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. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:1-3). 

When I was doing some ministry work at a place called The Barnabas House I was reminded of the profound lesson of how not to be conformed to this world by the ongoing, intentional renewing of our minds. This ministry is an intensive rehab program for those who might otherwise be sent to jail. These men would live at the facility, receive therapy, and eventually be integrated into society after a 6 to 12 month period. Most were there due to various types of substance abuse and/or anger issues. The program was both practical and spiritual as the judicial system determined these guys to be better off in this type of environment as opposed to a prison cell. 

I was often amazed at the biblical understanding many of these men had. In the conversation in question, with a Bible under his arm, one of these men (a reforming drug addict and spousal abuser) shared with me how he did battle with the demons of temptation that could eventually lead him back to the lifestyle he so desperately wanted to shed. Referring to Romans 12:1-2, he said, “I must be constantly vigilant to think about what I’m thinking about.” How true! It was certainly an “ah-ha moment” for me. Don’t we all need to do this? But how often do we? 

Pastor D. Martin Lloyd Jones, a physician by training, said that at any given time we are either listening to ourselves or talking to ourselves. I hope that makes sense. The point is, if we don’t control our thoughts with purpose, before we know it we have gone hours (a day, week, or month), with the tape that plays in our head running rampant and controlling us. This interminable, spontaneous data-dump created by an untamed thought life can usurp control of our minds. And it is usually twisted by our sin nature – fleshly, negative, defeating, depressing, and altogether unhealthy. Yet often we allow our thoughts to run free without reining them in by practicing the discipline of speaking to ourselves the truth of God’s Word, the intentional determination of what we are thinking. Does that make sense? If not, pause right now and analyze what you were thinking about the minutes or hours prior to reading this post. Or, while reading this post, has your mind drifted off to things that were less important or even contrary to God’s truth? Did your thoughts run free thereby controlling you (and your attitude and disposition) or were you controlling your thoughts? In other words, is that carnally bent mind of ours ruling us – taking us where it wants us to go – or are we ruling it? 

This may sound trivial but I believe this issue is key to our emotional, mental, and, most importantly, spiritual health. Paul is saying here that unless we “think about what we are thinking about” and do something about it, then the ungodly part of our mind will push us in the direction of being conformed to the thinking, and therefore, the patterns of the world. And this can be both destructive and ultimately devastating! After all, unrestrained, our mind tends to drift to that which is base, unspiritual, and self-absorbed. This is why Paul suggests that “biblical mind control” is imperative in us finding God’s will (v. 2) and having the humble, sacrificial spirit that gives us the freedom to live and love in a way that honors God (vs. 1&3). Remember, “For as [a man] thinks within himself, so he is: (Proverbs 23:7, HCSB).

In 4th chapter of his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul ties this together by saying our joy (v. 4), our mental stability (v. 5), our piece of mind (v. 6), and our purity (v. 7) are determined by the purposeful control of our thought life (v. 8). And we must “practice” this biblical mind control to most fully experience the peace, power, and presence of God (v. 9). As we read this passage let’s focus, keep our mind from wandering, and think about it! 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9).