Thesis:"Transformation" occurs by an actual "renewal" of the mind.
Introduction:In our study last week we looked into Paul's summons to resist the conformation that occurs when men get locked into a "this age" mentality. The issue of "conformity", according to Paul's choice of words, is the issue of being moved into a "position" of "perspective" in which a segment of time replaces Eternity as the criterion for decision-making. Peter's use of the same term indicates that men will be directed by their "lusts" (strong desires) so that it is most vitally important that the core of those "lusts" be rooted in Eternity and not some truncated segment of Time. That, we saw, is the major idea of "conformity".
This evening we are going to look into the antithesis to "being conformed to this age": transformation by mind-renewal. What does it mean and how is it done?
I. What is Transformation by Mind-Renewal?
A. The easier side of the question is the "transformation" issue.
1. The word translated "transformed" is only used four times in the New Testament.
2. Without dispute, three of those four times the word is being used to describe a significant alteration of the outer, visible reality by a potent, inner reality that is permitted to exercise its power over that external reality.
a. In two of the uses, the issue is Jesus' outer form being altered by a releasing of the inner "Glory" (Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2).
b. In the only other use by Paul, he refers to what happens to a believer who responds to God in the daily interaction with "openness" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
1) In conjunction with this concept, Romans 1:28 declares that "resistance" to God not only restrains the process, it brings another into play.
2) The issue of "with open face" is the "taking away of the cover which people keep in place when dealing with most others".
3) What we need to understand is this: this "transformation" is fundamentally a "glory" issue and only incidentally a "physical" phenomenon.
3. The "transformation" which Paul seeks in his readers involves the inner process that affects the outward actions.
a. A cursory glance at the following material in our text indicates that Paul wants to get into the issue of believers using their God-given abilities in serving one another.
b. There is no debate over just how important it is for believers to do righteousness; the question is how?, and the answer is "transformation".
B. The more difficult side of the question is the "methodological" one.
1. What Paul attributes to "the renewal of the mind" in our current text, he attributes to the Holy Spirit operating out of the mercy of God in Titus 3:5.
2. This is not "contradiction", but "elucidation" (what The Sage calls "disambiguation").
a. In Titus, in a concise summary of the method of salvation, Paul simply bypasses the procedural methods and points to the Actual Instigator (the Holy Spirit).
b. In Romans 12, Paul is more interested in addressing those involved elements that result in the Spirit's work.
3. Paul's focus is upon what he calls "the mind".
a. In Paul's "doctrine" of "the mind" two facts are starkly presented.
1) In Romans 1:28, a "reprobate mind" results in "things which are not 'convenient' (they do not 'reach' to the standard of a legitimate 'mind' as verses 29 and following show)".
a) This means that what is called the "mind" is highly involved in the choices made and the actions taken.
b) This also informs us of the reason Paul began this sentence with the issue of "conformity" to a "position of perspective".
c) This makes the condition of the mind critical to behavior.
2) In both Romans 1:28and7:23-25, the mind is reduced to a degree in terms of its actual power to determine behavior.
a) In 1:28, the mind has the "power" to resist allowing God a front and center place in their actual, and deeply determinative, knowledge, but it is God Who actually decides what the outcome of that resistance will be.
b) In 7:23-25, the mind has the "power" to agree with God in a front and center way unto "service", but there is a more potent "power" within than that of the "mind".
c) Thus, because of the reality of Ephesians 2:2 and Romans 7:25, we must understand that renewal of the mind is not finally determinative.
i. In harmony with the physiology of brain and body, mind and Spirit have this reality: the Spirit does not bypass the mind for the most part.
ii. The final issue is the Spirit's response to the man's "resistance"/"agreement" at the mental level.
3) Thus, the condition of the mind is determinative, but it is the "spirit" that is finally determinative.
b. Paul's focus in Romans 12.
1) He has already taught the larger issues in the preceding chapters.
2) His current focus is that of chapters 9-11 where "faith" in the integrity of God is the issue.
a) This means that a very fundamental issue for "transformation by mind-renewal" is whether the thing declared is to be believed.
b) This means that the "mind" will decide whether the thing declared is embraced or resisted and all else will flow from that decision.
c) This means that one has not "believed" until the decision has been made to put the thing at risk that is the point of contention.
d) And that means that "being transformed by mind-renewal" boils down to an "open faced" agreement with, and commitment to, the particulars of the "glory of God".