"...and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind..."
Ephesians 4 :23
I have worn glasses since the third grade. At one point in my adult life, an optometrist pulled out one of those big eye charts for me. Without my glasses, I could not see the big “E”. A couple years ago, I finally had corrective surgery, but until that point, I was desperately dependent on glasses or contacts for my day-to-day activities.
Smudged, Coke-Bottle Glasses
Spiritually speaking, we are always viewing the world through some type of lenses. Apart from God, our view is terribly myopic. The lenses are smeared with sin and guilt, we can’t see anything clearly. But in Christ, we have the hope of something different.
“But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
–Ephesians 4 : 20–24 (emphasis mine)
Ephesians spells out the beauty of how our whole selves are transformed by the gospel of Christ. Ephesians 4:23 describes a mental renewal that is integral to this process. This mental renewal is both a passive and an active thing. The NLT puts vs 23 this way: “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” Romans 12:2 contains a similar command, also strangely passive: “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Is this renewal something that is done TO me (as the passive voice suggests), or am I an active participant?
A New Way to See
God is calling on us to allow His Spirit to do a transforming work in our lives, and He also describes the cooperative part we are to play in this process. Romans 6:11 and Colossians 3:5 both teach us to actively consider ourselves to be dead to the old way of sin. Colossians 3:2 tells us to set our minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. The “things above” include all the beautiful truths of the gospel. I once heard a teacher describe “the things above” as “the things of grace.” From that perspective, setting my mind on the things above means putting on my grace glasses. Viewing the world through the lenses of God’s goodness and all the blessings that are mine in Christ (see Ephesians 1).
My active part in the renewal of my mind is basically this: intentionally setting my mind on the things of grace, on the gospel, and disciplining myself to view my identity and my relationship to God in light of what God says is true of me.
As we do this, God says He transforms us. What a beautiful picture. One of my favorite passages describing this transformation is in 2 Corinthians 3:18:
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (NIV)
How incredibly beautiful! And you know what? The “glory” Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 3 is—guess what?—the gospel. The New Covenant between God and man, through which anyone can have access to Him through Christ. The more we “contemplate” this, the more He transforms us to look like His Son.
Lord Jesus, help us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on You. Our gaze naturally drifts to other things—our sin, our performance, what other people are doing. You tell us in Romans 8:6 that “the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” Thank You for giving us Your peace as we set our minds on You.
Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation