Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.
Ephesians 4: 23
Most of us receive opportunities to renew things on a regular basis. It may be a magazine subscription, a warranty on an appliance or on your water pipes, it may be a paid service such as roadside assistance for your car or a care plan for the computer, but that renewal is never as important as the one that Paul is talking about in this widely distributed letter. No other form of renewal is as hard to engage in as is this one, either. In most of these other situations, we grant permission, give over money, and someone else does everything else. When we are considering the renewal of our minds, much more is involved than just our permission and some cash, and considerably more is at stake than just some peace of mind, sense of security, or the continuous flow of words and pictures. Yet, there are some real similarities between this deeply personal renewal that Paul is discussing and these other ones that we encounter in life.
When it comes to what happens as Christ enters into each of our lives, God does require us to grant permission for the Spirit to work. This permission does begin with the acceptance of Christ and submission to His rule over our lives, and the Spirit enters into each of us at that time so that the process of transformation starts then. Yet, most of us hold onto significant parts of who and what we have been before Christ and His Spirit entered into us. Almost no one fully submits to God in that hour of coming to know Him. We are all complex beings, who have well established patterns of thinking and of acting that we believe give us identity, strength, and comfort. Additionally, much of what we did and the ways that it was accomplished were not out of conformity to God’s ways of living in this world. Still, all that we are and everything that we think and do, in Christ, is to be submitted to His Lordship and to be ordered under the authority of His loving righteousness.
So, we commit ourselves to living a life where in the Spirit is continually at work within us to bring about this renewal. This is both the challenge and the beauty of the way that the Lord relates to us and that He works within us. We like for things to be over and done. We sign the form, send in the fee, and the magazines arrive every month or so. God’s relationship with us is not a sign and forget it sort of thing. He is involved with the reality of living as He engages with our own personal experience of life. Christ asks each of us to turn to Him and to follow His lead for each and every step that we take along the way. This relationship of renewal is such that the Lord is not so much traveling with us through life as that He is continually reshaping our thoughts and the processes that we use to assess our responses to the world around us, and this is done from the inside of our hearts and minds. The Holy Spirit, in His dynamic engagement with the processes of evaluating and thinking about life, works as much as we permit Him to do so in us to transform our responses to the world into ones that reflect Christ and His Gospel of truth and life.