Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Devotion : Like-Minded

Good morning and welcome to Wednesday. This is the third last academic day for my students. For the rest of us it is simply the middle of the week, but an exciting middle because it is another gift from the Father. We are considering Romans 12 today.

It is interesting that Romans 12 is a condensed version of the more famous 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. If it was important enough for the Apostle Paul to repeat himself then I think we should be taking special note of it. As we look at it I believe we can come to understand how the Body of Christ (the Church) is suppose to be functioning.

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. vv. 1-2

I could spend hours talking about these two verses. Who am I kidding? I have spent hours talking about these two verses. For me these verses hold precious information about living in Jesus. We could boil it down to the last sentence; "Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." Let us understand this clearly; there is nothing more important in our life than the will of the Father. The whole universe hinges on the Father's will. Jesus lived and died and rose again according to the Father's will. Let's not let go of this yet.

Every good thing that was, is and is yet to come is by the Father's will. We breathe according to the Father's will. We have life according to the Father's will. The earth continues to rotate according to his will. Our sin, our rebellion is to go against the will of the Father. The will of the Father is central to our existence. And here Paul says it is possible for us to actually know this will, to test it and approve it. How exactly? Well, let's back up a bit.

Paul started this section of his letter by saying that we should respond to the gift of God's great mercy by giving ourselves over completely to the Father. He brings up our bodies because some of the hardest forms of our rebellion to break off are those done in the flesh. Our attitude needs to be that these bodies no longer belong to us, that they are now used as instruments to glorify God in the world. Such an attitude would really cause us to think twice before abusing our bodies by overindulging, filling it with drugs and chemicals, wearing it out from stress, rebelling against God by using it to do things that do not please him and that go against his will for us.

From there Paul moves from the body to the mind. We often talk about what the Spirit does in our hearts and we fail to understand that there must also be a renewing, a rebirth of our minds. To the Corinthians Paul had quoted Isaiah and then stated something that is a complete mystery to us: "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:16) We are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus, even possessing the same mind.

We cannot be transformed in our emotions, our spirit, and our attitude and then live with the same perspective or way of thinking. We must allow our minds to be transformed as well because we can no longer be conformed to the pattern, the way that society thinks. We are a new creation. The old is gone. The new has come. We have a different way of seeing things now. We cannot love properly without this renewed mind. We cannot respond properly without this renewed mind. Without the renewed mind we are only conforming to a pattern, we are not being transformed into anything.

Understand the Jewish perspective on the mind and the heart. To the Jews the heart represents everything that makes us human. It is not just a place of emotion but is also the place of intelligence. The mind on the other hand is the thing that interprets what we see. It is the filter that is in place before anything reaches the heart. The mind controls our perspective of everything. So we see with our mind but we process the information in our heart. You can then understand why a renewed mind is so important.

Perhaps you can understand better then what paul was writing when he said to the Philippians:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. (2:1-2)

Like minded to who? Each other? No, he meant possessing the same mind, or shall we say having the same perspective of that of Christ Jesus.

This is a challenge for us because we try to allow everything else to be transformed except our minds. It is our mind that we hold on to last. It is difficult for us to let go of old habits, grudges, ways of doing things. A renewed mind changes all of that because it gives us a completely different perspective. We see things differently. We understand differently. We respond different. It is only by this renewed mind that we are able to know the Father's will. Without it we are still stuck in the pattern of this world.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of these two verses. If you want to be changed; if you want to grow in your spiritual understanding; if you want to live a life that honours the Father then you need to know his will. And the only way you will be able to know his will is to allow your mind to be born a second time, according to the Father's design.

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