19th Sunday After Pentecost: Renewed In The Spirit Of The Mind
Ephesians 4:23 Saint Paul says: And be renewed ( Greek: renovated) in the spirit of your mind.
In Romans 12:2 He says it a little different. He says: And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed (Greek: "metamorphose"):—change, transfigure, transform ) in the newness (the renovation) of your mind.
How can you gain mastery over those worldly and sinful areas that have caused us so many problems? The only answer is by renovating the mind so as to think as Christ does.
Again in Romans 12:2, we read, “by the newness of your mind.” “Do not be conformed to this world, but be reformed by the newness or the renewal of your mind, that you may prove or test what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.”
The word for reformed is used one time in all the gospels, namely, about Jesus on the mountain of transfiguration (the mountain of “transformation” — same word, metemorphōthē): “And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow.” (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2).
I point this out for one reason: to make the point that the nonconformity to the world does not primarily mean the external avoidance of worldly behaviors. That’s included. But you can avoid all kinds of worldly behaviors and not be transformed. “His face shown like the sun, and his clothes became white as light!” Something like that happens to us spiritually and morally. Mentally, first on the inside, and then, later at the resurrection on the outside. So Jesus says of us, at the resurrection: “Then shall the just shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:43).
Transformation is not switching from the to-do list of the flesh to the to-do list of the law. When Paul replaces the list — the works — of the flesh, he does not replace it with the works of the law, but the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:19–23).
The Christian alternative to immoral behaviors is not a new list of moral behaviors. It is the transformation of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ — our Savior, and the graces of a spiritual death and a spiritual Resurrection given to us at our baptism. “For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in NEWNESS of life.” (Romans 6:4) [from the same Greek word used in Romans 12:2]. So transformation is a profound, blood-bought, baptismal-brought Spirit-wrought change from the inside out.
And in Romans 12:2, Paul now focuses on one essential means of transformation — “the renewal of your mind.” “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” This so crucial to being “transformed -metamorphose- into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (I Corinthians 3:18)
If you long to break loose from conformity to the world,
If you long to be transformed and new from the inside out,
If you long to be free from mere duty-driven Christianity and do what you love to do because what you love to do is what you ought to do,
If you long to offer up your body as a living sacrifice so that your whole life becomes a spiritual act of worship and displays the worth of Christ above the worth of the world,
then give yourself with all your might to pursuing this — The “renewal (the renovation) in the spirit of your mind.” Because the Bible says, this is the key to transformation. “And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness (the renovation) of your mind. ”
What’s wrong with the human mind? Why does our mind need renewing? And what does this renewal look like? And how can we pursue and enjoy this renewal?
I. The Problem with Our Minds
There are many who think that the only problem with the human mind is that it doesn’t have access to all the knowledge it needs. So education becomes the great instrument of redemption — personal and social. If people just got more education they would not use their minds to come up with elaborate scams, and sophisticated terrorist plots, and complex schemes for embezzling, If our children were educated about sex and HIV at the tender age of 5, or the world would be a better place if people just got more education! Education in and of it self is good in certain situations and at the appropriate times but the Bible has a far more profound analysis of the problem. Again in Ephesians 4:23 Paul uses a striking phrase to parallel Romans 12:2. He says, “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” What does that mean... “The spirit of your mind.”? It means at least this: the human mind is not a sophisticated computer managing data, which it then faithfully presents to the heart for appropriate emotional responses.
The mind has a “spirit.” In other words, our mind has what we call a “mindset.” It doesn’t just have a view, it has a viewpoint. It doesn’t just have the power to perceive and detect; it also has a posture, a demeanor, a bearing, an attitude, a bent. “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”
The problem with our minds is not merely that we are finite, and don’t have all the information. The problem is that our minds are fallen. They have a spirit, a bent, a mindset that is hostile to the absolute supremacy of God. Our minds are bent on not seeing God as infinitely more worthy of praise than we are, or the things we make or achieve.
Concerning this, Saint Paul says in Romans 1:28, “And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense or mind set, to do those things which are not convenient” This is who we are by nature.
The Bible says we have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” (Romans 1:23). And the image in the mirror is the mortal image we worship most.
Our minds are not by nature God-worshiping minds. They are by nature self-worshiping minds. That is the spirit of our minds.
II. The Holy Spirit Renews the Mind
This brings us finally to the remedy and how we obey Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 4:23, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind .” First, the Holy Spirit is required. The reason I say the Holy Spirit is required is because of Titus 3:5 where Paul says this: “[God] saved us, not by the works of justice, which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, by the laver of regeneration [baptism], and renovation [the renewal] of the Holy Ghost ”
There’s the word “renewal” or restoration which we’ve seen is so necessary. And it is renewal or restoration“of the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit renews the mind. It is the Spirit that brings restoration to our mind. We are dependent on him. Our efforts follow his initiatives and enablings.
So what does the Holy Spirit do to renew the mind?
2 Corinthians 3:18 sets the stage for the answer: But we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.
What does the Spirit do to “transform” us into the image of Jesus Christ? He enables us to “behold the glory of the Lord.” This is how the mind is renewed — by steadfastly gazing at the glories of Christ for what they really are.
He works in two directions: from the outside in and from the inside out. He must work from the outside in by exposing the mind to Christ-exalting truth. That is, he must lead us to hear the Word, to read the Word, to study the Word as well as Christ-exalting writings of great, spiritual men, saints and Fathers of the Church and to meditate on the perfections of Christ.
This is exactly what our great enemy does not want us to do according to 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” Because to see that for what it really is, Paul says, will renew the mind and transform the life and produce unending worship.
And the Spirit must work from the inside out, breaking the hard heart that blinds and corrupts the mind. The Spirit must work from the outside in, through Christ-exalting truth, and from the inside out, through truth-embracing humility.
What Then Shall We Do?
What then do we do in obedience to Ephesians 4:23, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind ”? We join the Holy Spirit in his all-important work. We pursue the truth found in the scriptures and in the Church. We pray all ways asking for truth while -embracing humility.
Listen to the sermons given at Mass concerning the “gospel of the glory of Christ.” Read your Bible from cover to cover always in search of the revelation of the glory of Christ. Read and ponder the Christ-exalting writings and biographies of great, spiritual men and women. And form the habit of meditating on the perfections of Christ. And in it all pray, pray, pray that the Holy Spirit will renew your mind, that you may desire and approve the will of God, so that all of life will become worship to the glory of Christ.