“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)
The mind is the battleground where spiritual battles are won or lost. I use the term ‘mind’ as a comprehensive category-it includes all of you, what you think, how you feel, what you choose. You need all the activities of your mind renewed. Notice several things about Paul’s command. First, the word for renew in Greek is metamorphosis. Consider how we use that term. The little earth-bound fuzzy worm metamorphosed into a gorgeous creature of the skies! That’s what Paul says we’re to work at, ”be totally renovated in your entire outlook and response.”
Second, the form of the Greek verb is passive- meaning to have this done to you by the Holy Spirit. But that passive verb is contained in a positive command. The command calls for some initiative on your part. You must participate with the Spirit. Third, though the grand presentation (v. 1) is a “point action” verb-speaking of a decisive turning point, the transformation (v . 2) is a “continuous action” verb, speaking of a process. You have to keep working at it. The mind is the battlefield where a deadly war is in progress. You either win or lose the battle in your mind. In the war against the conforming influences of your environment you must take the initiative to have your entire mind-set transformed. To do that we use the Bible, prayer, and the church as offensive weapons of the Spirit at the time of confrontation.
How does it work for the Bible to be an offensive weapon? Last night I felt an excitement about today. I was looking forward to writing this lesson on winning the victory over temptation! About 4:00 a .m. I woke to the persistent ringing of the phone. My heart jumped – I immediately thought, which of my children is in an emergency? The voice said, “Is this Mr. McQuilkin?” “Yes,” I responded. A dread settled in as I realized it was a police officer on the phone. Oh, no, not again, I thought. Three months ago, my car had been stolen from my backyard. While the police officer talked, I looked out the back window and, sure enough, my car was gone again. And once again, the police had found it, torn up as before. I was angry. “I’d like to put a booby trap on that car. Guess what would happen to the next person who touches it!” I said to myself. And I was afraid. Was it the same people? Will our house be next? Maybe we should move out of this inner-city neighborhood we deliberately chose to live in.
Very early the next morning as I reviewed my responses the night before, I knew which were unacceptable to God. The booby-trap strategy is vengeful, and I would be disobedient if I left my calling to live for God in this neighborhood. Anger and fear are not necessarily sinful; it depends on who they’re directed at and why. I lapse into unbelief if I conclude God won’t care for me.
There was no use to go back to bed – I was too agitated. So I turned to Scripture for an earlier than usual devotional time. I was reading Hebrews 10, but I couldn’t concentrate. This chapter seemed irrelevant to my crisis, so I decided to quit halfway through. I’ll pick it up here tomorrow, I told myself. Then, listlessly, I decided to read on. The next words hit me like a bolt from heaven: “You cheerfully accepted the seizure of your possessions, knowing that you possessed something better and more lasting” (Hebrews 10:34, NEB). The Word of God was a sword to annihilate those evil temptations that had been winning out in my mind.
That morning as I reviewed; Was I cheerful? Hardly. Better and more lasting? Definitely. A couple of chapters later the Spirit gave me more reassurance about my situation: “Be content with what you have; for God himself has said, “I will never leave you or desert you” and so we can take courage and say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6, NEB). God is my better and lasting possession!
Notice that the Spirit used the Scripture in a way that was legitimate and in context. Once I tried to find guidance from Deuteronomy 1:6 “You have stayed long enough at this mountain”? At that time I was making the verse speak to me in a way different than its original meaning. In the case of Hebrews 10:34 God showed me Christians who were faithful when they faced a trial worse than my own. Their response challenged me to be faithful.
The Bible is not only our defensive weapon as we stockpile its truth against the hour of temptation, it’s our offensive weapon at the moment of temptation. Like Jesus in the wilderness, we wield the sword of the Spirit against temptation and rout the enemy. My agitated mind settled down in a miraculous calm, and cheerfulness actually began to bubble up as I focused on the positive things God is doing in my life.
- Though it was all the transportation I had, it wasn’t much.
- They broke into my car, not my house.
- They took my car, not my life.
- They were the thieves, not I.
- They can take my possessions, but they can’t take my God.
I was tempted, but the Spirit delivered me-through the Word. Hallelujah! What mighty firepower we have right in our hands! Let’s wield the sword of the Spirit against temptation and rout the enemy!