Benjamin C. Maxson, Director

General Conference
Stewardship Ministries

Summary: In 7 concise steps, Ben Maxson outlines how we can cooperate with God as His transforming power renews our minds and lives. A new character becomes a present reality!

God gave us an incredible gift at Creation—minds with the capacity to grow throughout eternity. Because of our minds, we can be creative. We can choose. We can learn. And we can know God. We were created for relationship with God. As Adam opened his eyes for the first time, he must have seen the face of his Creator lifting from the intimacy of the kiss of life. That burgeoning relationship with God would have been the first information to register on the human mind.

Our minds control our lives. It is in the mind that we develop habits, and it is in the mind that a relationship with God takes place. God asks us to love Him with our minds (Mt 22:37). He calls us to a living sacrifice and a transformed mind (Ro 12:1-2). We can have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), and be transformed into His glory (2 Cor 3:18). Our attitudes are influenced by our relationship with God (Php 2:5; Ep 4:23). God promises to put His law in our minds (Jr 31:33). He invites us to pray with our minds (1 Cor 14:15). He calls us to focus our minds on true and heavenly things, and the peace of God will guard our minds (Col 3:1-2;
Php 4:4-9).

You and I are involved in a battle for our minds, and part of that battle takes place in the mind (Ro 8:5-8). Because of sin, our minds have a natural bent to evil. The influences of a sinful world further damage our minds. Repeated actions develop actual physiological structures—pathways in the mind. These neurological pathways are the habits and memories that control much of our lives. We face the power of sin when we consider the combination of our sinful natures and habit pathways. Even if we could develop completely new habits, we have no ability to free ourselves from sin’s power. We are naturally slaves to sin (Ro 6:16).

So we need to be freed from the control of sin. Our natures will not be transformed until the Second Coming (1 Cor 15:51-54). However, Jesus has solved our problem. When we accept Him as our Savior, He frees us from the dominating power of sin (Ro 6:1-7; 11-14; 8). We have the freedom to choose a new Master. While Christ provides us with a new life and transforming power, He does not force them on us. We have a part to play. We must choose this new life and cooperate with Him in the renewal of our minds. As we do, a new character becomes a present reality. Let’s explore some steps we can take to cooperate with God and enjoy a new life:

Step 1: Prayerfully face your sinful reality. We naturally resist admitting our sinfulness and want to think that we are not as bad as others. Yet we are all equally sinful. In fact, as we compare ourselves with Jesus, we discover a different perspective—we cannot compare ourselves with others, for we see ourselves as Paul did—as chief of sinners (1 Tm 1:15). Until we accept our pervading sinfulness, we will not desire a transformed heart and renewed life.

Step 2: Gratefully accept your reality in Christ. As Christians we have confessed our sin and have accepted Jesus as our personal Savior (Ro 5:6-8; Ep 2:4-9). We have entered into the reality of eternal life (1J 5:11-13). Yet because of our sinful natures and the ongoing battle with sin (Ro 7:18-19), it is easy to give up. Through a choice of the will, we can accept the reality of who we are in God. We are forgiven (1J 1:9). We are created anew (2 Cor 5:17). We have all the power we need to live with God (Php 4:13; 2P 1:3-4). We are seated with God on His throne (Rv 3:21; Ep 2:6). We begin life each day in this new reality.

Step 3: Focus your mind on Christ and the things above. God does not coerce our hearts or minds. We must choose that on which we feed and focus. God invites us to fix our eyes upon Him (Col 3:2; Hb 12:1-3). As we look to Him, new pathways and memories begin to develop in our minds. ?When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us? (Desire of Ages, 668).

Step 4: Be willing to live with the mystery of God. We can know enough about God to walk with Him, but we will never be able to understand Him completely. He is transcendent—far beyond us. How can our finite minds understand a Creator who has been present through all eternity? How can we understand One who speaks and causes worlds to appear? How can we comprehend a God who would become human (Jn 1:14) and die on a cross? If we over-analyze and dissect our knowledge of God, we may destroy our walk with Him.

Step 5: Practice devotional skills. The spiritual disciplines are the tools of discipleship for nurturing intimacy with God. Through regular Bible reading, prayer, meditation, memorization, journaling, and other such avenues, we immerse ourselves in Scripture and saturate our minds with God and His reality. Thus, new structures are built in the brain, new pathways which can become stronger than the old sinful habits. These physiological structures will even help us to resist old habit patterns. As we seek to know and walk with God, our minds become the setting for companionship with our Creator and Redeemer—our human minds touch the mind of God.

Step 6: Practice the presence of God. Jesus promised to be with us (Mt 28:18-20). Paul declares that through the Holy Spirit, Christ fills our hearts (Ep 3:15-19). By faith, we can accept His presence. We can focus our minds on this reality throughout the day and slowly we will develop an awareness of His presence. As we become accustomed to and focused upon His presence, we will find our lives transformed. Being aware that Jesus is with us, we resist anything that would break the harmony of our hearts with His.

Step 7: Actively resist sin. Christ has freed us from the controlling power of sin (Ro 6), but this does not mean there is no struggle. Our natures are still sinful. The enemy still prowls like a roaring lion—seeking to destroy us (1P 5:8). In the strength of Christ we can resist him, and the power that conquered Calvary will gain the victory again. As we submit to God, we have power to resist (Jm 4:7-8).

The sequence is clear. We submit to God. We resist the devil. We come close to God. By faith we claim His presence, and in His power we resist the temptation. But we must do it at the level of our desires—our minds (Jm 1:14-15). Jesus teaches us that sin really takes place in the mind (Mt 5:21-22, 27-28). And the battle is won or lost there. As we resist sin, accepting His victory as ours, we move forward in faith, claiming His power and His new life.

When Jesus comes, our sinful natures will be transformed. One day, every sinful habit will be gone. But while we wait for Him, we may grow in Him. We can experience His transforming grace renewing our minds. We can take part in His divine nature (2P 1:4). We can look to Him and be transformed into His likeness.

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January–March, 2002

The Mind