It’s paradoxically comforting and disheartening to learn that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Disheartening because how can we have hope where nobody else has succeeded, and comforting because we don’t like to be alone in these things (misery loves company). The bible points us to Christ as the one man that had lived and not sinned, and he is the example we are to emulate as we grow in our Christian faith. Quoting the prophet Isaiah (53:9), the Apostle Paul tells us in his first epistle of Peter 2:22 “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
Hello Reader and welcome to the Sunday blog. In the last two Sunday posts we addressed the tension between the new man and the old man, a tension that’s felt when we receive salvation and feel the pull to do good yet still find ourselves struggling despite our best attempts to put off the old self and put on the new one made in the image of God. The first post addressed the conundrum and the second post introduced Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith, thus the one that resolves this tension for us. That it’s in looking to Him that our hearts are transformed and our minds renewed to a new way of being as prescribed in his word. Today we’re focusing on how this heart transformation and mind renewal unfolds.
Jesus is the only man to have lived that did not sin, which is how he could take away the sins of the world. He is our shining example and we are to look up to him and follow his example instead of adapting to the world’s way of doing things. Romans 12:2 urges, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” In my initial walk with the Lord, this really was the million-dollar question that I could never quite comprehend; how to be transformed, how to not conform, how this, how that. What I know for a fact is that willpower doesn’t work, and even our best efforts are still like filthy rugs as we’re told in Isaiah 64:6. Also, such efforts, if met with any level of success, will often result in a judgmental attitude and a legalistic mindset -trust me I know. In my new awakening, I seem to have great insight as to how, and I feel blessed to be able to share this with you as we jump over this hurdle together.
How is the mind renewed?
According to Paul in Ephesians 5: 25, we are washed by the word of God as we study it. This washing results in our minds being renewed into the very mind of Christ as we study his word, enabling us to know his will thus equipping us to do his will (2 Peter 1:3). The only way to not struggle with immaturity in our Christian walk is by staying in God’s word. Paul urges us in Ephesians 4:13 to grow into the full stature of the fullness of Christ. This is achieved when we avail our minds to be washed clean by applying diligence and studying God’s word daily. We only attain sanctification from our sinful ways through the word. As John prayed in 17:17, ‘sanctify them through your word, your word is truth.’ The Psalmist echoes this in 119:9 when he states ‘wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his ways? How can a young man stay on the path of purity? By taking head thereto according to thy word. By living according to your word.”
The earnest struggle
I think the biggest failing and pitfall in growing our Christian faith comes from not understanding that transformation is possible. When I started my faith journey anew, I remember being disappointed that despite knowing the right thing to do, I would often struggle in my quest to not do the thing the bible says expressly not to do. We are urged in Ephesians 4:31 to ‘put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander, along with malice.’ Easy enough to do, right? Not so much. There were struggles. Even the occasional outright rebellion. My old man and new man were at war, the flesh and spirit battling to gain ground. This is a discouraging chapter in any Christian’s life and it’s easy to be resigned to the unappealing prospect that life in Christ will always be this uncomfortable tension with the warring factions within our members.
A Better Way
When I first heard someone preach on the topic of transformation, I was encouraged to go deeper into the word and study further. I was just coming into the realization that a life of struggling to live according to the word would be draining and there won’t be much energy left for anything else, let alone the expectation to grow from glory to glory as we are instructed in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18. How can we grow if we keep repeating the same error? Somehow, the explanation that our sins are forgiven did nothing to soothe my frayed nerves. Beyond my sins being forgiven, my desires is to please God, to be like him. There has to be a better way, I remember thinking. This is why getting knowledge and understanding is so important as we grow in our faith. ‘In all thy getting, get understanding’ (Proverbs 4:7). I have since learnt that Romans 12:2 is the verse upon which we rest our expectation for transformation. ‘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.’
How are our hearts transformation?
