What we believe determines how we behave. Even secularists know this is true. This axiom is a foundational belief in therapeutic and behavioral counseling. Our thoughts are catalysts for self-perpetuating cycles in our lives. If you think you are a failure, you will act like a failure. If you act like a failure, it reinforces the idea that you are a failure.
What we think about – meaning what we value, what we focus on, what we meditate one, what we turn over in our minds throughout the day – either unlocks the door to despair and the unending cycle of failure and defeat, or it unlocks the door to experiencing the power and freedom promised to us in the Gospel of Jesus.
In our Chasing Glory series two weeks ago, we learned that freedom from the paralyzing grip of sin begins with a grammar lesson, knowing the difference between an indicative and an imperative (Colossians 3:1-4). A gospel indicative tells us what Christ has done for us. A gospel imperative calls us to gratitude-filled, Spirit-enabled obedience to God as a response to what God has done and who God has made us in Christ.
We saw this clearly in Colossians 3:1-4, but let’s examine it in another passage of Scripture. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul writes,
“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. 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.”
There are three commands (imperatives) in the text. Two are stated positively, and one is stated negatively. Do you see them? (Stop reading. Take just a minute to see if you can find them on your own).
Alright, back to group work. The three commands are “present your bodies as a living sacrifice…”, “do not be conformed…” and “be transformed…”. What God is calling us to do is clear, right? Offer your life as worship to God. Be transformed by the renewal of your mind (i.e., seek and set your mind on things above).
But these commands are predicated on what God has done. Did you see how Paul is calling us to obedience by grounding it in the work of God in the Gospel? Take a look at the text again. What are we to build our lives upon? Why are we being urged to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice? Where does the power to have a transformed mind come from?
Paul says, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…”. What are the mercies of God? Well, Paul has spent eleven chapters leading up to chapter twelve explaining the mercies of God revealed to us in the Gospel. The mercies of God are:
- The power to save everyone who believes in Jesus (1:16)
- God who justifies the ungodly by faith (4:5)
- Access into the grace of God by faith (5:2)
- The hope of life change through the power of the Holy Spirit (5:4-5)
- The promise of redemption through one man, Jesus Christ (6:18)
- No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1)
- The power of the Spirit to put sin to death in our bodies (8:13)
- Purpose in our suffering (8:18)
- The Spirit interceding for us in our weakness (8:26)
- The promise that nothing will separate us from God’s love (8:38-39)
- The certainty that God will save people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (9-11)
The motivation to offer our entire lives to God as an act of worship is predicated upon the mercies of God. What we must do is motivated by what Jesus has done on our behalf.
Saint Augustine once said, “Lord command what you will and grant what you command!” God tells us what he wants us to do (i.e., live a life of worship), and he makes it possible by his mercy. When we obey God, not to seek his favor, but because we already have his favor in the Gospel, he grants us the power to do what he wills.
It’s my hope and prayer that as you grow in your understanding of the Gospel, you begin to see in increasing measure that all your hopes for life transformation begin and end in what Christ has done. It’s only then that we can “be transformed by the renewal of our minds”. Right thinking not only sees what is valuable (e.g., the Gospel). Right thinking values and treasures what is valuable.
What God values more than your obedience is anchoring all your hope to the redeeming obedience of his Son, Jesus Christ. And when your hope is rooted in Christ’s obedience as the only thing that gives you favor with and access to God, you will then find the Spirit energizing humble, God-honoring, Christ-centered obedience in your life, the kind of reflexive response to God that is “good and acceptable and perfect”, wholly pleasing to the will of God.
Seeking and Setting My Mind on Jesus With You,