Monday, November 28, 2011

Renewing the Mind

1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)

You are a spirit being housed in an earth suit, your body, designed for the planet, with a soul that has also been trained by earth. The soul has a mind, will, and emotions. All the information you have been taught through education, through your family and through your life experiences resides in your soul and it has become automatic to your life on the planet. Through your will, you have directed your own steps, learned to provide for yourself, and to make your own decisions. When you surrendered your life to Christ, your soul submitted to the Truth of God’s Word and stepped out of the driver’s seat of your life. Christ entered your life and became the Driver. He is now in charge. He is reigning in and through your spirit, and your soul and body are now being conformed to His image, with or without their permission.
Your soul resists this process. It wants to reign still, but now it has to submit to who you really are in Christ. You are commanded by God to not let it reign (Romans 6:12). This is the struggle you feel. Within your soul, you have conscious and subconscious parts of your mind. You also have the automatic engine of your brain which runs the vital functions of your body.

The Conscious Mind – Our Filtering System

The conscious mind is the part of your soul that receives initial information from your surroundings using your senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. With the conscious mind you make evaluations, including moral judgements. The conscious mind acts as the filtering system through which information is processed and accepted by your soul.
You receive input from the world around you through the conscious mind. We receive information from many sources into our senses: people talking to us, books we read, TV shows we watch, actions of other people we hear about even if totally unrelated to us, movies, songs, news broadcasts, weather reports. The list is endless. We are receiving information all the time. As a Christian, you also receive input through the Word of God, through sermons, and through talking with other spiritual people.
Like all humans, you are aware of yourself. You can talk to yourself in sentences. When an external event occurs and catches your attention, you respond to it first by talking to yourself about it. You may not always notice what you are telling yourself, but you are evaluating the situation.  You are deciding what to think about it.
Consider this scenario: I wake up to a rain storm on a day I planned to play golf with a client. I think, “Man, I sure wanted to golf with Bill today. If I had gotten him out on the golf course, I could have made that big sale. This storm is terrible.” My wife asks why I am depressed. I say, “Because it’s raining.” But that’s not entirely accurate. Does the rainstorm have power over me to make me feel depressed? No. My mental evaluation of the storm does. In other words, events do not control my feelings. My evaluation of events affects my feelings. My body responds to my evaluation by feeling depressed. Suppose I were to change my evaluation from, “This storm is terrible” to “Money is important but I trust God to meet my needs. Although I’d like to play golf, it is not terrible that I can’t. God must have something else in mind to provide for my needs.”  How would I feel then?  I would feel peace and an assurance that God is in control, which is true.
When an event happens, you evaluate it in the conscious mind.  For every event, you have a choice to make. You must decide what to believe about that event.  Consider another scenario:  You are riding on the sky train through Vancouver. A man is sitting across from you and you notice that his children are running wild on the train disturbing everyone. The guy next to you gets annoyed and mumbles, “Why doesn’t this guy control his kids!” In your mind, you agree that the man should take care of his children.  You are beginning to think he is irresponsible and you, being a Christian, decide to talk to the man to see what you can do to help, so the other passengers, and yourself, by this time, do not get more annoyed.   You cautiously approach the man and ask, “Sir, are you aware that your children are running all over the place and disturbing the other passengers on the train?”  
The next statement the man says will either confirm or deny the opinion you are forming in your mind about him.  He says, “Oh I’m sorry. Their mother just died this morning, and I don’t know what to do. I’ll try to help them behave better.”  This statement forced a major paradigm shift in your mind.  Your emotional level dropped from acute annoyance, to deep compassion in a moment’s time. Of course, this man is having a hard time. Of course, his children are running all over.  It made total sense now.
A sign of a mature Christian is that they do not believe their sight and senses. They wait on Father God to reveal to them what is really going on.  They assume that God is in control and that He is working all things together for good of those who love them.  So they do not react right away to what they see and hear. They remain calm They wait, filtering what they see through their mind, applying the Word of God and waiting for God’s perception of the event.  To a strong, mature Christian, an event is just an event.  It’s not good or bad.  In fact, a strong, mature Christian assumes the event is good, because God is working even the bad events and the tragedies together for good. So, as in this scenario above, even the death of his wife can become a good event, if that event ends up leading that man to Christ and the whole destiny of his and his children’s lives changed forever.  The fact that God placed that man next to you is an indication that He is doing something beyond what you can see.  If you react in the flesh to that event, immaturely, getting angry and telling that man off, the opportunity to work with God would be gone.  Who knows, but it is entirely possible that this man’s wife was a believer who had been praying for her husband for years and God decided to take her home, so he could call her husband to Himself and have him actually listen.
We do not know all that is going on in any given event.  We choose what we will believe and how we will respond.  When we initially react to an event, that reaction comes directly from our subconscious mind. What we believe pushes the impact of that event deeper into our value system, moving it to the subconscious part of our mind where it takes on a life of its own and begins to control our reactions and responses. Spiritual growth, as a believer, depends on how we perceive and evaluate our world. In order to understand why we evaluate events as we do, we have to take a look at the Subconscious Mind.

