What does it mean to be renewed in the spirit of your mind? How does this happen? And is it something I do, or something that is done to me?
“And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” (Ephesians 4:23)
Even though on its surface it doesn’t appear to be, life really is one great big cosmic battle between good and evil, right and wrong, truth and deception. Every human being alive is born with a nature skewed by sin that wants to please itself and doesn’t want to hear about, submit to, or if he can convince himself, even believe God exists. Add to this the fact that there is an evil power actively trying to deceive us that this is as it should be, and that wrong is right and evil is good and the end result is that we don’t have a chance. Yet God knows this. That is why He hasn’t stayed silent in the heavens, but rather, has given us His Son, and the Bible.
History has been called “His-story;” it centers around Christ because the destiny of mankind depends upon Christ. The Old Testament is the story of Creation, the Fall into sin, the Flood, God’s using a single people group–the Israelites–as a living example of a people directly governed by Him, the evidence of the failure of a people even in this privileged position to attain holiness on their own, and ultimately, the need for Divine intervention into the mess of our existence. The New Testament is the fulfillment of God’s promises to save His people from their sins, and opens up access to Him for all who trust in Christ. It shows us how to live, and gives us a sneak preview of the completion of the story of saving us from our sins when Christ will return “in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11b) to bring us to an eternity apart from the contaminating influence of any sin at all. The Bible is what we need to make it as people of God. But it does us absolutely no good if we ignore it, or don’t do what it says.
Today’s verse commands us to be renewed in the spirit of our mind. But what does this mean? The previous verse tells us to put off the old man of the sin nature we were born with, and the next verse tells us to put on the new man (which is created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness), so this verse is a bridge. Being renewed in the spirit of our mind is what facilitates our being able to put on the new man.
But how do we do it—how do we get renewed? Like all of the answers to the important issues of life, this also is in the Bible, and it is Jesus Himself who reveals the way: “Sanctify them by the truth, Your Word is truth.” (John 17:17) Our minds are renewed—sanctified, made holier, molded to conform with what is really true, as opposed to what merely appears to be true—through God’s Word, which is truth. Even though we like to believe we can be objective, because we are tainted by sin, we do not possess the ability to judge rightly what is good and what is evil. The standard for good and evil is given in God’s Word, and the more we immerse ourselves in it, the more we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and begin to correctly reflect who God is to a sinful world.
Notice, also, that we are not commanded to “renew the spirit of our mind”—in other words, this is not something that we directly do to ourselves. On the contrary, it is something the Spirit of God accomplishes in us as we obey God by spending time reading His Word and fellowshiping (whether in person, or through visual or print media) with those whose behavior and lives reflect obedience to God.
So what are we to think about and spend time doing? Again, God tells us:
“…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 of these things.” (Philippians 4:9) We are to surround ourselves with and immerse ourselves in the study of that which is good.
(By the way, the next verse says, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do…” (Philippians 4:10) so not only are we to expose ourselves to and study good behavior in others, we are subsequently to copy it, but being around what is right and good is the first step.)
So practically, what should I do? I should read the Bible daily. I should faithfully go to church, attending a Bible study if possible. I should choose my friends—the people I spend time with—carefully, because their attitudes will rub off on me, and even though I might not perfectly copy them, I will over time become much more like them. I should also be much more judicious about the visual and print media I expose myself to, remembering the “noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy” rule . Having a villain doesn’t make a bestseller or movie unsuitable, but having villainous protagonists does. Human nature is such that we tend to identify with the main characters; if these act wrongly, our ability to tell right from wrong is blurred.
Conversely, we ought to make an effort to study the lives of those who have loved God faithfully, because they are our examples. “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do…” (Philippians 4:10) Not everyone’s lives are worthy of being copied, but besides the apostle Paul, there certainly have been other examples throughout history who have chosen what is right, and have thus earned the privilege of emulation, and we are blessed to have access to many of their biographies.
Ultimately, as people of God, we are to, “…not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of…[our] mind, that…[we] may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
Help us be renewed in the spirit of our mind as we wisely choose who we spend time with. Help us choose those who love You too, who exemplify that which is just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy, who because they are transformed by the renewing of their minds reflect Your good, acceptable and perfect will. Amen.