sermon: Teaching Us to Think (Part Two)
Renewing the Mind by God's Spirit
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 12-Dec-20; Sermon #1574; 78 minutes
A sermon, like any form of communication, requires a sender and a receiver; hence, if the recipients do not act on the message of a sermon, it is ineffective. God is working to render obdurate hearts malleable. Sadly, as metaphorical blobs of clay on the potter's table, God's people (like their predecessors in ancient Israel) often resemble hardened clumps which need considerable drenching (with God's Holy Spirit) and kneading (trials). God instructs His people to be living sacrifices, ultimately transformed into the image of Christ. Too many drag this change out over decades, thereby self-limiting the process of sanctification. The war on carnality takes tremendous sacrifice, requiring that one refuse to coddle carnality but mortify the flesh incessantly. One must completely remodel the old edifice, "gutting" each of its rooms, renovating the structure top to bottom, inside and out, so as to add value. To renew the mind is to adjust to the mind of God by changing behaviors. As God gives His people the earnest payment of His Holy Spirit, they receive the mind of Christ—though not fully. Theirs is the task of absorbing that mind through Bible Study and prayer. John 6:63 indicates that continual immersion into the Word of God will guide one to truth, wisdom, life, and to the image of Jesus Christ.
While preparing for this sermon, I was curious as to how many sermons I had given throughout my 25 years since my ordination. I was surprised that it has been 25 years. But it was 1995, it was a long time ago, ancient history for some of you. And I was surprised, though, when I went through my files that I had some 485 sermons and another 25 or so Bible studies. So it is over 500 now, but a preacher prepares and gives one sermon at a time, and it is always the next sermon that you are thinking about. So to look back at the total number of sermons over 25 years, was a bit of a wow moment for me. Really, that many? I also had sermonettes and commentaries and other things on top of that. It was just an amazing thing to me that things piled up to that extent over that amount of time. It is a body of work that I can look at with some amount of satisfaction, despite the fact that when I look at some of them I kind of cringe a little bit. Did I really say that?
But it was kind of a neat thing to to go ahead and do, and the real reason why I did it was because I was considering sermons in general, not just my own. The thing I was really thinking about in terms of sermons was their effectiveness. Just how much good do sermons do? Does it really change anybody? Does it provoke any kind of change in people? I am in no way advocating that we should do away with sermons. I would be out of a job for the most part! But over the last quarter century, I have developed a rather jaundiced view of the persuasiveness and the effectiveness of sermons—enough that I have wondered how many people really listen to these things, much less actually use them, use all the biblical, divine counsel that sermons are supposed to convey. I guess you could call me a cynic. I do not know. I am sure there are a lot of you that actually do listen to the sermons and do put them into practice.
But I guess the reason why I have developed this kind of jaundiced view about them is because I look in other quarters and see very little change has taken place. These people are very much the same as when I first met them. I am not saying my sermons in particular have not changed them. It has just been the whole experience in the church of God that these people may just not have carried their end of the load very well.
As you probably know, for communication to take place, a message has to be both sent and received. If it is only sent and no one hears it, then no communication has taken place. A preacher could talk all day (and I will tell you, a preacher could talk all day), but if no one hears him, there has been no exchange of information. It is like the old thing if a tree falls in the woods, and there is no one there, did it really make a sound? Well, when we up the ante on that from not just physically hearing but attentive listening on the receiver's part, including then his subsequent use of the information passed on to him, the amount of true worthwhile communication declines precipitously. And we have to add to the fact that when, let us say in a lecture or a classroom situation, you lose 90 percent of that, or whatever the figure is, after just a few days or a week, then you wonder how effective all of this is.
Now we know that God has set things up so things were repeated very frequently throughout the year. We have the holy days that allow us to relearn these lessons every year, and we have many Sabbath services that we go to, and years and years where we hear a lot of the same type of information, and over time, of course, we do get it, and we start putting these things into effect. But just sometimes it seems to take so long, and it is such a hard process. And I believe that the times we live in, the times we have lived through, especially in the church of God, has made us a little distrustful of instruction from the ministry. People are less apt to just accept it. They are more apt to be a little bit cynical about it or wonder, is this really the truth? And it is good to test those things, of course. I am not saying that is a wrong thing, but people seem to be more like, "Well, prove that to me." You know, "Show me. I really need to see whether this is true or not," rather than just being a attentive and absorbing it. Like I said, it is not terrible to question those things. It needs to be done because we do not want to be fooled again.
