Newsletter article for the June edition of The Hillside Messenger
“Led by the Holy Spirit”
A hallmark of being children of God is that we are led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14), who directs and empowers us to mortify in our lives everything that rebels against God’s authority and tries to draw us away from him (Romans 8:13). Though empowered and directed by God to discard all the ways of the flesh, the carnal nature of man, God expects each of us to take responsibility and initiative in dealing with evil strongholds in our minds and besetting sins, for, among the examples provided in Holy Scripture of determination to resist sin, St. Paul’s resolve to destroy every disobedient thought comes clearly to mind:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
(2 Corinthians 10:4-5, KJV)
The warfare to which St. Paul refers here is spiritual warfare, in which Christians engage daily, for their fight is not with human beings but “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12, KJV). Now these are spiritual beings with various levels of authority in Satan’s kingdom, many of whom are the actual rulers in this sinful world.
Rather than submitting to the influence of these demonic rulers, we must first of all take control of our own minds, ensuring that there are no evil ideas or thoughts taking dominion of our lives. We must cast down, or overthrow, every thought or imagination, no matter how important or exalted it seems to us, if it contradicts the word and the law of God as revealed to us in the Bible, and we must bring every thought into the constraint of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. These strong expressions that St. Paul uses of the way in which we must all deal with our thoughts, reasonings and imaginations ought to bring home to us the message of how determined and resolved we should be to obey the Lord Jesus Christ in every area of our lives. Just as it is necessary for an old home sometimes to be rewired if old circuits or switches have become dangerous, so each of us needs to take responsibility for rewiring our minds, our thoughts, our reasoning, our habits and our attitudes, so that the life of the Holy Spirit and the mind of Christ may be discernible from the way we live and relate to others. In another passage, St. Paul issues this call from God to renew our minds, as we offer ourselves wholly to Him:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 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 12:1-2, KJV)
This process of renewing the mind is both a part of the offering of the faithful of their bodies to God as a living sacrifice and a result of it. For the mind and the reason, if withheld from the worship of God, easily become conformed in some way to this world, or conditioned by the prevailing cultures and ideologies of this world in some respect, or subject to the persuasion of others. The command not to be conformed to this world is in line with the command to be transformed by the renewing of one’s mind. Conformity to the world or to this present age, and transformation by the renewing of the mind are mutually exclusive. The purpose of this transformation through the renewal of one’s mind is to discern and know by experience the good, acceptable, perfect will of God.
Now how must the faithful be transformed? The same Greek word used in Romans 12:2 for “be ye transformed” is used in Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2 for the Transfiguration of Jesus. Whereas Jesus’ transfiguration was visible to the Apostles Peter, James and John, the transformation commanded here is not something physically visible, but rather the evidence of the changed life of a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. What the Lord is commanding the faithful to do here is to allow the Holy Spirit to renew their minds so thoroughly with the Word of God and with prayer, that their lives are utterly transformed, so that they may find out and know the will of God. The key, then, to this transformation, is the renewal of the mind. However, this is not a process that can be taken lightly or experienced superficially. It is not indoctrination or the filling of the mind with human ideologies or political opinions. All our thoughts, reasonings, ideas, attitudes and opinions now become subject to the Holy Spirit, and to the revelation of His purpose, law and will in the Bible. For example, xenophobia, though popular in some political circles in the USA and in other nations of the world, is not advocated in the Bible. In fact, the virtue of hospitality is commanded (for example, Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2), and hospitality is basically showing love to a guest or stranger whom one does not know. Even in the Old Testament this virtue is prized, and we read that Abraham practiced it (Genesis 18:1-8). In Deuteronomy 10 it is recorded that God “loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing” (Deut. 10:18b, NKJV). Therefore the Lord directs the Israelites to love the stranger (Deut. 10:19). Similarly, God commands his people to love the poor by giving generously to them (Deut. 15:7-11).
Again, the idea today that the homeless have no right to live anywhere near one’s backyard is not an idea that emerges from the word of God, but one that arises from the fear that one’s property will lose value if the homeless are provided with low-cost housing anywhere near it. The idea that the homeless have no right to live anywhere near us is not a Biblical one at all, but one of the ideas that fortify the aspirations of the home-owning middle class.
Renewing our minds with the word of God by the illumination of the Holy Spirit will help us to discern whether opinions, ideas and attitudes that we may have held for many years really agree with God’s will or not. The fundamental truth of being led by the Holy Spirit in all aspects of our lives is vital to our Christian development. It is crucial that the counsels and commands of God’s word direct the way we view and treat all other people, including fellow Christians of different denominations. This is essential to our growth as a church community. We cannot grow as a church, if to others we simply appear no different from unbelievers who do not fashion their lives according to God’s will. The finest and greatest virtue we can show in our lives is love for God and for everyone (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:34-40; 1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 4:7). This love includes a fundamental graciousness to people of all ages, races, religions and cultures, and those with opinions different from our own. If we learn to embrace such people with the hospitable love that the Lord Jesus Christ has shown to all of us, then, I believe, the Holy Spirit will cause our church to grow.