Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices,
holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.
Do not conform any longer 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.
As we examine this well-known scripture, we can ask how we, in fact, carry out this renewal of our minds in the context of our behavior and intimacy with God. We all understand the importance of renewing our minds, but possibly we need to put some “handles” on this phrase in order to fully grasp its significance. The book of Romans is considered to be the most doctrinal book in the Bible because it provides a systematic outline of the essentials of the Christian faith.
The Apostle Paul, in writing the book of Romans, through the anointing and inspiration of the Holy Spirit draws a case where man’s wickedness has separated mankind from God and consequently, judgment is imminent. However, because of God’s faithfulness through His Son Jesus Christ, there is a salvation plan through Jesus’ death on the cross so that through faith, we may be made righteous before Him. This will require a pure heart, clear mind.
Romans3:22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.
But this is not the end of the story because although we are justified (made in right standing) before God we are still in a process of sanctification which means being made more Christ-like on a daily basis. As Christians, we all struggle with sin but Paul makes the argument that we are not slaves to sin but rather slaves to Christ. That life in the Spirit brings freedom and victory. This will be covered in more detail in Chapter 12. I hope this article gives you a pure heart-clear mind.
It is against this background that Paul makes the profound statement of putting all of this into a practical and workable application of renewing our minds, and that it is not about performance, behavior and trying harder but it is all about His grace. We also need to see what the Apostle Paul specifically meant by “mind.” If we need to renew our minds, then we need to know what we are talking about. In Romans 12:2 Paul uses, in the original language, a word that means intellect, cognitive thought, feeling, will, or understanding (nous). In other words the essential “me” or “you” – who really we are. Understanding the mind is vastly complicated and the best of psychologists and psychiatrists have only scratched the surface in this area.
For illustration purposes only, the diagram shows a single entity but with three distinct aspects of body, soul, and spirit, however, from a Scriptural point, the distinction is not as definitive. Part of our makeup within our brains, according to medical science, there are about 50 complicated chemicals, known as neurotransmitters whose job is to connect the billions of nerve endings in order to make us function. Countless networks of long cellular structures known as axons carry nerve impulses to nerve junctions called synapses where the neurotransmitters either excite or inhibit the impulse to complete the ‘circuit’. Billions of these impulses take place at lightning-fast speed simultaneously – no wonder the Psalmist says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
This complicated combination of chemicals is extremely important not just for physiological functions to take place, but these chemicals are largely responsible for our feelings and emotions. This is an extremely important aspect to understand because once we have knowledge of how these chemicals affect us; we can then take control over those areas in our lives that we struggle with. We also need to understand that our physiology is designed and created by God.
This is the way it is meant to be, however, because we live in a fallen world sometimes the balance of chemicals goes wrong resulting in issues such as depression, anxiety, or other psychological disorders. If there is any doubt about the influence of biological chemistry on emotions and feelings, then certain drugs can be taken to change the nature of how the function of the neurotransmitters, resulting in dramatic changes in feelings and emotions.
We also need to understand that under normal conditions, the biological chemistry within us changes all the time. Our neurotransmitters can be somewhat unreliable. We have all experienced this – some mornings we wake up happy, alert, and ready to face whatever challenges may come our way but other mornings we are just plain grumpy for no obvious reason. Consequently, because of the unpredictable and unreliable nature of the chemistry within us, our emotions and feelings are also unpredictable and unreliable. Knowing this truth, rather than bringing despair, brings hope because we can now manage our lives far more effectively.
An example of this may be that we read in Scripture that God loves us; however, we just don’t feel God’s love. We now have a choice; either we can believe what the Bible says, or we can believe the unreliable and unpredictable emotions that we feel. Knowing this truth sets us free to be who we really are because the chemistry within us does not define who we are. As important as our biological chemistry is; our identity as individuals does not need to be held hostage by them.
The problem we are faced with is that medical science and psychiatry tell us that these neurons and neurotransmitters make up who we are – these chemicals are essentially our thinking, our character, and personality. Today’s philosophy tells us that the DNA and chemicals stamped into our makeup are predetermined over which we have no control. Their message is that I am no more than a complicated cocktail – “Shaken, not stirred.”
But what is the Biblical response? What about my spirit or about my soul? Is my soul comprised of nothing more than chemicals? Or is there something more? (This is a vastly complicated area, but if you want to know more about this, I would suggest you read some of the books by Dr. Caroline Leaf)
There is also a part of us that makes up character traits, rational thought, cognitive skills, logic, reasoning, judgment, and common sense. Many people get confused at this point because there is not a clear understanding of how the physiological emotional influences the rational or cognitive aspects of who we are and vice versa. Then there is the spiritual side of who we are. In this area, we have the unseen, somewhat mysterious part of us and represent our ability to relate to God, a capacity to love, our hopes, our dreams, and an awareness of “spiritual issues.”
by: Alan R. W. Day | Image: Unsplash