Chapel 03.15.19 – Renewing Your Mind
Thanks so much. Well good morning everybody. Come on, are you there? Good morning. It’s cold, it’s not that cold; I hope you survived the storm. I know if you are from other states, especially you’re from the south, Colorado’s a hard place to figure out weather wise. And yesterday was just a weird storm; they called it a snowicane.
Now from one who had lived in Florida just a few years ago, and experienced hurricanes, it was a little bit of deja vu; same kind of experience. So it makes you appreciate warmth, right, electricity? Who had your electricity go off? Yeah we did too. To be able to have gas and have a hot cup of tea when your electricity off, I had a new appreciation for all that yesterday.
And if you’re not from Colorado, you know that this isn’t the end of it, because springtime gets to be pretty wild. They say, “If you don’t like the weather in Colorado, you just wait a few hours, and you may experience three seasons in one afternoon.” So that’s just the way it is.
And by the way, we get our most snow … Do you know what months we get our most snow in? Not December, January, or February; it’s November and March. So it’s a little different here, but you’ll love it after a while, and … Are you chilly at all in here? It’s a little cool, isn’t it? Just kind of give the person next to you a little bit of a hug, and kind of warm them up, okay as we get started. Yeah, well, I’m thinking heat, not anything else, so.
Oh my, oh my. Would you join me in prayer? Father, thank you so much for the privilege we have now of coming under your word, help us to take it to heart. And thank you that you’re a God who speaks. Thank you for each person here today, would you bless them, keep them, make your face shine upon them? Help them as they move into this second half of the semester. For those who can’t be here today, Lord, some are still not able to get out onto the roads, but please keep them safe, and bless them as well. We ask this all in Jesus name. Amen.
Martin Luther, the great protestant German reformer once said, “When somebody comes to Christ, there are three conversions that take place. There’s a conversion of the heart, there’s a conversion of the mind.” And he said, “There’s a conversion of the purse.” Meaning the wallet.
And I thought about that many times, but this morning I want to speak about one of those things really. Mainly, not your wallet, but your mind, and the mind’s connection to the heart. And I’d like to take you to one verse of scripture, and the scripture is Romans Chapter 12, Verse 2.
I think you know the verse, I’ll read it for you, and it’s on the screen. Paul writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you’ll be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
Now if you know Romans, you know that this point in the letter is a pivot point for the book of Romans, beginning with Verse 1 of Chapter 12, and Paul has just given this long exposition of the Gospel. In fact, Romans has the longest explanation, the most detailed, the most deep explanation of the Gospel of any other book in the Bible.
He takes what is compacted in a verse like John 3:16, and unfolds it in its fullness. And then right at Chapter 12, Verse 1, he transitions and says, “Therefore, in view of all that I’ve just told you, in view of God’s mercy, I want you to live this way.”
In view of this sweeping panoramic of the Gospel that I just showed you, I want you to commit your whole self to God and to his Son, Jesus Christ. And I want you to think of your body as a living sacrifice. And I want you to think of worship as something you do, not just for 20 minutes with a band, but something you do when you go out the door in everything that you do. That’s how I want you to think about your life; total obedience.
But then in Verse 2, he focuses on the mind, on our thinking, on renewing the mind, and having a converted mind. Now why might we need to focus here ourselves? I don’t know about you, but as I look at believers in churches that I’ve pastored, in schools that I’ve had the privilege of serving on staff at, I noticed that some Christians, they compartmentalize their faith.
That is, they think about their faith in one box, and then they think about their discipline in another box, and never the two shall meet. Other Christians, they just don’t like the business of thinking at all, and so they give up on thinking. And a lot has been written about just anti-intellectualism in American Christianity among evangelicals.
Still others, when it comes to thinking, we’re dominated by the culture, by what’s hot in the culture, and so we let culture determine what we’re going to think about. We, basically, have an unconverted mind; we don’t have a Christian mind.
And so when Paul writes Romans 12 and, especially, Verse 2, he says, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world.” World is not the physical world, world is the translation of Greek word [Greek 00:23:17], which means age. And it means the pattern of this age, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this age, the dominant ways of thinking, the stories that shape the world around us.” Might be a way to translate that.
And Paul’s rather emphatic here he’s saying, “Stop being conformed.” As if the Roman Christians were following Jesus, but they were dominated by the thought patterns of their society, and it was getting them in trouble.
