Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
November 24, 2002
Having a Renewed Mind
In my last two messages I have told you the stories of
missionaries and their efforts to reach the unsaved with the
gospel message of Jesus Christ. Both Jim Elliot and Stanley Dale
were men that were living and holy sacrifices, acceptable unto
God. In both cases, these men not only lived for God, but they
eventually died as martyrs as well. In a world that has turned
inward and selfish, such sacrifices as these men and their
families made in moving to distant lands and living in primitive
conditions is thought of as foolishness. These men and their
families went out to gain something the world does not understand
– the pleasure of serving their Creator and desiring to hear from
God at the end of their lives, "Well done, though good and
faithful servant." Jim Elliot was correct when he said, "He
is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what
he cannot lose."
The society in which we live is marked by its pursuit of the
things of this world instead of the things of God. Their desire
is for the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the
boastful pride of life. Pleasure, comfort, wealth, beauty, fame
and power. It really is the opposite of Jim Elliot’s maxim.
Our world considers it foolish to give up what you could have had
in order gain something you cannot see or hear.
Being that all Christians come from out of the world, what is
it that causes us to pursue a different kind of life? What is it
that prods some, and tragically, it is far too few, to sacrifice
of themselves so radically as did the Elliots, Dales and so many
other missionary families both past and present?
Turn again to Romans 12:1,2. I want to quickly review the
meaning of these verses and then spend the rest of our time
putting them into very practical application.
I urge you therefore, 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. 2 And do not
be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of
your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which
is good and acceptable and perfect.
The basis for the radical difference in the way Christians
live their lives as compared to non-Christians is salvation
through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s urging of believers to present themselves as living
and holy sacrifices, acceptable to God, is based upon the mercies
God has given to us in Jesus Christ. In addition, Paul stresses
at the end of verse one that this type of life is the only
reasonable response of worship of God because of what he has done
for us in saving us from our sins through Jesus Christ.
Remember that all of us were born dead in our trespasses and
sin (Eph. 2:1). Paul points this out in the first three chapters
of Romans. None of us were righteous before God. No one even
sought after God, and so we were all under His just condemnation
for our sins. It was God in His mercy that extended His
longsuffering patience to us so that we would continue to live
while His Spirit worked on our hearts to convict us of sin and
enlighten us to the truth of His word. Out of God’s great
love for us sinful creatures, He sent His only begotten Son, the
second person of the triune Godhead, to become a man, live a
sinless life and then be a substitute for us and pay the penalty
of our sin when He died on the cross. Then Jesus proved His
claims and conquered sin and death when He rose from the dead on
the third day. Jesus’ promise is to forgive and impute or
give His own righteousness to any sinner that will place their
faith in Him. Abraham is the great example of God reckoning faith
for righteousness. We can stand clean and holy before God because
of Jesus Christ.
The true Christian is changed radically at salvation. Their
old self was crucified with Christ and a new nature is given to
them (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). There is still a struggle with sin, and
that struggle will continue until we are given our glorified
resurrection bodies, but now we can resist our old master, sin,
as we submit to obey our new master, righteousness. Christians
will face tough things in this life, but no circumstance and no
entity past, present or future can separate us from the love of
God which is in Christ Jesus. What God began in us with His
foreknowledge, predestination, election and justification of us,
He will finish in our future glorification. His promises to us
are as sure as His promises to Israel.
In view of God’s mercies to you in Jesus Christ, it is
only reasonable that you offer back to him your life as a holy
sacrifice acceptable to Him. You are not your own anyway, for you
have been purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ (1
Cor. 6:20; cf. 1 Peter. 1:18,19).
Remember that the essence of being a living sacrifice is that
your life is no longer about you, but about glorifying God. You
purposely place your body, mind, emotion and will into submission
to God to live, think and do what He desires.
