Renewing Your Mind
So, I have this companion. It’s always with me, whether I’m doing schoolwork or watching a movie or talking to friends. It’s always working, whether I’m awake or asleep. It plays an integral role in my attitude, in my responses to others, and in my approach to daily life.
Most of the time, my companion is very helpful. It reminds me why I need to wake up in the mornings. It helps me know how to do my homework and write papers. Frankly, I couldn’t even function without this companion. I wouldn’t accomplish anything, which would definitely harm my ability to be a student!
But some of the time, this companion isn’t helpful at all. In fact, I would say that sometimes it’s destructive. It likes to tear others down. It also likes to latch onto harmful, sinful memories and not let go. It frequently complains when I’m in difficult or uncomfortable situations. It gorges itself on lies, even when it knows the truth.
This constant companion, on the one hand, has immense potential to benefit me; but, on the other hand, it has immense potential to destroy me. And I’m not the only person with a companion like this. In fact, every single person has this companion. It’s our minds.
The mind is a difficult topic to address because it touches every area of life. It’s hard to label, because it can be both a positive influence as well as a negative influence. But the Bible does provide a helpful label for this companion: our minds are deceitful.
Ephesians 4:20-24 But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
These verses contain the “put off/put on” passage. As a Christian, I recognize many sins in my life that I need to put off. I can also look at Christ, recognizing that I need to put on His righteousness and holiness. Many times I know what I should put off and what I should put on. The part that I get stuck at, however, is renewing my mind.
The apostle Paul is presenting two opposites in this passage. He describes the old self, which has been corrupted by sinful desires, and the new self, which has been created after the likeness of God Himself. While the old self and the new self are exact opposites in every imaginable way, they do share a common point of contact. Paul highlights this point by sandwiching this phrase between his description of the two selves: “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.”
Basically, what Paul is pointing out here is that an unrenewed mind will choose the sinful desires of the old self, while a renewed mind will be better equipped to choose the righteousness of the new self. So every day, the battle for Christlikeness and holiness takes place on the field of my mind. Knowing where this battle takes place is helpful, because it gives me something to focus on. At the same time, however, knowing where this battle takes place is daunting, because my mind, as I mentioned at the beginning, is an integral part of every single aspect of my life. If I plan to engage in this battle for my mind, then the only way I can succeed is to constantly be fighting, to constantly be on guard.
Constant vigilance is not something I’m good at. I’m much better at gliding through life, appearing (on the outside) to have everything together while really (on the inside) suffering defeat after defeat, setback after setback in my efforts to live a life that glorifies God.
How can renewing my mind become a normal part of my day? Where does this renewal even come from? Psalm 119 provides some key insight into God’s plan for this process of renewal.
Psalm 119:9-11 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me know wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
God’s Word stands at the very core of a renewed mind. It guards the way of God’s children, keeping them pure. The path to a renewed mind begins with a wholehearted pursuit of God through His Word, including daily reading, memorizing, and meditating on the truths that God sets forth in Scripture. Through this process of us seeking God and dwelling in His Word, the Holy Spirit renews our minds, transforming us into the image of Jesus Christ.
Granted, it’s a process. A renewed mind doesn’t happen overnight. But God hasn’t left me—or any of His children—alone in the battle for our minds. At times, this process feels long and difficult, and I often feel like I’ve taken as many steps back as I have forward. But I’m so thankful for a God Who knows me—down to every thought and intention of my mind—and faithfully perseveres in making me more like Christ.