In a sense, you could say they were in the same pressure cooker environment that you are in today, where the world is always trying to squeeze us into its mold. And God, through Paul, is saying, “Wake up Christian, there’s a better way. There’s a better pattern of thinking, than to think along the dominant patterns of your culture.”
So what was it have been for the Roman Christians? Why it might have been a stoic thought that was influencing them. It might have been pagan polytheism; worshiping many gods. It might have been state worship; the worship of Imperial Roman and the Emperor. It might have been neo-paganism, or cynicism, or Epicureanism; all these fancy words but represent different philosophies that were alive at the time.
In our day, you might put it this way, there are lots of things that shape us, dominant thought patterns of the world, radical individualism, “I am the center of the universe.” Marxism and neo-Marxism, the gospel of human progress; we’ll take history into our own hands.
Consumerism, that thought pattern, “I am what I own.” Moral relativism, hyper nationalism, postmodern tribalism, “My tribe over all.” Salvation by therapy; that’s a dominant view that we were saved, not by an outsider like Jesus, but by the right therapeutic cure.
The self help movement has lots of Gospel narratives that are trying to shape us. Scientific naturalism saying, “Nature is all there is, and all there ever will be. New Age thought … I mean, countless different currents that are influencing the way we think are vying for our attention and thought life.
And many of us absorb these thoughts, and stories, and gospels, and worldviews just like the Roman Christians did; we’re not even aware of it. And so we need some timely word like God’s word, through Paul, to say, “Hey, stop. Do not be conformed, stop thinking in these categories, change the way you think by the renewing of your mind.”
And that’s the second part of the verse, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Have another pattern of thinking, then you’ll be able to test, and approve, and discern God’s will; his good, pleasing, and perfect will. So instead of being conformed to the stories of our age, be transformed by God’s story; that is his good, pleasing, and perfect will.
Now when you’re looking at a verse like this, you have to ask, “Well what does his will mean here?” And the way we usually interpret it, in fact, the way I’ve interpreted it for years was, “Oh, this must mean God’s will for my life, that’s what it’s talking about.” And that’s probably not what he’s talking about here, “Then you’ll be able to test, and approve, and discern God’s will.” Is probably God’s will of precept, that is his moral order, and God’s will in the Gospel that he has just unfolded in Romans 1 through 11; showing all the stages of salvation history.
That is he’s saying, “Romans, be shaped by his word, be shaped by the story of the Gospel, be shaped by God’s story.” And it’s a present imperative. You might be saved, you might be justified, but you’ve got work to do, including a mental reset where you start to think in Christian categories, and it will change your life; you have an integrated faith.
When I think about this, I think, “Why that’s what we’re trying to do at CCU.” We want you to have a renewed mind, we want to prepare a generation of Christians to think Christianly. Sometimes we say, “To have a Christian worldview.” Which will then deepen your convictions, and strengthen your values, and transform your actions, and deepen your love for Jesus.
So that you’re ready to stand in the academy, if you leave here and go to some secular university. Or you’re ready to engage the culture, or you’re ready to serve in the church. And so the question I ask as I read this powerful verse is, “So how does this mind renewal take place? How might it take place? How do we have a reshaped mind, reshaped by this pattern that Paul has just laid out?”
And that’s where it’s interesting to go back to Chapters 1 through 11, and the answer’s right there. Paul has touched on all the highlights of God’s story. He’s talked about these four stages of salvation history: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. Or you can think of them as stages, or you can think of them, if you’re in the music, as movements of a symphony, or you can think of them as categories of thought that need to become the patterns of the grid of the way that we think, when we think about all kinds of things.
So before I unfold each one, I want to just say, for Paul, when he writes Romans, the foundation of everything, of course, is the one true God. The God who is there, the God who exists, and who self-exists, he doesn’t need the world; he’s dependent on nothing.
He’s not the God of our own understanding, he is the triune God of the scriptures; that’s who we’re dealing with. There’s none of this … You ever hear this line, “Well, my God.” You’re talking to somebody, and you’ll be talking about God and they’ll say, “But my God.” And he’s not into that. He’s not into designer gods, he wants us to deal with a God of creation, redemption, the God of the Bible, the triune God.
Nothing can be understood apart from this God, because he is Lord and King over the world. And the other foundational thing here is that, for Paul, he believed that God is not silent, he has spoken. He has spoken in his general revelation through creation, he has spoken more clearly through his special revelation in the scriptures; and the scriptures point to Jesus.