Now, the reason for this distrust is obvious, and that is human nature. We have had enough experience with people to know that we cannot trust very many of them just without any question. And on the other hand, on the other side, people, have you noticed, do not take advice very well. When you offer up counsel to them and they have not asked for it, they are usually going to say, "Why should I listen to you, buddy?" Most people feel that they are not the problem. They have got all the answers, they do not need to be taught because their way is the right way and if you do not do it my way, it is the highway, you know. That is how a lot of people are. They are very comfortable with the way they have grown up, what they have learned, and their attitudes that they have, and the things that they have developed over the years as their way of life. So someone who tells them that there is another, better way, well, he can just go jump in the lake.
It is a universal truth that most people are not merely stubborn, they are very stubborn. Their way is the way it should be. And it takes, sometimes, something very harsh or something even, maybe, catastrophic for them to yield to another person's opinion or truth—even God's! A lot of times God has to really put the sledgehammer down on a person before he turns around. Look at the apostle Paul. What did He have to do to him to make him turn from "These people are are heretics and need to be stoned" to "Whatever you like, Lord, where should I go? Who should I teach?" It took that encounter there on the Damascus Road to change him. But he was a very stubborn man and it took that much to get him to change. And I do not think that that we are that much different from him in those terms. We tend to like to hold on to our thinking, our way of life.
This innate hard-heartedness that we see in ourselves and everybody else is the basis for God telling us that through His Spirit He is working to remove our hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh, something a lot softer, something a lot more malleable for Him. He tells us that in Ezekiel 36:26, which I will not go to. I basically told you what it says there. But that is the effect of His Spirit on a heart; that it turns that obdurate vessel in us into something much softer and more receptive. Because human nature, frankly, is a tough nut to crack, and God has to use everything at His disposal sometimes to get us to sit up, take notice, and make the changes we need to make.
Now, I am not discouraged. Please do not think that, Maybe a little bit, but I am not really discouraged by the fact that so little spiritual improvement seems to take place. I could call it par for the course that we humans change very slowly. Par is not terrible. If I could shoot par out on golf course, I would be very happy. But really, God does not want us to be satisfied with par because par is not great either. Most tournaments you do not win by shooting par. You have to shoot under par. You have to shoot birdies and eagles and maybe even a hole-in-one at some time or another in order to win. So we have plenty of room for improvement. We could do an awful lot more. We could yield a lot more quickly to God and His way of life and I am encouraging that in this sermon.
Yet I have got to think, too, just to kind of balance things out here from my point of view, from my position, that even the greatest preacher ever, Jesus Christ our Savior, could claim only 120 followers on that first Pentecost in Acts 2. He preached compelling sermons full of the very truth of God, with fantastic illustrations that people remember very easily. He spoke them to huge multitudes of many thousands of people, and yet His response rate barely jogged the meter. Of course, we can understand that God at the time was not calling a great many people. Later, when the apostles were out there preaching the gospel, He called a lot of people, and they had really good response to their messages.
But I think that Jesus' ministry is a cautionary tale for the ministry not to expect their teaching to spur a great deal of interest or change. And frankly, if we are going to use the illustration of Jesus Christ in this, it often spurs, not those things, but resistance. Uprises the old, "Nobody is going to tell me what to do!" So I take some comfort in that, that God is working things out, and I do not really need to worry about it. But the fact remains that people do not change much, and when they do change, it is often agonizingly slow and unsteady.
Now I will be the first one to acknowledge, I will raise my hand right here, that my own growth has been quite sluggish and uneven. I have heard the truth all my life. Mom and Dad had been in the church for about six or seven years when I was born. So I have grown up in the church. I have heard who knows how many sermons. I went to Ambassador College. I took all those classes. I went to Spokesman's Club, Graduate Club, all those things. I did the whole schmear. I have been baptized for 36 years. Like I said earlier, ordained for 25. And I still struggle at certain failings that I recognized in myself back in my late teens or early twenties.
