By Pastor Glenn Pease
The first fly said to the second fly, "Human beings are funny aren't they?" "Why do you say that," responded the second fly?" "Well," said the first, "they spend a pile of money building a beautiful ceiling, and then always walk on the floor." From a fly's eye point of view you have to admit we make very little use of ceiling space. Flies and people look at things from a totally different perspective. This is true of different people as well. We do not see any aspect of life from the same perspective as others do.
Take a football game for example. Physically the man in the blimp over the stadium; the man on the sideline, the man up in the stands, and the man watching from television all see the game from a different perspective. Emotionally men see the game differently depending upon which team they are for, and which one is winning. Psychologically there are many perspectives among the spectators. The father with a son in the game sees it differently than the brother who is forced to watch the game and miss a date just because his brother is in it. The man with a bet on the game sees it differently than the man who had never been to a game and is trying to figure out what it is all about. Some are saying I am so glad I am up here in the stands, and others are saying I wish I could get into the game. This gives us an idea of how the same event can be seen from many different view points.
This should enable us to see that there is more than one perspective that can be legitimate and logical, normal and right. You would not expect everyone in a game to feel the same about a touchdown. You would understand perfectly when rooters for the other side did not join you in rejoicing over the touchdown of your team. The very essence of common sense is to recognize that there is more than one perspective. None are so blind as those who cannot see that there are others who see what they do not. If you expect everyone to see life the same as you do, you will have more mysteries on your hands than you can handle. You will be as mystified as the fly who can understand why people waste their ceiling space.
Durand, the Frenchman, was visiting London and he noticed names like Waterloo station, and Trafalgar square. That is odd he thought and he said to his wife, "The English seem to have a mania for naming places after defeats." What he was failing to realize was that though Waterloo and Trafalgar were great defeats for the French, they were great victories for the English. His being blind to any but his own perspective made him wonder at a mystery that makes perfect sense to those with a broader perspective. He thought the English were being strange, when the fact is, he was being strange.
When we do not recognize other perspective, we become totally self-centered, and limited in our grasp of reality. It is like saying that because I do not like onions, it means they are no good for anybody. This is what happens to those with a narrow perspective. It happened to Mark Twain when he visited the studio of Whistler. He started to touch a certain painting when Whistler cried out, "Oh don't touch that. It isn't dry yet." "I don't mind," said Twain, "I have my gloves on." They were on two different channels, and Mark Twain missed Whistler's point altogether, for he say only the effect of touching the paint on his finger, while Whistler was concerned with the effect on his painting. It is very rude not to see the perspective of another person.
The point of all this in relation to Paul's practical teaching to the Romans is that Paul is making it clear that if Christians want to know God's perfect will they have to add a new perspective to their view of life. We must be aware of other perspectives which are representative of the world mind, and make sure our minds do not run in the same channel. You body dedicated is essential, but not enough if your mind is still conformed to the world perspective. It will not be able to see God's good and acceptable and perfect will because it is under the control of patterns established by the world.
In other words, it is possible to be a Christian, and still not see everything from a Christian perspective because of a mind enslaved to other perspectives. Paul is saying that just as our bodies must be yielded to God by an act of the will, so our minds must be renewed, and our thinking must be transformed, if we are to be fully in God's will. This is a process and not a once for all act. It must be going on continuously if we are to be walking in the light, and always seeing from God's perspective. The distinctively Christian mind can only be developed by the two fold process that Paul writes of here. There is the negative process of being non-conformed to the world, and the positive process of being transformed by the renewing of our mind. Lets look at each of them.
I. BE NOT CONFORMED.
Remember, Paul is writing to people already Christian, and he is telling them they have to stop conforming and be transformed in their minds. This means that the work of becoming a Christian with a mind fully conformed to God's will is a process. It is not something that happens at the new birth. Babies are not full grown, and new born Christians are not what they are to become. This is what growth and maturity is all about. It is a process that goes on through life.