So what I’d like to do is just, briefly, set out this new pattern of thought that Paul commends to the Romans, and he commends to us; God commands it to us. They are categories to help us think in Christian categories, so the first category, or you could say, “Stage of the Gospel story.” Is creation, right? I think we know that, but do we know it deeply?
So in communicating the Gospel to the Romans, remember Paul started in Chapter 1 and he said, “God made us.” Remember that, we were meant to serve him. He set his law in our hearts, the witness of creation is everywhere, and he wants creation to be sort of the foundation category of our thinking.
The universe is not all there is, in other words, as Paul understood it, it’s created by God, it’s governed by him; contra the view of naturalism, that it just always existed. God spoke worlds into being, and the whole of scriptures testifies to this, that this God is so great he speaks, and worlds, and galaxies come into being.
And he is the Sovereign Lord who is transcendent above his creation, but he upholds his creation. So there’s a distinction between the Creator and the created. Contra Avatar, by the way, which is coming out in version two this year, and paganism and pantheism, which makes the fundamental error of blurring the Creator and the creation.
He’s the Sovereign Lord who is over the worlds of literature, philosophy, history, science; and so we want to have a God-centered view of our world. By the way, the university came into being … do you know how? With a God-centered view of reality. They believed there was something at the center, the uni, God, truth, and everything was related to him.
There was a Creator, and Christ was there; Jesus is not just the Redeemer, he’s the Logos. And scripture says, “We’re created by him and for him.” And so nothing in the universe can be completely understood apart from him. That’s why we talk about a Christ-centered education; we think it all relates to Jesus in some way.
And this Creator reveals himself through the created world, the world is charged with the grandeur of God, and the world is good; that’s part of a Christian way of thinking too. Every world view gives an account of the world, of the world’s beauty, and goodness, and evil; and they have to explain it.
But this is how the Bible explains it, “The world is good, and we came from him, he made us not we ourselves. And we were the climax of creation, created in his image and likeness.” Now, here’s a sticking point for the modern mind where the Bible tells us God sent his affection on human beings in a special way. And there are many today who say, “Why, that’s akin to racism and sexism; it’s speciesism. It’s a prejudice that’s terrible, that you’d say humans are different from the rest of the world.”
Well, the Bible says that we are different, it’s part of the creation worldview. And God made a creation order, a moral order, he creates not just material things, but the rules by which they operate, and that order is good. Gender is a part of the goodness of creation.
He has a design for marriage, and sexuality, and family; that’s part of it. And then we’re told in this creation account, he actually draws near to human beings and enters into a covenant with them, a relationship with them, and gives them a job to take care of his world. So that’s just a little sketch, but my question is, “Have you come to grips with God as Creator in your thinking? Or are other patterns squeezing you into its mold.”
Here’s the second category of this new pattern that Paul commends, we use a word the fall to describe it. So in communicating the Gospel to the Romans, Paul has already referenced the fall. He hasn’t used the word, but he’s talked about how our hearts have been darkened, how we have exchanged worshiping God for worshiping animals and images.
And then we’re under his judgment, because there’s none who is righteous, no, not one we’ve all turned away. And it was one man’s disobedience that affected everything, and so Romans Chapter 5, Paul writes, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.”
So here’s a category of thought that needs to influence the way we think. The world is not as it should be. Why? Because of long ago, there was a rebellion that took place. God entered into a covenant of creation with Adam and Eve, he made a moral universe, and he said, “Obey me is the path of life, and disobeying me is the path of death.” And for some mysterious reason, Adam and Eve representing all humanity, defied God; they revolted.
R. C. Sproul says, “They committed cosmic treason.” They wanted to be God, they were that insolent, and so they elevated themselves to be higher than God; a place that only belongs to God. By the way, that’s pretty 21st century, isn’t it? I mean, this is relevant stuff.
And when they fell into sin, they still retained the image of God, but it was marred. I remember J.I. Packer, the theologian, saying that, “Human beings are noble ruins like those ancient statues from Greece and Rome.” You can tell they were extraordinary when they were first made, but they lacked arms, and they there are pockmarks all over it; they’ve been ruined. And he said, “That’s kind of the biblical vision of human beings. We still retain the image, the dignity is there, but the tragedy is there as well.”
Pascal, the great philosopher says, “There is within us both some great principle of greatness, and some great principle of wretchedness.” Of course, the best explanation of the nobleness is the doctrine of creation, and the best explanation of the wickedness is the doctrine of the fall.