So my criticism of our failure to grow is aimed squarely at myself first of all. I am with you on that. I know that my own goals are far ahead of what I have actually produced, and you can probably say the same. You would like to be much more righteous, much more spiritual, much more of a person that God would be likely to use to help others, or what have you.
But truly the job the Father has given to Jesus Christ, that is, to create us into His image, is no easy task. He had to have the most perfect Person, the most perfect High Priest to fill that role as Head of the church, so this job could be done. The Bible tells us, and it is kind of funny to think of it this way, that we are clay in the Potter's hands. Oh, sure we are. But it is more like hardened, dry clay that God must drench with water and drench and drench and drench and then cut and knead and mix the clay to be able to get it to form into anything, even a blob.
We are like stiff-necked Israel. We resist Him because we are comfortable with ourselves and our thinking as they are. Because we dislike, we do not want to go through the stresses and the disruptions of change, and we are scared by the results and what it will mean. When we should be happy and thinking, "Yeah, I want to do this, God's going to make me like Himself," but we see all the things in between, and sometimes we just hold back in our change because it is human nature. Are things not going smashingly now? Why should I change? We give ourselves all these kind of excuses and weird reasonings for why we do not move forward.
But, it is this resistance to God and His Spirit that Stephen accused the Jews of when he was speaking to them there in Acts 7:51. That is why they stoned him. He told them, "You stiff-necked people, you always resist the Spirit of God." And sometimes we do, too. God's Spirit may be poking us and it does not get our attention. Then it jolts us to get our attention so we have to move. And then sometimes God says, "Okay, we've got to do something drastic here." And finally we move. We do what God wants.
But even despite our conversion and how many years we have been in the church, we oftentimes still resist taking big swings at our carnality. We would rather take just a little bit off at a time because we do not want to make that big jump because of all the sacrifices that it will entail and how different we might become. We like to be the same. We like to be someone who is respected for the way they are and we do not give in and we want to be strong. And these are bad arguments because we will actually be stronger and better people and more respected when we actually make the change. But that is human nature, like I keep saying.
Instead, we draw out our change over years or decades, whole lifetimes, and by doing this, by drawing it out, by slow work, by holding back, we limit our transformation into the image of Jesus Christ. And instead of redeeming the time because the days are evil, like Paul tells us to do in Ephesians 5:16, we squander the time and we do not grow into the stature of Jesus Christ nearly to the point that we should have. Like I said, it is human nature. We all do it. None of us, it seems, go whole hog (that is probably the wrong expression to use), but none of us really jump into this becoming like Christ like we should.
This sermon (I am now getting to my SPS), will continue to expand my premise that God is teaching us how to think. Last time I spoke about the necessity of hard work and sacrifice in Christian life, and then I moved, toward the end, into what real repentance is which I defined as "a complete reorientation of the mind toward God and His way of life." Remember, we looked at the term metanoia, and it is a turning of the mind. And the turning of the mind, a lot of these scholars tell us who know the Greek there, said it is not just a turning but a whole reorientation from one thing to another. That is what God wants us to do with our minds. He wants us to reorient them from our human way of looking at things to the way He does. So that was last time.
Today's sermon will concentrate on the transformation of our minds as it is mentioned in Romans 12, and we will get to the major role God's Spirit plays in developing the mind of Christ in us. Speaking of Romans 12, let us go there. We will read the first two verses here. As a matter of fact, it is these verses that convinced me to go in this direction after my Israel series. These are fundamental verses to my line of thought on this subject.
Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable [or spiritual, rational] service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
If you want an outline for the things I am going to be giving in these sermons, it is right there. All concentrating on God teaching us how to think.
