity. Since this culture is anti-God, and endorses much of what the Bible declares is sin and immorality, it is not surprising the believer in Jesus Christ finds themselves under some pressure mentally and morally. The command not to allow ourselves to be conformed to this world, is in the present tense, meaning, we are to resist the relentless ongoing pressure of this age to conform to its standards and patterns of conduct or behavior, which are out of harmony with the will of God (Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996, Vol. 1, 506). We know instinctively where the culture of our present age is headed. It is not going to a place of peace and tolerance, as the great leaders and philosophers are saying, but rather toward greater and greater moral degeneration, and toward the rule of utter selfishness and self indulgence, which in its own turn threatens to produce greater evil in the world than we currently see around us. Whether, or not you are Wesleyan, it is not hard to see that even for saved and born again believers, there is a need for moments of surrender to God, and that arguably following salvation there is a need for a crisis of the will, whereby we ensure that we have laid our whole self on the altar for God (Rom. 12:1). Since he is speaking to believers, Paul’s call to his readers to surrender themselves more fully to God does not raise a question about the legitimacy of their salvation, but rather it is a call to make a more prefect (complete) sacrifice of the heart soul, body and mind to God, and to put an end to any reservations or holdouts! This should not surprise us, since we know as a matter of practical reality we are capable of mental reservations or abridgments in our commitments and loyalties. Paul is calling for a decisive moment of surrender, similar to the one he calls for in chapter 6. 



The clue to this surrender or presentation of the whole self to God as a living sacrifice (θυσίαν ζῶσαν), can be found in verse 2, where there are both a negative and positive imperatives. Negatively, Paul warns his readers against being conformed to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:2a). This warning is apt, because frankly we are surrounded and pressurized by the culture of this world (age – τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ), as well as its evils, every day and in a multitude of ways. It is inconceivable that this relentless pressure does not have an effect on us, or on our thinking. It certainly does, and it is hard to stand against the conventional wisdom of the world on moral issues, when to do so leads to accusations of bigotry and intolerance. Western society has managed to brand Christians and Christianity as the new evil in the world, while making excuses for the violent and evil excesses of religious extremism half a world away. The pressure to “fit in” has led to new theories on grace (i.e. hyper-grace) and attempts to erase the line between Christianity and other religions (i.e. Chrislam), all in the name tolerance . Paul calls for a radical total surrender to God and for resistance to being “squeezed into the world’s mold.” Surrender to squeezing always leads to moral failure and alienation from God. So with the constant pressure to conform, it will take an iron resolve to stay true to God. This radical surrender is a way of drawing a line in the will and refusing to cross over, if it means compromising obedience to God.



Positively, Paul calls for the renewing of the mind. This renewing reflects a corresponding property to the conforming, which is the present tense (μεταμορφοῦσθε), meaning it is to be ongoing and continual (Rom. 12:2b). Furthermore, the transformation occurs by ongoing renewing or making new of the mind (τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοός) (instrumental dative). This can be viewed as an ongoing continual transformative renewal of the mind. One can only guess at the implications of this – prayer, worship, staying in the Word, service, commitment, faith, obedience to God, as the instruments of continual renewal and spiritual refreshment. The battle for the will occurs in the mind. It is the voluntary center of our human personality that is in play here. The radical moral and spiritual transformation that leads to declaring Jesus as Lord of our lives has certainly occurred at salvation, but there has to be a resolution with respect to how we will handle the pressure and constant assault of this world’s culture and sin. The thing is Paul calls for both a recognition of the danger and a baseline (surrender) from which to resist and overcome it through obedience to God. This renewing of the mind is also transformational. It is transformative of way we handle ourselves in the future, and how we cope with the counter pressures from the world going forward. It is a new way of thinking, in that it places God at the center of the decision making, rather than ourselves, and makes the promptings of the indwelling Spirit our guide, rather than the desires of the carnal nature.

What is pleasing to God, what is acceptable to him, of what does he approve? These are the questions addressed by more fully surrendering to God (Rom. 12:2c). The call is for the commencement and then the continuation of a new way of thinking about life and about our obligations to God – by engaging a total and full surrender to him of everything that that we are. Such a surrender will then find itself expressed in the day to day surrender of keeping in step with the Spirit, following his promptings (Gal. 5:16, 25)

When we begin a new year, we often seek a new beginning of some sort. Most people will start fresh in some trivial way, but a few will have high hopes of a radical change. Disappointments rank high in the new year’s resolution department, so it is vital to realize that Paul is not simply looking for a new resolve from his readers. Rather, he is looking for a radical, and conscious surrender to God as a point of departure for a new life of obedience. Obedience to God comes from a mind thinking in a new way about him, and about what is important in life. So what, then, is the point of departure for a truly new way of thinking, a new mind? It is the unreserved surrender of ourselves to God, through an act of utter sacrificial giving. We cannot hold anything in reserve or barter for some level of autonomy. If we do the pressure to conform to this age will eventually overtake our loyalty and obedience to God. Total and full surrender to God is the point of departure for every Christian who would resist the conforming pressure of this age and who would rather live a transformed life through the renewal of the mind. Let’s say one more thing here, in case someone is still struggling with the idea that such a surrender is needed following salvation. Surrender to God, categorical or repeated many times over, is always appropriate. Surrender should be engaged at critical times in our lives, over and over again, and in fresh ways if necessary, because life has a way of challenging and blunting our commitment and passion for God if we are not careful. Like a tool that must be sharpened from time to time, so must we be re-pointed in our pursuit of the sanctified life.


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