“THE MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE”
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
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 (NASB).
In a church service one Sunday, the offering plate came to a little girl at the end of a row. She took the plate, put it down on the floor, and stood in it. When the usher asked her what she was doing, she responded, “In Sunday school I learned that I was supposed to give myself to God.”
Romans 12:1-2 confirms that she had the right idea. Let's take a critical look at this text and try to capture what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote this chapter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The title of the message is, “The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”
In Romans 1-11 the Apostle Paul deals with theological and doctrinal matters. New Testament scholars are in agreement that if you want to know the depth of Paul's theology, you have to study the Book of Romans. As it is his usual custom, Paul uses the first half of the Book of Romans to deal with theological issues and the second half of the book to deal with practical matters of the Christian faith. Nevertheless, all theology is practical, and all practice, if it is truly Christian, is theological. The good news of Jesus Christ is intended to transform our lives. Until individual Christians own and live out the theology, the gospel has not accomplished its purpose.
I. THE RATIONALITY OF WORSHIP V. 1
Romans 12:1-2 is one of the best known passages in the Bible—and deservedly so, for we find here a concise description of the essence of the believer's response to God's grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our response to God is rooted in God's grace. Our obedience to God is the product of what God has done in our lives, not something we can manufacture on our own. In the Old Testament, the people of God were under obligation to offer animal sacrifices to God for various reasons. However, as New Testament Christians, we no longer offer animal sacrifices; we now offer ourselves as “living sacrifices” to God. We offer ourselves as people who have been brought from death to life. We offer ourselves to God because we are no longer our own, for we have been bought with a precious price—the blood of Jesus Christ. Moreover, the Lord has sent His Holy Spirit to live in us to prove that we are His precious possession.
In the Old Testament times, nobody was allowed to sacrifice a dead animal to God. All the animals that were sacrificed were to be brought to the priest alive before it was slaughtered or burned on the altar of sacrifice. In the Old Testament, God demanded spotless animals to be sacrificed to Him. God rejected any animal that had a blemish as a sacrifice to Him. God still demands sacrifices that are “holy.” In other words, the sacrifice has to be set apart from profane matters and dedicated to God's service. Such holy and living sacrifice is acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. The word “spiritual” is the Greek word logikos. That word can mean spiritual, reasonable, true, offered by mind and heart, or intelligent. This is what the Apostle Paul is saying. We give ourselves to God as His sacrifices when we understand His grace and its place in our lives. We offer ourselves not ignorantly, like animals brought to the slaughter, but intelligently and willingly. This is the worship that pleases God. Worship is the way we live, not what we do on Sunday morning. We worship God by giving ourselves in sacrificial service to our Lord. The worship we offer corporately or collectively must be informed. It must be a worship that engages the mind and heart. God does not care much about how we sing, but He does care about what we sing. The how has to do with the method; whereas the what has to do with the message. The words we sing in our worship must be true, expressing something about what God has told us about Himself in His Word. Worship that pleases God and that truly leaves its mark on a believer always engages the mind.
II. THE RENEWAL OF THE MIND V. 2
Verse 2 tells us how we can carry out the sweeping demand to give ourselves as sacrifices to the Lord. The Christian life is a transforming life. The means by which we accomplish this transformation in conduct is the renewing of the mind (cf. Eph 4:23; 2 Cor. 4:1; Col. 3:10; Titus 3:5). Do you know why Daniel and his three Hebrew friends refused to eat the food the Babylonian king provided for them? They did not eat not because they were watching their weight. They did not eat because the food was sacrificed to the idol gods of Babylon. The King of Babylon was trying to give the four Hebrew young men a new orientation. The second thing he did was to change their Hebrew names into Babylonian names. All the names he gave them had an association with the Babylonian gods. What he was doing was to reprogram their mind so that they could forget their Hebrew heritage. If they forgot their Hebrew heritage, then that means they had denied the living God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. However, Daniel and his three friends saw through the smokescreen and refused to abandon their heritage and their God.
