Renew Your Mind

U-TurnA Great Misconception

The apostle Paul used the term ‘renewing of you mind’ in his letter to believers in Rome.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say there’s a good chance that you thought of renewing your mind as the process of clearing your mind of those long-standing attitudes and beliefs, what I called pillars in the previous article, Roadblock To Understanding. You might have also thought that your mind, if you are born again, was not regenerated when you were saved … that only your heart, and not your soul, were renewed. Given those conditions, it can easily be concluded that your mind was in need of regeneration after you were born again. Since I’m already out pretty far on the proverbial limb, I might as well admit to having another view of that doctrine. Here’s what I believe.

1. Your spiritual being consists of two parts, the spirit (often called the heart) and the soul (also referred to as the mind).

2. Your entire spiritual being, spirit and soul, were regenerated when you were born again. Regeneration of your spiritual makeup is exactly what being born again means … it is a spiritual rebirth.

3. Regeneration can only be accomplished by God. It can never be accomplished by an act of men and women.

4. The natural state, or condition, of your heart and soul before you were saved was that they were fleshly … they agreed with the flesh … and they acted to carry out the desires of the flesh without question or hesitation.

5. Your new spiritual state after being saved is for your heart and soul to no longer be set or bound to the flesh (the body) … that is, they are no longer physically oriented …you have been given a new spiritual being … one that seeks to carry out the desires of the Holy Spirit.

The act of repenting is a spiritual undertaking. The Greek word translated as repent in the New Testament is metanoeó (met-an-o-eh’-o). The definition is: To change one’s mind or purpose. It also means: I repent, change my mind, change the inner man (particularly with reference to acceptance of the will of God), repent.

The idea of repentance is that of turning, and it is expressed in that way in the Old Testament.

“… if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God [repent] with all your heart and soul.” (Deuteronomy 30:10)

Repentance involves a turning of your heart as well as your soul. Your whole spiritual being is involved. If you were to return with only your heart, you would not have repented. Since repentance involves the heart and soul, the repentant person is changed from their old spiritual person to a person with a completely new spiritual makeup.

 Therefore if anyone is in Christ [repented and come into covenant with Jesus], he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 So, you ask, “If my spiritual being is completely saved, and my mind is included, why are the old pillars of fleshly, worldly attitudes and beliefs firmly entrenched in my mind?” The answer: You allowed them back into your mind … in some cases, you actually invited them … and it all happened without you even being aware.

Your flesh (also referred to as your body) is devious and persistent. It wants, no it demands, to be fed. Its spiritual food consists of things like anger, greed, manipulation and lusting of every kind … everything that is contrary to God’s ways. These ways are called the passions and desires of the flesh, and they are as familiar to you as your life … and not only you, but to all of us who have been saved. And the attitudes and beliefs of your flesh once formed the basis for the way you lived your life. In fact, the mind of a newly saved person, though it has been changed, remains conditioned to yielding to the demands of the flesh, and it can easily be fooled into doing so. And here’s the kicker … the fleshly actions you commit are so familiar to you because you are so used to doing them that when you do it isn’t even cause for alarm.

Keep in mind that when you were saved, your memory was not wiped away. You well remember the old ways. They were your natural way of being for your entire life. Little wonder that it is so easy to pick up the old behavior and thereby allow the old fleshly pillars to be reformed. Think of it like changing a long-established habit. You have firmly decided to replace the old habit with a new one. Though you were resolute in your decision, you find yourself going back to the old way without even thinking about it. Even though you have made the change in your heart and mind, the old habit persists. You find that you must concentrate on keeping yourself from performing the old habit, and the more you do the easier it becomes to carry out the desired new habit. In the same way, if you do not make a conscious effort at preventing the old fleshly way from emerging, you will find yourself continuing to do them. Failing to perform a new habit may not be a very serious matter, but allowing your old fleshly ways to reemerge has long-term serious consequences.

