“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2 NKJV)
Anyone who has spent time on the London Tube will be well aware of the caution to mind the gap. The gap in mind is the space between the subway train and the platform. The admonition is to pay attention to where you’re walking lest you fall into the gap (Sounds like a nice slogan for a clothing store, doesn’t it?).
The Bible also speaks of a gap, the space between where we are as Christians in our conformity to Christ and where we need to be. Paul speaks of Christ being “formed in us” (Gal. 4:19). That happens by the grace of God in sanctification.
The primary station for formation of Christ in us is the mind. Paul points that out in his letter to the Romans: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). The operation center for spiritual transformation is the mind.
We enter the station to embark on the Christian life when we come to Christ in repentant faith, turning from any ability of our own to save ourselves, turning from rebellion that exalted self over the lordship of Christ. The most prominent word in the New Testament for repentance is metanoeo, which speaks to a change of mind.
In Ephesians, Paul insists that we should “no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind” (4:17). The idea is that we were dead in sin but now by God’s grace we are alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1-5). The apostle features the mind as the switching house between the put-off and put-on of Ephesians 4.
“Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-24)
A new orientation of thought leads to a new direction of life. Paul explained to King Agrippa that his message to the Gentiles was that they should repent and bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance (Acts 26:20).
Peter speaks of girding our minds for action (1 Pet. 1:13). Girding has to do with preparation. We might think of building a shed. We gather materials and devise a plan to build to specifications. The preparation is not for the sake of preparation but for the action of building.
What are those specifications for the building? Peter goes on: “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:14–16). Our goal is conformity to the image of God in Christ.
What exactly do we do in the mind that fosters spiritual transformation? Our minds need to be shaped by the word of God, thinking God’s thoughts after Him. That involves an aspect of spiritual warfare where we resist the devil and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5; cf. Col. 2:8). The writer of Hebrews speaks of the discernment gained through practicing the word (Heb. 5:14).
Paul describes noetic nourishment for spiritual health and growth:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Phil. 4:8)
The sense is that we bring these things to dwell in our minds. We want to sow in our minds what we want to harvest in our lives. Paul is not speaking here of positive thinking but profitable thinking, thinking for spiritual gain. Like Peter, Paul has in view girding our minds for action. He goes on in the next verse to say: “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do” (Phil. 4:9).
The gap between where we are in our spiritual growth and where we need to be is addressed through the mind. We are to mind the gap, recognizing that we are to progress in Christ-likeness and seeking the grace of God that Christ might be formed in us.
- In what way does repentance belong to the outset of Christian life? In what way does it belong to the outworking of the Christian life?
- How does Psalm 32 train us in repentance?
Father, help me to live a life of repentant faith that keeps my eyes on Jesus as I run the race You have marked out for me. Grant me discernment to know the impediments on my path and in my heart, and to see the sin in my life that so easily entangles. Help me to set my mind upon Him, the founder and finisher of the faith.
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.