18. Resurrection Mind Change

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 18. Resurrection Mind Change

Rom 12:2    Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Power through Revelation: I have a feeling that when we talk about power, as we have been doing in this Part as we consider the Christian life as a resurrected life, we rarely connect power to the mind or to our thinking, we tend to link it to physical power. But the fact is that when we receive ‘revelation’ it is because God communicates with us. When I speak or listen, energy is involved. If I was dead I would be unable to either speak or listen. Those two capabilities only operate when there is power, energy, life.  You may never have thought of it like this, but when you came to Christ it was because God’s power was being used to communicate with you and the Holy Spirit convicted you of the truth. Yes, when you were born again, power was involved, the power of the presence of the now indwelling Holy Spirit, but before that, power was being experienced (even though we were almost certainly not aware of it) in the form of the communication.

The fact that many of us rarely if ever think of revelation as an expression of God’s power in us, means that we have a passive attitude towards our thinking and perhaps fail to realize how important our ‘thinking’ is and how important ‘revelation’ is.

Renewal & Transformation: In our verse above today, the apostle Paul says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Now many times in writing these studies we face the fact that the Christian life is to be a life of change, a life of transformation, and Paul says that that transformation takes place as our mind is renewed.

Now what does that actually mean, for your mind to be renewed? Well, on the basis of my starting point so often these days – “God first!” – we must ask, what is God doing? In this respect He (the Holy Spirit) is seeking to teach us, to impart knowledge and understanding to us which will give us a new framework of understanding the world, a framework that starts from God and works out: God made this world and us in it with free will, and knowing we would exercise it to experience Sin, the Godhead agreed on the plan of salvation that would involve the Son of God coming to earth etc., etc.

Everything we now are flows from this. If you like, we might say that the framework for our lives today is that we are now redeemed sinners, empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit and directed by Jesus at the Father’s right hand, still exercising our free will to conform, as much as we are able, with the will of God. But that ‘renewing’ is important for us to understand what the will of God is. It is as Paul says, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Renewal brings Understanding: As our mind is renewed, so we become more open to understanding what God’s will is and thus more open to His power flowing in us. The order appears to be as follows: i) He convicts us or imparts knowledge of our state that needs to be changed, ii) we submit to, or agree with that impartation of knowledge and desire to do it and so as we step out to do it, we find that iii) He empowers us to enable us to do the thing. Revelation – mind change – power impartation.  God’s will is simply His desire for us, for our lives to conform to His design, the basic way for all humans to live plus the specific aspects of that which apply to me as a unique creation.

As I conform my life to His written word and allow His Holy Spirit to lead me in specific directions, so I will be conforming to His will for me. In the overall sense it will be the same as for you – not doing sinful things, ‘putting off’ the old life, as we’ve seen before, and clothing ourselves with the character of Jesus. However, in specific ways it will be different from your life for I am a different person to you with different gifts, talents and abilities and He will have different things on His heart for me to do in my life.

In my old life I was ‘dead’ to God and He seemed a million miles away and never available to me, but then He imparted His Holy Spirit into my life and a fresh power flowed in my ‘resurrected life’, a power that enabled communication. However, as with all aspects of my new life, it is a combination of His moving and my exercising my will to conform to His leading.

Our Activity: If we insert ‘YOU’ into those two Romans 12 verses we can see the call to us for us to exercise our will and make the effort to do what he says: I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, (THAT YOU) offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (YOU) Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but (YOU) be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  As we’ve said before, as we act to obey and conform to His desire, so He enables us, and power flows and changes us.

Thinking & Behavior: It is often said, ‘as a man thinks, so he is’. That simply means our thinking – our knowledge and understanding and wisdom – is the precursor to our behaviour, our words and our actions. So, as the mind things are changed, so do our words and our actions. We so often think our ‘behaviour’ is the important thing but the truth is that it is what goes on in our heads that triggers the behaviour. Perspective is important. Knowledge is important. Understanding is important. Wisdom is important. All these ‘mind things’ are what are behind our words and actions. Words and action never act independently.