What he says here is, first of all, we must give ourselves. We have to sacrifice ourselves while we are still alive. Living sacrifices. We are supposed to put ourselves up on the altar and give our lives for what God wants us to accomplish. We give up our carnal pursuits to do the hard work of submitting to God because it takes a great deal of sacrifice. We have to put down all the things that we want to do, or many of the things that we want to do. All those urges to do this, that, or the other thing, because our main job is to become like Christ, and that takes a lot of sacrifice.
We cannot succeed in this Christian life, at least not to the extent that God wants us to succeed, living by half measures. We have to be "all in," to use a poker term. We have to put all our resources in on this one bet, if you will, and back it to the limit. We have to be willing to get dirty as it were. We have to make the tough decisions. We have to do the hard work. We have to have a "take no prisoners" attitude with ourselves. We must face our fears. We have to face our own laziness. We have to leave no stone unturned in looking at our lives and saying, "Eh, that's not good. Let's work on that."
We have to lay it all out on the line and then at the end we have to admit that we have still not given enough. There is still more work to be done. It is a tough way to live. That is why we have to sacrifice to be able to accomplish what God wants us to do.
Maybe in our American pioneering spirit, we have a lot of that as part of our American character, but so often we do not show much of it. We may think "I'm the old, pioneering kind of guy. I could have survived the Oregon Trail. I wouldn't get dysentery like all the other people." But the fact is that we are just as weak as the next guy. We are just as lazy as the next guy, and we often do not put into the life that we have been given as the elect what we should. So we have to have this mind that we are going to be willing to sacrifice to reach the goal that God has put out there for us.
The second thing he tells us here is that God calls on us to transform into the image of Christ, and we do this by renewing our minds. I mean, that sounds good. You renew your minds. But sometimes it takes a good metaphor to help us to understand what is actually being talked about here. To use a modern concept, think of it as reprogramming our innermost self. We have to reprogram our understanding. We have to reprogram our attitudes. We have to reprogram our patterns of thinking.
Continuing the metaphor, we are charged with deleting out the old code that made us act in certain ways, had fixed our behavior along certain channels, and we have to write in new code, better code that Christ provides through His Spirit, through His Word. And then that is not enough, because then we confirm it and we fix it forever by executing it in our lives. That is, making it habitual so that whenever we are faced with a certain quandary, a certain question about whether we are going to go this way or that way, the programming is already there. We have God's Word in our minds and we automatically choose the right way because it has been ingrained in us. It is how we function. It has become part of us.
The word for renewing as it is here in the New King James, some of the other translations have renewal (either one is fine), is the Greek word anakainosis. It is Strong's #342 (if you care to look it up) and it means "a renewal," "renovation," "a complete change for the better." There are a few words in there that are very important and one of the most important is better. This anakainosis is something that happens, a change that is made to make it better, make whatever it is that you are talking about, better. At its root, you may have heard the word kainos. Anakainosis (the root is kainos), which describes something not necessarily recent. Normally we would think of a new thing as recent, a new baby has just been born recently. A new car has been made and bought recently. It is not talking about time necessarily here. That is not what it is speaking of in terms of newness.
It describes something not recent, but new in nature, something that has changed over a certain amount of time. It is different, different from the norm, different from how it has been, different from how it usually functions. But now it is better. It is more impressive. It is superior, superior in value, especially, something that has been renewed. Last week, before it was renewed, it could be sold for $50, but now that you have renewed it, it is now worth $150. See, it is now superior in value because of the work that you did to make it better. So this word kainos talks about something that is new, better, more impressive, superior in value to what it was before, or what it replaces.
W. E. Vine (many of you know that name), who wrote the Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, and he explains anakainosis, the original word here in chapter 12, verse 2 as, "The adjustment of the moral and spiritual vision and thinking to the mind of God, which is designed to have a transforming effect upon the life."
He is talking here that Paul used this word anakainosis to show us that we need to make adjustments. He talks about adjusting our moral outlook, adjusting our spiritual vision, and it is adjusted toward the way God looks at things. We cannot stick with the way we have always done things, the way we have always thought about things. We have to make this adjustment in our mind so that our minds look on things, react to things, do things like God would do them. And this change that we make in our minds then has its effect, a better effect, a transforming effect on the life that we live.
