Mind Renewal—what an important subject! This renewal begins, of course, when God gives us spiritual life (i.e., regeneration). Yet we are to seek continual renewal as well. Indeed, this is seems to be the heart and soul of sanctification. I would suggest that at least the following factors relate to our renewal.
1. Biblical Thinking.
This means simply that we are to be thinking God's thoughts, those which He has revealed to us in His Word. In other words, the Scriptures are to be central in our lives and churches. The Bible, after all, is the manual of true theology. Our preaching, reading, and conversations will be effective only to the degree that they coincide with/mirror biblical revelation.
So far as our responsibilities go, we must make every effort to place ourselves within the sphere of divine truth. This means allowing the Scriptures (and the ideas derived from them) to influence our hearts and minds. It is not enough to be in a place where the Word is found. It is essential, but there is more. We must also allow that Word to permeate us. To borrow Paul's terminology, we must "let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly." In other words, we have to be people who think and contemplate, meditate and wonder. We are among those who set their hearts on things above.
Of course, there is a vast amount of food for thought here. But especially relevant are theological ideas. I call this "guided speculation." It's guided because the Scriptures are the source and sole guide of our pondering; it's "speculative" (in a good sense, of course) because we contemplate the unfathomable. Of course, we mustn't allow our own foolish thoughts to dominate us. But there is to be a sense of wonder about things which defy full explanation, about the great Yahweh who baffles us even as He loves us. Matters like God's holiness, His omnipotence and omniscience, thoughts of the future (see the book of Revelation)--these enable us to see how "big" our God is. What, for example, does it mean that God is everywhere? What are the ramifications of sovereignty? There are endless possibilities to consider. And of the many thoughts which fill our minds, none is more awesome to consider than this: the mighty God of Golgotha! Surely eternity will not exhaust all that flows from this greatest demonstration of love. At the least, we can be thinking on such things now.
How, then, are we to renew our minds? We must actively place ourselves in contact with the truth. As we consciously encounter the means of grace, we are often in the process changed.
2. Communion with the Spirit.
But there is another factor to consider when it comes to renewal. That "factor" is God Himself, in particular the Spirit of God. It never ceases to amaze me how reactionary evangelicalism can be. One group misuses or mis-defines the role of the Spirit, and we conveniently catalogue Him and so remove Him from our ministries. The only problem is that such a move separates us from the very source of renewal. Along these lines I think we can safely state that the Scriptures alone don't produce renewal. That's right, even God's Word has little effect upon us apart from the ministry of the third person of the Godhead. Let's face it: we need Him!
What I am saying is that the whole idea of renewal, and all it implies, is integrally connected with God Himself. His illuminating presence, His empowering intervention, His personal and corporate leading--these are what we need and what the Holy Spirit provides.
Of course, the Spirit's ministry in our lives is ultimately sovereign. He has been given to us; He works in our midst; He blesses us even (often) apart from our awareness of His movements. There is, however, a sense in which we are to intentionally seek the Spirit. We are to told to "be filled with the Spirit," "walk in the Spirit," and "live by the Spirit." Whatever else is true, it is apparent that His relationship to us is essential to renewal. Somehow we tend to downplay the works of the Spirit. Yet, once again, we need Him.
In keeping with what we mentioned above (# 1), it is fascinating to see the relationship between the Spirit and the Word. Indeed, the two are inseparable. In Psalm 119, for instance, we find the Psalmist describing God's Word in a number of ways (e.g., testimonies, commands, etc.); at the same time he is conscious of his need to have the Lord Himself "energize" and enliven that Word. "I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart" (v. 32). Renewal, then, comes by the Spirit through the Word. In the NT we find more of the same. Thus Paul speaks of "those [words] taught by the Spirit" (Rom 213). The biblical message comes not only in word, but by the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
So, then, what are some of the keys to true renewal?
1. The Word is the instrument of renewal.
2. The Spirit is the Agent of renewal.
3. We are the objects of renewal.
4. The process of renewal involves our intentional contemplation of the truth (especially concerning Christ!), and our active dependence on God's Spirit. A "Word only" approach leads to a cold, mechanical religion; a "Spirit alone" mentality leads to instability and fanaticism. In order to be balanced, therefore, we must integrate the two, for the Spirit renews us by the Word
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