What Does It Mean to Be Transformed By the Renewal of Your Mind?

Broad is the way and wide is the path that leads to destruction.

I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller this morning. Before I get into what Keller said, though, allow me to share the verse I was meditating on before I listened to Keller. and some thoughts I down to write this article. The verse is:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV

As I meditated on this verse this morning, I was first struck by the the command, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” This is something Paul was telling the Romans to do.

As I went on in my meditation, I became aware that the patterns of this world and the renewal of our minds happens from agents outside of us. We either allow ourselves to be conformed to the patterns of this world, or we allow ourselves to be transformed by the renewal of our minds.

We have a choice to make, but the choice is in the allowing, in the submitting either to the patterns of this world or to the renewing of our minds. It is something that happens to us that we participate in.

The HELPS Word study (on biblehub.com) of the Greek word, sysxēmatízō, explains that “be conformed to the patterns of the world” means to be identified with those patterns and to assume a similar outward expression by following the same patterns. This may happen consciously or unconsciously.

Paul is urging us to be conscious, to be willful and intentional, in resisting conformance to the patterns of the world and to submitting ourselves to the transformation (metamorphóō ) caused by the renewal of our minds.

The transformation Paul means is a metamorphosis. The Greek word means literally metá “change after being with” and morphóō “changing form in keeping with inner reality”. Like the caterpillar that changes into a butterfly, this is something that happens to us (within us), but only if we submit to it.

We will be influenced one way or the other. We will conform to the patterns of this world unless we take a stand against them. We will not be transformed by the renewal of our minds unless we choose to submit ourselves to God’s renewal process.

Although my first thoughts focused on the fact that this is something that we do and do not do, that fact is that we are acted on by outside agents either way. Yes, we take participate in our own condition, but our participation is merely a matter of what we choose to submit ourselves to.

Continue reading “What Does It Mean to Be Transformed By the Renewal of Your Mind?”

Exchanging Death for the Gift of Life

From dust to dust is our natural end, but God offers us life.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 ESV

We have earned death. The “wages” we receive is what we have earned, God desires to give us the gift of life. He desires to exchange what we have earned for the gift of life.

We are from the dust, and to the dust we return. That is our natural lot in life. Death is our natural end, but God desires to give us life.

This is not unfair. Death is all we can expect as finite creatures. We cannot expect more, but God offers life. He offers us His life. 

We did not create the world. We are not the captains of our own destiny. We are aliens in this place. From dust to dust we is our natural condition.

Yet, God inexplicably and unbelievingly offers us His life.

How do we know this? We know it because of Jesus. Jesus sad no greater love has anyone for another than to lay down his life for that person. (John 15:13) Then Jesus laid down his life. He laid down his life for us.

We know we can trust God because He became one of us. He emptied Himself of His power, glory, and privilege to experience the life we have.  (Phil. 2:7-8 ESV) He didn’t have to do it. He did it willingly for us.

Then, he rose from the dead. He showed us that death has no hold on him. His life, the life that triumphs over death, is what He offers us.

It is not an automatic thing, though. We have to want it. We have to receive it. We have to accept it.

Some of us would rather accept only what we have earned. He came to the people with whom He long established a relationship, through whom He would reveal Himself to the world, but many did not receive Him. (1 John 1:11)

He chose to give us a choice. That choice He came to offer in person to the first century Hebrews with whom He cultivated a relationship over the centuries. Now He offers that choice to everyone, even us.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (john 1:12-13)

Certainty in Uncertain Times is the Theme of the Top Article from this Blog in 2021

The most read article in 2021 for this blog has prophetic and apocalyptic undertones.

Each year since I started this blog in 2012, I have reviewed the most read blog posts of the year. Certain posts on timeless themes, like “It is Well with my Soul: The Story” (from 2014), are perennial contenders. Not this year, though. That article doesn’t even make the top ten.

While some timeless “favorites” (recognizing this is a relative term here) tend to make the list each year, 2021 is marked by the emergence of relatively new writings and a new theme. We might call that theme the signs of the times. At least, we might say that writings which reflect the current times have emerged on top.

That statement is certainly true of the article that is by far the most read article on this blog this year: Who Were the Sons of Issachar? And What Might They Mean for Us Today?

This article was written in September of 2020. At that time we were careening toward a contentious presidential election. Though it was written with only three months to the end of the year, it became the most read article of 2020 (beating out It is Well with My Soul), and it is the most read article in 2021 by far.

In fact, the Sons of Issachar article has quickly become the most read article in the life of my blog, beating out the 2014 article, It is Well with My Soul, three times over. That it grew out of my own angst leading up to the presidential election is certainly a sign of the times. We have had much angst in the last two years!

I have never highlighted a single article in my annual summary of past years. This year is different. I will get to the summary, but I will tell the back story and reflect on the significance of the Sons of Issachar article, which seems to have hit home with people, first.

Continue reading “Certainty in Uncertain Times is the Theme of the Top Article from this Blog in 2021”

How the “God of the Old Testament” vs. God of the New Testament Idea Might Inform Our Politics

We should have the same mindset as Jesus in doing politics.


In the short YouTube segment, Are There Two Different Gods in the Old and New Testaments? (Part Two), Gareth Black does a good job describing why God appears differently in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. There is one God, but He relates differently to people.

I have explored this dichotomy before, but I don’t want to focus on it here, other than to set the stage for what I really want to lay out. The difference in the way God related to people at different times might just become a guide for Christians doing politics.