And by this fall there were terrible consequences, according to scripture; we became guilty, and it was real guilt. Separated from God, alienated from him, cut off from the tree of life, expelled from the garden. Spiritual death lead to physical death, which leads to a second death unless someone intervenes. We inherit their nature in some mysterious way. We were there when they sinned, and we ratify their action every time we sin against God.
I find the best way to think about this is it’s almost like there was an earthquake, and Eden was the epicenter, and it shook everything, and everything was broken because of that huge mega quake that took place there. It fractured our relationship with God, it fractured our relationship with the opposite sex, it fractured our relationship in family, and our relationships in society.
And so you see Adam and Eve kind of at each other early on, and Cain and Abel at each other early on, and then the descendants of Cain and Abel at each other, and it gets worse, it escalates. And creation’s goodness becomes twisted, and distorted, and our hearts get hard, and our minds get darkened. I mean, that’s what the fall is about; fall is just a word, a theological term for saying, “It was a catastrophe.”
And we know it’s true, only because we experience its effects every day. We feel it in our families; I do. In our cities, in our economics, in our politics, in our corporate life, in the line that you read about in the newspapers, and the murder, and the adultery, and the pride, and the killing of the unborn, and then now the killing of infants, and the shooting of kids at school.
One pastor I heard said, “We live on planet death.” It’s radically broken, that’s a part of this worldview, that’s something we have to grasp. Every worldview has to give an explanation of what’s gone wrong, and many actually fail to adequately address it.
They minimize it, or they think it can be fixed with a government program, or with a new scientific technique, or new political leadership. So my question is, “Have you really come to grips with the fall in your thinking? Has it shaped your mind in the way that Paul wanted these Roman Christians to understand?”
And then there’s the third stage is redemption. Redemption, or the third part of the story, or you could say, “The third part of the pattern.” Redemption, and Paul says a lot about redemption in Romans 1 through 11, he puts it as the climax of the story, really. It’s the Gospel where God gives us a righteousness we don’t have. It’s a righteousness from heaven that we desperately need, and it comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ.
And in Romans 3, he says, “This redemption is achieved through his blood.” Where God sent his Son to die for us, to shed his blood on the cross, so that we can be forgiven, and saved, and it leads to being justified before the living God.
And then God gives his Spirit so that there’s really nothing we can do to save ourselves; we’re in such a deep pit, we’re in deep trouble. And God, in his mercy, sends his Son, “Salvation is of the Lord.” The Bible says. He puts into place a rescue plan, an eternal plan of redemption where it’s appointed by the Father, it’s accomplished by the Son, it’s applied by the Holy Spirit.
And it’s sort of laid out early on in the Bible, Genesis 1 and 2, primarily about creation. Genesis 3, primarily about the fall. The rest of the Bible, primarily about God’s covenant, and the sending of his Promised One to reverse the effects of the fall. It’s amazing, all of it fulfilled in Christ.
He sends Christ, the eternal Logos, who created the cosmos, and now he shows up as Redeemer, he shows up in the incarnation, he comes into our history, he lives the life we could never live, he lives the life Israel couldn’t live. He dies a substitutionary, sacrificial death on the cross for our sin.
He satisfies divine justice, he atones for our sin, he breaks the power of sin, and guilt, and death. And he brings reversal, redemption; these great Bible words, reconciliation. And he ratifies it by his resurrection saying, “Yes, it really happened, and he is different. He’s so strong, he can turn this around and defeat death itself.”
And so that’s why, in speaking about redemption, Paul says, “We’re saved by faith in Christ.” So every worldview, by the way, must have a solution for the human predicament. The biblical solution is Jesus, which is why we make a lot about Jesus at CCU; we need him.
And he doesn’t save us, he saves us into the church, his body. He calls us to serve, and then to share this good news with other people in the Great Commission, and to serve them. And then to live like we were meant to live at the beginning, to live out this cultural mandate.
So I ask myself, “Have I, have you come to grips with this pattern of creation, fall, and now redemption? Does redemption affect the way you think about everything? Does it?”
Well then the fourth stage is the one that Paul gives us the climax, and we use the word consummation to describe this fourth stage, or category, or part of the pattern; consummation. And as you read Romans 1 through 11, you’ll read about how he’s saying, “The best is yet to be.”
