Thursday, January 19, 2017

Life as It Ought to Be - Part 2: Set Free…to Renew Our Minds

Tomorrow is Inauguration Day and many Americans will be watching as Donald John Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.  But indications are that America has never been more divided at any time since the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, in 1861, near the beginning of the Civil War.  Voices of opposition and distain for Trump are heard from people representing the sciences, politics, human rights groups, and the entertainment industry.  Here is a sampling:

America was also divided in 1861 at Lincoln's first inauguration.
I am literally on a remote tropical island and I, even I, don't feel safe. – Hollie Smith (singer-songwriter) 

Having a person in the position of U.S. President who does not acknowledge scientific facts establishing the clear reality of human-caused climate change is a disgrace
. -- Dr. Twila Moon, (University of Bristol)

We will fight to make sure that Planned Parenthood health center doors stay open, and that people in this country can get access to basic reproductive health care
…   Cecile Richards (president, Planned Parenthood)

The world will never be the same.  – Cher (singer-actress)

Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans.  If Trump wants to roll back the tide of hate he unleashed, he has a tremendous amount of work to do and he must begin immediately
.  -- Harry Reid (U.S. Senate, (D) Nev.)

We've let a hatemonger lead our great nation.  We've let a bully set our course.  I'm devastated
.  -- Chris Evans (actor—“Captain America”)

The battle of angry words and rude behavior between Election 2016 winners and losers has continued right up to Inauguration Day.  Thanks to the internet, these angry expressions are broadcasted far and wide.  Occasionally, President-elect Trump throws fuel into the fire with angry tweets of his own.

What makes us act this way?  The cause is not Donald Trump.  Nor is it the two-party system; or, the internet.  The cause is not even fear of “losing our rights”—e.g. reproductive rights, gender rights, voting rights, health benefits, welfare entitlements, government job security, etc.  The ultimate cause lies deep within the human hearti.e. the mental frameworks of logic and values each person has constructed with their mind.

When we are honest with ourselves, we admit we have personal struggles with pride, lust, and deceit.  These in turn influence our moral beliefs and hence how we think about the social and economic issues listed above.  Regardless of our stand on these issues, many of us experience fear and angst over how the new administration will influence our future.  When we reflect on the violence and destruction throughout human history we realize that humans are not naturally “good-at-heart,” or should I say, “good-at-mind.”  The Bible states, there is none righteous, not even one (Romans 3: 10).  And, the Apostle James asks (James 4: 1), What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?  Scripture answers immediately-- Because of your lusts that war in your members.
All of us have to deal with lust, an intense desire for something that is not rightfully ours to have.  Although many including Google mistakenly limit lust to “sexual desire,” it applies more broadly to any inordinate desire. We may lust for things like food, wealth, fame, intellectual prowess, or power.  The root of the problem is not that sex, food, guns, or fame are bad.  Instead, it is the way we think about these gifts of God.  What’s worse, we can use our minds and thought processes to deceive ourselves into believing that we don’t lust, or at least not very much.  As the prophet Jeremiah explains (Jeremiah 17: 9 NET), the human mind is more deceitful than anything else.  It is incurably bad.  Who can understand it?

Thankfully, God’s moral revelation in Scripture comes to us with the Spirit and power to help us attack the root of the problem within our minds.  In Part 1 of “Life as It Ought to Be,” we emphasized how God has power to “set us free….to serve Him.”  As the Apostle Peter writes (1 Peter 3:18), For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit…  Sin, is rebellion against God as a result of the prideful, lustful, and deceitful ways of thinking in our minds.  But sin does not need to have dominion over us.  Paul writes in Romans 8: 10, If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

In Part 1, we explained how God sets the sinner free from sin’s mastery and gives the person of faith His Holy Spirit to reside within as a “New Master.” The “old master,” representing sin, selfishness, and Satan can now be brought under the righteous authority of God’s Spirit.  But, as a believer, I must submit to God’s Spirit as His Word tells me to …consider yourself dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus…[not allowing] sin [to] reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts...(Romans 6: 11-12).  Specifically, I must recognize that I cannot serve two masters.  My “death to the old master” representing sin, as expressed in pride, lust, and deceit becomes reality as I submit to my New Master, Jesus Christ.  Romans 12: 1-2 describes what God asks me to do daily (emphasis mine):   

present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not [let your mind and thinking] 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.

