I’ve been reflecting lately on why people think the way they do. In researching patterns of thinking and how it relates to our behavior, I’ve read a lot of great research, but did you know that the Bible speaks to this very issue? In Proverbs 4:23 the wise King Solomon wrote, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” Another way of thinking about this is that the life you are building is the cumulative expression of your thoughts over time.
How you think is so important because…
Your thoughts determine your actions
Your actions determine your habits.
Your habits determine your character.
Your character determines your destiny.
Everyone has a destiny. We all end up somewhere in life, but not all of us end up somewhere on purpose. We all want to be the person who ends up “somewhere” intentionally, which is probably why the top question I hear as a pastor is “What is God’s will for my life?” You’ll be pleased to hear that I have an answer, and it begins with looking at Romans 12:1-2.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Paul begins verse one with “Therefore” because he has just spent eight chapters talking about God’s grace. What follows the “therefore” is how we should respond to God’s saving grace (chs. 1-3), justifying grace (chs. 4-5), sanctifying grace (chs. 6-7), and grace of glorification (ch. 8). To put it simply, our salvation is entirely possibly because of God’s freely given grace, and our response to what He’s done for us should be to live sacrificially for Him, “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Our first step toward knowing God’s will is to see ourselves as living sacrifices, offered out of gratitude for God’s mercy toward us.
The next step, as Paul writes in verse two, is to “ not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Let’s explore the first part of this: not conforming. One translation of this verse says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.” This issue is particularly relevant to the challenges facing the church today: it is all-too common to find “spiritual chameleons” who take on the appearance of holiness and righteousness on Sundays only to conform to the world’s mold throughout the rest of the week.
God calls us to something greater than just conforming to a pre-set mold – He desires transformation. So how does this transformation take place? Paul writes that it is “by the renewing of your mind.” I wrote earlier about the power that our thoughts have on our lives, so it makes perfect sense why our transformation would begin there. It’s our responsibility to decide what and who will have the greatest influence in shaping our thought life. If you are dissatisfied with where you are in life or some of your behaviors, look first to your thinking. Because our behaviors are rooted in our thoughts, ask God to renew your mind in order to see transformation in your life.
When your mind is renewed, “then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Your Heavenly Father loves you so much, He doesn’t want what is merely good for you. He doesn’t even want what is better for you. He wants what is best for you, His perfect plan for your life. If you’re longing to build a life that matters, the best course is to seek and follow the will of God; first, surrender to God, then invite Him to transform your life by the renewing of your mind.