It takes time and serious exposure to the Word of God to change the way we think. It also requires a new skill: the ability to listen to the Holy Spirit. We usually come to Christ with some pretty deep programming. Old values, perspectives and attitudes dont just fall away overnight. In fact, some appear to remain with us the rest of our lives and become familiar enemies we have to diligently put aside over and over again. One such enemy which affects us all, in one way or another, is pride. It clouds our thinking, Paul says, like alcohol dulls the mind of someone whos drunk. It distorts the way we see ourselves and others, and as well observe today, one of the most terrible things it does is to prevent believers from fulfilling Gods call on their lives. The way to escape, Paul says, is to let the Holy Spirit reprogram the way we think. He wants to teach us true humility. And thats why in theses verses Paul shows us new ways of thinking that free us to discover and fulfill our call.
What does Paul say? (Ro 12:2-8)
v2a - Dont be shaped (fit into its outline, design, plan) by this age (the forces of this old, dying era: our flesh, the surrounding culture) but be raised to a higher form of decision-making by allowing the Holy Spirit and Gods Word to repeatedly refresh your mind (the heart-mind where wisdom or foolishness abide).
Earlier (Ro 8:6, 7) Paul distinguished between two minds:
1) The mind of the flesh: natural human reasoning which is unsubmitted to Gods Law.
2) The mind of the Spirit: guidance and revelation given by the Spirit to someone who is surrendered to Gods Law and listening carefully.
v2b - If you do this you will discern (test, in the sense of discerning by watching carefully to evaluate genuineness) the true will of God in a matter. He will reveal to you what is:
1) Good: which path will produce the best results
2) Well-pleasing: which path greatly pleases Him and therefore will be supported throughout by His Spirit (note: Ro 8:8, cannot please God).
3) Perfect: which path leads you into His full will, so that you accomplish everything He wants you to do, not just part of it.
(v3) As your apostle (Paul says) Im telling you dont set up a hierarchical system in your mind so that you become proud and look down on others. Dont let pride cloud your thinking like alcohol blurs the mind of someone whos drunk, but let God give you a healthy, sober mind so that youll see yourself and others the way God sees you. First of all, remember God gives a gift of faith to each believer. One person doesnt receive more than another, but each receives a metron (measure) of the real thing when they hear Gods call. They immediately know they are called and that Hes committed to work along with them.
(v4) God designed the church to be like our bodies. Not a hierarchy where some are more important than others.
(v5) We are designed to function as a collective entity, a team, not isolated individuals. Comparing ourselves to each other and pulling away from each other is the result of prideful thinking. Pride refuses to let ourselves or others serve God differently.
(v6a) Not one of us deserves the privilege of being used by God, but by His grace He gifts us with different callings.
The grace given to us There are areas, functions where God chooses to use me though I dont deserve it:
1) I am unworthy of being used (1Ti 1:12-16)
2) I am by myself incapable of accomplishing His will (Ro 15:15, 16; Gal 2:8, 9;
1Co 15:10; 2Co 9:8; 12:9; Eph 3:2, 7, 8)
(v6b) Though God is the One who decides what we are called to do, it is our responsibility to function in that calling with greater and greater faith. Every step of obedience will be followed by a new, larger challenge which requires even more faith. Each time we obey we see the scope and depth of our calling expand.
(vs6-8) Heres a sample list which shows how diverse Gods callings are, and in each case how growing faith will transform the person who obeys:
Prophecy: greater capacity to hear and see Gods revelations.
Service: leading and administrating church ministries (Ac 6:1-7; Lk 16:10; Mt 25:21).
Teaching: explaining Gods Word and how to live the Christian life to others. This grows in depth of insight and communication skills.
Exhortation: preaching that calls unbelievers to faith in Christ and believers to obedience.
Giving: an unusual level of sharing what one has to resource ministries or care for the needy. God expands this calling by supplying more resources and showing the generous giver more opportunities to give (2Co 8:1-5).
Leading (standing in front, before): faith expands our capacity by enabling us to continue leading without growing weary, sour or discouraged.
Mercy: caring for those who are poor and suffering. As faith expands we can do this more and more graciously and gladly.
The renewed mind
Paul is showing us how a person must think in order to really understand what God is saying and then to live out what He has called each of us to do. This passage is meant to free us, to clear away clutter and confusion so we can move forward. Heres a summary of what he says:
1) Everything starts with the decision to completely surrender (Ro 12:1).
For most of us God waits for us to yield our lives before He will guide. However, there are some who hear His will and then this initiates a season of struggle.
The lack of surrender is often the real source of our confusion. Im afraid I wont like what He says.
2) I learn a higher form of decision-making which recognizes and rejects the mind of the flesh and discerns the mind of the Spirit (Ro 8:6, 7).
Listening prayer, not just talking prayer.
Collective hearing (Henry Blackaby, What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches, Multnomah Books, 2003, pp 54ff).
The mind is refreshed by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
3) I reject self-reliance.
Pride is the main element in this-age thinking that clouds our minds. It prevents us from discerning our call. We rely on ourselves rather than the grace given to us.
I rely on the fact that God will help me.
4) I reject hierarchical thinking.
The church is like a body, not a human hierarchy which ranks people from most important to least.
We are designed to function as a collective entity, a team where everyone is necessary for success.
5) I understand God is the One who makes us different. Such diversity is intended and necessary.
Pride wont let others be different, nor will it let me be different.
Each of us is given different charismata, areas of ministry where His will has led us and in which His Spirit will continually support us.
I am called to function in certain, specific ways. This grace-based calling is not the same as my natural capacities. I bring my natural capacities with me when I enter my calling.
6) My calling is founded in grace.
I am unworthy of being used by Him.
I am by myself incapable of accomplishing His will.
His blood must constantly cover me, and His Spirit must constantly enable me.
7) God will expand and deepen my calling over the course of the rest of my life.
He has given me a measure of faith, but He will constantly expand my faith if I will function in my calling.
The choice is mine: will I let God call me to greater dimensions of faith?
Will I let the Holy Spirit reprogram the way I think? Will I learn to listen to His voice? Do I long to discover and fulfill His calling? If so, then Paul shows us the way forward
key truths that must become a permanent part of my thinking
truths that will humble and therefore free me to step into the adventure He has planned for me.
1) Describe a time you heard the Holy Spirit speak to you. What did He say? How did you know it was Him?
2) Which of the truths Paul teaches in this passage did you need to hear today? Why?