At the new birth, God gives us a new spirit. It is a glorious truth worth exploration and meditation. He does not however, give us an entirely new mind. The seat of the mind is where our thoughts and perceptions are concentrated. It’s though the mind that we perceive life as it plays out in front of our eyes.
There is a necessary distinction that must be made as we process the dramatic change of the believer’s salvation. Think of a slave who is suddenly freed, or an orphan that is newly adopted. Legally their status has changed; for the slave is now free and has access and rights they did not before. The orphan now enjoys the love and privilege that comes through nurturing parents in a family. Now here is the distinction that we are going to look at; in both cases, their thoughts are still mostly the same as when they were slave or orphan. To be more specific, their memories weren’t erased, their self-perception wasn’t immediately changed, and their life experiences weren’t blotted out. They are beginning a new life and awaiting the new experiences that will enfold through it. In many ways, they are the same person they were before; the only difference is that they hold a new legal status.
Consider this testimony –
It’s a different universe…there is no human word to describe what it’s like; miserable, oppression…there is no love. I couldn’t tell my mother that I loved her because the only love I could express was love for the Regime. There was no love that I could express. It is the darkest place on the earth; there is no place like North Korea on the earth. It’s hard after you went through that hatred, that injustice. You fear that there is no compassion inside of you and no love…I experienced it, I hated everything. I couldn’t love people when they said, “Life is beautiful.” – Yeomi Park (North Korean defector)
In her testimony, she describes these feelings of fear, lack of compassion and love after her defection. She had not been trained in these things. They were completely foreign to her experiences and way of thinking. Those there were privilege of freedom to be had, and new experiences of love and relationship to encounter, the framework of thinking was mostly still the same.
Similarly, for new believers, they may experience thoughts and emotions more closely resembling their pre-salvation way of thinking than that of a follower of Jesus. Why is this important? If we don’t have a biblical understanding of the change that must take place after salvation, we may wake up discouraged in 15 years thinking this thing is sham. Certainly we wouldn’t be critical of Ms. Park, if after her defection, she exhibited patterns of thought or behavior that hearkened to her past experiences. We would be compassionate and patient. Why then do we hold ourselves to a demanding standard related to the new birth?
God’s part is to justify us through the cross of Jesus. But it doesn’t stop there. We have a real part too. Paul said it like this-
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2)
Our mind is clouded with the world. The world’s ways, fears, ideas, solutions, wisdom has established roots deep in the minds of humanity. This is our starting point: thinking like the world. Until that mind is renewed it will operate out of the mindset of the world. The glorious truth is that we don’t have to live there, under the world’s mindset, we can be transformed.
Here are some practical ways our mind is transformed:
- Fill our mind with the Word. The old adage, “What goes in must come out,” is quite true here. If we pour in the opinion of others, we will pour out the same. When we immerse our minds in the Word of God, the truths of God’s Word begin to show up in our lives. We will begin thinking differently, then feeling differently which leads to acting differently.
- Paul refers to the Word as that which “washes.” The bible has a trans-formative power that upends lies and wrong ideas about God, establishing new ones. We engage the word not stoically but through relationship. In other words, we talk to the Holy Spirit as we read.
The transformed mind sees the God differently. It sees people differently, including self. When it looks in the mirror, bible verses come to mind. Rather than seeing what the world sees, values and criticizes, we see what God sees and values. This is the fruit of the transformed mind. Looking at others, we view them through the lens of God’s word. This liberates us from relating others on the basis