But as Paul makes clear in Romans 6 and 12, putting God first is the only appropriate response to God for the completely undeserved grace and mercy He has lavished upon us, and it is essential for living the Christian life. In Romans 12:1, for example, Paul exhorts the church, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” If we haven’t done this, it means we still have a divided heart; we have one foot in the kingdom and one foot in the world. We are of two minds. We want the blessings of God but refuse His conditions. We will say no to sin only so far as we find it agreeable. We rationalize and make excuses about our sins, saying we can’t resist, or that we will sin only a little or only occasionally. Then we deceive ourselves into thinking that God understands we are weak and will be satisfied if we do the best we can—which is to assume He will be satisfied with our compromise, our partial obedience, and our halfhearted commitment. But He won’t.
God knows that we are weak; He knows it far better than we do. And He has made a provision for it. That is precisely why He gave us the Holy Spirit! But as I mentioned in the article “Holiness” (Knowing & Doing Fall 2016), there is a big difference between the Spirit residing in us (which is true of all born again believers), and the Spirit reigning in us (which is true of only some). The Spirit is ready and willing and eager to reign in us, but His power is blocked until we surrender fully to God. Once we surrender to God and ask the Spirit to fill us, He will begin to change our lives.
In ways that will amaze and delight you, the Holy Spirit will actively carry forward the process of transforming you through the renewing of your mind. The process works from the inside out. It is not simply the changing of external behaviors but the changing of their source. Renewed minds produce renewed thinking, values, attitudes, desires, motives, and behaviors. At the deepest level, we will begin to experience “the expulsive power of a new affection.”5 Our hearts will increasingly appreciate God’s grace to us, and our minds will increasingly desire God and His will more than our sin and its pleasure, thus weakening its hold on us.
The Scriptures are the Holy Spirit’s chief instrument in renewing our minds, and His primary focus is Jesus—glorifying Jesus to us (John 16:14). He does this through illuminating our minds and hearts to grasp ever more deeply the love of God and of Jesus for us and to focus our attention on Jesus’ life, His works, His teachings, His death, resurrection, and ascension to glory. This highlights the great importance of being immersed in the Scriptures and praying that God will “grant us so to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them” (Book of Common Prayer) that we are truly transformed. One of our main responsibilities in this process is to sit under good preaching and teaching and also read, study, memorize, and meditate on Scripture—the Gospels, the Epistles, and the rest of the Bible. As we behold the glory of the Lord Jesus over time, pondering and deeply reflecting upon Him and all He has done, our love for Him will grow and with it our desire to please Him and be like Him. These holy desires in turn will propel our daily obedience, which the Spirit will help us render by calling to our minds the teachings and the example of Jesus that apply to the circumstances we face each day—in areas of personal temptation, family relations, friendships, church life, the workplace, community affairs, and ministry opportunities, among others.
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