The renewing of your mind, then, is not a process of regeneration, only God can do that. Rather, renewing the mind is a job of reconditioning like learning a new habit. It is accomplished by actively, consciously and diligently choosing to deny the pressure from the flesh until a change in the condition of your mind takes place … until the new natural condition of the mind responds willingly and obediently to the desires of the Holy Spirit. This is the idea Paul expressed in his second letter to the Corinthians.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God [all the old desires of the flesh], and we are taking every thought captive [it is a conscious, purposeful, thought-out activity] to the obedience of Christ [the result is that you follow the new heart and soul, the new you]. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

The belief that seems to be widespread in the church today that the mind is not rejuvenated at the time of repentance and receipt of the Holy Spirit is truly a great misconception. You must be careful what you understand the Bible to be saying, and you must be certain of the Biblical veracity of all in which you place your belief. And you should question everything that comes from another person, including everything I write in these articles. Do not take anything for granted … check everything out for yourself, and come to your own understanding. Your spiritual well-being, and that of the congregation you are part of, as well as the spiritual development of the entire body of Christ depends on it.

Do Not Love the World

Consider the following verses.

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. (1 John 2:15-16)

To love the things of the world is to accept them. When you do, they will shape and determine all of your attitudes and beliefs. Then they become worldly pillars in your mind. In A Roadblock to Understanding, I talk about two kinds of pillars … physical and spiritual. They can also be referred to as belonging to the realm of the flesh or of the Spirit.

The flesh, also called the body, is totally aligned to the world and its lusts. This is what is being spoken of in verse sixteen above.

For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)

28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,

30 because we are members of His body.(Ephesians 5:28-30)

Note that ‘the flesh’ and ‘the body’ are used interchangeably in the above verses. It is your body (the flesh), the physical part of your being, that is not regenerated when you are born again. In it resides all the desires of the world. John says that the things of the world fall into three categories: the lust of the flesh; the lust of the eyes; and the boastful pride of life.

Your flesh is demanding, controlling and manipulating. It commands satisfaction … and it does not stop demanding, even after you’re saved. It wants what it sees, and it wants to be lifted up for what it has. In short, it wants to be fed … literally and figuratively. People who are not saved are characterized as being fleshly because they live their lives indulging the flesh.

Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Ephesians 2:3)

Please note that the mind of an unsaved person is in agreement with the flesh. However it is not the mind, but the flesh (the body), that is being served.

For those who are according to the flesh [the physical body] set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)

We see from the above verse that the flesh and the mind are different entities.

However, as a born again person, you have received a new spirit, that is, a new heart and a new soul, i.e., the mind. Your mindset has been changed to one of being fixed on the Spirit. The flesh, on the other hand, continues to make its lustful demands through the mind. When this happens, your mind is faced with a conflict … whether to obey the old desire of the flesh or the new way of the Spirit. Remember that responding to the lusts of the flesh was normal for you before you were saved. Therefore, it is easy to slide back into the old ways, carry out one of those old desires and allow it to be reestablished in your mind. This can happen without your notice unless you are taking all of those fleshly thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.

Walk By the Spirit

Your lifestyle, if you are a born again believer, is to be a reflection of your newly regenerated spirit.

16 But I say, walk [speak and act] by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Galatians 5:16-17)

What then should your reaction be to the desires of the flesh that find their way into your mind after you are born again? Paul says you should sacrifice them … that is deny them … put them out of your mind.

For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [the flesh and its lustful desires] a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [reasonable — KJV] service of worship.

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-3)

Denying the flesh is done in your mind. This is extremely difficult to do as long as your old fleshly pillars that re-entered are allowed to remain in their established, familiar places. Putting the fleshly pillars in your mind into a mental locker prevents them from influencing your decisions. Your mind is renewed when it no longer is conditioned to yield to the desires of the flesh. Allowing the newly-established fleshly pillars to remain while you attempt to grow in obedience to the Spirit is counterproductive at best, and spiritually demoralizing at worst.

Having said that, we know that the temptations of the flesh will always be present. Therefore, it is inevitable that we will be fooled by a scheme of Satan at one time or another. In other words, every believer is going to sin on occasion. God in His mercy and wisdom has provided a solution. We are to confess our sins so we will be forgiven.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Confession is the way the sins committed by a believer are forgiven. And when sin is forgiven it is removed forever. Thus, if you confess your sin, there is no way it can become a pillar or stronghold in you mind. And remember that not forgiving is a sin. Not only is confession necessary for the sin of not forgiving, but you must also forgive those who commit wrongs against you.

