Summary: Where does God do the work of making us more like Jesus?
Having considered in the previous week the fact that a disciple is one who has allowed Christ to touch his heart; we began last week to think together about how a disciple is also one who is allowing Christ to transform his heart. The key to this process of allowing Christ to transform our hearts, we said, is renewing our mind. This involves...
1. Correcting our "stinking thinking" - v. 5b
Every Christian is like a prisoner of war who has just been released from years of captivity, and now needs to go through "debriefing." We need to reorient ourselves so that we might live the new life we have received through Christ. Before, we might have learned how to get along in the world, but we do not know anything about living like a Child of God. Therefore, we need to daily choose to renew our minds-living each day with a spirit of repentance (metanoia)-a willingness to let God change my mind about anything and everything!
Now that we have a new life within, we need to learn how to live it without (Philippians 2: 12 -NI V). When Jesus walked the earth, He was "the Word made flesh" (John 1:14 - NIV). Through the process of renewing our mind, His Word, His truth can be "fleshed out in us," as we are empowered and enabled to live just like Jesus.
But as we seek to allow Christ to transform our hearts by renewing our minds, we find that some ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving are more difficult to see changed. That is why we must understand that the process of renewing our minds not only involves correcting our "stinking thinking," but...
2. Conquering our personal "strongholds" - vs. 4-5a
A. The Definition of Strongholds.
The word picture of our text is that of the conquest of the land of Canaan. The promised land was the inheritance that God had given to His people. Just as living a life of daily victory and Christ-likeness is the inheritance He has given to us. In claiming their inheritance, the people found that some territory was relatively "easy" to occupy, but there were others territories that were difficult, because they were protected by "strongholds," like Jericho.
While occupying their inheritance was all due to the power of God; when it came to overcoming strongholds in the land, God’s power was needed in very specific and direct ways.
Understanding this imagery helps us know what Paul is describing here in this passage. He tells us that in our lives as Christians, we will find that some areas of change in our thinking, feeling and behavior will change fairly readily, with little struggle, while others will not give up with out a fight. He describes this struggle in Romans 7:14-25:
"I can anticipate the response that is coming: ‘I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?’ Yes. I’m full of myself-after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don ‘t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can ‘t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, obviously need help! I realize that I don ‘t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can ‘t do it. I decide to do good, but I don ‘t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different."
- Romans 7:14-25 (The Message)
Preacher and writer Jack Taylor defines a stronghold as "a hold that is strong." Perhaps a more thorough definition might be that a stronghold is "a compulsive habit, rooted in a lie, that is contrary to the new life I am called to live in Christ"