The Subconscious Mind – Long Term Storage

17This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20But you have not so learned Christ, 21if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24

The subconscious mind receives what the conscious mind holds to be true. As conscious thoughts move into our subconscious mind, they become values on which we build our lives. At first, we choose what enters our conscious mind. Once we receive input into our mind and value it as true, whether or not it is actually true, it enters our subconscious mind and our choice begins to choose us. Our body begins to follow and respond to what we really believe about the event, regardless of whether or not it is actually true. You can see that what we put into our conscious mind becomes very important to our mental health.
Our behaviour follows what we really believe and value in our subconscious mind. What we are doing right now reveals what we really believe at the subconscious level, because the subconscious mind is having us live out the thoughts we have valued as true.  The subconscious part of our thinking has potential to be used by the flesh or the spirit. This is the reservoir where values and emotions reside and desire to be lived out. This reservoir contains the basic assumptions or values that we firmly believe and emotionally hold. If those values are based on a lie, we will live out the lie. If the values are based on truth, we will live out that truth. From this value base, we determine how we will live and how we will meet the needs we think we have.
Since we lived out our behaviours from our thoughts about ourselves and our circumstances happening around us, it is critical to think correctly about ourselves. The Lord said we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. We are commanded to love ourselves. The reason is we will not love others beyond how we love and view ourselves. Christian, you are to love yourself, in Christ. You are not a sinner at the core. You are not one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. You are not a sinner saved by grace. You were a sinner who was saved by grace. You are a royal priest and holy person working in union with the Creator God Himself.

As we saw in Key 4, all people tend to have three basic needs: significance, security, and belonging. In the Garden of Eden, all these needs were perfectly satisfied in man’s innocent relationship with God, until sin entered Adam.  Adam’s task was to take dominion over all the earth and fill it with his kind. His need for significance and meaningful work was satisfied. Adam was connected to God and God provided his need for security. Adam was secure. Adam lived in unhindered fellowship with God, and God even provided Adam a companion and helper. Adam belonged to God and to another person.
When Adam entered into sin and death, by choosing to disbelieve God, he began to seek fulfillment of these needs apart from God.  The problem is that these needs cannot be met that way! We are created for Him. So there is a feeling of desire and longing that is never attained but always sought out.
Thanks to Adam, each of us, through our birth into sin, have been programmed in our subconscious mind, to believe that happiness, worth, and joy depend upon something other than God. This programming is called the flesh, and the flesh works itself out through our bodies. Our bodies move in response to what we really believe to be true.  As a believer, the flesh resides in our soul and body, but we have been given a new spirit in whom there is no sin.  Our spirit is sealed by God with His Holy Spirit and cut away from the sins of the flesh through the circumcision of Christ.
The Bible tells us that we no longer have to obey the programming of the flesh. What do we do with the flesh? It is there, and it will want to speak to us, giving its view of reality, trying to get us to focus on self-thoughts, rather than God-thoughts. We deny the flesh. We do not recognize the flesh as having any kind of substantial input in our lives because it has been crucified and no longer has any value to the working out of our spiritual life. We mistrust it and de-value it because it always focuses us away from God to self. The flesh will never tell us the truth of God’s Word.  We see it as wanting us to connect with the world system instead of the spiritual system. 
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been circumcised away from the body of the sins of the flesh (Colossians 2:11). The flesh has been crucified (Galatians 5:24).  The truth is the Son has set us free and we are free indeed (John 8:36).  We are free from the power of sin in the flesh. Christian, love yourself because God has created you lovely. He has made you pure and clean again to be fully embraced by Him.

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