SUNDAY MORNING SERMON NOTES
Why Bright, Intelligent People Still Need Renewed Minds
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Sunday, June 26, 2011 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1478
Pastor Don Horban

Romans 12:1-2 - “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

God has so created life on this planet that it is all naturally worship oriented. All of life is worship - either the worship of God or the worship of self through something else. But everyone is a worshiper. We’ve been studying these two verses for eight weeks now because they tell of the Holy Spirit’s plan to take people who worship the wrong thing and lead them to worship the right thing - God Himself.

The other thing made clear in these verses is that worship involves the mind coming to know the will of God as good and acceptable and perfect. There is more at stake to this issue of worship than just singing choruses, saying prayers, and knowing hymns. In other words, the worship Paul describes as “spiritual worship” extends beyond mere external religious exercise. Paul’s not just talking about a church service here. He’s talking about knowing God - really knowing God. So the key issue of worship is knowing deeply what appears immediately satisfying, but won’t be, because only God, your creator, knows how to awaken and nourish the lives He brought into existence.

And what is at stake in this battle for worship is finding a center of life that is pleasing, eternally good, and absolutely perfect. It matters what you and I worship because we become just like what we worship. Trinket worship destroys us.

The other interesting thing to note in these verses - and this relates directly to today’s central teaching point - is that Paul doesn’t describe the process of knowing God’s will the way we so frequently do today. Please notice, there is no mention in these verses about God revealing His will to us. That’s the way almost all teaching about knowing God’s will is flavored in the church today. No, Paul talks about knowing God’s will by our minds discerning the will of God - “....that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”(12:2). I repeat, the key issue of a renewed mind is knowing the value and excellence of yielding to God’s moral will for your life.

So we worship God most and best by discerning and proving and treasuring His will. Remember that sentence because we’re going to come back to it in a few minutes. And the tool for treasuring His will is the human mind - “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”(Romans 12:2).

So the key to it all has to do with the human mind, but not just any human mind will do. Success in spiritual transformation is tied to the mind, but not in the way most people think. Transformation isn’t tied to the mind in terms of its I.Q. Rather, it’s tied to the way the mind fixes value and significance and importance to the hundreds of thousands of thoughts and ideas that float through it on any given day. Your mind can have thousands of ideas. And that’s good. But it mustn’t have thousands of treasures. That’s disastrous.

So there is a lot to consider in these two blazing verses of Scripture. I hope you’re starting to see that these truths are too important to just gloss over carelessly or quickly. In fact, there is much to ponder and pray over here. I want to pull these thoughts together and urge you to think deeply and slowly about them. Your life will never be transformed by accident, at least not in a godly direction.

1) YOU CANNOT DISENTANGLE YOUR LIFE FROM THIS WORLD WITH EXTERNAL CHANGES ONLY

I hope you can see the way the last part of verse two really explains the first part - Romans 12:2 - “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Do not be conformed to this world. That’s the goal. That’s the command. Then comes the means for obeying that command - “But (rather) be transformed by the renewal of your mind....” You can’t really un-conform your life from this world merely by making external changes. There certainly will be, and must be, external changes. That is why Paul actually says your worship must change even the way you use your physical body - “I appeal to you by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice....”(12:1).

Your eyes and what they see, your ears and what they listen to (there is the worship music of this world and there is the worship music of Christ, and each pulls your mind toward a different god - all music is worship music), the mouth and the things it eats and drinks and speaks, the sexual organs of the body - all of these must be used only for the glory of God and on His terms. So yes, there is no argument with the fact that your life must be externally un-conformed to this world. But the change doesn’t begin externally in the body. It begins internally in the mind:

Matthew 23:26 - “You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”

We begin to see the fundamental flaw of moralism. Good deeds don’t clean the inside of the cup. They can clean up society a good measure. They can maintain order. But external deeds have eternal value only to the extent that they come from a spiritually renewed heart and mind and are done out of love and devotion to Jesus Christ under His Lordship.

If you start with the outside rather than the inside you will never make permanent changes in your spiritual condition. You will, sooner or later, either fall back into the very same sins again, or you will merely exchange one form of external bondage for another more socially acceptable one. That’s because external changes alone never establish devotion to Jesus in your heart. And without new Lordship you are merely exchanging the outward expressions of habit and bondage. God wants to start changing your life by renewing your mind.

