Renewing Your Mind
In Key 4, we learned what we must believe about the Lord and ourselves. In Key 5, we will learn how to live out this freedom in Christ. Our work in this chapter, and in life, is to believe the word of God and live within it. Our work is not to try to change ourselves, improve ourselves, or esteem ourselves. The focus is not on ourselves, as much as it is on the One who saved us and the work He did within us. We focus on the finished work of the cross and the fulfillment of the promises He made to us, which He accomplished in Christ.
Rather than starting from brokenness and asking God to fix you, start from the wholeness of your new spirit and move all your mental faculties to meditate on who we now are in Christ; a work accomplished by His death and resurrection and the miracle of your new birth. (Reading Galatians, 2 Corinthians 5, Ephesians 1-3, Colossians 1-3 helps these truths sink in.) This work of Christ has made you righteous and good, and that is what you are. You are not trying to be good, or trying to be righteous. Accept that God has made you righteous and good and move forward by faith with thanksgiving to the One who saved you and called you for His glory.
If we are righteous beings, why do we still sin in the flesh? Doesn’t that make us sinners still? This question is answered by remembering that identity is formed by birth, not behaviour. You entered into God’s family through a new birth, not because you did something good to deserve it. You were dead in your sin and He made you alive. He conveyed you out of darkness and into the kingdom of His Son. Your identity is set. You are His.
God designed you as triune beings, with a spirit, a soul, and a body. Your spirit has been made completely righteous and holy by and before God. You are righteous. Fully. There is nothing you have to do and nothing you could do to become more righteous than you are. God accomplished this through Christ and you have been given His righteousness as a gift of His grace. This is the good news of the gospel. This is who you really are in Christ, and who we all are as His children. As you choose to believe this truth, your soul and body transform; as you believe, your thinking and your behaviour will express the work of God within your spirit.
You have been saved by God, but you are also being saved by Him still. Salvation means more than our rescue from sin and the wrath of God, though it includes both. Salvation means being made whole. God began His work in your spirit, in the inner core of who you are. He made your spirit whole and sealed it with His Spirit. He will deliver you to Himself complete. You are saved. You are whole. Your spirit has entered eternity and dwells with God in perfection at all times. Your spirit has received the righteousness of Christ and all the law is fulfilled within it.
Your soul and body were not “saved,” but are being saved. This is the process the Bible calls sanctification, meaning set apart to God or made holy. You are sanctified, in your spirit, and you are being sanctified. You are holy in your spirit, and you are being made holy in our soul and body. You are saved, and you are being saved. You are whole, and God is making you whole throughout your whole being, spirit, soul, and body.
Your soul and body still have sin dwelling within them and must be transformed. The sin within your soul and body is what the Bible calls “flesh.” The flesh contains habitual thought patterns of the world that remain in your soul. These thought patterns must be replaced with the truth of the new reality of your spirit.
Transformation happens as you renew your mind with the truth of God’s word and believe that word. Transformation does not happen when you try to transform or change, but when you accept the change that has already taken place. Begin from wholeness, not brokenness. Beginning at brokenness assumes the work of God is not complete or sufficient, that you must do something to get healed or whole. Instead, begin at God’s word and His estimation of you. Accept what He says because He is always right. He knows what He has done in you. Right knowledge leads to right belief, which leads the experience of victory and freedom in our lives. Change and growth in your Christian life occurs as you choose to believe the truth of the gospel and live within this truth by putting your full weight upon the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross and in who you now are in Him.
As we live out our new creation life by faith, the life within us will transform into our outer life. The struggle we often face deals with the apparent inconsistency we see with what God says about us in His Word, and our thought life and our experience. He says we are holy, yet ungodly thoughts still come through our minds and we still sin in the flesh sometimes. God says we are new, yet we still think and do things the old way sometimes. It’s important to remember that the inconsistency we see has to do with maturity, not essence. Your essence is holy and set apart to God as His new creation made in Christ. You have been made new. The old is gone. This is the real essence of who you are. This is your identity forever as His child, but you are not perfectly mature in all of your ways yet. You must learn and grow. Change comes by believing and living within the transformation God has accomplished, not in trying to change.