So, as we near the end of this Part, let’s realize that ‘power’ for the resurrection life as I have been calling it, is not merely in our actions, it starts in our minds. His power is there to transform our minds as we open ourselves to Him, and those transformed minds result in transformed observable lives.  Very well, before we move into the final Part, we will carry out a recap of the things we have considered in this Part and that is what we’ll do tomorrow.

14. Intellect, a signpost to God

Meditations in Meaning & Values  14:  Intellect, a Signpost to God

Eccles 3:18    I also thought, “As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals.

If someone woke up at the age of thirty say, having been asleep for the first thirty years of their life, so they have no knowledge of this world but had grown and matured a capable mind while they were asleep, if they embarked on a search for meaning – what this world is all about – then already in the words we have written are two amazing clues that they might ponder upon. The only trouble is that WE take these things for granted and in so doing miss the wonder of them.

The first clue that there is meaning in this world comes from the fact that our imaginary waking individual has what I described as a “capable mind,” i.e. they have the ability to think, to reason, to investigate, to rationalise, to draw conclusions. Again and again Solomon indicates the use of his mind. In our verse he simply says, “I also thought”. The danger of the mind is that it is capable of apprehending truth AND error, it can come up with wrong conclusions. Solomon has truth in what he says, but it is only partial truth. (The second clue is that this man [Solomon] can’t help but refer to God, but we’ll leave that for another time)

All these capabilities we take for granted. They are the capabilities that a child at school uses from their earliest days through to being awarded a doctorate at university! These are the capabilities Solomon has been using for many years in his search of meaning – and we take them for granted, they are so normal, so natural, but the truth is that these capabilities,  which go further and include the ability to imagine, to write, to compose, to design, to invent, these capabilities distinguish us from all the other living creatures on this planet. It is not merely a matter of degree as some dolphin watchers might have us believe, it is much greater than that. These are the things that the Bible refers to as being “made in the image of God”    (Gen 1:26,27).

Without those Bible references we are left with the question, “Why are we like this? Talk of evolution feels very unsatisfactory to an open mind. Why did we evolve in this direction, why not in some irrational direction or some direction that leaves us just like another animal without these capabilities?  All of these capabilities of the human mind that we have been considering collectively work together to constantly draw conclusions, work towards goals, imagine objectives to be reached out to and then even, yes, a sense of meaning. In purely mechanical terms the meaning may be functional: we design better houses to be more comfortable but, hullo, what is this concept of aesthetic  design, design that can have a sense of beauty about it? What is that about? Why do we have these concepts of meaning and beauty. Materialistic answers fall short.

Asking questions is a unique part of these human capabilities which push us on to find answers in all sorts of areas. Questions flow out of the human mind, and we take it for granted. Again and again, Solomon refers to the use of his ‘mind’: “I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly–my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives,” (2:3) and “What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest.” (2:22,23)

Why is it that sometimes in the middle of the night, the human mind is full of worries or plans or questions, why does it keep on pushing us further in our development? Then there is, “So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly.” (7:25) As we said, the human mind constantly wants to find out more, to find out why things work as they do – which is exactly what we are doing in these particular meditations.

See this verse above? Solomon actively and purposefully used his mind to try to come up with answers. Why is there a concept of ‘wickedness’? Surely animals are predisposed to do just what comes naturally, to kill, to beat up the weaker ones? Why should we be concerned about the weak? Why should we distinguish between good and evil? How do those concepts even exist? Surely all behaviour is just natural if we just evolved in an accidental and meaningless way? Why should it matter if the Germans murdered 6 million Jews, or one African tribe tries to wipe out another, or one religious group tries to destroy another competitor who think slightly differently in the Middle East? Aren’t all these thing just what animals do to each other?