So it is not just "all up here." That is where it starts, in our heads, this transformation by renewing the mind, and then it comes out into the actual way we live our lives. But it is got to start in the head first. It has got to start in the way that we think about things, the way our heart reacts to things, our attitudes. It has got to begin inside, and then over time it has an effect on exterior things.
So in this way, in the way Vine has described it here, anakainosis is very similar to metanoia. They just come at things from a different quarter than the other. One comes at it from a different quarter than the other. So you have anakainosis, the adjustment of the moral and spiritual vision and thinking, and then you have metanoia, which is a reorientation of the mind. They are very similar ideas. We should then be able to understand them quite well having looked at them over the past two sermons here.
Now, let us use a different metaphor. I kind of mentioned it before, but I did not go into it. God expects us to renovate our minds. That was the second definition that I gave you of anakainosis. First was renewing. Second was renovation. Now renovate is the similar Latin word to anakainosis. Re-no-vate is re-new because nov, nova, means new. Renovate means "to make something new."
Let us use this idea of how we use renovate. We often use renovate in terms of like renovating a house or renovating, let us say, a car. You are trying to make, put that car back in its showroom quality. How many of you watch HGTV or have watched it in the past? You know that guys out there, contractors, are always flipping houses—they are renovating. So what God wants us to do using this modern metaphor, He wants us to flip our minds. Not flip out. He wants us to flip our minds like a contractor would flip a house. He wants us to go in like a contractor would go into a house that has maybe been standing on the market for a long time, or what have you, and is not in very great shape. But He wants us to go in, look at things, get rid of everything that would detract from its appeal to its buyers. Using this metaphor, He wants us to go in and upgrade the kitchen and the bath and the floor coverings and the paint and all of that so that it will have a greater value and sell for a higher price and, frankly, be more useful.
So He is telling us, go in and do the same thing that a contractor would do to a house, but in your own mind. Go in and clean house as it were. Go in and put in new functionality. Take out those things that are inferior and put in other things to replace them that are superior. All of God's things are far superior to the things that were in our minds just by natural means. So we have to chuck out everything in our minds that lowers its spiritual value and we have to upgrade every function to the standard found in God's Word. That is, the very standard of Jesus Christ's own mind.
That is what He wants us to do. Maybe that is a way that will stick with you about what your job is to do. Maybe those of you who have tried stuff like that will understand more than the rest of us how difficult a lot of that could be. I mean, you have to pull out the whole electrical system in the house and replace it with something better. That is a lot of hard work. That is a lot of getting dusty and dirty and going up in the attic and in the walls and when you put your fish down there you cannot find where it has gone or whatever. It is a lot of just dirty work that you do not want to do, but it has got to be done if the house is going to be functional. And if you are going to be in the Kingdom of God, that is the sort of thing that you have to do with your own head, your own brain. Change what malfunctions into something that will function beautifully.
Let us go to Ephesians 4 because here we find another, different metaphor that Paul uses for the same process. Here, Paul uses a cognate word to anakainosis. This is anakainoo. We will find this in verse 23 when we read this.
Ephesians 4:20-24 But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus [here is the metaphor]: that you put off concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed [there is anakainoo] in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.
So anakianoo, that is Strong's #341. Remember, anakainosis is 342. It is a verb, and it means "to make new again," like renew. It is literally translated here in the Book for us. It is to make new again, yes, but it is to make it new in that it is both different and superior. So we are not going to end up in our Christian lives with same brain that we started with. It is going to be a new creation developed between you and God, and it is going to be a whole lot better than the one you started with. That is the job—to renew the mind, to change it so that it is new and better, new and superior.
Now, Paul here uses the metaphor of taking off and putting on clothing to show how this renewal works. We take off the carnal, sinful conduct, very hard to do. It is harder than taking off a jacket. It is more probably like taking off a straitjacket because we have been tied up in this way of life for a long time and it takes a very long time and a lot of hard work to change those habits that we have. And then once we take that off, we have got to put something on to replace it because, you know, we cannot run around naked, just to use the metaphor. If we just take off the bad stuff, we open ourselves up to a lot of different influences, and we are very likely to go back into the same habits.
