How can we gain and maintain a Christ-centered perspective while living in a world opposite of His truth? Here are three present-day mindsets that rob us of that.
“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)
Etched in my mind is RC Sproul’s voice saying, “Chili con carne,” quite forcefully as he taught what the word conform means. Where I’m from, Chili always has meat, and it flavors the soup to the point that I can’t discern between the various flavors of the other ingredients. Chili con carne is an example of what it means to be conformed, as Paul means: to be so much like the unbelieving culture around you that you’re indistinguishable as a Christian.
This verse in Romans often leads us to ask, “What does it mean not to be conformed to the world?” Does it mean we look different, sound different, and do entirely other things from unbelievers? Don’t get drunk, don’t cuss, don’t watch porn. Wouldn’t that be a transformation pleasing to God?
It’s easy to rush to think what this must look outwardly like and to overlook Paul’s instruction to be transformed by the renewal of our mind. But the word mind is essential to understanding what it looks like to avoid conformity with the world. As Christians, our behaviors need to be changed from before we knew Christ, but something else must happen first.
Paul wants us to give attention to the renewal of our minds because what we think and how we think is the source from which our feelings and actions flow. It all begins with the mind.
Present Day Mindsets
In any age we live in, it’s essential to understand what the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, is. What’s “in” regarding ideas and how people think? We need to give this attention because ideas have consequences, and these ideas affect and influence us. These often shape how we think. We can look around and see cultural decay, but why is it here?
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5,
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”
Arguments and lofty opinions begin in the mind. We must be aware of our thoughts to pursue obedience in renewing our minds. What are those things that are against the knowledge of God that we might be influenced by? They’re not always easy to discern, but here are just a few of our day:
- I am my Authority
- “Okay, boomer” mindset
- I feel this is right
While I stated them plainly, one rarely thinks consciously, for example, “I am my Authority.” But this way of thinking is demonstrated in a myriad of ways. Proverbs 3:5-6a says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him…”
We’ve moved into an era where even believers cannot listen to the truth about some things, and not due to a lack of evidence, but an unwillingness of heart and mind to believe. There is a refusal to submit to an authority outside of the self.
This heart posture is part of what goes into the “Okay, boomer” mindset. Every generation struggles to respect their elders, and we should be discerning about the counsel we seek and from whom. That’s wisdom! But a particular casting off today demonstrates the hubris of believing that we are our Authority. In the church, this can look like younger women not pursuing older women for wisdom. It can look like going online for all the answers you need, whether to a popular Instagram influencer or someone’s blog. Those things are great, and I’m so thankful that we can now spread the message of the Gospel far and wide, but it’s problematic when we overlook the very people God has put right in front of us to learn from.
Flowing out of the misplaced Authority is the tendency for our feelings to become our divine, authoritative Word. Rather than listening to objective truth, what we feel is what we place our trust in and what we live by. It’s easy to see this in transgenderism: “I feel like a man; therefore, I am a man and am changing my life to align with that reality.” We can see the evident delusion in this thinking, but we often miss it in ourselves. But it’s not unique to people who turn to transgenderism, but a common sin of our day that is a temptation for us all. It’s part of the spirit of the age.
How Does Transformation Happen?
If we understand that conformed means being indistinguishable and going along with the culture, what does it mean to be transformed?
The good news is that the Lord transforms us! But, we must have a heart of humility. Understanding the times and asking the Lord to help us see if anything in our hearts opposes Him is essential. Once we recognize a lie we believe, then we must begin thinking new, correct thoughts. Paul instructs the Ephesians and the Colossians to put off the old man and his desires and to be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Eph 4:22-24, Col 3:1-10).
For example, the next time you enter a discussion where someone presents new facts contrary to what feels right, you’ll likely start feeling sweaty or hot. This physiological response is God’s gift, letting you know something is happening in your heart! Take a moment to stop and evaluate what’s happening. Acknowledge in that moment that it’s tempting to allow your feelings (yourself) to be your Authority. That is the lie to put off.
Remind yourself that we depend on the Lord to give us knowledge and understanding (Ps 3:5-6). This truth aligns with God’s Word. Then, ask the person you’re conversing with a clarifying question to understand better how the fact they’re bringing lines up with Scripture.
The process of having our minds renewed is a lifelong endeavor! Be encouraged as the Lord comes alongside you to continue transforming into Christ’s likeness. It is He who transforms us! As we cooperate in this good work of having our minds renewed, we grow in our experiential knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and it will compel us to want to help others know Him.
In His Word
“Now set your mind and heart to seek the LORD your God.” 1 Chronicles 22:19a (ESV)
In Your Life
Do you recognize any of the three common attitudes in our culture in your heart? Seek the Lord, repent if the Holy Spirit convicts you, and start putting on those attitudes that bring glory to Him!
What Are You Thinking? is a helpful Association of Certified Biblical Counselors article.