2) THE INWARD RENEWAL THE MIND REQUIRES IS SPIRITUAL IN NATURE AND CANNOT BE ACHIEVED NOR SUSTAINED THROUGH THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE ALONE

The renewal of the mind Paul is describing is something deeper than correct knowing. It is correct valuing. The Bible gives a hint about the renewed mind when it says we should “taste and see that the Lord is good”(Psalm 34:8). You can know something will be good for you by reading up on it and studying its nutrient content and fat content. But that tells you nothing about its taste. Paul says the renewed mind knows the flavor and the smell of things holy and unholy. In another very interesting passage about the renewal of the mind Paul says this:

Ephesians 4:23 - “....be renewed in the spirit of your minds....”

I’m fascinated by Paul’s use of that word “spirit” - “....renewed in the spirit of your minds.” I think Paul means the renewed mind has the capacity to taste the spirit - the feel - the essence - of something - “be renewed in the spirit (small “s”) of your mind. Spiritual truths are logical and reasonable, but can’t be fully known just by logic and reason. Paul says we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. This isn’t just mental capacity. It is knowing on another level - an affectionate knowing that knows things by taste and by value - not just by logic.

Imagine two people. One falls into sexual immorality while the other, though tempted, is faithful to his wife. Let me ask you the obvious question - what is the difference between those two men? The tendency is to give a very meaningless answer, like, “One was a better Christian than the other.” But that doesn’t go nearly deep enough. In what sense was the one a better Christian?

Why can some people smell the danger of temptation a long way off while others don’t sense it until they’re trapped in sin? Is it just a matter of I.Q.? That can’t be. Bright people fall into sin just as much as slower people. No, the difference is found in the renewed mind.

Some people have developed such a taste for the pure and holy - such a delight in the perfect will of God that Paul describes in Romans 12:2 - that they instantly know when they’re being pulled away from it. They crave the sweetness of God’s will and instantly sense when something doesn’t fit in with that perfect will in the same way you can sense when there’s too much salt in the soup or the coffee has gone cold in the cup. They have come to know the presence of sin the way you know the presence of natural gas. A renewed mind tastes the things of God and values them as sweet and perfect.

3) WITHOUT A RENEWED MIND PERSISTENCE IN HOLINESS WILL BE TEDIOUS AND ANNOYING

Look once again at our text - Romans 12:1-2 - “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Be very honest with yourself. Do you walk with Jesus because you’ve been raised to do that by your parents? Or because you want to go to heaven when you die? Or because that’s what all your social network at the church expects of you? Or do you walk with Jesus because you have come to the profound conviction that the will of God is the most perfect life you could possibly have? Again, be very honest with yourself because the answer you give to that question determines everything else about your spiritual condition.

Many people go to church without really following Jesus, except in the very barest sense. And the reason they don’t is they have seen the law of God - out there in the distance, or in the pages of their Bibles, or described in sermons - and they see it as demanding and hard and, more than anything else, restrictive to their personal freedom. And, without ever turning away from God out loud, in their minds they have formed a negative opinion about the will of God.

Every day of the week bright, intelligent people - people who have grown up in church and can quote verses from their Bibles - form wrong opinions about the will of God. Even if they nod in dutiful approval, they don’t embrace it. They view the will of God as taking away - subtracting from the joy they could have had if they didn’t feel obligated to obey God. This is very, very common. This attitude is deeply tucked away in more hearts than would ever say it out loud.

Here’s a life-long lesson about the will of God. And you and I will never find the inward momentum toward holiness and joy until we know this truth better than we know our own names. The call to holiness is always the call to good news. It is always a call from the smaller life to the larger, the duller life to the more joyful. God is always bigger and better than anything sin deceitfully offers.
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If you accept the opinion of the world, or your carnal friends about holiness you’re going to miss finding out for yourself how wonderful it is. This is the fundamental self-destruction of living for the acceptance and approval and applause of others. When you crave the acceptance of your friends their values shape your life.

This is true on an individual level and also the pull of the world in general. The way soap operas and movies depict sexual purity makes it look boring and confining. Donald Trump makes simplicity and material sacrifice look weak and foolish. Hollywood makes the cultivation of inward beauty seem secondary to the good life. The world’s religions make Jesus look like another pleasant option for a decent life-style.

