The Characteristics of Christian Behaviour
(b) The Christian Mind
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)
In developing some principles in relation to Christian behaviour Paul lays down the basics in v1-2. Before we can ever contemplate appropriate modes of behaviour in relation to other believers or towards all men generally we must have an appropriate relationship with God. To focus upon practical examples of proper Christian conduct without stressing real and vital godliness is like building a house without a foundation. In laying down the basic ingredients of Christian behaviour Paul identifies two words; “sacrifice” (v1) and “transformed” (v2). While the sacrifice pertained to the absolute and unconditional surrender of our bodies to God the transformation relates to the mind. Therefore in dealing with the mind Paul is coming to the key which opens the door to proper godly conduct. We cannot surrender the body if we have not firstly developed a Christian manner of thinking. Therefore the word “transformed” essentially commends a Christian mindset which should permeate the thought patterns of all Christians. Without this our lives will not be pleasing to God and we will not discover God’s will.
1: The Challenge to the Christian Mind
The challenge to the Christian mind is the world and the fearful tendency of Christians to conform themselves to the world. The word “world” in this instance is the Greek ‘aion’ meaning “this present age”. The words “be not conformed” are a compound which stems from the word “scheme”. James Montgomery Boice cleverly summarised the teaching of these words with the paraphrase;
“Do not let the age in which you live force you into its scheme of thinking and behaving.”
Never at any time since the Revolution in 1688 have Christians in Britain been placed under such intense pressure to conform to the worldly mindset than the present. The subtle indoctrination of the masses into a godless mindset has been alarmingly successful and many Christians are slipping into a worldly pattern of thought. The one word which defines our society is” secular”. Secular comes from the Latin ‘saeculum’ which interestingly means “age”. Therefore the secular society is one dominated by the spirit of this age as defined by Paul in Ephesians 2:2-3. The three core principles underpinning secularism are:
A Humanism – The elevation of man, Daniel 4:30.
B Relativism – There are no moral absolutes; morality is relevant to the age in which we live; therefore we can design our own morality.
C Materialism – Material possessions and ideals such as fame and power becomes the goal of the secular world. There is a logic in this because secularism believes that nothing exists apart from the material.
We observe secularism in politics where principles are often set aside for the sake of pragmatism. This has created a society where many feel that voting is not worthwhile because of a growing disillusionment with the political process. We observe secularism in banking where moral judgements have clearly been sacrificed for the sake of profit. The ambitions of a secular Government is focused upon creating a more stable prosperous economy with no real reference to the spiritual needs of the nation. Where a secular Government does dabble in morals it is only to introduce immoral laws such as sodomite marriage. Secularism is evident in society where the celebrity, the pop star, the sports personality is idolised because they have reached the top of the materialistic tree. The secular society is obsessed with entertainment and sensual pleasure at the expense of moral principle. As Christians we should be honest enough to accept that secularism has made its way into every area of life; even church life. This prompted Harry Blamires to write in 1963, “There is no longer a Christian mind”. How has this situation deteriorated?
2: The Conditioning of the Christian Mind
According to Paul’s teaching conformity to the world takes place in the Christian mind. Therefore we must challenge this tendency to conform by having our minds transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our thinking, our ideas and attitudes are not to be determined by the ungodly secular culture in which we live. We must think as Christians allowing the Scriptures to be our model as we look on a wicked world. The core principles at the heart of a genuine Christian mindset are:
A God; The Creator and Judge who fills all time and space.
B Man; absolutely depraved, incapable of moral judgements.
C Christ; the Redeemer whose sacrifice is the only hope for society.
D The Holy Spirit; regeneration for the unconverted, infilling for Christians.
E Evangelism; the means used by God to rescue a perishing world.
F The Scriptures; an infallible guide.
G Stewardship; we have a duty to look after our lives, possessions and the world itself for the glory of God.
H Revival; The means whereby a secular society can be changed.
Do such vital spiritual principles dominate the thinking patterns of Christians today? How many are dominated by the spirit of this age? Even within the Church God’s people can be driven by secular motivations. Treating a healthy income as the only meaningful measure of success , contriving ways to boost numbers without clear reference to the principles of God’s Word and viewing the prayer meeting as an unimportant aspect of church life are symptomatic of humanism in the church. The presence of a proud spirit and the absence of a humble attitude before a God who sees all things are evidence of secularism in the Church. Until the Church of Christ is transformed by true spiritual renewal into a Biblical and Godly mindset we have nothing to offer this secular society. This transformation will only come about through reading the Scriptures, through prayerful meditation and applying what we learn to every aspect of life and behaviour. We need to abandon books, movies, television shows, magazines,etc. which pollute our thinking with the secular outlook. We must seek true and genuine renewal of thought to be effective for our God.
3: The Clarity of the Christian Mind
The transformed mind is able to discover the will of God. The implication of the conclusion of our text is clear; the mind conformed to this age, the secular mind, will have no clear principles, convictions or direction because the will of God will always be elusive. Perhaps that is why many Christians appear to be as ships without a rudder today – the secular mindset has robbed them of clarity in relation to God’s will. The encouragement here is that God has a good, acceptable and perfect will for every believer. The will of God is good because he has designed it. It is acceptable because there is nothing as satisfying. The word perfect is the Greek ‘telios’ meaning complete or mature. Our lives are incomplete if we do not discover God’s will. To be complete and fulfilled we must acquire the Christian mind.