I spent years thinking that the process of “renewing your mind” was something that just naturally happened and was beyond my control. I used to think that it was something God was in control of. I didn’t know that I could actually intentionally do something to renew my mind — that I could “consciously” renew my mind. I used to think that if you just go about your Christian life, some way, some how, your mind is suddenly renewed.
But, in the last few years, I’ve discovered that it’s actually not that complicated — you can do it intentionally and it isn’t hard. I’m going to show you how it works, how you can use it intentionally, and how you can use it effectively.
How it works:
Imagine that you’ve lived at your house for 20 years of your life.
You’ve memorized the fastest ways to drive back from your work, from church, from your friend’s place, from school, and from the gym. You’ve developed a route that you take every time. You don’t think about it, that’s just the way you go home because you’ve done that for 20 years. You know the correct turns to make. You know the best time to take which route based on how bad traffic is. You know which roads have the most cops. And you know all the ins and outs of getting yourself home.
Then imagine if you move 10 minutes away.
The next day, you’re about to head back home from work. You get in your car as usual, and you start driving. Out of sheer habit and muscle memory, you take the same old highway, the same old exit, and the same traffic all the way until you get home, only to realize that you no longer live at your old house. You slap yourself on the forehead thinking, “How could I forget?! I moved! Gotta make sure I don’t do this again…what a waste of time!”
The next day is similar, you get into your car and you begin to take the same route you’ve taken for the last 20 years. It isn’t until about halfway home you realize again, “Shoot! I moved!” You pull a U-turn and head towards the new home you recently moved into.
So by this point, you’re consciously making an effort to make sure it doesn’t happen again. You create a reminder in your head, “Alright, when I reach this street, I have to make a left where I used to make a right.” You know it will take a conscious effort to forge a new pattern because the old pattern was so familiar, natural, and comfortable. But you know you have to do it because you no longer live at the old house – none of your belongings are there. Plus, the new house is much bigger, with a lot more freedom to move around.
The next day, as you leave your house for work, you make another mental note to remind yourself that you’ve moved so that you won’t forget at the end of the day. The time arrives, and you get into your car. Confident, reminding yourself that you have a new home, you get all the way home without taking a wrong turn. When you arrive, you breathe a sigh of satisfaction, knowing that you took the right route and you’re confident it’ll be easier next time.
Over a period of a few weeks, what started with lots of errors and mistakes starts to become second-nature and natural. The muscle memory and old pattern of thinking was undone and now it’s hard to imagine ever taking that old route again. In addition to that, you’ve done the same exercise with your church, school, friend’s place, and the gym. All the old routes were reprogrammed and redesigned to fit the location of your new home.
Months down the road, it’s nowhere near a struggle. You’ve forged a new routine — a new habit. You arrive at your new home every time. And every once in a while, you’ll be at an intersection you used to use when you were at your old house, and you’ll get a familiar feeling of when you used to slam the pedal to try to make the light…you reminisce on the memories. But then you’d snap back into reality remembering, “Well…I don’t live there anymore.”
This is the life of the believer. This is the call of Romans 12:2, to “renew your mind.” As a believer you have a responsibility to renew your thinking, to rewire your brain as a result of understanding the fact that you have become a son of God, an heir of God, an ambassador of a King. As a result of understanding that you have been bought at a price (denoting worth) and that you have been given a new nature (new tendencies), it should cause you to make different choices. It is a different path — a different life than you once walked.
The old house had its own set of ways and its own set of patterns. If we find ourselves veering off into the old paths, it’s only because we’ve forgotten that we’ve moved to a new house that’s more glorious.
How to use it intentionally:
“Renewing your mind” is definitely not just about reciting a list of facts. Nor is it about confessing a phrase in an effort to try to persuade yourself to believe it. When you renew your mind, it should renew the way you do things. A new perspective should result in a new set of actions, just like moving to a new house will cause you to take new directions. Taking new directions aren’t a requirement, but it’s a natural byproduct of understanding that you have a new house.
Say for example I’ve dealt with jealously for many years of my life, and if I hear that a friend has achieved something that I’ve been trying to achieve, I get jealous and I have a hard time celebrating with them.