We have to put on something to replace the thing that we took off. And so we put on holy and righteous conduct, obviously, the conduct, the very character of the new man, and the new man is Jesus Christ. He is the model. He is the one, the opposite, if you will, the counterpart of Adam. Adam is the old man. He was the original creation who did not change, who rejected God. But the new man, Jesus Christ, He was on God's team from the very beginning, and He shows us the way. And so we have got to take off the Adamic way of life that we have been living, that way of thinking, and we have to put on the Messianic way, if you will, the way of Jesus Christ. We have to put on Christ's character to replace the bad character that we have lived by all our lives.
We take off what has been contaminated by Satan and by this world in our own carnal nature, and we put on holy and pure garments which are symbolized as we know as the righteousness of God. We have to be clothed in righteousness. That is what people need to see when they see us. They do not see dirty rags. They do not see tears and cuts and poorly fitting clothing. They see, when they see you, the righteousness of God. That is the goal.
Let us go to I Corinthians 2, and we will start moving this sermon toward how the Holy Spirit helps us in all of this. I want to start in verses 4 and 5 because I want you to get an idea of why Paul jumps into his explanation of the way the Holy Spirit works with us in the rest of the chapter. But I want you to see verses 4 and 5, because he was talking about a certain subject that the Corinthians themselves needed to hear because they were Greeks. They were very Greek Greeks. They wanted just naturally to have things taught to them like Greeks would teach and Paul comes in, a Hebrew, and he teaches them in a different way. More important than the fact that he was a Hebrew, he was a converted man and so he taught them in a godly way and not as the Greeks did. And he felt the need to explain all this which he does that in chapter 2. But I want you to see what he says here. He tells them,
I Corinthians 2:4-5 My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom [Meaning when he came into Corinth, he did not come in there and preach the Greek way. He did not use fancy Greek rhetoric. He did not try to do a sales job on them at all.], but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith [Notice why he did this. This is the reason for this.] should not be in the wisdom of men [It was not just a cunning argument. It was not just the way he put his words together and his fancy illustrations and his nice gestures and everything that drew person in.] but in the power of God. [That the listener would understand that God was in the words and he was drawing them to Him and to the truth.]
This, in a way, is the answer to my conundrum about sermons that I started with today about sermons and preaching. Paul's plan in Corinth was not to wow church members with his stunning ability to speak. As a matter of fact, people said that Paul was not a very good speaker. He did not try any kind of highfalutin way of persuading them or to sell them whatever it was he was selling. But what he wanted to do, he says very plainly right here that he was simply going to give them irrefutable testimony, true spiritual instruction based on what Jesus Christ had taught. And God would back that by His power. There will be demonstrations of God's power in that. They could see by the way he spoke and the words that he used, that it was the truth and that it would transform them.
In chapter 3 (we will not go there), if you know what is going on in the book of Corinthians you will know that Paul talks there about their carnality. He said, "I had to speak to you like you are carnal because you actually you are carnal. You're still carnal and so I had to feed you with milk. I had to start at the basics. I had to give you the beginning." And that was a good thing, because what he did, as Ted's sermonette was talking about today, in order for them to be pillars later on he had to give them a good foundation, and so that is what he did. He taught them the basics and built up from there so that they had a firm foundation for the truth that he was giving them.
And you know, Paul did not stop at the basics. Paul had many things that, Peter says, are hard to understand. So he did not leave them there with the basics. He eventually brought them up into the deeper things of God, as we will find in a few minutes. But he made sure that he led them along in a way that would help them to grow over time. So that was the way he decided to approach them.
If you remember my sermons on I Corinthians from a decade ago, or whenever that was, I gave a bit of an introduction to why Paul approached the Corinthians that way. He had just come from Athens, and heard the rhetoric on Mars Hill, the Areopagus, and he had almost no response. There in the heart of Greek civilization he tried to be Greek to the Greeks and it did not work. They had just a few conversions there in the heart of Greece and he had to think it through and find out that was not going to work. He had to approach it differently, in a godly way rather than try to match what the great rhetoricians would say. He could not do that. He had to do it God's way.