Is this where you’re going to form your opinion about the good and perfect will of God? If you do you will never enter into God’s ways deeply enough nor long enough to find the treasure buried there. You can’t accurately assess God’s will just by knowing it or analyzing it. You have to walk in it to find its sweetness.

There is the mind that refuses to walk in the will of God - Ephesians 4:18 - “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”

Also, there is a mind that is in training to develop a taste for the ways of God - Psalm 25:4-5 - “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.[5] Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

Finally, there is the mind that has experienced the radical re-orientation of values and desires around the sweetness of the treasure of God’s good and perfect will - Psalm 19:8-10 - “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; [9] the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. [10] More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”

I believe God wants to increasingly renew our minds in this direction. That’s because He knows our lives will never be transformed by knowing His will. They will only shine with more and more of His glory as we increasingly treasure His will.

How does this happen? Is it truth alone that can remove the natural hardness from our hearts? Truth is vitally important. We try very hard to teach the truth of God’s Word in our church. But if I read my Bible correctly there is another call than the call to learn truth. It bubbles up over and over again. I need grace - supernatural grace from the outside in - to awaken my dead heart. I need this renewed grace every day of my life:

Psalm 119:18,25,27 - “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law....25....My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!....27....Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.”

Pray for opened eyes! Pray for new tastes! Pray that your mind be so renewed around the values of Christ that the will of God becomes the default position of the 95% of your daily life where decisions are made without spending much time rationally processing them. Delighting in God is the greatest protection for the rest of your life. Delight in God is meant to be the prayerful, joyful end result of all Bible learning and all church attendance and all study. There is no delight and no protection in the unprayerful learning of Biblical truth.

4) THERE IS NO POSSIBILITY FOR GOD TO BE TRULY GLORIFIED UNTIL WE HIS PEOPLE FOLLOW HIM WITH RENEWED MINDS THAT DELIGHT SUPREMELY IN HIS GOOD AND PERFECT WILL

Now we’re in a position to put all these things together to see Paul’s ultimate goal in these verses. Our minds must be radically renewed because it is not enough just to know God’s will. We are to treasure His will as good and perfect. Paul says when people truly treasure God they are authentic worshipers of God.

And when people see Christians with renewed minds worshiping God in daily life they will see them making sacrifices for His cause and kingdom. I think you can see that this is exactly what Paul says - Romans 12:1-2 - “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

What do we sacrifice? We don’t butcher sheep or goats. We don’t cut off our own hands and feet and offer atonement for our own sins. What do we sacrifice? The Apostle Paul tells us: Galatians 6:14 - “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

As the mind is renewed by the Spirit of God a whole new way of valuing God develops that puts to death the way I used to value the things of this world. That’s the sacrifice. That’s the change. If I am a true worshiper of Christ, if His will is my treasure, there is only one way this world will see this is so. It will see me gladly renouncing and denying what it treasures for the greater joy of Christ. There is no such thing as Christian witness to the glory of God without this kind of sacrifice.

The world should never perceive that I reject it’s treasures and ambitions because they’re “against my religion.” That’s fraud in terms of Christian witness. All it says to the world is my religion cramps my style, but I live with it. How different it would all be if my response was, “No, I just can’t live on that stuff anymore. I’ve found something that leaves it all cold and empty and boring by comparison. The only reason you find your life bearable is you haven’t yet found the perfect and exhilarating will of God through Jesus Christ!”

The world will never be reached by our doctrinal statements, no matter how precious and important they are. The world will never be reached by hard, grudging obedience with a long face. For sure the world will never be reached by Christians who say they treasure Christ but never turn from the values of this world.

Your whole life is merely the outward glow of what you truly treasure. The only godliness that shines is a joyful godliness. God wants to renew your mind to beam the greatness of His glory so darkened, confused, sin-cheated sinners will see the way home to Christ.

How will this world be loved by the church? That’s a very revealing question. Will we show them we are just like them? Will we tailor our worship and our message so they feel a natural similarity with the body of Christ? If we do that we are failing the world at its deepest point of need. If we do that we are being unloving and uncaring to the world.

How will they see they are embracing a lie? How will they be exposed to deeper joys than they currently think they could ever embrace. How will they sense the emptiness of life apart from the power of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ? How will they learn that entertainment and money and sports and fashion can’t begin to fill up their empty hearts?

They need to hear the truth of the gospel. And they need to see our joy and satisfaction in Christ alone. So we are in the world, but distinctly not of the world, for the ultimate good of the world.