And then let’s say that I hear a teaching and I realize that I’m just like the disciples arguing and competing to be the greatest. I’m jealous because I’m actually performing for the approval/praise of man instead of understanding I already have approval from God. I realize the simple truth that my worth comes from what my Father has already said about me, not what other people say.
When that new revelation is received, that’s when I get a new house. Immediately, I am “free” from my old house, and I am free to not “drive back” to the old house of jealousy. I am free to celebrate with my friend instead of getting envious. I am free, but the rubber will have to hit the road.
So the next time a friend has achieved something I’ve been wanting to achieve, I have a choice to drive to the old house that I’ve been used to (jealousy), or I remember that I’ve moved on to a new house (celebrating my friend). The problem is that it will still feel natural and I will be tempted to take the old route toward the old house if I believe I still live there. I will allow the habit and the muscle memory to dictate my direction if I never realize the fact that I have a new house. But if I’m truly convinced that I have moved, I will make every conscious effort to take the new route every time. Why? Because I’ve moved. The new house is better than the old house, and all my belongings are in the new one.
So, suppose that I failed to make it to the new house. The muscle memory and habit got the best of me the first time.
Do I deem myself a failure, feel condemned and think, “You’re so horrible for driving back to your old house, what a failure“?
No, I just write it off and think, “Wow, how did that slip my mind?”
Do I think, “Man…I guess I’ll never remember to make it to my new house, it’s just so hard to remember“?
No, I just make a few more conscious reminders to make sure that I make it the next time. I’ll think, “Alright, when I’m at this intersection, I no longer take a left…I make a right. Left is the old house. Right is the new house.”
Do I think, “I just feel so stuck. I just somehow can’t get to my new house…I feel bound to drive back to my old house…every time. I’ll never make it to my new one, this is hopeless“?
Ridiculous. I will only feel bound to my old house if I still believe I live there. I will only be bound to the same old habits and same old routes if I believe I still have the same old “home base.” When I’ve renewed my mind to the fact that I have a new “default,” a new “home,” a new “building”...I will make the effort to get there every time, because it’s a better house!
So to answer the question: “How do I intentionally renew my mind?” It’s a moot point. The same way you change the routes you take when you move to a new house is the same way to renew your mind (re-read the parable if it hasn’t clicked yet).
Using it effectively:
Naturally, when you move to a new house, it’s not just one route that has to change. All the routes change. You have to ask yourself, how do I get home from the store now? From the bank? From my friend’s house? From the restaurant? All the “courses” of action change as a result of your new “‘home.”
Every one of your old behaviors will change based on the revelation of your new house, but they will all take a conscious effort. Only you can do that for you.
Whether it’s about your poor temperament, a struggle to be patient, a habit of gossiping, getting free from addiction, thinking poorly of yourself, worth issues, dealing with fear of man, struggling with jealously like I did, or struggling with pride… it doesn’t matter. It’s the same process.
You need to understand that you have a new house, and you need to figure out what the path to that new house looks like. What does it look like to no longer gossip, but speak life and encouragement? What mindsets need to change so that you don’t get angry so easily? What lie are you believing about yourself that you need to diffuse in order to stop the self-loathing and sense of unworthiness?
If you keep digressing to your old paths, it’s because you haven’t forged a new path. If you feel like you’ll never escape your old habits, it’s because you believe that you still live in your old house and haven’t moved yet.
The Process of Growth:
You’re probably realizing now that this is everything in your Christian life.
This is how you walk out the fruit of the Spirit (even fruit takes time to mature).
This is how you walk as Jesus walked (babies have to learn how to walk, and then run).
It’s all a result of understanding that you’ve become a new creation.
You’ve been cut off from the old. The old has gone. The old has died. It has been put off.
Here’s the beautiful thing…
It gets easier.
The more you take the new route, the less you’ll feel prone to take the old. The more you take the new, the less of an effort you’ll need the next time.
Soon, after a few months, it’ll hardly cross your mind. You won’t even be tempted to take the old route. It might cross your mind and you might reminisce, but by then, you’ll have forged a new habit and living reality. You’ll have a new walk, a new path, a new way, and by then, it’ll be an effort to go back to the old.
(1 Peter 1:13-14, 4:1-3, Col 3:5-10, Eph 4:17-23, 5:8-10, Gal 5:24, Gal 5:13)