This Romans 12:2 verse talks about us not conforming to the pattern of this world, and us being transformed in our minds. In the former, the verb takes on an active form (to conform) while the latter takes the passive form (be transformed) -why is this? I think it’s because man in his fallen state defaults to conforming to the things of a fallen world; no effort is needed there; we simply adapt to the patterns of this world. Doing good requires going against our default setting (what Paul calls the old man), swimming against the flow, going against the grain. But if our minds have been renewed by studying God’s word, we become aware that our ‘default setting’ is doing us any good, and simultaneously, we have the example of Christ to look up to. As we avail our minds to renewal by studying the word, our default setting begins to shift to resemble Christ; and thus begins our transformation.
2 Cor. 3:18 “But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Our minds are renewed as we study his word and our hearts are transformed as we gaze upon our savior. Transformation is solely God’s domain, only he can work this out in us. It’s the renewing of our mind that will result in our transformation. There is no striving, only the outworking of this transformation displayed in the fruit of the spirit. “you shall know them by their fruit” proclaims Matt 7:16.
Godly Transformation is Possible
We serve a faithful father that loves us dearly and longs for our companionship. As Isaiah 30:18 tells us “the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore, he will rise up to show you compassion.” God loves us so much that he saved us by his mercy (Titus 3:5). And then, by his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). Indeed, the saints have been equipped for godliness. Still, when we fall short, God already provided a way out through the sacrifice of his son Lord Jesus Christ that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
Our part is to avail our minds to study the bible and to pray; the rest, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to work out the transformation is us. Willpower won’t do and our best effort will fall short and fail every single time. That doesn’t mean that we should be content to live in sin, no. A life free of sin is possible with a renewed mind and a transformed heart. James 4:7 tells us to submit ourselves to God, and to resist the devil and he will flee from us. Transformation is possible if we submit ourselves to God and seek his face continually.
While salvation is instant, renewal of the mind is gradual, and transformation from glory to glory is by the degree to which our minds are renewed as we are changed by his word. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). The goal of any Christian should be nothing short of transformation, and for when we fail, we have the blood of the lamb to plead for us in the heavenlies. As Paul says, this knowledge should not lead us to misuse God’s grace for us. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?… For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1-2 &14-15). Also, God will not be mocked! (Galatians 6:7). Instead, our love for him should birth a deep desire within us to live according to his word and to do his will at all times in our lives.
At this point, as we have seen in previous posts, we have since availed ourselves to be found by God; we’ve been studying his word every day; we are discovering our identity in Christ and filling our minds with his word. And as these truths begin to settle deep in our hearts and minds, we find that we are confounded by the struggle within between he good and bad –this is the moment of reckoning. Some walk away at this point, yet we’re urged to press on now more than ever; our very lives depend on it. As Paul says in Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” I too urge you to press on dear Reader. Keep moving forward, don’t stop now. In the final analysis, there really is nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to. And turning back is not an option. Press on dear reader, press on. Here’s a prayer for us as we seek to be changed by him -pray with me:
Dear Father, help me walk this walk. Hold on to me as I hold on to you. Help me press on, for you are the bread of life. You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing (Psalm 16:2). You have equipped me for godly living, help me in my walk with you. Help me not to walk in the futility of my mind (Eph 4:17-22). Remove slumber from my eyes (Psalm 132:4) that I may dedicate my time to studying your word, for my life depends on it. Wash me by your word as I study my bible. Renew my mind as I study your word. Transform my mind as I gaze upon your word. Remove my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Guide me in your paths of righteousness and make me whole (Psalm 23:3). Create in me a clean heart oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). I believe that I can do all this through you my Lord for you give me strength (Phil 4:13), and I am confident of this very thing, that you who has begun a good work in me will complete it until the day of your return (Phil 1:6). In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
Remember dear Reader, salvation is instant, but the renewal of our mind is gradual, and transformation from glory to glory unfolds by the degree to which our minds are renewed as we study his word. Don’t neglect your prayer life. Lean into him and press on towards the goal to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly price of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.