To our earthly way of understanding, this way of the spirit doesn't make sense. Shouldn't there be something more we should do to change ourselves? We are not trying to change ourselves because at the core we are new. We are seeking to believe and live within the change God has made. We move from wholeness to walk with God, not from brokenness. We move from truth, not our feelings about the truth. As we focus our minds to the truth of His word, abiding within it and believing it with our heart, the thinking in our soul transforms and our behaviours will respond to the truth we believe. Our behaviours will begin to change and match who we are in the spirit. And these behaviours will be natural to our spirit. It won’t be hard to change once we believe the change has taken place already.
“I say then: Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Walking in the spirit means walking out who we really are by resting our full faith and assurance in the finished work God did within us in Christ. Apostle Paul is essentially saying, “Be who you really are in Christ.” We cannot try to be holy. We are holy, and we desire live holy lives. We cannot try to be righteous, as a religion might imply. We have been made righteous by Christ, and we desire to live as the righteous beings we are.
The order of this command is important. When we walk in the spirit, we will not carry out the lusts of the flesh. Walking in the spirit comes first, behaviour follows. Walking in the spirit means the same as abiding or walking by faith. It means fully agreeing with what God says and living it out. What He says does not always line up with our emotions, our sight or our experience at first. In fact, His word can seem like foolishness to our soul. As your soul accepts the reality that you are indeed new, you will begin to experience the newness of your spirit. The feeling of walking in the spirit will follow your belief. You will have joy and peace, and you will stop trying to change. You will know you have been changed by God and you will have rest in your spirit.
We always live out what we truly believe. Our behaviour and attitudes expose our core beliefs. This is why Jesus said to watch the fruit. Fruit does not lie. If you say you are new, but are still trying to make yourself better, you do not really believe you are new. Admit and face what you actually believe. Be honest with yourself and others. It’s not a shame to not believe everything the Bible teaches. No one believes everything in the Bible from their heart. How do we know? Because if we did, we would walk exactly like Jesus walked all the time! He believed God at every point, in every way, perfectly and walking in power and light totally. The shame would be to pretend that we do believe when we really do not. When we pretend or try to fake it, we fail to grow because pride stops us from admitting the truth. Maybe we feel like we should know or should be something we are not, especially if we have been a Christian or in the church a long time. It’s embarrassing to admit that we are not what we think we should be. We can begin to look to what others think of us, rather than being more concerned about God growing us up in Him. Admitting where we need to grow is part of the learning process, and healthy. Realizing weak areas in our faith compels us to talk to God about them and seek answers in His word as He teaches us and reveals more. It’s a blessing to become aware of areas we need to grow in faith. And how do we acquire more faith? Through hearing His word.
Jesus said “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” The Christian life is not designed to be hard. It is impossible in our own effort, when we walk after the flesh, but it’s not designed to be hard in the spirit. It’s designed to be easy and light if a person truly believes or rests in the Son. If the process seems hard to you and like a heavy burden, you are trying to change yourself, instead of believing and resting in the finished work of Christ in you. Reading Galatians through a few times may help you understand. Paul asked the question of the Galatian church: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by faith? And do you continue in the Christian life by the works of the law or by faith? We are not the only ones who struggle with this question. The early believers 2000 years ago struggled too. We are created to walk in the spirit. When we walk in the spirit, we live by faith alone, trusting the Lord that He has saved us, and is living out that salvation within us for all to see.
When God told us that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, He wasn't kidding. To the earthly mind of the soul, walking in the spirit seems backwards and feels wrong. It seems illogical and feels uncomfortable to our soul. Your soul wants to argue with it and recount all the reasons why you must still change yourself. Your soul sees its own struggle and knows it is not fully transformed. It wants you to identify with it, protect it, and work on it until it becomes the focus of your life, making you self-centred and self-absorbed. Your soul wants to still have a life of its own and reign over the new you. Your job is to not allow that to happen. The way you do this is by abiding in the truth of God’s word as He reveals and teaches it to you through the Spirit of God within your spirit. You wait on the Lord. He will teach you as you read His word. He will show you the way and give you understanding. He has promised to do this, and He will do it.