How is the change made from being a self-centered sinner to a
living sacrifice who is holy and acceptable to God? By the
outworking of the internal change that is made at salvation. When
a person becomes a Christian, they become new creatures in
Christ. The basic desires change in response to Jesus’ great
love. The natural fruit born out of a personal relationship with
Jesus Christ is an increasing rejection of the things of this
world in favor of a pursuit of godliness. The specific desires
change as the new Christian grows in their knowledge of God and
His will. This does not mean that there will not be struggles in
giving up old habits and desires in exchange for new ones. Those
struggles will be there, but the fact that the struggle takes
place is evidence of the change that has been made in the inner
The Holy Spirit is doing His work of convicting us of sin,
righteousness and judgement (John 16:8). He will be about
teaching us about God through His word and enlightening our minds
to God’s will (1 John 2:27). The indwelling Holy Spirit will
also be interceding for us with God the Father (Rom. 8:26,27) as
well as strengthening us to live for God (Eph. 3:16, etc.). But
there is also a part that each individual must also play in order
for these changes to be made. In Romans 12:2, Paul is very direct
about man’s personal responsibility in this change from
sinner to saint, from living in selfish lust to being a living
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of
God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
This is given as a command, not a suggestion. Every Christian
is to refuse to be pressured by society to think and act like the
rest of the world. There is a lot of pressure to be molded into
being like everyone else, but the Christian is only to be
conformed into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). When
people look at us they should see glimpses of our savior. We
Christians should be living models of Jesus Christ to the world,
and not living after the pattern of the world.
We become living models of Jesus Christ to the world through
the transformation that takes place as our minds are renewed. As
I explained in an earlier sermon, the Greek word here for
"transformed" gives us our English word,
"metamorphosis." That is the nature of what is supposed
to happen to the Christian. We are metamorphosed from one kind of
being into another kind of being that is completely different.
Just like an ugly caterpillar is metamorphosed into a beautiful
butterfly, or common sandstone is metamorphosed into beautiful
marble, the Christian is changed from being like the world into
being like Jesus Christ, and this is accomplished through a
The result of having renewed mind that transforms us into the
image of Christ is that our lives prove out the will of God, that
which is good, acceptable and perfect. The popular phrase, WWJD,
What Would Jesus Do?, is lived out in practical example
because we are living according to God’s will. As people
watch our lives they will see what is good, what is well pleasing
to God, and what demonstrates godly maturity.
Good refers to what is upright, beneficial and honorable.
Goodness is one of the character qualities that is to be part of
every Christian’s character for it is one of the fruit of
the Spirit (Gal. 5:20,21). That character in turn will
demonstrate itself in good deeds. Ephesians 2:10 tells us "we
are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
One of the purposes of our salvation from sin is so that we
might carry out these good deeds, which Jesus said in Matt. 5:16,
should be done in such a way that they bring glory to God.
Acceptable is that which is well pleasing to God. This is the
same word as used in verse 1. Man desires to determine according
to his own standards what is good, but what is good can only be
determined by God. That which is good is well pleasing to Him.
That which is not is bad.
For example, many people think they are demonstrating they are
performing good works by giving to the poor. They often do so
without thought to the person they think they are helping.
Several Proverbs (22:9; 28:27) tell us that giving to the poor is
a good thing, yet, 2 Thessalonians 3:10 gives us the principle
that "if anyone will not work, neither let him eat."
Charity towards those who are unable to work and those who
are working but still unable to provide for themselves is good,
but charity towards those who are either too lazy to work or
unwilling to take a job "beneath their dignity" is bad.
That is the reason that government entitlement programs created
such welfare problems. They give without Biblical restraint. The
sad thing is that they destroyed the charities that used to
operate under these Biblical principles (See The Tragedy of
American Compassion by M. Olasky). In addition, Jesus rebuked
those that called attention to their charitable giving and told
them that their only reward would be the honor given to them by
men (Matt. 6:2).
Perfect here is tevleion / teleion which means complete or
mature. It is used in James 1:3 which tells us that the trials
that come into our lives test our faith, and tested faith
produced endurance, and the outcome of endurance is being "perfect
[mature] and complete, lacking in nothing." In
Ephesians 4:11-13 Paul tells us the purpose of spiritual
leadership in the church is "for the equipping of the
saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of
Christ; until we all attain to the unity fo the faith, and of the
knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of
the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ." In
other words, the outcome of each part of the body of Christ
working in harmony with one another is that each member become
mature – tevleion / teleion . In 1 Corinthians 14:20 Paul tells
us "Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in
evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature" – tevleion
That last verse brings us back to the subject of our minds.
The Christian has received the wonderful mercies of God through
salvation from sin by faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the
Christian is to be a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable
to God, which is the reasonable response of worship of God. This
is a life that demonstrates the will of God being done through
its good works which are acceptable to God, and its behavior and
attitudes which demonstrate godly maturity. Becoming such a
living sacrifice is accomplished by refusing to become like the
world and instead being transformed by the renewing of the mind.
The mind, then, is the central issue of Biblical Christianity.
