Renewing the Mind
By: Scott Morton
With the beginning of a new year, there are a lot of people who feel that they want to make some changes in their life. There are a number of people who make resolutions of what they are going to do. Some of these include things like 'I am going to go on a diet in order to lose 25 pounds' or 'I am going to quit smoking'. One of the problems that happens is that while the intentions of the individual may have been good, they are not able to complete this goal successfully.
The problem is that in order to be successful in making a change like the goals that are mentioned above, a person has to make the necessary change in their life and follow through with whatever has been decided. The problem is that most people do not make the changes in the way that the Bible would state a person needs to. The Apostle Paul gives an answer to the members of the Body of Christ on what we need to do in order to make changes in our lives:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
The Apostle Paul states that a member of the Body of Christ has to avoid being conformed to this world and that an individual needs to have a transformation process occur. The only way this transformation can occur is if they have a renewing of their mind.
What is wrong with this world?
The first thing that people want to know is what is wrong with this world. There are many examples that can be shown of where people are doing good things. The holiday season is filled with many stories of individuals who are volunteering their time or giving money to charity. These things seem to be good things that are happening and appear to be examples that we should be trying to follow.
The problem with these things is that the motivation to do these things is often not the correct motivation. Many times these actions are motivated either by the sense that a person can earn their way into heaven by doing a number of good works. This is not how God is working during the dispensation of grace. There is only one way that a person can achieve salvation:
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
This is the gospel that had been given to the Apostle Paul to give to the Gentiles. This is what is bringing salvation today. This is why the Apostle Paul states that the world will be judged according to his gospel (Romans 2:16). This is the only thing that can bring the salvation that is needed. Paul states in Romans 4 the problem that a lot of people cause when they attempt to change the salvation that would be offered:
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.  Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.  Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,  Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
There is a tendency of many people to try to add some type of works to the requirements of salvation. They use James 2 to give this indication, as James states faith without works is dead. The Apostle Paul states that a person does not have to work for their salvation, but they only have to believe. These are contradictory statements and it is only through the process of right division that we can understand what is meant by passages that seem to contradict each other. Ephesians 2:8-9 also shows that a person cannot have any works that are tied to their salvation:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Since people think works are tied to their salvation, this is their motivation to do these works. This can be problematic because the opposite of this would also be true. If I did not do enough good works, or did so many evil works, it would not be possible to be saved (if this were true). An individual would have to be keeping track of all of their good works and there would have to be some kind of list that would indicate how many good works a person needed in order to be saved.
There is no list like this laid out in the Bible for us, as this is not what is supposed to be the motivation to do the right thing. Our motivation comes from the fact that He loved us and gave Himself for us. This motivates us to do the right thing:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Instead of the motivation to do the right thing coming from a desire to earn salvation, it should be coming from the fact that we are already saved. This is a big difference that many people struggle to see, mostly because they do not want to see it. They want to continue to function in the manner that they have always known, because they see the world and don't want o be part of it:
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
There is a course that this world follows and it is not good. It doesn't take long to look movies, television, books, and other things in this world to see that most of it goes against the things of God. The world as a whole is against God, which is why the Apostle Paul refers to it as this present evil world (Galatians 1:4).
It is very easy to get caught up into the things of this world. These are the things that are popular with people and will be what they want to talk about. It would appear that we were trying to isolate ourselves from people if we were not participating in these things. However, this is what the Apostle Paul says that we need to do.
The dangers of being in this world
There is a definite danger that comes about if we allow ourselves to be conformed to the image of this world. Paul had to give a warning to believers, because he knew that this was going to happen. It was already occurring during his lifetime:
2 Timothy 4:10-11
For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.  Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
These individuals had loved the present world and departed from the ministry of the Apostle Paul. They did not want to take part in these things anymore (as they were probably facing the same problems that the Apostle Paul was) and decided they would go back into the present world.
If they were going back into the world, they were turning their back on all of the things of God. This would have allowed them to avoid the suffering they were facing and they could lead a 'normal life' without these problems. They were going to cities where this was true as well so that people would not be putting pressure on them to get back into the ministry.