What God says is true, even though it doesn't make sense to the soul at first. Remember Key 1? Realizing God is who He is. He is God and He gives correct information about Himself. It won’t make sense to your soul at first because your soul was trained by the earth. Your job is to retrain your soul as the Lord teaches you His truth and ways. Your soul must submit to you, not the other way around, because God defines your new creation reality and you must accept His definition as true. The kingdom of God is your new reality. Christ is your new home.
Though you were dead in your sin, He made you alive. Though you were sick, He made you well. Though you were broken, He bound up your broken heart by giving you a new one. Though you were captive to sin, He set you free and you are captive no longer. You are free. You have been fixed, made new and clean by God. You no longer need fixing. This is the reality and miracle of the Christian life. You are His. Now all you need to do is grow up into Christ and that takes time and experiences that test your faith. You grow up into your identity, understanding more and more fully you He is and who you are in Him as you grow. You will begin to express who you are more and more, as He conforms you into the image of His Son.
God does not want you to spend your Christian life trying to fix yourself. He wants you to get on board with Him, on His mission, trusting and believing Him that the work He did in you and will continue to do in you is sufficient. God did not give you spiritual health for your sake alone. He did this for the Kingdom and the sake of His Name. If you are not healthy in your walk as a Christian, you will not have a voice for the Kingdom, and you will not be able to make disciples who are healthy This was the problem of the shepherds of ancient Israel. All they did was focus on themselves, trying to acquire for themselves and improve their lives. They did not do the task God prepared for them to do.
When the Israelites failed to live godly lives among the nations, as we saw in Ezekiel 36, the surrounding peoples or nations did not desire to seek after God. If we, as Christians, look just like non-Christians in the world, no one will seek after God because they will see no difference. When people see non-sickness and people who fully function in a dysfunctional world, people praise God because they recognize what a miracle it really is! It’s impossible apart from God! Even non-believers recognize that. As God heals the spirit of a human, people move to worship Him.
Because of Israel’s disobedience, God made those astounding promises through prophets, promising to create a new humanity, a new Israel. We are living within the fulfillment of these promises. “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” We are this new humanity. All He asks us to do is believe Him. He will do the rest. He wants us to be who we truly are as His holy children of light. If we know who we are, we will desire to live godly lives among the people He has placed us, so they might come to know Him and be saved. How do we know? Because the new heart He gave us only desires what God desires and He desires that no person should perish, but that all should be saved. He loves us!!
If we are holy beings, then why do we still sin in the flesh? How do we function as Christians, with a new spirit, but with a soul and body that still are influenced by sin? The answer is faith. Even though you are healthy, your soul can still choose to live in an unhealthy manner, if you allow it to do so. God made your spirit healthy and perfect in Him. Your spirit has been cut away from soul and body through the circumcision of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit, so no sin can enter it.
Your soul has not been transformed yet. Your soul houses your mind, will and emotions. Think of your soul as the connector between your spirit and body. With your soul you can choose to walk in the flesh or the spirit. Your body will obey what you believe at the soul level. If your soul does not believe truth, it will do what it really believes. If your soul believes the word of God, you will walk in it. But if your soul believes a lie, you will walk in the lie. Your body will follow what you really believe at the soul level.
When the Bible speaks of the “flesh” it is referring to the independence or sin that still resides in your soul and body. Your spirit has been cut away from the sin in the flesh. And your spirit has been sealed by God. So sin cannot touch your spirit ever, but it still seeks to influence your soul. Think of the flesh like the grave clothes on Lazarus. The cloths wrapping him are external to Lazarus, but they are still there and need to come off because they are hindering the newly resurrected man from living out this new life. He has to be unwrapped and let go.
In a similar way, your spirit must be unwrapped from the grave clothes that hinder it. The unwrapping process is the renewing of your mind, and this is accomplished with truth. The truth will set you free. From what? From lies that seek to keep you walking in the captivity you once lived. Believer, the flesh is not you. But flesh is there with you and it lusts against you. It seeks to rule over you. But it has no power over you any longer. You do not have to obey it’s lusts. In fact, you are commanded not to obey it.
