I love the first few verses of Romans 12 because they are very real to me. I have struggled with an anxiety disorder and mental illness at various points in my life, and I understand too well the place where my thoughts seem out of control, or where my fears seem all consuming. But God has transformed me for the better, freeing me not only from my sin and the grip of the enemy but also from the bondage of the mind. It’s a continual transformation, of course, the battle is not over, but it is won. My freedom relies on my being transformed by the renewing of my mind – a mind that has laid aside the things of the world, and stays in a place of surrender. Steve Clarke, one of the founders of The Father’s House (where we worship), often says, “the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar”. It’s a powerful image. God calls us to be laid down and transformed an act of worship, and that includes our minds. We need to think the thoughts that He thinks.
The mind is so incredibly powerful. If I put my mind to it, I can get stronger, or learn piano, or feed a village of hungry children, or run a marathon. Each of those things would take a significant, intentional effort, but the steps needed would all come from the daily decision to prioritise the aim, and a particular way of thinking. It comes from the mind. If we want to see practical change in our lives and in our world, our minds need to change. There’s no point saying, “someone should do something” if we don’t want to change ourselves. We know that our entire generation needs transformation. Suicide is a terrible killer of young people, mental health issues are rife, and fear is crippling, but it doesn’t need to stay this way, and I don’t think it will. God has a great plan for this generation, and it’s going to be outworked through millions of young people who think differently and love radically.
When Paul says that we are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds”, he’s talking about a continuous, present tense transformation. In other words, it doesn’t stop…it could say something like “be ever transformed…”. The word for transformation that he uses (metamorphoo) is the same that is used in the transfiguration stories of Matthew 17:1-2 and Mark 9:2. The only other place where this word is found in the New Testament is in Second Corithians 3:18, saying that believers are transformed into the likeness of Christ from “glory to glory”. This is what God wants: a complete and radical transformation from who we were to who He has made us to be, and it starts with the renewal of the mind. God desires to continually make us more and more like Him, and there’s no end to what He can do. Proverbs 4:18 says, “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day”. The goal is that we go from glory to glory…and it all starts in the mind.
Scripture to check out: Romans 12, Proverbs 4:18, Matthew 17, Mark 9.