The same principle holds true for the Communist government of China. The Communist government of China has special labor camps for political and religious prisoners whose thinking and ideas are regarded as a threat to the Marxist cause. A number of Chinese pastors and other Christian leaders have been sentenced to these camps, sometimes for years at a time.
The Chinese say that the prisoner is being sent to a camp for “reeducation through labor,” a cover up for an attempt to break prisoners down physically and reprogram their minds through propaganda. The idea is to do whatever it takes to try to remake the prisoner in the communists' image. The Chinese “reeducation camps” operate in a basic principle that is taught in the Word of God, except that the communists are using it for evil and wrong purposes. This is the principle: “If you want people to think in new ways and in different categories, you have to erase the old ways of thinking from their minds” (Tony Evans, Free At Last, 139-140). Their minds must be reprogrammed. That is the principle the Apostle Paul teaches here in Romans 12:2. A new orientation in our thinking leads to a new orientation in our behavior. This is the heart of the New Testament ethics. The result of this transformation is that we will be able to please God by doing His will. The problem that many Christians face is that yes they have been saved but they do not know how to reprogram their mind. Therefore, they live their lives as if they have not been saved. To change your life, you must change the way you think. Behind everything you do is a thought. When you give your life to Jesus Christ, Satan knows that he cannot fool with your salvation, because that is a guarantee from Jesus Christ to you. However, he knows that he can attack you in your mind by whispering to your mind and shooting his bullets into your mind.
God in His infinite wisdom has revealed this to us through the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:5-6. These verses give us the parameters of the battle for our minds. There are two basic mindsets: the mind set on the flesh and the mind set on the Spirit. Paul said that the mind set on the flesh leads to death, whereas the mind set on the Spirit leads to “life and peace.” The Christian, who lives with a fleshly mindset, lives in the realm of death. It kills your joy, victory, and your peace. A fleshly mind also robs you of the freedom that is the birthright of all believers. However, the Christians whose minds are set on the Spirit will enjoy to the full the abundant, victorious, and liberated life that Jesus Christ promised. The difference between a constantly defeated believer and a perpetually victorious believer is where they have set their minds.
The message you are reading from the Internet in my blog has been programmed into my computer hard drive. I had to cut and paste it from my computer to the web site to enable you to read it on the Internet. The sad thing is that when some people become Christians they don't want to reprogram or reorient their mind. Therefore, while they pray, sing, and claim to be Christians, you do not see any transformation in their lives. In other words, their worldview has not changed. They continue to operate with a secular worldview instead of biblical or Christian worldview.
We are to put to death our unredeemed nature because it is hostile toward God. Hostility is another word for warfare. When you try to reprogram your flesh, you are like a person who has given up alcohol, but is always going to the beer bar to ask what he can do to stay away from alcohol. If you have given up drugs, stay away from the drug joint. If you have given up alcohol, stay away from the beer bar. Change your thinking.
The brain is the control center of the body. Your hand does not move because it suddenly decided to move. It moves when it receives a signal from your brain. In fact, if your hand, foot or any other body part starts functioning independently of the brain, something is terribly wrong. What the brain is to the body, the mind is to the soul. It is the control center, so that is where the battle is being waged. If Satan wins your mind, he can control your actions. Let me give you an example: Christ has saved you and the Holy Spirit has come to live in you. Jesus says that you have passed from death unto life. You are a new creation of God. However, in your mind you still think that someone in your family is after you. You therefore, go to a prophet to confirm your suspicion. In fact, the prophet has given you the name of the person who wants your downfall in your family. Instead of praying for the salvation of people in your family, you wished this person were dead. Meanwhile, the Bible tells you that He who is in you is greater than the one in the world (1 John 4:4). However, your problem is that you believe what your mind and the prophet have told you more than what the Bible is telling you. Your problem is that you are a Christian but you have an identity crisis. You have an identity crisis because you have not reprogrammed your mind to believe what God says you really are. You are a Christian, but your thinking has not changed. Instead of believing and acting on what God tells you in His Word, you focus on what your mind and the prophet are telling you. The question is: Whose testimony are you to believe? The Word of God or how you think? The first step in spiritual growth is to begin changing the way you think. The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel influences the way you act (Eph. 4:23).
