30 Days in the Bible, Day 10: Romans 12:1-2
Throughout the history of the church, there has been a debate about the place of the mind in Christian discipleship. Some have argued that we need to get beyond the frailties of human thought and open our minds to spiritual realities that can’t be humanly comprehended. Others argue the opposite, the true discipleship begins with cramming our minds full of facts and theological constructs so we can get a full grasp on divine reality.
Neither of these ideas are correct-or incorrect. What is missing is the balance between them. In today’s passage, we are told that spiritual transformation begins by a “renewing” of our mind. This doesn’t mean finding a new and different way for our minds to function, nor does it mean to simply add more information to what we already know. Paul is calling for us to change both the way we think and the content of our thought.
The Greek word for “renewing” is only used twice in the New Testament, both times by Paul. It is used here and in Titus 3:5, where it is used of the “renewal” of the Holy Spirit that results in salvation. The underlying thought is that if we wish to be renewed, we must be reborn as new creations in Christ. Changing your mind isn’t enough; you need to use your mind in a new way.
That’s why you can’t argue a person into the kingdom of Christ. I am a firm believer in the necessity and value of apologetics, the area of study that defends the truth of our faith. For many people, there are questions they need answered to open them up to a confrontation with the gospel. But the arguments themselves don’t bring people to Jesus without the renewal that only comes through the Holy Spirit. Changing a mind requires a change of heart.
Even after we come in faith to Jesus, we need to continually sacrifice ourselves daily and seek that renewal. I would love to tell you that a Christian mind comes automatically with salvation, but the Bible teaches us that it is a lifelong process. (That’s part of the main theme of these 30 days, by the way.)
One of my favorite prayers from the Book of Common Prayer is the Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent, a prayer for the Word of God to change us. The language is a little old-fashioned, but the point is well made: “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.” As we allow the Word to enter us and change us, we will gain hope and peace through the Savior it reveals to us.