Romans 8, “There is future glory awaiting us. There will be, not just the redemption of our bodies, but all creation is going to be set free from its bondage.” I mean, he blows the ends off of our view of salvation, because we tend to shrink salvation to be just about Jesus and me. And it is about Jesus and you, but it’s much bigger; it’s about Jesus and the cosmos.
And so we ask ourselves, “Is there any hope?” And lots of people are hopeless today, they fear the future, they worry about disease, and war, and environment, and flying. Oh how many people I travel with, they’re petrified to fly; it’s amazing. They shut all the windows so they can’t look out; drives me crazy, because I like to look out the window.
But there’s no hope, and every worldview must address the question, “Is there any hope, is there any reason for hope?”
Naturalism says, “No, we just become extinct; there’s no hope.”
Nihilism says, “There’s nothing.”
Hinduism says, “Well, we’ll become reincarnated into a different form.”
Pantheism says, “We become one with the universe.”
The Bible says, “Death is not the end, our present life has future consequences, Christ is coming, and he is going to make all things new.” That’s what’s going to happen. Redemption, creation will be re redeemed, history is going somewhere, it has meaning.
The important thing is not to be on the right side of contemporary culture, but to be on the right side of the God of history who will judge the world in justice and righteousness. Jesus, at the end of the Bible … In fact, the last words of the Bible reflect this. Jesus says, “I’m coming, I’m coming soon.”
And so Paul refers to the consummation as one of the key categories that should affect the way we think about everything. Christ is coming, there will be a final judgment, and then there will be a new heaven and a new earth. The universe isn’t destined for destruction, but for restoration.
The curse will be reversed, we’ll have access to the tree of life, the glory of Eden will be surpassed, paradise will be regained, our bodies will be transformed, the saints will reign with Christ, and death will be no more.
Now I can hardly fathom what that means; all I know is it’s better than anything we’ve ever known. And so I ask the question, “Have you come to grips with this biblical category stage, whatever you want to call it, of the consummation, the great hope?”
See, there is a master narrative that’s given in the Bible, and Paul refers to it, he refers to it as stages of the Gospel story, but you can think of it as the outline of a Christian worldview, or you could think of it as the categories of Christian thought that renew our minds. Is your mind renewed?
In closing, I want to just ask where we can go with this. And let me just mention a few things, because we’re right at the end, but … So, first of all, you realize that the world doesn’t think this way; our culture around us. They come at life with different narratives, and we have a responsibility to know those stories, those worldviews, to listen to them, to understand them, and then to share Christ, lovingly, with people that we interact with.
Hopefully you’re learning about other worldviews while you’re here at CCU. What do we do with this, secondly, as Christians? We just need to, regularly, reset our own mindset, our own pattern of thinking, relearn the Christian narrative, come back and think along the lines of the story of the Bible; because we tend to be so syncretistic ourselves.
We’re like Israel, we worship Yahweh, and then all the other gods, smorgasbord evangelicals, cafeteria Catholics; I’ve heard lots of terms like that. We get all mixed up, we drift and God, through his word, calls us back to himself.
What else do we do with this? We learn to think in Christian categories, that is we bring these categories into our discipline, politics, philosophy, we let it shape the way we think about our studies and our field; no more compartmentalization.
What else do we do with this? We bring them into the discussions of the issues of our day. We’re talking about work, or the environment, we think about these Christian categories, we think Christianly. We bring them into our own story so that God’s story becomes the first story in our life, and our story is understood in terms of his story.
I mean, Paul is sharing all of this for a purpose. He doesn’t just want to change our minds, he wants us to know the living God, and to think rightly about the world around us. And that’s why I think it’s quite accurate, we do need three conversions; Luther was right.
Another way of putting it is having a renewed mind is like having your mind born again; it is the pathway of wisdom. And my hope and prayer is that at your time at CCU, that you’ll begin to have this renewal take place. And the day graduate you’ll say, “I just am not the person I was, because something has taken place inside of me, in my heart, in my mind, and I’m thinking Christianly about everything.”
Would you join me in prayer? Lord God, thank you so much for the privilege of just breaking away from everything for a few minutes, every week, to be confronted by your voice. And my prayer is that your voice is the dominant one that, as we all listen, we will listen to your word, and that your Spirit will set our minds and hearts right. So Lord, help us to be more Christian, more like the Christ, the Lord Jesus. Thank you for these words, and for your constantly speaking to us. We thank you in Jesus name, and everybody said…