You have overcome the flesh in Christ. Your job is not to focus on the flesh and fleshly thoughts or lusts, but to focus on the truth of God’s word and abide in it. Jesus commands us to abide in His word, and then we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free. How will we know the truth? He will teach us. This is what a living disciple is all about. Learning from Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. We are always going to learners. We will always need Him to teach us. We will never be to the point where truth will emanate from us as if we are the source. Jesus is the truth. He is the source and will always be the source. We are vessels through which He lives and reigns. We need God, always and forever. He will teach us, and the truth will set us free. He never commands us to try to get free. Knowing the truth is deeper than intellectual agreement with knowledge. It’s the knowing of the heart. This knowing transforms our soul.
You have a whole new system called righteousness working within you in your spirit. Your spirit dwells in the unseen world where God is. Your spirit is always seated in the spiritual realm in God and receives commands from God. This is why your walk as a Christian is by faith. You cannot see God, yet you must live according to His will. To do this, you must listen to God and learn from Him, receiving food from Him through His Word. As you talk with God you will learn from Him.
You grow in faith as you fill yourself up with the word of God and believe what it says about you and your God. You are learning to live as a whole being by faith alone, not by sight. Your senses and experiences must all be filtered through the word of God. Your mind, will and emotions, which reside in your soul, have been aligned and trained by the world system. Throughout the years, this training has come through parents, schools, friends, TV programs, books, and a wide variety of sources all claiming that their view of reality is the truth.
As a new creation in Christ, you have come to know that only Jesus can define your reality and the reality of His created beings. You must now look at sight and senses in a new way. Sight and senses will try to deceive your true self and keep you focused on earthly things. Jesus said to fix your mind on the things above where He is. He says to listen to His word. The word of God becomes a filter for your mind, filtering everything you see, hear and experience through God’s truth.
God has given each of His believers the gift of His Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit walks beside and within your spirit instructing and guiding you in truth. He continuously works from within you, giving you wisdom and understanding for the work He has prepared you to do. He knows that you have been made new at the core, in your spirit, and wants you to live that reality out according to His will. God gifted you with the mind of Christ through the Holy Spirit, so you can understand His ways and thinking.
What happens if you do sin? When you sin, this sin does not touch or defile your spirit. You are His child, born from above. You are in a permanent relationship with Him; He is your Father and you are His child. Your spirit is sealed by the Holy Spirit and cannot become independent again. The Holy Spirit will you and will deliver you intact and blameless to the Father. This is the Holy Spirit’s job.
As a believer, sin does not cause you to lose your identity as His child. Your identity was formed by your new birth, not by your behaviour and it cannot be lost by your behaviour. Just as your physical birth to your earthly parents doesn't change your identity as their child when you sin against them, your new birth cannot be undone because you sin. You do not lose your salvation. What is affected by sin is your fellowship with God. Your sin hurts God. It grieves His Spirit within you. You feel the conviction and correction of God until you submit to His rule in you. This is evidence you are His. So you repent. You turn from walking in the flesh and you admit it to God. He already knows, by the way. You admit you were believing a lie and you choose to now walk in truth. You apologize to your heavenly Father and accept that you are forgiven. He may correct you. He corrects His children. If God does not correct you, you are not His. He will discipline you, teach you and move you into submission to Himself, much like the wild stallion we talked about in Key 4. God will humble you until you and He ride together in the oneness, without any resistance. In this oneness, there is joy and power as He works out His purposes on earth through your life.
 Galatians 5:16 (author’s interpretation). Author’s Note: As Greek scholars realize, the capitalization of the words is subject to the translator’s interpretation, since in the Greek language capitals are not used. In this particular context of Galatians 5, we look at the context of this passage and it appears that Paul is talking about the spirit God has given a human being. In this context, ‘spirit’ it appears that a small “s” for spirit is more contextually appropriate than a large “S” which would mean the Holy Spirit because Paul is discussing the spirit of a human being. Our spirit is one with the Holy Spirit, and our spirit wars against the flesh. The fruit of the Spirit of God is given to our spirit as a gift.