Here’s How Christians Should Think!
“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, 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 you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
This is a follow up to the last two messages about being a living sacrifice to God and renewing our minds. Immediately after these above quoted verses in Romans chapter 12, Paul begins to give practical advice about how we should think. I would like to go through each of his suggestions, grouping them as I see fit and drilling down into their possible implications.
Remember that although Paul the Apostle is writing this letter, he is being inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore this is guidance from the Lord. Notice also that Paul again refers to the “grace given to me” similar to his mention in verse 1 of “the mercies of God”. Paul is reminding us that these directives are related to the Lord’s merciful act of grace that he had previously defined in earlier chapters and also the act of grace that had revealed these truths to him by the Lord himself appearing to him and communicating the Gospel of the Gentiles.
Paul’s directives are practical and apply to everyone. This makes them of great value to us today. He also suggests that we need to consider and guard our thoughts, removing some of the wrong thoughts, and guiding our thinking towards what is true and right.
“Keep (guard) your heart (and mind) with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Our Thoughts about Ourselves (verses 3 to 8):
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12: 3
The word “soberly” here suggests that we need to think clearly, with a sound mind, and not allow our flesh or our pride to elevate our value in our own assessment. Not only does this confirm our need to walk in humility, but we also need to recognize the need to know our place in life, to know the limits of our abilities, to know what God’s role is for us in life. Verses 4 through 8 explain that the body of Christ has many individual members, each with a different gift, purpose and role to play, and that each member is important. The message in these verses is for us to recognize our gift and purpose and then to focus on that gift so that we can put it to good use to build up the body.
It is very easy for us to think in the wrong manner concerning our place in life. We can become jealous of others and desire to be like them, or we can undervalue our contributions and think we don’t have value unless we do what we see other doing. These kind of thoughts are wrong and need to be removed from our minds.
I also see a warning here about covetousness. We often see the grass as greener in another person’s life or position so we covet what they have. It’s sort of like little children at a restaurant who see food on someone else’s plate and want that instead of what they had ordered. The flip side is that we need to be content with where God has placed us and with what He has commissioned us with doing, and if we desire a change, we need to seek the Lord about it and wait for Him to bring about the change in His time.
Related to this, there may be some Christians who have the opposite problem, that is, they are called by God to do something, but don’t think that they have the abilities to accomplish what they are being asked to do. Moses had this problem when God called him to lead His people out of Egypt, Moses pushed back saying he couldn’t even speak properly in front of people.
“Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ ” Exodus 4:10
There are time we need to just be obedient to God’s calling and move forward in faith, trusting that God is able to accomplish His work through us, and that it is Him who does the bulk of the work, we are just His instrument.
Our Thoughts Supporting Love (verses 9 to 21):
“Let your love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cling to that which is good.” Romans 12: 9
Another translation of this verse says “let your love be genuine (or sincere).” The word “hypocrisy” comes from a word that means “an actor or to act” as in someone in a play. Paul warns us here to make sure that our thoughts and actions are aligned, that we are being true to what we feel and know, and to correct the misalignment if necessary. We should examine our motives. We should not be doing things out of obligation or external pressures, but our actions should flow from a sincere heart that is truly concerned for others and wants to please God.
It is difficult to know for sure how closely associated the second part of the verse is to the first. In some translations they are separated by a semicolon only, suggested that they are closely tied. It stands to reason though, that if we guide our thinking to abhor what is evil and to cling to what is good, then it will influence our hearts to be more genuine in our actions towards others. Things that are evil typically involve bringing harm to others, directly or indirectly, and things that are good support good relationships and typically involve building people up. Regardless, we need to examine and be keenly aware of our thoughts towards both good and evil, making sure that our attitude is aligned with what the scriptures exhort us to do.
“Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another; not slothful in business, fervent (emotionally intense) in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation, continuing diligently in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints; given to (pursuing) hospitality.” Romans 12: 10 – 13
Verses 10 through 13 hold practical admonitions towards others and towards the Lord. Each directive is straight forward with a clear path to action, for example: be kind and hospitable to one another, helping those in need, and honoring one another. There’s nothing complex about doing this and everyone has the ability to do so. All of these actions, though, require a shift in our mindset, attitude and thinking. Our focus should change in order to accomplish these things, and it will be much different than what we were accustomed to thinking and feeling while back in the mindset of the world system. Recognize that these are the things that we should be doing with our renewed minds.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind towards one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” Romans 12: 14-16
In these verses Paul is advising us to not allow our thoughts to cause divisions or separations: Not to allow persecution to escalate; to connect with those who rejoice and those who weep; to make sure we think about each other similarly, not categorizing people or holding some closer or as better than others; to not allow our thought to get too lofty or high minded to keep us from associating with some people we may consider of lower class or position in life, and again, not to think too highly of our self and our opinions. We must guard against these things.
Thinking towards our enemy (verses 17 to 21)
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. Beloved do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21
Last February, I wrote an entire message about these verses entitled “Overcome Evil with Good” , so I won’t spend too much time on this topic here. Suffice it to say that our attitude and thinking towards our enemy needs to be very different than it was in the world. We know that revenge is a common mindset for many people in the world, but as Christians we must now show mercy and allow God to repay people for their evil acts. I am convinced that if we truly die to this world and set our hopes and affections on the things of the Spirit and heaven, and if we get a true picture of the reality of God’s act of love and forgiveness towards us by sending His Son Jesus to pay the price for our sins, allowing us to enter into His kingdom, we will then be able to ignore or release any desire to take vengeance on our enemies. It will come naturally as a result of God changing our heart and mind from being carnal to being spiritual.
This mindset is aligned with previous verses that advised us to know our place. We are not a judge for anyone. We need to allow God, whose place it really is, to avenge evil and show His wrath towards evil doers. We have no right to exercise wrath towards people, but instead should be in a humble place of forgiving them as we have been forgiven, many times for doing the very same things that they have done.
When we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God, or, in other words, when we consider ourselves dead to this world and alive towards God, loving and serving Him, we can then transform our thinking, changing our thoughts and attitude to be conformed to God’s ways and purposes, rather than to the ways and purposes of this world. Paul has spelled out in the 12th chapter of Romans some practical guidance and checks for our thinking in the areas of how we think about ourselves, how we should think about others, and how we should think about our service to God. Love is the guide, as well as our thinking towards good and evil. Paul’s words in these verses are very practical and actionable. We should visit them from time to time and examine ourselves to see that we are adhering to his advice.
Chapters 13, 14 and 15 of Romans continue with additional advice for us regarding our thoughts and actions. Perhaps this will be the topic of a future message. For now, God Bless!