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Where and How Does Inner Renewal Happen?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:22

In the last two reflections on Ephesians 4:23 (Monday, Tuesday), we saw that renewal is God's ongoing work in us. We do not renew ourselves. God does it. This does not happen completely in the moment of our salvation. Rather, the renewal that begins when we first receive God's grace in Christ continues throughout our lives. Moreover, it is something in which we can participate by opening ourselves to the Lord, being available for his renewing work.

Before leaving Ephesians 4:23, I want to focus on the phrase "[You were taught] to be made new in the attitude of your minds." The language here raises one obvious question: What is the attitude of your mind? But if you are familiar with other modern translations of the Bible, you might have another question. The New Living Translation says, "[L]et the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes." The Common English Bible has "[R]enew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit." Yet our translation, the NIV, doesn't mention the Holy Spirit at all. What is going on here?

The Greek original is rendered most literally in the King James Version, "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind." Many commentators and translators understand the use of "spirit" here (pneuma in Greek) as a reference to the Holy Spirit. They point to the fact that Ephesians underscores the role of the Spirit in the life of the believer (see especially 1:13, 2:18, 2:22, 3:16, 4:30, 5:18, 6:18). In 3:16, for example, Paul prays that God may "strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being [Greek anthropos]." Elsewhere in Paul's writings, the Spirit of God is transforming us (2 Cor. 3:18; Titus 3:5).

So, it's surely true that God is renewing us through the work of the Spirit, but the Greek grammar of Ephesians 4:23 makes it unlikely that Paul has this point in mind here. The phrase speaks of "the spirit of your mind." This would be an odd way to refer to the Spirit of God. It seems more likely that Paul is referring to what we might describe as the depths of your inner being, the core of your mind, or something like this. In other words, the renewal that comes from God, indeed, by way of his Spirit, doesn't just affect your behavior. And it doesn't just alter your thinking in a superficial way. Rather, it penetrates to the very depths of who you are, changing you from the inside out.

Notice that, once again in Ephesians, Paul emphasizes thinking. Spiritual renewal isn't just a matter of feelings. It isn't only an experience of God, no matter how real and powerful this might be. Rather, genuine spiritual renewal involves a new mind, a new way of thinking, a new way of weighing the world, a new way of choosing, a new way of believing. This comes from the Spirit of God, who teaches us, guides us, reminds us of the words of Jesus, and helps us understand the Spirit-inspired Scripture. This work of the Spirit happens, not only when we are alone with the Lord, but also when we are in community with our fellow Christians. Here, the gifts of the Spirit given through others speak to our minds, leading to deeper and broader transformation of our thinking and living.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How has your Christian faith affected your thinking? Do you think differently today because you are a Christian? If so, how? How did this alteration of your mind happen? What can you do to make yourself available to the renewing work of God's Spirit in "the spirit of your mind"?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the ways you have shaped and reformed my thinking. Thank you for my parents and grandparents, who taught me your truth from childhood. Thank you for my Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and pastors, who were gifted by your Spirit to help me think in your ways. Thank you for those authors and speakers who, throughout the years, have made an impact on my mind.

Thank you, Lord, for all the times you have taught me through your Word, as your Spirit helped me to grasp your truth. Thank you for all the ways you have spoken to me through your Spirit, helping me to know you and your ways. Thank you for meeting me in the congregation of your saints and in times of solitude.

Yet, Lord, as you know, my inner renewal is not complete. Indeed, there is so much yet to be done, so much more for you to do. Help me, I pray, to be open to you. May I surrender to you all that I am, including my thinking, so that I might be renewed "in the spirit of my mind." Amen.

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Feeling the Love at Work

Do you sometimes wonder if you'll find your dream job? Or do you know someone who wonders if their work really matters? Take a look at our series, Feeling the Love at Work. Or, if you know someone who might appreciate encouragement along these lines, join us at The High Calling.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.

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