Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world. Romans 12:2
As you woke up this morning, what was your first thought? Did you think about what you had to do, or who you had to do it with? As you made your way to the bathroom or the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee, what was your mindset as you approached the day? Did your mind fill with optimism, or did you worry? Don’t pretend here. Don’t put on some cheap veneer of happiness. How did you really feel deep down? Before you checked your email, the latest news, or your social media, where did your mind go? Why did it go there?
Give yourself a minute to think about your thinking. Friends, the world has hit the “pause” button to flatten the curve to fight the enemy we can’t see and save as many lives as possible. The market has tanked, businesses will close, and jobs will be lost. You and I, today, have no control over those forces. What we do have, though, is control over how we spend our time and how we order our thoughts. So before you clean out another closet, find a new at-home workout online, or find something else to watch on Netflix, let’s take an inventory of our thoughts.
The apostle Paul will be our teacher today. He was a first-century Jewish leader opposed to this new movement of people who actually believed that Jesus rose from the dead. God literally blinded Paul, spoke to him, opened his eyes, and sent him on a new mission. This mission was to plant churches across the Roman world, while trying to escape his opponents from all sides who were trying to kill him. God would speak directly to him during his own “shelter in place” periods in jails and under house arrest. Paul would find himself with some forced time on his hands, time to process and put into words God’s instructions on how to focus our thinking on what matters most. Paul sent those letters to the churches that he had started, encouraging them to stay on track and to keep fighting the good fight.
Today, we’ll take a quick look at a verse from his letter to the church at Rome. After eleven chapters of teaching on grace, he says this in 12:2: “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” What is the pattern of this world? In Paul’s world then and in our world today, there is a default way of thinking that is so natural we’re not even aware of it. We can use fancy words to describe our times, but it boils down to these four words: “I am in charge.”
Think about all the ways we have made personal freedom our highest value. We have more choices than ever before. Burger King made a fortune off the slogan “Have it your way!” back in the ‘70s, when the idea that you could pick the toppings on your burger was a big deal! Now, we see the world through the distorted mirror of our own preferences with “helpful” invitations to click here for more, take in the version of the news best suited for your political preferences, or watch sports through the lens of your Fantasy league picks.
Why does this matter? What’s wrong with having personal freedom? What’s wrong with being in charge? Nothing. . . until you’re not. What happens when life hits and you realize that you are not in control?
Actually if Paul were hanging out with us today—from a safe distance of six feet away in a group of fewer than ten people—he would say, along with Jesus himself, that you’re blessed. The road to transformation begins in the mind and it begins with the simple acknowledgment that “I am not in charge.” As we start this journey together, friends, it’s time to be brutally honest with ourselves. In what ways are you acting if you were “in charge”? How have you responded to this current crisis? Don’t beat yourself up or pat yourself on the back too much. Just think about the specific ways you’ve responded to tough things outside of your control. Identify the areas of worry in your life, and you will see where you’re still fighting to be the boss.
Jesus offers a better way. But don’t go there just yet. Take a minute to clean out the closet of your mind first. I know I’ll need a minute! If you get tired and need a word of encouragement, flip back to Romans 8 and be reminded that Jesus has set us free from the burden of having to be in charge all the time. He has given us the Holy Spirit to remind us that we are his children. He’ll give you the light you need to see what’s in the dark corners.
Thank you for loving me in spite of me. Help me to see what I can’t see. Give me the humility to give to you the weight that I was never meant to carry.
Time for More