And yet the more we reason the more we feel we are not the master of our fate: “Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death. As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it. All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun.” (8:7-9)  And his conclusion? “When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labor on earth–his eyes not seeing sleep day or night– then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.” (8:16,17)

So we have this incredible thing called ‘intellect’, this thing a dictionary calls “the faculty of reasoning and understanding objectively, especially with regard to abstract matters,” this thing that keeps asking, “Why?  When he gets to the end of his writing what is his conclusion?  Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (10:13) How intriguing! Jaded he may be, away from God he may be, but at the end of it all, his questionings bring him back to bow before God. He is not an atheist, just a jaded backslider, but his very existence and the very existence of this book screams out, “We are more than animals, we are more than mere accidents of nature, we demand meaning and purpose, we want answers, and the very fact that we feel like this points us towards a life that has been designed, a life with divine purpose”, and that is what the Bible is all about, revealing that divine purpose. Amazing!

26. Wholesome Thinking

Meditations in 2 Peter : 26 :  Wholesome Thinking 

2 Pet  3:1,2    Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.  

In the previous meditation we reflected on the fact that this was Peter’s second reminder letter. Now we need to think some more on why he wrote it. This has come through clearly a number of times, especially in the early part of it, but the fact that he repeats it means he wants us to think about it even more. He didn’t write just because he thought it was a good idea; he wrote because he was aware that his time was limited and he had a burden to ensure that he had done everything possible to ensure that he left the early church with good foundations that would stand in the face of the various forms of opposition that was coming from the enemy. It was a time of great battle for the truth. Satan had failed in his attempts to halt or distract Jesus and the Great Work had been accomplished; there was no taking that back.  But he could try to lead the church astray so that they forgot the basic truths of what had happened and what it meant, and distort the way they saw it,  so they lived lives of struggle just like the rest of the world. Peter is going to do all he can to counter these things.

And so he says now that he has written both these letters first as reminder, and then as prompts to help us to have wholesome thinking. We’ve covered in an earlier meditation our need to be regularly reminded but now he says he wants to stimulate or prompt or stir us to have wholesome thinking. Whatever ‘wholesome thinking’ is, it doesn’t come automatically; we need to be stirred up to reach it. But isn’t this true of all learning – and the Christian faith, as we’ve noted previously, is one big learning curve – that we need stimulating to think. That’s what good teachers are doing constantly, trying to get their students to think for themselves – to think, to reason and to work things out. One of the enemy’s strategies is to get us to focus on the problems and stresses of life from a purely human and godless viewpoint.

So Peter says, I want to stir you to ‘wholesome thinking’. Now those two words are, of course, the words of translators trying to record best what the original meant. The Message version ducks the issue with, “to hold your minds in a state of undistracted attention,” which would suggest that distractions prevent wholesome thinking. J.B.Phillips did, we believe, a slightly better job with “minds uncontaminated by error”.  The NKJV simple speaks of “I stir up your pure minds”.

So ‘wholesome’ thinking is good thinking, healthy thinking, sound thinking, complete or full thinking. But then, thankfully, Peter gives us some help: I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.”   In other words, the sort of thinking that he has in mind is that which focuses on the very basics or foundational truths that he has already in this letter referred to – the revelation of Jesus Christ brought throughout the Old Testament by God’s prophets, spurred on by Him, the revelation of what had happened and who Jesus was, seen in the fulfilment of those prophecies, and attested to by the many witnesses who saw and heard Jesus and so who were also able to pass on his words.

It is the same flow, the same unity, that we have observed previously  but being reiterated by Peter to ensure we take it in – God’s will declared by His prophets, God’s will fulfilled through His Son, God’s will attested to by the apostles and God’s will now passed down to us through His written word.

When we focus on and hold on to, and meditate on these truths and live them out in daily practice, then we may be described as having a ‘wholesome mind’. It is a mind that holds the truths conveyed by God, and it is a mind committed to those truths. It is also a mind that is sufficiently clear about those truths and understands the importance of those truths, that it will also be committed to passing them on to the next generation.