As I said, Satan knows that he cannot destroy your salvation, but he can steal the joy of your salvation by waging spiritual warfare in your mind. That is why you must renew your mind everyday. The renewal of the mind is a process. Renewal does not happen automatically to you the moment you receive Christ. The Holy Spirit comes to reside in you, and He provides a whole new orientation to your thinking. However, your thinking does not change instantaneously. The rut of the old nature is not always easy to get out. Some of our ways of thinking are deeply ingrained, and they will not disappear overnight. The key question now becomes what are you feeding into your mind? If we spend all our discretionary time watching television, reading secular books, and listening to secular music, it would be a wonder if our mind were not fundamentally secular. Our job is to cooperate with God's Spirit by seeking to feed into our minds information that will reprogram our thinking in line with the values of the kingdom.
Renewing the mind is by definition, an internal process. What will direct Christians in a way pleasing to God? Paul's answer is that God is at work in us, changing from within the very way that we think. What the Apostle Paul is teaching in these verses has to do with a worldview. The word of God is commanding us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to be adapted into the Christian worldview.
The nature of the battle that we face in the mind is discussed in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. In this passage, the Word of God says that fleshly weapons are useless (v. 3). The reason is simple: Nothing in our flesh is going to help us live victorious lives and draw closer to the Lord. This battle is located in the mind because it involves “speculations,” “knowledge,” and “every thought” (v. 5). If the weapons we are to use are not of the flesh, then, they must be of the Holy Spirit (v. 4). The word “fortress” is a key to understanding and winning the battle for your mind. You will never be victorious in allowing the Holy Spirit to reprogram your mind until the Enemy's fortresses in your mind are torn down. Fortresses are the same as strongholds (Jericho in Joshua's time).
A stronghold is a negative and destructive pattern of thinking that Satan has built into our minds, either through repetition or traumatic experiences or other circumstances. Once the stronghold is built, it gives the Enemy a place from which to launch further attacks against your mind and a fortification from which to repel your attempts to dislodge him. An alcoholic or drug addict has a stronghold that is made up of a wrong mindset toward drugs or alcohol. Satan builds his stronghold when he convinces you that your situation is hopeless, that a person is drug addict or an alcoholic by nature and will never be anything else. Once you start believing that lie, it is pretty much over, because you are going to act in accordance with who you believe you are. Hopelessness is a key element of a stronghold. As long as you believe there is hope for you to overcome a wrong way of thinking, you will keep fighting. However, once you believe the battle is hopeless, you will want to surrender. When some students fail in a math examination, they conclude that they will always fail math, therefore why try. However, the truth of the matter is that the fact that you failed in one math exam does not make you a failure.
Satan wants to force his thinking upon you until you actually come to believe that his lies are true. You can tell when a satanic stronghold is ruling people. They say things like, “I cannot help myself,” “It is not my fault,” “I was born this way,” or “I am just a victim.” When you view something as unchangeable that God says is changeable, Satan has built a stronghold in your mind. Satan gets the material to build his strongholds by the wrong thoughts he plants and cultivates in your mind. The only power Satan has over a believer is his lies.
How to Renew Your Mind
1. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
2. Know who you are in Christ.
3. Get the facts straight.
Understand that the battle for the mind has to do with truth encounters, because the devil is a liar by nature and cannot handle the truth. That is why the first armor of the believer in spiritual warfare is the belt of truth (Eph. 6:14). Truth is foundational to your victory in the Christian life.
4. Ask the Holy Spirit to reprogram your mind with the truth.
Do not ever buy Satan's lie that your situation is hopeless or unchangeable. The facts are, “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you” (Phil. 4:13).
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