Chris Ward, a guest preacher a number of years ago, spoke from Ephesians 4. He pointed out that Paul started this section of his letter about how a Christian should live by saying how a Christian should NOT live—like unbelievers.
Paul traced the problem that unbelievers have to hard hearts which spawn wrong thinking that leads to wrong actions (see Eph. 4:18-19).
He goes on to admonish the Church, not with a list of right things to do, but with how to think:
be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph. 4:23-24)
This is the same renewal of the mind that Paul talked about in the book of Romans:
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. (Rom. 12:2)
The thing that stuck with me from this message is that this renewal of the mind must be a constant thing. We know what we believe, in theory, or at least we know what the Bible says, and we say we believe the Bible, but in practice, we too often believe a lie.
Chris used Eve as an example. She knew what God had said: Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Enter Satan and his questions, and suddenly Eve is believing a lie instead of the truth.
When Satan in serpent’s guise asked, Has God really said … Eve could have answered, Yes, indeed God HAS said, and He would not lie or deceive us. The end of the story would have been very different.
So today we say, for example, that God answers prayer, but in practice we don’t pray much.
One of my favorite, favorite ministries illustrates this point. I’m listening to a great series of sermons on prayer, but at the end of each, instead of asking listeners for prayer, they ask for money because this, they say, is what keeps them on the air.
Really? Not God answering the prayer of His people? It’s actually promotional ploys and slick appeals?
I know these fine folk would never say that’s what they believe, yet that’s the way they act.
I do the same kind of thing.Another illustration, possibly true, possibly apocryphal, is the story of tightrope walker Charles Blondin who was known for his stunts as he crossed dangerous terrain like Niagara Falls (See “Walking The Tight Rope.”) One of those feats was to push a wheelbarrow across the wire.
After successfully completing the trek, to thunderous applause from the hundreds of onlookers, so the story goes, he turned to the crowd and said, Do you think I can do it again?
Yes, absolutely, of course you can, they shouted, clapping and urging him to push the wheelbarrow across again. He waited for them to quiet.
I’m touched by your faith in me, he said, so I’ll make the return trip. I just need a volunteer, someone who will get into the wheelbarrow.
No one stepped forward. The crowd all believed in theory that he could push the wheelbarrow back to the other side, but they didn’t believe with their lives.
As Christians, we need to believe with our lives, and that comes as we renew our minds. We need to recall moment by moment the truth about God–who He is and what relationship we now have in Him–and bring it to bear in any and every circumstance.
We believe, for example, that God is good. Consequently, when I experience a disappointing result or a hurtful comment or a life-threatening situation, I need most of all to renew my mind and recall that these circumstances don’t mean God is not good. Rather, because He is good, I need to understand that He has allowed, in His goodness, what feels so hard to bear.
Why would He do that?
If I am to believe what I believe I must continue to search the Scriptures and to pray in order to think aright about what is difficult. The alternative would be something like shaking my fist at God and demanding that He fix things–essentially saying, He is not good, that He’s messed up, that I know better than He, and that He owes me better than what I’m getting. It would be to say with the people of Israel, I want to go back to Egypt.
Yet I say I believe God is good.
Only by renewing my mind can I live as if I believe what I believe, and jump into the wheelbarrow.
This post first appeared here in June 2012.