Other sects of Christianity as well as other religions may play
upon the emotions as the means to generating belief and behavior,
but Biblical Christianity is concerned with what is thought, for
it is what is perceived by the mind as truth that will determine
belief, values, emotion and action. The goal of Biblical
Christianity is to bring what is perceived as true into
conformity to what the Bible declares as true. It is in that way
that the renewed mind results in an utterly transformed life.
The natural state of man is having a mind that is blinded by
the god of this world resulting in an inability to see the light
of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). This is a
foundational aspect of the doctrine usually referred to as total
depravity which we talked about some months ago. It is not that
man is as bad as he can be, but that he has no ability within
himself to be anything other than sinful. He cannot understand
the world except through his depraved mind. The things of the
Spirit of God are discerned spiritually, but the unsaved man is
dead in his trespasses and sin and for that reason considers the
things of God to be foolishness and so will not accept them
because he is unable to understand them (1 Cor. 12:14). Most
people in the world have their minds set on the things of this
world. For them life is about what is in the world, the desires
of the flesh, the eyes and pride. Life for them is about
pleasure, comfort, beauty, power and fame. Those that are mindful
of spiritual things do not understand the truth, so they strive
to appease God’s wrath and achieve His favor through their
own efforts. That does not appease God’s wrath or win His
favor, for God is so holy that all our righteous deeds are like
filthy rags before Him (Isaiah 64:6).
The Christian can be transformed because he has been given a
new mind, the mind of Christ (2 Cor. 2:16). We can understand
God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible because the Holy
Spirit teaches us (1 John 2:27). Understanding the Bible and
God’s will still require diligent study. Remember that the
Bereans were commended because they were careful to examine the
Scriptures daily to see if what Paul was telling them was true
(Acts 17:11). Remember as well that Paul charged Timothy to "Be
diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who
does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of
truth." The difference is that the Holy Spirit guides us
into truth (John 16:13) and enables the Christian to make
spiritual sense and application of what they are studying. The
non-Christian cannot do that.
Because the Christian is born of the Spirit (John 3:5-8), he
can "set his mind on the Spirit" which brings life and
peace. The non-Christian is of the flesh and so has a mind set on
the flesh which is hostile to God and unable to please Him (Rom.
8:5-8). Because the Christian can have a mind set on the Spirit,
he can also walk in the Spirit which prevents him from carrying
out the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).
Again it must be stressed that as much as we might like God to
"zap" us so that we would never sin again, the truth is
that we must put into practice that which God has given to us. We
must study the Bible to learn about God, His will and His desire
for our lives. We also must become sensitive to the leading of
the Holy Spirit, so that we might apply the truths of the
Scriptures into our daily lives. At the same time we need to
purge our minds of the wrong ways of thinking that previously
marked out lives.
Every Christian is commanded to "Set your mind on the
things above, not on the things that are on earth" (Col.
3:2). We are to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no
provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts" (Rom.
13:14). The problem for most professing Christians in living a
transformed life as a living sacrifice is right at this point.
They are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good. What
they let their minds dwell on is little different from the
non-Christian next to them.
The Christian is not free to think on whatever he would like.
We are to be wise concerning what is good and simple or ignorant
of what is evil (Rom. 16:19). We are to think on those things
which are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report,
virtuous and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). We should consider
everything through that grid, and if there is something that does
not fit, then it should be set aside. Our minds will reflect what
we let them dwell on.
Let me give you a serious challenge on this issue this
morning. What do your fill your mind with? What do you let
control you? Here is what our minds should be filled with and
what should control us.
True: That which conforms to the facts of reality. That which
will be eternally the same. What is true? Not the philosophy of
men. Not the religions man has created or man’s pseudo-science
which has denied the creator. Jesus said in John 17:17 "Thy
Word is True!" The Bible is our source of truth. We need to
have a thought life filled with the truth of the Scriptures.
Think on truth, think on the Scriptures.
Honorable: That which corresponds to truth and brings honor
and glory to God. Would the things you think about bring praise
to God if they were known by others? Do they conform to His
standard of righteousness?
Right: Only God himself is truly right and He sets the
standard for what is right. Any thing else that can be considered
right is right only because it is a reflection in some way of
God’s own righteousness. You are to set your mind on those things
which are in accordance with God’s character and commands.
Pure: These are those things which are unpolluted by sin. They
conform to the standards and will of God. A dirty mind views
everything with a bent toward sin. A pure mind views everything
with a bent toward God’s standards of righteousness. If you
put garbage into your mind, you pollute it. What do you feed your
Lovely: Someone once said that beauty is only skin deep, but
ugly is to the bone. The loveliness spoken of here is not some
shallow covering but the outward display of something that is
intrinsically true, honorable, right and pure. A literal
interpretation of "lovely" is "that which grace
attracts." Your mind is to be attracted to those things that
are lovely in their graciousness.
