Renewing the Mind and Transformation

If you haven’t noticed it from some of my previous devotionals, I’ll just outright confess it to you now: I am a movie buff. I like movies a LOT. But more than just watching movies for entertainment, I really like movies because they help me to think deeper. In some ways, I view movies as modern day “parables.” Parables are simply stories that unlock insight and deeper meaning to life.

One movie that has had that effect on me is “The Matrix.” Once you get past all the gratuitous Hollywood stuff, “The Matrix” has many themes that are strikingly similar to the story of Jesus and His teachings. One of the most profound scenes (in my opinion) is when Morpheus explains “The Matrix” to Neo, who has this nagging notion that something is not quite right in the world. 

Morpheus shares, “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us – even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth; the truth that you are a slave, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. It is a prison for your mind.”

We are in a devotional series about Biblical Transformation. And what Morpheus told Neo in this scene of “The Matrix” resonates with an issue that Jesus raised in the Sermon on the Mount:

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the “light” within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matt. 6:22-23)

In other words, how we see – how we perceive things – is what our mind accepts as “reality.” If the reality we perceive is not true (“unhealthy”), then everything we think, say and do becomes an extension of that falseness; and our lives move (often unwittingly) deeper into darkness. Whatever our minds accept as true is what controls our actions, our attitudes and our core beliefs.

That’s why Paul, in his discussion of the process of Biblical transformation, says in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to the world’s patterns, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Paul knows, like Jesus (and Morpheus), that there is a fake world-reality that is has been “pulled over our eyes.” To truly be transformed, we need to “pull off” that fake reality. Our minds have been imprisoned by believing this reality that the powers of darkness want us to believe (as we shared in last week’s devotional; if you missed that, click here). So, it is important to have our minds renewed so that we can see the true reality.

Jesus calls this true reality “the Kingdom of God.” 

The Kingdom of God is what informs and guides us into transformation. As well, it is where our transformed lives (the very best versions of ourselves) can thrive, be fruitful, bring goodness, love and peace to our world. And for us to see and live in the reality of the Kingdom of God, we need the fake reality – our “Matrix,” if you will – to be pulled off so that our minds can become free and renewed.

I must share with you that this movement is, perhaps, the hardest step of Biblical transformation. It is hard, scary and painful to realize that what we’ve perceived, what we’ve bought into, and how we’ve lived our lives could be based on a false premise. It requires a ruthless commitment to the honest truth and taking a humble posture in order to be awakened to a new way of thinking into a new, truth-filled and grace-filled reality.

I’m reminded of a painful experience I had years ago. I was leading worship at a service. At the end of the service, I shared a few words that I assumed were helpful in guiding people into truth. But a godly friend, Richard, came up to me afterwards and confronted me. He shared that the words I said at the end of the service were not helpful. They were, in fact, harmful and hurtful.

I didn’t want to hear that. His words stung and I felt extreme humiliation. But as I brought them before the Lord, I realized that what Richard said was absolutely true. In the safe, loving presence of God, that agitated sense of humiliation morphed into much calmer sense of humility. As I opened myself up to God, I realized that the words I shared did not come from the Spirit, but from a hidden desire of the false self that craved for attention, acceptance and adulation at the expense of others. The “world” of my false self was exposed and, by the grace of God, I was able to pull it away from my eyes and see the truth clearly. My mind was renewed. I quickly repented of this attitude. I made amends to those I hurt through my statements. And I found myself living more fully and freely into the Kingdom – transformation was taking place.

We all have “blind spots” where we operate more out of the flesh and ego than the Spirit. And the deeper they are, the more we resist or react when they are challenged. We deflect by blaming others. Or we minimize our issue (“it’s harmless”). Sometimes we even spiritualize our resistance (calling it a “spiritual attack”). Jesus called these blind spots, “logs” or “beams” in our eyes. If we don’t take steps to take them out, we won’t be of any good to others or to ourselves. Like the Pharisees and religious leaders, we can end up being “blind guides” (Matt. 23:16).

But the good news is that, as followers of Jesus, we have already taken steps to renew our minds and unwrap the “Matrix” from our eyes. The moment we responded to the Gospel and repented from our old ways to follow Jesus was when we started to see a new perspective on life. Our minds started the renewal process. Transformation is simply doing this over and over and over again. The key is to not allow this to be a “one-and-done event” but, rather, a spiritual pattern and rhythm for life.

Here are some thoughts on how to uncover those areas where our minds need to be renewed:

1. Ask the Lord to reveal our blind spots. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24)

2. Recall times you might have been highly offended or felt extreme inner resistance. What might be underneath those reactions? It might reveal an area where you are clinging onto a mindset that is worldly or ego-driven.

3. Where in your life have you been confronted by a godly friend but did not want to receive it? Remember, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Prov. 27:5-6)

The process of renewing our minds can be hard but it always leads to the greater life. And we have the great assurance that the Lord is with us, surrounding us with His grace and power.

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