First, we know the orthodox view: that the God of the Old Testament is the same God revealed in the New Testament through Jesus. While, heretics abound, this is the accepted view. Still, it sometimes seems like a tough pill to swallow.

God in the Old Testament focuses on commandments. He seems full of judgment and anger. The Ten Commandments God gave Moses became legion with all the ceremonial laws, food laws, cleansing laws, and dozens of other laws people were commanded to follow.

In the New Testament, it may seem like Jesus paid “lip service” to the laws (saying he didn’t come to abolish the Law), because he simplified them into just two commandments: love God and love your neighbor. Easy, right?

At the same time, Jesus seemed to turn up the heat. In the same discourse in which he said he didn’t come to abolish the law, he told his audience the following:

  • It’s not enough to refrain from murdering people; harboring disdain in your heart is like committing murder;
  • It’s not enough to refrain from committing adultery; lusting after a person in your heart is like committing adultery.

He said more than that, but you get the point. So, it’s as simple as loving God and neighbor. At the same time, it’s as difficult as controlling what is in your heart!

To say that Jesus went easier on people is to ignore these things that he said. At the same time, Jesus confronted the men who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery and saved her. He said he didn’t condemn her (though he also told her, “Go and sin no more.”)


What in the world is going on? If it seems difficult to sort out what is going on here, join the club.

Black offers one explanation in the video. He says God relates to people differently at different times, just as a parent relates differently to their children at different times. Parents tend to be strict with little children, imposing lots of rules about bedtimes, eating, watching TV, playing video games, doing homework and doing chores and so on.

That relationship can get contentious at times, especially as children get older and become more difficult. After children move out of the house, though, the relationship changes. It’s not that parents think the rules were bad; rather the children become adults, and become responsible for setting their own rules.

The analogy isn’t exactly the same with God, but similar. Paul says the Law was given to us as a guardian (tutor, schoolmaster, instructor, etc.). (Galatians 3:24) The Law was given to teach us something, to lay a certain foundation of understanding. The idea that Paul probably had in mind was a stern, taskmaster, training the children up with discipline.

The taskmaster’s relationship to the children is different than a parent’s relationship. A tutor only trains the children for a time when they are young. The instructor’s job is to make sure the children learn their lessons, and that is the only focus.


A parent is always a parent and never ceases to be a parent who loves and wants the best for the children. A taskmaster doesn’t love the children like a parent does.

But, it’s more complicated than that, and this is the key. The prophet Jeremiah talked about it in the context of a new covenant this way:

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer. 31:33)

This is God’s ultimate goal: that we would be receptive, willing and able to receive God’s law in us, written on our hearts.

God isn’t looking for law followers, but for children who desire to be like their father. He wants us to internalize His values and be like Him – not because we must, but because we want to!

Until Christ came, men were under the Law, but Christ came to earth in the form of a human and fulfilled the Law. He died to take the penalty for our transgression; he rose from the dead to demonstrate his authority and power over death; and he ascended to heaven, leaving the Holy Spirit as a guide and comforter for us.

The Holy Spirit is how God now writes his Law in us, on our hearts. The Law is set aside, now, with its commands and regulations. (Eph. 2:15) God is looking for people willing to receive is Spirit and internalize His character in themselves as His children.

But what does this have to do with politics?

Continue reading “How the “God of the Old Testament” vs. God of the New Testament Idea Might Inform Our Politics”

What It Means to Follow Jesus in Babylon

Live your lives, Increase and multiply. Seek the welfare of this world, BUT ALWAYS REMEMBER that this world is passing away

I tried to set the stage for what it means to follow Jesus in Babylon with a prior post: God’s Ways: a Primer for What It Means to Follow Jesus in Babylon. It is a kind of running start – a view from 40,000 feet. The purposes of God establish the context for understanding how we follow Jesus in Babylon.

Jesus, of course, did not live in Babylon during the 30-some years he walked the earth. I am speaking figuratively here. Jesus urged people to follow him, to live as he did and to “walk” as he walked – to be imitators of Jesus as he was an imitator of God the Father. We follow Jesus wherever we are.

Most people reading this blog don’t live in Babylon either, as in the ancient city. Rather, Babylon is symbolic of our lives in this world. Just as the exiles found themselves living as foreign people in a foreign land filled with foreign gods, followers of Jesus today are aliens and strangers in this world living among people who do not bow down to our God.

When Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish exiles in Babylon right after they were taken captive, right after they lost everything (their homes, their lives as they knew them, the Temple around which their community was organized), his words would have difficult, perhaps, to receive.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon….” (Jer. 29:4)

That God “sent” them into exile would have been a painful reminder of all the warnings of the prophets leading up to the final siege of Jerusalem, captivity, and long march to Babylon. Jeremiah had their attention, though. The unthinkable, that Jeremiah had long been predicting, actually happened.

In that context, this is what he said:

“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:5-10)

I don’t think we can emphasize enough the timing of these words: this was the very beginning of the exile. They just lost everything. They just got there. Their future was uncertain, though they had hope to return to their homes because the prophets who warned them of the exile also predicted their return. 

We are not “of this world” if we belong to God in Christ. We are exiles in this world. This world is our Babylon. In the rest of this blog,

I will relate those words Jeremiah wrote to the exiled Jews to our lives in “Babylon” today, and I will add in the warning, and the encouragement, that Jeremiah gave in the letter that are also instructive to us today. I believe Jeremiah’s words of instruction are how we should follow Jesus in Babylon.

Continue reading “What It Means to Follow Jesus in Babylon”