Notice that our responsibility is to continually allow God’s Spirit through His Word to renew our minds so that our wills are attuned to God’s will.  Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and audiologist has conducted research for years in the field of cognitive neuroscience.  She believes that God created our minds in His image and has given us the “free will” to choose how we will think and react to our circumstances.  Dr. Leaf writes in her book entitled Switch on Your Brain (Baker Books, 2013):   

Your mind is the most powerful thing in the universe after God, and indeed fashioned after God.  Free will and choice are real, spiritual, and scientific facts. Your mind (soul) has one foot in the door of the spirit and one foot in the door of the body; you can change your brain with your mind and essentially renew your mind.

Dr. Leaf rejects the view that the human brain is hard-wired and unchangeable, a view that gained popularity in the 1980’s.  She has based her research on her insights gained from the Scriptures such as Romans 12: 2 in which God commands us to be transformed by the renewing of your mind and Deuteronomy 30: 19 in which God lovingly invites us to choose life in order that you may live….  Dr. Leaf reasons correctly that God would not ask His image bearers to exercise choice if He had not created us with brains that have the neurological capacity to change, and with the free will to make right choices that in turn help build healthy brains.  

In a future article, we will address more specifically how our mind can affect the status of our brain and in turn how we think when we use our God-given free will to make right decisions through the power of His Spirit and the guidance of His Word.   But for now, notice how James 4: 5-10 reveals the blessed benefit of submitting our minds to God’s will.  When we submit to God, we realize that His Spirit is actually longing for relationship with us.  What’s more God wants us to turn our longings back to Him as our Creator.  Listen to God’s loving mind speaking out to our minds (emphasis mine):

Or do you think the Scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning”?  But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”  So submit to God.  But resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded Grieve, mourn, and weep.  Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair.  Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

How does a God Who created mankind explain the current division in America, and the divisions and strife around the world?  As we have explained, God’s Word tells us that our minds are naturally prideful, corrupt, and prone to lust or desire that which we do not have.  Therefore, God’s Spirit desires that each person submit to Him and allow their minds to be transformed by the renewing of their minds so that each will know what God’s will is for them.  The above challenge from the Apostle James seems very pertinent to this year’s politics.  It is the prideful, lustful, deceitful mind that causes the outpouring of prideful speech and actions.  Our only remedy is to allow God’s Spirit through His Word to go deep into our system of thought, causing repentance (change of heart/mind), submission to God, and confession of sin.  These actions bring New Life in Christ for the unbeliever, and they bring regular renewal and spiritual growth to the Christ-follower. 

If all goes as planned, tomorrow Donald J. Trump will be our new president.  Life will not immediately be “as it ought to be.”  But, if we take to heart the instructions of the Apostle James to submit to God Who will help us resist the devil, God will enable us to replace our own tendency toward divisiveness, anger, and rudeness with the virtues like patience, kindness, and self-control.   We can then be a much-needed, fresh aroma in our struggling homes, schools, workplaces, and churches.  The inspired Word written in a letter by the Apostle Paul to Titus during harsh times of the Roman Empire ought to encourage us to be thankful for the privilege of watching the inauguration and then praying for the Trump family and his new administration (emphasis mine):

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.  For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.  But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that being justified by His grace we would be mad heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 
– Titus 3:1-7
How about You?   If after reading this article, you sense that you need to do some mind and soul searching, here is a suggestion.  Read Part 1 of this series and prayerfully consider and apply the “four disciplines” outlined there to assure our daily submission to the “New Master.”  They were (1) forging ahead for God while confessing and forgetting past failings; and, being disciplined to (2) feed on God’s Word, (3) adopt a lifestyle of prayer and repentance, and (4) seek fellowship regularly with fellow believers.  If you have particular questions or comments, please use the “Comment” box below or e-mail me at

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