A traveler in London was describing his sight of a Quaker swimming in the Thames River. When a friend asked him how he knew the man was a Quaker he replied, "Because he was swimming against the stream." This ought to be a description of every mature Christian. He should be one who is not being molded and directed by the flow of the world's thinking. The Christian who only echoes the thinking of the world is like David trying to wear Saul's armor. It is nothing but a burden that will make him bungle everything. David had to forsake that armor, and put on the whole armor of God. He had to be unconventional by using stones and a sling. Saul is representative of the world and its wisdom. David represents the believer who swims against the stream, and who launches out in a new direction leaning on God alone for victory.
The perfect will of God can never be identified with the thinking of the world. It is not that the thinking of unsaved people is always wrong. It is just that it is inadequate. It falls short of what is Christian because it leaves God and His will out of the process and conclusion. A Christian may arrive at the same conclusion, but if he is being distinctively the Christian, his reasons for arriving there will be different. Paul says the mind must be renewed, and a Christians thinking must be transformed if he is to know the perfect will of God. It follows then that a mind not renewed, but conformed to the world, can never see from a uniquely Christian perspective. Christian thinking can never be identical with even the best of non-Christian wisdom.
The world mind specializes in half truths. A half truth is the most effective kind of lie. A tourist in Alabama saw a large sign on a gas station which said, "Mississippi state line two miles ahead-last chance for 98 cent gas." He pulled in and filled his tank. "By the way," he said as the attendant handed him his change, "How much is gas in Mississippi?" He answered honestly, "It is 95 cents a gallon." The sign did not say last chance for cheaper gas, for that would be an outright lie. It served the same purpose, however by giving that false impression. This is a common practice in advertising, and in politics. The Christian is to go against this stream, even though he will be called a square for doing so.
In the book by Bergen and Evans, A Dictionary Of Contemporary American Usage we find this definition of a square. "Square in American slang has generally meant fair, upright, honest, open, just, and so on. The term seems to have originated from the carpenter's square-something that drew a hard and fast line, and made you go straight, had nothing crooked about it." The word got twisted, however, first of all by convicts who used it as a description of an inmate who would not conform to the convict code. It became popularized then to designate a goof who refused to be a complete conformist. If, when you are in Rome you do not do as the Romans do, you are a square.
This is what the Christian is to be, a non-conformist. He is to be one who does not fall into any ready made philosophy of the world. He does not echo the wisdom of self-centered minds, and so he does not even conform to the non-conformist. The Christian mind is to be in a category by itself. It is far easier to separate from the world in practices than it is in thought. We can abstain from worldly deeds, and still think like a worldly person thinks. We are bombarded constantly with logic and reasoning from a purely secular perspective, and it is easy for us to fall right into the rut of the worldly mind. We often struggle to choose between two secular views, and not even consider that there may be a third view that is truly Christian. We need to be constantly asking ourselves how our thinking on any issue is uniquely Christian. We need to ask, can a good pagan without Christ, and without revelation think the same as I do? If so, what does Christianity have to say on the issue that is of any unique value?
The Christian is to be different, not just for the sake of being different, but in order to cast light on every subject from a biblical perspective. It is not enough for a Christian to be right. He must be right for the right reasons, or he makes no Christian contribution to the issue. His witness is only a witness to a position, and not a witness to the person of Christ and His Word, and so it is not truly a Christian witness. The early Christians out lived, out thought, and out died the best minds of their day, and they turned the world upside down. If the church is not doing this today it is because it has become conformed to the world. We cannot know or do the perfect will of God until our minds are fully Christian minds, and our voices speak from a distinctively Christian perspective that no other voice can proclaim. This means that all of our thinking must be Christ-centered. Paul said, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." Any thinking that is not consistent with the life and teaching of Jesus cannot be Christian. This brings us to our second point.
II. BE TRANSFORMED.
The negative is essential, but it is only preparation. To escape the prison of worldly thinking only prepares you to take the positive step of being renewed in mind, and, thereby, be transformed, and able to see with the mind of Christ. The negative is like cleaning the dirt out of the carburetor. The positive is like adding gas. When the Christian is truly renewed in mind, he no longer makes himself and his own interests the center of the universe. He does not see all things only from the perspective of his own ego, but he sees from a total perspective that takes into consideration others, and especially others in relation to Christ.
