December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”—Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Have you ever heard the expression, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? Essentially, this means a person who is used to doing things in a certain way can’t learn—or doesn’t want to learn—a new or different way of doing things.
The truth is that change is really, really hard. Why? Because we’ve been conditioned to live, speak, act, think, and experience things in a certain way. We’ve spent however many years being influenced, trained, and programmed. By who or what? Life experiences, cultural paradigms, family, friends, school, past trauma, the media, the entertainment we consume, the people we look up to, and even bad theology and irresponsible/immoral church leaders and “Christians.”
All of these combined influences create a mental pattern through which we view all things, act and react, experience relationships, and perceive our identity and purpose. In today’s verse, Paul is telling us that as true Christ followers who have the Holy Spirit (the Helper, Comforter, and Advocate) who will teach us all things and lead us into all truth, we don’t have to settle for this hopeless, destructive, and empty pattern. We don’t have to conform (suschématizó: systematically shaped by). Instead, our minds can be renewed (anakainósis: to be made fresh, new; a complete change for the better). Unlike the old dog, we don’t have to stay stuck in our old ways. We can learn a new, better way to live, act, think, speak, and be!
Did you notice how all of these words are passive verbs? That’s because we’re the receiver of the transformation and renewal, not the perpetrators. So, how do we become recipients? Romans 12:1 says, “In view of God’s mercy . . . offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Our role is to surrender to God, to be devoted to Him and His ways, and to invest in a relationship with Him—to know Him more each day and discover the depths of His heart, mind, and character. It’s knowing Him deeply and enjoying Him fully.
Think of a relationship of a parent and child. My kids have learned behavior, philosophies, reactions, responses, mannerisms, expressions, and worldviews through their relationship with me and time spent with me. My life has had a profound impact on their thought patterns and lifestyles. It’s the same with Jesus! As we spend time with Him, as we learn more about Him, as we study His heart, mind, and ways through His Word, as we learn to sit still with Him and hear His voice in prayer, as we see the transformative power and pattern of the Spirit’s work in community with other believers, the Spirit does the same work of transformation in us!
Friends, I pray this would be you! I pray you would never settle in the hopelessness of a worldly mind, but instead, through relationship with the God of the universe who knows you by name, loves you unconditionally, and desires genuine relationship with you, that you would see your mind transformed for the better! Because in this new mind of Christ, we find hope, peace, joy, power, contentment, and freedom!
Pause: What does it mean to have your mind renewed?
Practice: Consider your mental patterns today. Pray and ask the Spirit to search you and help you take inventory of your ideals, actions, words, and the way you react to certain news, people, and the world around you. Objectively consider your worldview and what it’s patterned after. Then spend time praying through what the Spirit shows you and ask Him to transform areas He’s revealed that don’t align with the heart, mind, and character of Christ.
Pray: Father, I don’t want to settle for a worldly mind! I don’t want my heart, character, actions, or lifestyle to be patterned after anything but You and Your Word. Help me, by Your Holy Spirit, to know You deeper, to grow in the grace and knowledge of Your Son daily, and to see my mind renewed and transformed so I may be more like Jesus! Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.