“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”Romans 12:2
Often we think that renewing our minds simply includes replacing lustful thoughts with pure thoughts, wrong doctrine with right doctrine, or envy with thankfulness. Certainly this is true, but there is a deeper transformation that we all need if we are to discern the “good, pleasing and perfect will of God” for us. What is his will? At the core, God’s will for us is to receive his love, love him, and love others. The core of the law is “Love God and Love others” according to Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40, and the law shows us God’s character. Another way to put it is to know and be known by God and others. Of course, living this out will manifest itself in infinite ways throughout the lives of all believers, but the core is the same. So the question becomes, “what is the block in my mind that keeps me from renewal and both experiencing and dispensing the transforming love of God?”
When we go back to the garden, we see that Adam and Eve wanted control. What they had, amazing as it was, wasn’t enough for them. They wanted knowledge, they wanted to be like God, and yet their attempt at control only led to things being more out of control! Control is the “pattern of this world” that we often conform to in order to make us “enough.” The lies of consumerism tell us to control what we have because we don’t have to measure up. Political leaders tell us that if they’re not in control then the country is doomed. Even more insidious are the “Christian lies” our legalistic minds tell us in order to bring control. Our performing minds whisper that if we’re not in control of our sin than we can’t be accepted by others or God. If we don’t appear “cleaned up” then we’re not acceptable in the community or to God. The unrenewed mind is constantly wrestling for control in our relationships, in our personal lives, and in our spiritual lives. Did you notice a pattern in all of those lies? “Not enough stuff, not enough power, not enough holiness, not enough faith, not enough…”
That is the message of shame. Like an irresponsible parent that shames their children to try to control their obedience, our minds often try to motivate our hearts to “get in line” through the message of shame. It may work for a while, but in the long run that short term “change” is fool’s gold. The deeper narrative of shame and scarcity needs to be brought into the light of the gospel of abundance. The Apostle Paul says,
We “are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ .”2 Corinthians 10:4-5
This passage can be applied to false teaching and philosophies of the world, as well as spiritual truths broadly and personally. We fight with the truth and we have to go deep into the fortresses of our soul to deal with this embedded narrative we live with. Where did it come from? Where did I first hear it? How have I used it to serve me? What’s the cost of living in it? The idea is to expose it and know it, not shove it down the basement steps. Although this can be hard, with the support of loving friends and the presence of the Spirit we can rob the thoughts of their power. My friend Bob Hudson said once “if your thoughts are not captive to Christ, then you are captive to your thoughts.” We relinquish our thoughts of their power by seeing them for what they are… just thoughts. The thought is not our identity, it does not define us, and it doesn’t have to control us. For example, instead of thinking, “I’ll never measure up” and internalizing that shame, instead pray, “God, I just had the thought that I’ll never measure up. Please help me to rest in Christ’s righteousness and your divine pleasure in me as your beloved child.” As we do this work of inviting God into our shame, we can begin to renew our minds by receiving afresh the love of Christ.