This is an edited post from 2013.

“The Christian community today is largely imperative driven. We major in the ‘ought to’ and ‘how to’ with little regard for that which makes us ‘want to.’” – Jerry Bridges

“If you live in the why, you will.” – unknown

I’m sure we’ve all heard sermons or devotionals on Romans 12:1-2. A variety of different points can be drawn out of these verses, but I wanted to relate it to the above quotes. Verse 2 states “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Be transformed by… what?

By the renewing of your mind.

A transformed life begins with a transformed mind. What we believe impacts what we do, and what we do impacts the outcome of our life. Unfortunately, it seems like we can be prone to focus on the doing part. “I need to do these 3 things differently.” Well, there is some truth there. We do need to change what we do.

The problem is when we bypass the mind part. Before we change what we do, we need to examine our beliefs. We also need to consider what is influencing our minds. Our minds are like filters through which we make decisions in life. If the filter is off, our actions will be off.

Another consideration is that when we jump to action and evade the mind, we are missing the “want to” or the “why” part. See the quotes at the beginning of this post. What is our motivation? What makes us want to change? What is the why behind it?

Wrong or improper motives can lead to change, but generally this leads to temporary rather than lasting change. Guilt, an enthusiastic pep talk, pressure tactics…many such things can make us change what we do…for a little while.

We can be guilty of using such tactics with others, or we jump to “what to do.” Think about it. A friend calls with a problem, and we want to solve their problem – so we tell them what to do. But perhaps some introspection is in order for both them and you. Are you really so confident that you can give stellar advice? Instead of telling them what to do, maybe it would be better to carefully listen, ask a couple thoughtful questions, pray, and point them to Christ? (I’m not saying we should never give advice, but we seem to jump there too quickly.)

There is a popular type of sermon style that goes something like this:
“5 ways to be a better________.”
“3 steps to victory over_______.”

Here we go – it is the “ought to” and “how to” with little regard for what makes us “want to.”  I think some people are awfully tired of these “5 ways” sermons because life isn’t always that simple. They have tried the ways or steps and it did not work.

Ultimately, our transformation by the renewing of our minds must be grounded in the gospel – the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Emphasizing the mind does not mean we are relying on our own intelligence, but looking to Christ, considering his Word (the Bible), and walking in the Spirit.

When we truly love Christ and are thankful for who he is and what he has done for us, this provides a proper foundation and motivation for living a life that pleases him.

When we are immersed in Scripture on a regular basis, this gives us a good filter through which to view life and make decisions. Time in the Bible may not always seem to help us immediately, just like eating one healthy meal will not immediately improve our health! But consistently being in Scripture over time builds our spiritual health, helps transform our mind and… “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (the second half of Romans 12:2)