Good Repute: Those things of good reputation before God and
men. A good reputation is something that has to be earned. That
which has good repute is something that has been tested and found
to be true, honorable, right and pure. Think on those things that
can be reported to God in a favorable manner.
Excellence: This is excellence in moral judgement and
character. It is something or someone that possesses virtue. What
is the moral character of the things you think about? Are they
things that are ethically correct before God?
Things Worthy of Praise. Things that are worthy of glory,
honor, commendation and acclaim fit the characteristics described
earlier. They reflect the character and attributes of God.
The world we live in does not think this way. Instead of
truth, they are deceived by the lies & half truths of the
evil one. Instead of honor, they contemplate things that are
shameful. Instead of righteousness, they ponder wickedness.
Instead of justice, it is manipulation of the law. Instead of
purity, their minds dwell on filthiness. Instead of what is
lovely, their minds reflect on what is lustful. Instead of things
of good reputation, they consider it just as well to muse on
those things of bad reputation. Instead of excellence and virtue,
it is pondering what is immoral while often claiming it to be
amoral. Instead of things worthy of praise before God, they give
hearty approval to practices opposite of God’s commands (Rom.
If you are a Christian, then your mindset needs to be
different from that of the world. If you are of Christ, you need
to set your mind to dwell on what is true, honorable, right,
pure, lovely, of Good report, things that are virtuous and praise
Consider this as a simple means to evaluate if you are
thinking about the things that you should. Scripture tells us in
Revelation 2:23 that God searches the minds and the hearts. God
knows what you are thinking. You cannot fool him. Ask yourself if
God is pleased with your thought life. If so, you are
demonstrating a proper Christian mindset. If not, then put into
practice the commands of Scripture, set aside your old ways,
renew your mind and set it to think about what is proper.
Not long ago I shared with you that one of my greatest
frustrations as a pastor is the very limited spiritual input that
most professing Christians have as compared to their consumption
secular input, much of which is directly against godliness. You
need to be aware that what you fill you mind with is going to
have a direct effect upon what you believe and therefore on your
emotions and actions. Psalm 1 is very direct that the blessed man
is the one that does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, but
in contrast to that he is the one that delights in the law of the
Lord and meditates in it day and night. What are you allowing to
influence you, to counsel you, in how to understand the world
Many parents understand the importance of this when it comes
to the education of their children, but do they understand it
when it comes to other areas of life or for themselves? What good
does it do for you to go so far as to put your kids in a private
Christian school or homeschool them if you let them be involved
with and influenced by the many other evil things in our society.
The Christian parents whose children are in public school may
have the advantage because they already actively trying to
counteract the negative influences of our culture. What books and
magazines to you let your children read? What games do you let
them play? What do you let them see on the Web? What music do you
let them listen to? What TV programs and films do you let them
see? Ask those same questions of yourself. What are you letting
influence you, perhaps without you even being aware of how much
it is influencing you. What you choose for entertainment is more
dangerous to your spiritual health than attending a lecture by an
avowed atheist, because you attend the lecture by the atheist
with your mind on the defensive, but most people are more
accepting of what comes to them by means of entertainment. Most
people, including Christians, do not develop their discernment
well, and then they fail to apply what they do have to what they
read, hear and watch for entertainment.
A friend of mine from seminary, Wayne Wilson, wrote a book
three years ago entitled, "Worldly Amusements: Restoring
the Lordship of Christ to Our Entertainment Choices." I
believe this is a very serious issue for everyone that wants to
be a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God. We must be
transformed by the renewing of our minds and therefore we must
become more discerning in what we think about. I had thought
about using much of what he said in a sermon on this topic, but
then I thought it would be better to make you work a little
harder in thinking through this issue by reading the book
yourselves. Pastor Wilson writes very well and does an excellent
job in helping you think through the issues involved. I purchased
a case of books with my own funds to give to you as my personal
gift in the effort to help you become transformed by the renewing
of your mind. The books are on the back table, please only take
one per family. After you read it, give to others in your family
and then discuss it. After your family is done with it, pass on
to another family. If you are serious about being a living
sacrifice, then you must increase your discernment of what you
let influence your mind.