The things of this world have an allure that cause people to think it would be better to be doing these things than to be doing things for God. If we think about our lives, we can see the times when we have given into this type of thinking. How often have we spent a Saturday or Sunday watching football games instead of studying the Bible? How often have we missed an opportunity to fellowship with the saints for a reason that most people would not feel was a very good one? How often have we avoided telling someone about the gospel for today (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) because we were afraid of what this person might think of us?
The world has a dangerous appeal to the life of a believer. There are many comforts that are in the world, especially to those that live in the United States, where we have many comforts. There are always new things that are being invented that are designed to make our lives easier. These things are often marketed to people in the way that a person feels they have to have them. This comfort and the thought of always having to have the bigger and better things have taken individuals farther away from the Word of God.
When we look at some of the ways the Apostle Paul describes this world, we see that it is never good:
Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
1 Corinthians 4:13
Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
This world is referred to as being an evil world. God knows the problems that it causes for individuals. There is nothing good that is in this world, as it is all appealing to the flesh. Since we walk in the Spirit, we are to be avoiding the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16), which means we are to be not giving into the things God would not have us to be part of. This is also why God refers to these things as the filth of the world, as these are not part of who God is.
1 Corinthians 3:18-19
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
Paul refers to the wisdom of this world as foolishness in the eyes of God. This is part of when Paul states that God is true and every man is a liar (Romans 3:4). The wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, because there are so many things that seem to change over the years as wisdom. An example of this is what is healthy for a person to eat. If you watch the news and see the health reports, over the course of a year, the items that are considered to be healthy and unhealthy change. One month eggs could be good for you and the next they would be bad. Which one is it? This is the problem with the wisdom of man. It constantly changes, based on what are called advancements. God does not change and there is never a change in the wisdom that He has given to us in order to follow (His Word).
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Paul also points out here warmth real rulers of this world are. It is those that are in charge of the darkness of this world. Even though some think that the individuals who are in charge are doing the right thing all the time that is not the case. This world is truly governed by those that are not doing the right things.
Romans 13 is often used to prove that those who are in charge of human governments are the powers that are ordained by God. If this were the case, this world would not be considered evil, as God would not have ordained evil governments to be ruling all of the nations of the earth. The problem is that this chapter does not refer to human governments. The reason this is so is because these powers are stated to be terrors to evil works. Can anyone name a government that exists on this planet that could be described in this manner? There is none, no matter how 'good' we think a government is, it still causes problems for people (For further information on this topic, please see the article Gifts and Issues of Authority on this website.)
1 Corinthians 1:27-28
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
The foolish things are what have been chosen by God to confound those that think they are wise. There are many things that can fit into the category of being foolish things (from the eyes of God). Paul warns about something called oppositions of science falsely so called (1 Timothy 6:20). There are some good things coming from science, such as medicines that many people take to help deal with health issues. Science is needed for these things, but it should never influence the thinking we have related to what the Word of God says.
This is not a reference to all things of science, but refers to things that are not scientific at all. An example of this would be the theory of evolution. The scientific facts do not support this theory at all, but yet it is taught as fact in the school systems. This is because people are trying to use science to prove the Bible wrong and say there is no God. This is science falsely so called, as there is no way science could prove this. Those who teach evolution have put their faith in a belief system and are trying to teach these facts, which will pull individuals farther and farther away from the Word of God.
Often people get themselves wrapped up in these things that are the foolishness of this world. These things have been given an importance in their eyes and they do not see them as the things that need to be avoided. This is why the Apostle Paul has to give a warning to individuals about what needs to be avoided.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
One more warning that the Apostle Paul gives is to avoid the things that can be called philosophy, vain deceit, and traditions. Philosophy is the thought process of man on what is right and wrong. The definition found in Webster's 1828 Dictionary is:
1. Literally, the love of wisdom. But in modern acceptation, philosophy is a general term denoting an explanation of the reasons of things; or an investigation of the causes of all phenomena both of mind and of matter. When applied to any particular department of knowledge, it denotes the collection of general laws or principles under which all the subordinate phenomena or facts relating to that subject, are comprehended. Thus, that branch of philosophy which treats of God, &c. is called theology; that which treats of nature, is called physics or natural philosophy; that which treats of man is called logic and ethics, or moral philosophy; that which treats of the mind is called intellectual or mental philosophy, or metaphysics.
