...and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23).

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27 May 2010

Renewed in Spirit

I remember the birth of my children. They were precious with their 10 fingers and 10 toes, blue eyes and wrinkled skin. They were so small I could nearly hold them in one hand. Most importantly, they were completely new and full of innocence. They had not made wrong choices (cf. Romans 9:11). Their minds were not defiled with impure thoughts, words or pictures. They had no evil intentions, no hypocrisies, no sin.

I was excited. They were new creatures I could mold in holiness. I was certain I would raise the first perfect children in 2000 years. Of course, I have botched that. They are no longer new and I know as they grow to choose between good and evil, they have already developed habits that will lead them into sin. It is quite sad really. Yet, I know it is coming because the same thing happened to me.

There is hope for us however. We can be reborn of water and spirit (John 3:5). I imagine God looks on that day in quite the same way I did my children’s initial birth. We become renewed souls, washed clean of all iniquity, scoured of sin, cleansed of unrighteousness, made pure and holy. Regrettably, there is one difference between the physical babe and the spiritual. The spiritual babe, though a new creature (II Corinthians 5:17), is the same person who already made bad choices, developed rotten habits and followed after corrupt lusts of the flesh (Ephesians 2:3; 4:22).

The scripture is clear. When Jesus renewed us through His blood, He changed our legal standing before God. But He did not change who we are. He expects us to do that changing. In Ephesians 4:22-24, Paul said we must lay aside our old self and put on the new. He described the changes in vss. 25-32. The man who once lied, now tells the truth (vs. 25). The woman who once sinned when she was angry with outbursts of wrath, malice and vengeance, now refrains from sin while angered and does not allow her anger to linger (vss. 26-27). The man who was once so selfish he justified taking from others, is now so selfless he works to give to others (vs. 28). The woman who was once corrupt in speech, filled with gossip, slander, foul language and filthiness, now speaks wholesome words to lift and build others up (vs. 29). Instead of being filled with bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice, these renewed people are filled with kindness, tender-heartedness, forgiveness and love (vss. 31-32).

We must not think, however that these changes just happen. In fact, Paul explains we cannot change the outward action without first being changed to our very core. In Ephesians 4:23 he wrote, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Before we are tempted to run to Romans 12:2 and talk about being different from the world. This passage is talking about being different from our old selves. The spirit of our mind must be changed. Our attitude, motivation, standard of judgment and guide for conduct must change within the inner man. The outer man will follow. But how?

Being renewed in our minds hearkens back to Psalm 51:10, 12. Following his sin, David begged, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me...sustain me with a willing spirit.” Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:16-17 that our inner man will be strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit and by Christ dwelling in our hearts through faith. Renewal of our minds begins by asking God to renew us. Of course, to pray this and mean it, some change has had to take place in our spirit already. David said in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit...” Before our spirit can be renewed, it must be broken. Our pride and confidence in self must evaporate; otherwise we will approach this renewal with our own strength and we are simply not that strong.

Surrounding this concept of renewal is a series of contrasts defining the renewal and how it occurs. We must no longer walk in the futility of our mind (Ephesians 4:17). Rather, we must walk in a manner worthy of our calling, with humility, gentleness, patience (Ephesians 4:1-2) and love (Ephesians 5:2). We should no longer live with a darkened understanding, nor delight in the dark things of the world (Ephesians 4:18; 5:8, 11). Rather, we should be enlightened by the knowledge of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:17-18), which we can learn about through what was written (Ephesians 3:3-5). We should live in the light “in all goodness and righteousness and truth” exposing the deeds of darkness, not hiding in them (Ephesians 5:8-12). We are to turn from ignorance (Ephesians 4:18) and be careful how we walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, refusing to be foolish, but understanding God’s will (Ephesians 5:15-17) and trying to learn what is pleasing to Him (Ephesians 5:10).

I don’t know how many times I have wished I could go back to the newness of infancy and start over. Obviously, we cannot go back to the cradle. However, we can, in a sense, go back to innocence. We can go back to newness. It will not happen overnight. It will take work and growth. Yet as the contrasts of Ephesians explain, we can be renewed if we fill our minds with the word of God, fill our hearts with the love of God, open our mouths with prayer to God and busy our hands with the work of God.

Edwin Crozier
September 2006

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