One final point this morning on being transformed by the
renewing of your mind. The Christian who is going to be a living
sacrifice must operate on the truth of God’s word and not on
emotion. We are not to deny our emotions as if they did not
exist, but neither do we let them determine either truth or
Life is filled with emotional ups and downs. We must not let
them determine our actions or the course of our lives. There are
times we feel very close to God. There are other times when God
seems very distant. There are times when it is clear how God is
answering our prayers, and there are other times we wonder if our
prayers are getting beyond the ceiling. There are times when we
are walking closely with the Lord and marveling in the joy of
simply being His servant. There are other times when selfishness
can creep in and we can be upset that the Lord is not giving us
what we want. Emotions are fickle. They can rise based on things
that have little or nothing to do with what you are currently
doing. Basing belief, decisions or actions upon emotions sets you
up for a roller coaster ride that may have little connection to
the truth of reality. No matter how you feel at any given moment,
God loves you and proved it in Jesus Christ paying the penalty of
your sins. At no time will God change. The truth remains. The
Holy Spirit is always with us and Jesus will never forsake us. If
there is a problem in our prayers, they are on our side, for God
is ever ready to listen to us. Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit
make intercession on our behalf even when we don’t know what
to pray. God desires our best and knows what we need, even if it
requires going through tough times. Having a renewed mind means
that you press on past the difficulties and past the emotion to
come to grips with the truth, and then in humble submission to
our great God, you give yourself to Him to be used as He sees fit
for His glory. That is why you were created. That is why you were
saved from your sin. That is why you exist.
If you are here today and are unsure why you exist or where
you would spend eternity, do not leave today with your mind still
blinded by Satan. Talk with myself or one of the church leaders.
We would love to introduce you to our Lord and savior, Jesus
Christ, so that your life can also be transformed by Him.
If you are a believer, but you are struggling with controlling
your thought life. Give me or one of our leaders a call this week
and lets talk about how to apply this sermon in your life
personally and practically. It is time to set aside the wisdom of
the world and be transformed into a living and holy sacrifice
acceptable to God through the renewing of your mind.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your
children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children –
draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon.
Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older
Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many
times "mind" or "thought" is said. 2)
Discuss with your parents what it means to "be transformed
by the renewing of your mind"
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is your personal reaction to stories of missionary martyr?
What is the basis for the radical difference between Christians
and non-Christians? What is the natural state of man? What should
the Christian’s response be to God’s mercies? What does
it mean to be a living sacrifice? What is the role of the Holy
Spirit in transforming a "sinner to a saint?" What is
the individual Christian’s role in this transformation? What
and how does this transformed life demonstrate about the will of
God? What is the standard of goodness? Who sets the standards of
what is acceptable? Why? What does "perfect" in Romans
12:2 refer to? Why is the mind so important in the Christian
life? What is the relationship of the mind to emotion, will and
action? How is the mind of the Christian renewed? Give a brief
definition for each of the things mentioned in Philippians 4:8
that the Christian should think about. What are you doing to
resist the pressure to be like the world? What are you doing to
renew your mind? What do you let influence your mind, decisions
& actions? Why?
The Keys To Godliness, Part 3 – Romans 12:1,2
The Mercies of God
Being a Living Sacrifice
Good – Gal. 5:20,21; Eph. 2:10; Matt 5:16
Acceptable – Prov. 22:9; 28:27 cf. 2 Thess. 3:10
Perfect – teleion / teleion – James
1:3; Eph. 4:11-13; 1 Cor. 14:20
The Importance of the Mind
The Natural Man
2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Cor. 12:14; Isa 64:6
2 Cor. 2:16; 1 John 2:27; Acts 17:11; John 16:13; John 3:5-8;
Rom. 8:5-8; Gal. 5:16
Thinking Rightly – Col. 3:2; Rom. 13:14; Rom. 16:19; Phil. 4:8
True – John 17:17
Things Worthy of Praise
Applying the Principle
Entertainment is more dangerous to your
spiritual health than attending a lecture by an avowed atheist,
because you attend the lecture by the atheist with your mind on
the defensive, but most people are more accepting of what comes
to them by means of entertainment. Most people, including
Christians, do not develop their discernment well, and then they
fail to apply what discernment they do have to what they read,
hear and watch.
Recommended Book: Worldly Amusements by Wayne A.
Wilson, Wine Press Publications, 1999
A Final Point
The Christian who is going to be a living
sacrifice must operate on the truth of God’s Word and not on
emotion. We are not to deny our emotions as if they did not
exist, but neither are we to let our emotions determine either
truth or action.