The objects of philosophy are to ascertain facts or truth, and the causes of things or their phenomena; to enlarge our views of God and his works, and to render our knowledge of both practically useful and subservient to human happiness.
True religion and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle.
2. Hypothesis or system on which natural effects are explained.
We shall in vain interpret their words by the notions of our philosophy and the doctrines in our schools.
3. Reasoning; argumentation.
4. Course of sciences read in the schools.
Philosophy is the things that we need to avoid in order to have our thinking centered on the things God would have to focus on, which would be His Word. The philosophy of man goes contrary to the Word of God, as man has tried to prove that he does not need God in his life. There are many philosophers and all can be seen be to right, even if they are contradicting each other. Since this is all contrary to the Word of God, we need to make sure that this is something that we are avoiding.
Deceit means that we know the truth and are purposefully going contrary to this. This is why only God has the truth (Romans 3:4). This is the tactic Satan had used in the Garden of Eden, which was to manipulate the Word of God into a lie. There is nothing in this, so we are to avoid this as well.
Traditions are the thing that has the biggest impact on Christianity today. How often does someone say 'We have always done this' and not have any Scriptural basis for what they are discussing. This is something that is dangerous for mankind, as the traditions of men will take someone far away from the Word of God. They will believe that the traditions are what need to be followed and will stop following the authority of the Word of God.
This is not something new, as the Lord Jesus Christ had warned against this in Mark 7. He saw the Pharisees were doing the same thing, as they had added various washings to the Word of God. They thought they were more righteous than others, because they were following these things plus were trying to follow the law. The answer to this is Jesus Christ tells them they have made the Word of God of none effect. Their traditions have destroyed the effectiveness of the Word of God in this instance. They were not able to see this because they thought they were doing the right thing.
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
This is what the Apostle Paul says we are to function as. We are not to be conformed to the world, but are to live in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. I do not think there is anyone today who could look at the United States (or any other nation) and not describe it in this manner. There are many things that are wrong with this world and we are to be outside of this.
He does state that we are to blameless, which is something that many people struggle with. They state how can we be blameless when we do things that are contrary to what the Lord Jesus Christ would have us to do. The answer is there is only one way that we can be seen as being blameless. We are identified with the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-6) the moment we believe the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). When God the Father looks at any one of us, He does not see us, but rather He sees His Son. This is how we can be seen to be blameless (For more information on this, please see the article on Identification on this website).
We are to be functioning as lights in this world. This means we are to be functioning as the Apostle Paul has taught. Members of the Body of Christ are to follow his example (1 Corinthians 11:1) in order to be a light to the world. This is different from the thinking of George Bush (the 41st President of the United States) when he called individuals the '1000 points of light'.
Individuals should be able to look at the members of the Body of Christ and see that there is something different about us compared to the rest of the world. There never should be a point where we are looked at and someone could not even figure out that we were saved. The difference is our behavior has changed because of the doctrine we have received from rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul gives us the things that we should be following in our lives. This is why the following passage shows what how we should be functioning:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
This passage shows that there are two different things going on here related to what the grace of God has taught us. The first thing it has taught us is to deny the world lusts. We deny these lusts because we have been separated from this world and it is not to be our focus. Our focus is to be on the things in heavenly places. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are to not be giving into the lust of the flesh, because that is not who we are. We are members of the Body of Christ and we should be allowing the Lord Jesus Christ to live through us (Galatians 2:20).
The grace of God also shows us what we are supposed to do. We have the pattern of the Apostle Paul to follow (1 Corinthians 11:1). This pattern is given to us through the written word contained in Romans through Philemon, where we can see the doctrine given to us on how to live. There can be nothing else that can guide our lives if we are going to do what God has asked.
One last thing about what is being said here. The issue of should has been brought up several times. Unlike the law, where there was a clear punishment when someone did not do the right thing, there is a major difference for us. We are motivated not by fear, but are motivated by love. Love is an issue of should, because it is to be a response to the love God has demonstrated to us. We need to take a close look at our lives and see how closely we have been transformed and what we still need to do.