We may also add this sort of mind filters everything in the world through the truth thus received that we have been describing. When we hold the Bible up and let it shine on modern life, it will reveal the failures and foolishness of much modern life. It will also show us the way ahead, the way to live out our lives in accord with God’s design. When we allow it to do that, it will transform us and the world around us as we act as salt and light. THAT is why Peter keeps on repeating these same things in different ways; it is because he knows the potential of the truth to change the world, as long as we hang on to it and live it out! May it be so!

9. Action Stations!

Meditations in 1 Peter : 9 :  Action Stations!

1 Pet 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen old war films, especially ones at sea. The ship is cruising quietly, then the lookouts spot enemy aircraft approaching and suddenly ‘Action Stations’ is sounded. Instantly the ship is transformed. One minute is was quiet and at ease and the next people are rushing to their places ready for battle.

Our verse above starts with a Therefore indicating that what he now says is a response to what has gone before. In verses 10-12 he had spoken about how our present salvation was been hinted at throughout the Old Testament.  Prior to that he had spoken about our invisible faith which was yet so real and had concluded, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (v.9)  Did you note the word, ‘receiving’ which speaks of action or an ongoing activity. We tend to tend think that salvation is all about what happened on the day when we came to Christ and were converted (Acts 15:3, Rom 16:5) but Peter here said we are receiving our salvation which is in the present but ongoing.  Day by day we receive what God has got for us and this is our salvation.

You may have heard the old illustration about people being shipwrecked at sea. The lifeboat goes out and winches them off the boat. They are saved! As the lifeboat makes its way back to the shore they are being saved. When it arrives back in the harbour and they get off onto dry land, they are well and truly saved!  Those three stages correspond to our lives. When we came to Christ we were saved. Today we are being saved, and when we go to heaven we will be well and truly saved!

So Peter said we are receiving our salvation, it’s coming to us from God, but now he’s saying “prepare your minds for action.”  Now that could be taken two ways. Get ready to use your minds, or get your minds ready to cope with the action that is coming. Both are right!

Christians ARE people who should be using their minds. In some quarters there has been the idea that once you move into the area of faith you switch off you mind.  Is it a coincidence that God chose a very bright intelligent guy called Paul to take the Gospel across Asia Minor?   Was it a coincidence that God chose an educated doctor to write one of the gospels and the Acts of the apostles?  If you have a mind – use it!  But hold on, some of us say, I’m not clever.  No, it’s OK,  two of the other gospel writers started out as uneducated fishermen. Perhaps there is more in your head than you realise. Every time we teach, we are asking you to use your mind.  When Paul challenged the local elders of churches to be prepared to counter the heresies of the day, they did it with their minds!

But it is ALSO about getting your minds ready to cope with the action that is coming as an expression of your salvation.  In the crisis that brought us to Christ we may have come to the place where we recognised our failure and our need of saving – in fact if we didn’t we probably haven’t been saved!  At that point we died to our old lives, we gave up on them, but then we had to learn that the Christian life is a life of resurrection, of God imparting new life to us so that we live new righteous lives.  Then we hear that God wants to take and use our lives to bless His world.  When we hear both these things, our natural way of thinking says I can’t do that, I can’t be a new righteous person, I can’t be used of God.  We have to learn to believe God and not our own inadequacies.

We have to learn that as God empowers and directs us, we can now take control of our lives.  No longer do we let ourselves get swept along by our emotions, or by things people say to us, or even the things going wrong around us.  That is why Peter says, “be self controlled.” Part of this salvation that we are receiving means that we learn to resist the devil, resist sin and purposefully live for God. Those are all choices we make and actions we take.

But there is something more:set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” When is Jesus Christ revealed? As he speaks and acts today and when he returns on the last day!  Toset your hope” simply means to think rightly and with assurance about tomorrow and realise there is more to come. What you have is not all of it.  God’s grace is God’s provision of ability and it comes as Jesus draws near and imparts his ability to you. Yet there is the distance (eternity) element to it, but we don’t have to wait until eternity to receive God’s grace, because receiving this salvation is all about receiving God’s grace – now.