A little boy on an escalator noticed his ice cream cone was dripping, and so he wiped it of on the back of a woman's fur coat ahead of him. "For goodness sake Jimmy stop that," said the mother, "you'll get fur all over your ice cream." This illustrates the self-centered perspective. When the Christian acts like this, they are worldly, and incapable of knowing God's perfect will. Only the renewed and transformed mind can know that perfect will.
Christian influence lifts even the pagan mind to new and higher levels, and so the Christian must be constantly advancing higher lest he be on a pagan level. On the Figi Islands, for example, in 1844 you could buy a human being for seven dollars. You could work him, beat him, starve him, or eat him, and they usually ate them. Missionaries came and chapels were built all over the island. Men were no longer for sale. Christians lifted the pagan mind to a higher level so that they had a greater concept of the dignity of man. But their thinking was still not Christian. One's thinking can only be Christian when he sees every man as one for whom Christ died. It is not enough just to quit eating men to be Christian. One must see that even his enemy is of infinite worth, and by God's grace can become a brother in Christ.
Paul was the great intellectual giant among the Apostles. God used Paul to communicate the New Testament doctrines to the churches. Paul had great mental gifts, and that is why he makes so much of the mind. In his list of gifts in I Cor. 12 the first two are the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. There are those Christians who are uniquely gifted in their ability to grasp the mind of God, and acquire deep insight into divine truth. But Paul makes it clear in this text that every believer is to have a renewed mind, and a unique Christian perspective in their thinking.
Dr. John R. W. Stott in a lecture series at Gordon College spoke on the subject, "Your Mind Matters." He said 4 major doctrines support the need for Christians to be thinkers. The doctrine of Creation teaches that we are made in God's image, and so we are rational beings. The doctrine of Revelation implies our ability to grasp God's thoughts. The doctrine of Redemption involves the renewal of the mind. And finally the doctrine of Judgment states that knowledge is one factor by which God will judge us. We must use our heads if we expect to please God, for we are to love Him with all our mind. Those who do not develop the transformed mind will miss out on much of the perfect will of God, and they will suffer loss of reward, as well as loss of victory in the Christian life. The mind matters in the Christian life. Christ is the Truth, and in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Some Christians are gifted, but all Christians are to have a renewed mind that makes them wise in the ways of God. Paul prayed for all the Colossians that they, "Might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." (Col. 1:9). If we are not using our minds in this way we will not be able to heed Peter's advice in I Pet. 3:15, "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason for the hope that is in you." You need to be able to defend your faith in an intellectual battle. Jesus had to be constantly alert mentally, for he was under perpetual attack. He had to outwit and out think his enemies and confound them with his superior wisdom.
A major aspect of Paul's evangelistic outreach was through argument and debate. For 2 years he daily argued in the hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus. He disputed in Athens in the synagogue and on Mars Hill. He appealed to the minds of men proving from Scripture that Jesus was the Christ. Paul had a mind dedicated to be ever growing in knowledge of Christ and passing that on to others. That is why God used him to write a major part of the New Testament. We cannot all be like Paul, but we can use our minds to understand Paul, and by doing so we too will have the mind of Christ. Bible study is the key to getting our minds renewed.
That which most uniquely characterized the Christian from the non-Christian is the mind, or the way they think. There is no way the Christian can claim to have a healthier body, stronger muscles, or better looks than those of the world. Their superiority is in the Christian mind that is transformed to be like the mind of Christ. When we do not think like a Christian because we do not know the mind of Christ, because we do not study His Word, we are a poor witness. Many times the Christian spouts foolish nonsense because he is ignorant of what God has said on an issue. He has no better insight than does the pagan and worldly mind. Someone said, "He that thinketh by the inch but talketh by the yard deserveth to be kicked by the foot." Christians will be judged by their words and lack of thought before they speak.
We must give heed to Paul, for he tried to make this truth clear to all the Christians he wrote to. In Eph. 4:17-18 he wrote, "..you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them.." He goes on to tell them to put off the old nature and in v.23 says, "and be renewed in the spirit of your minds." You cannot escape the reality that you mind is a key factor in your Christian life. We need to be students all of our lives, and be ever growing in the knowledge of God. We are to love God with all of our mind, and this means we must be ever working to be non-conformed to the world, and be transformed by the renewing of our minds.