14 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

The outcome of attempting to walk in sanctification by denying the demands of the flesh, while allowing the lustful pillars of the things and the ways of the world to continue to stand in your mind, will only result in repeated failure. In other words, the outcome will be worldly behavior. Another way to say that is, “You’re going to sin … a lot.” However, if you walk by the Spirit, He will show you the way of righteousness as Paul wrote to the Galatians: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)

Applying the Duality Principle

The idea of believers acting pretty much as they did before being saved is currently accepted in many churches. Those who profess Christ and act like the world have become so prevalent they have been given a name. They are called Carnal Christians. This expression flies directly in the face of what Christian behavior is meant to be. The term Carnal Christian is an oxymoron, that is, an expression that produces a contradictory effect.

Put a red apple in your refrigerator, and it will be red when you have it for lunch the next day. The point is that it isn’t red one day, and another color the next. That’s what the adjective does in that phrase red apple … it means that the apple is red, not changeable. Likewise, the expression, Carnal Christian, does not refer to a Christian who occasionally falls into sin, but one who IS carnal … a CARNAL Christian. However, a saved person has been spiritually renewed, and is no longer carnal … no longer worldly … they have become Spiritual, that is, of the Holy Spirit. While a believer may mistakenly yield to a fleshly desire on occasion, this is no longer their character.

How do I know this to be so? Because of the Principle of Duality. A red apple cannot be yellow while it is red. An object that is going up cannot be going down at the same time. Neither can a believer who has become the righteousness of Christ be an unbeliever bound to obey the lusts of the flesh. The believer is spiritually motivated by the Holy Spirit, the unbeliever is physically driven by the flesh. A person cannot be both spiritually and physically oriented at the same time. Therefore, it is impossible for a person to be a Carnal Christian.

The Bible tells us we are made up of three parts … spirit, soul and body.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Duality tells us that our universe consists of two-part counterparts. I’ve described them as falling into one of two camps … spiritual or physical. (Please read my article, The Dual Nature Of The Bible, for a more complete discussion on Duality.) How can the human makeup consist of three parts, while remaining in harmony with the principle of duality? Here’s how: The spirit (heart) and the soul (mind) are both spiritual components … the body (flesh) is physical. Every person is both spiritual and physical. So there are three parts, but only two natures.

The Old Testament tells us we are to return to the Lord (repent) with all of our heart and all of our soul … the spiritual part of our makeup.

9 Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers;

10 if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul. (Deuteronomy 30:9-10)

Here, and in several other  passages of the Old Testament, is an expression of New Testament repentance to salvation in a nutshell. When you were saved, you returned to the Lord with all your heart and soul, and you moved out of a world under a curse into a kingdom of blessings. In other words, you became a new spiritual being. It is the entirety of your spiritual side, the heart and the soul, that is regenerated. It is the body, that is the flesh, that is not.

Therefore, as we discussed earlier, renewing of your mind is not the same thing as the regeneration of your mind. Your soul, which includes your mind, is made new, along with the rest of your spiritual being, at the time of repentance. The renewing of your mind is accomplished by the repeated practice of not allowing the demands of the flesh to regain control of your mind. Paul calls this process of denying the lusts of the flesh (temptations) Sanctification.

As a believer, it is not necessary for you to endure the anguish of losing to the flesh time and again because its fleshly pillars have been permitted to regain a foothold in your mind. You can achieve mastery over the desires of the flesh by actively engaging in the renewing of your mind. This process is greatly enhanced by employing a locker in your mind to hold your old fleshly pillars consisting of your old attitudes and beliefs thereby keeping them out-of-the-way during the process of renewal.

Renewing the mind requires work and sacrifice on your part. The Old Testament says it this way:

6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?

7 If you do well [say no to the desires of the flesh], will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door [waiting for you to obey the flesh]; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

Cain’s countenance had fallen because God did not accept his sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice was from the work of his hands, while his brother’s was a sacrifice of flesh, not his own, but the flesh of a substitutionary animal. By the sacrifice of the animal, Abel offered his sinful flesh to God, i.e., sanctification. Born again Christians are to do the same thing. The difference is that the sacrifice is spiritual. We are to sacrifice all that comes from the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.

That is the way the mind is renewed. Putting your old attitudes and beliefs in a locker in your mind greatly enhances the process. You don’t have to be a new believer to enjoy the benefits of a storage locker for your fleshly pillars. Take the CMD cure, create a locker in your mind. Not only will you be free to renew you mind … you’ll enjoy the great added bonus of an increased ability to understand the Bible.

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