What does it mean to renew your mind in Romans 12:2?
Paul opens Romans 12 by talking about some of the action steps we take as Christians to become more like Jesus (Romans 8:29-30). To conform to his image is to not conform to this world (Romans 12:2).
Paul begins by appealing to Christians to present their bodies to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). The idea to present our bodies to Christ as living sacrifices is not to offer ourselves on the altar. It is to use discipline and follow godly procedures in our bodies.
Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Jesus owns our bodies because of the price he paid on the cross (1 Corinthians 6:20). Therefore, when we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, we show in our bodies the redemptive nature of Christ’s work.
When we are pleasing to God in the way that we use our bodies for his glory, where worshiping God in our bodies. We are fearing the Lord, revering him by following his commandments for our bodies. Obeying God’s commandments shows our love for him (John 14:15).
But now we turn to the issue of renewing our minds. In Romans 12:2, the way Paul writes it, it is passive. What I mean by this is that we don’t renew our minds. God renews our minds.
“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.” (Romans 12:2, ESV)
So to break the verse down a bit, the first part of the verse is the active part that we personally do. It is our duty to not conform ourselves to the world. We must fight all of the opportunities that temptation brings us. We must not become like the world.
In Romans 8:29, Paul tells us that it’s God’s predestined plan to conform us to Jesus’ image. This is the active duty that we can do ourselves. Paul follows up with “but,” and then tells us what God does. He is the one who transforms us by renewing our mind.
How does God do this? Renewing our mind means transforming our mind, making it a mind that honors Christ. Instead of thinking about sin, we think about Jesus. When we read Scripture, our minds are being renewed.
Scripture tells us the truth about God, ourselves, and the world. It tells us the truth about Satan. When we hear the truth of Scripture our minds do not conform to this world. So the combination of us refusing to conform to the world and God transforming our minds through redoing them completes the process.
The testing Paul refers to are probably the trials we go through and the tests of faith we encounter as believers. While we don’t like trials and tests, they strengthen our character and faith. They make us stronger as Christians.
Paul uses a brain word, “discern,” to show that there is an active accounting by the mind of everything we encounter from the Scriptures to the lies of this world through testing. He teaches us how to tell the difference, and make godly choices, between the old ways of the world and the new ways of God in our lives.
The Holy Spirit also speaks this truth to us (John 15:26). As the Spirit of Truth, he leads us into all truth and it is through the truth of the Scriptures that he does this (John 17:17). To discern God’s will is to know exactly what he expects of us, and that is how we choose the good, acceptable, and pleasing or perfect things that God expects of us.