So he said when he came to Corinth, he was determined to do it this way, and it worked and we have been following this practice in the church of God ever since, essentially. We are not professional speakers as it were. We just know that if we preach what is in this Word, and we let God speak through us, it works, it is effective. This is how he opens up the book so that they could understand that he is leading them through this process, and he would do it this way.
Now, a major part of our Christian works is this process of renewing the mind, renovating the mind. We first learn God's way through instruction and then accepting it and then doing it, living it as God wants us to do. Paul says here that he wanted them to realize from the beginning that it was not his wisdom or any other human wisdom that changed them. That is not the way it works, he says. He did his part, of course. In chapter 3, he says that he planted and Apollos watered, so there were men involved. But God was the one who gave the increase. So it was God's power working in them and through them that made all the difference. He wanted them to know that from the beginning. He was taking a step back. He said, "I may be the apostle here. I may be the one that's giving you this information, but it's not me. I'm not the focal point. It's God and what He is preaching through me."
Any minister of God should say that. God has given a certain amount of skill, talent, understanding, the way of putting things together, and that is fine. He will use that, but He is the majordomo. He is the one that that does all the work. He is the one that does all the heavy lifting and He gets all the glory. Paul said, "That's the way I'm going to do it. I'm just going to present you the truth. We'll have demonstrations of God's power." At the time there were healings and such that proved to the people that God was working through them. He would say, "Let God work with it from there."
He was very up front with them about how this was going to work and not to make too much of him. Because remember in the first chapter, they were saying, "I am of Paul." "I am of Apollos. "I'm of Caiaphas." "I'm of Christ." They were going into these factions based on men, based on personalities, and Paul is trying to undercut all that and say, "No, no, no, no, no. Whoever comes in here and teaches you, it's not him. It's Christ behind him that we need to respect for all of this and give Him the glory."
Let us get into this next section because it is immediately after this that he starts talking about the Holy Spirit and spiritual wisdom. So let us read verses 6-16. They are packed with insights on how God works in us to renovate our minds, think like Christ. Let us just read it all the way through so we could get the sense of it.
I Corinthians 2:6-16 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For "who can know the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
I want to start at the end there in that astounding statement. It is a very positive statement. Almost unbelievable that he would make such an assertion. But he says, "we have the mind of Christ." Now that should put a great burden on us to think that we have the mind of Christ. God does not put it on us as a burden. It is actually a very wonderful gift, but I want to put some caution in this statement because Paul just shouts it out there. "We have the mind of Christ!" We should not misunderstand him here. We do not have the mind of Christ fully. We have what it takes to have the mind of Christ. We actually have the mind of Christ living in us by Jesus Christ because Jesus is there and so it is accessible to us and we can use it if we learn how and we we grow.
Yes, we have God's Spirit residing in us and so we technically have the mind of Christ within us. But, our minds have not accepted and absorbed His mind very much. In fact, if we were to make a comparison between His mind and our mind, we would find that we have not absorbed hardly any by comparison. We are talking about Christ Himself versus what we have learned and grown in. So our job is to take on that mind fully but as I said in my introduction, we kind of walk very slowly in that direction and it could be a whole lot better if we would put in the work and really just submitted to God. We certainly have the potential to integrate His mind with ours to a far greater extent. And in the resurrection, it will be full reality that we have the mind of Christ. But between now and then, we have got a lot of work to do in integrating His mind with ours.
Right now, even though we have been in the church for many years, I think for many of us we are still more in tune with human nature than we are with Christ's nature. And it is simply the strength of human nature and our own weakness that causes that. We still do not think like Him, at least all the time. Maybe we have spurts of thinking like He does. We are thankful that His grace makes up for our lack. So it is still a battle between His Spirit and our flesh. Just like Paul's writes in Galatians 5:17, "the flesh lusts against the Spirit" as he says there, and we are still fighting the good fight. Hopefully we are winning more fights than we used to.
But I want to go through now what he says here in this paragraph, pretty much verse by verse. I may not say which verse we are in, but I want to explain how this is working because we need to know Paul's thought process here and how he puts it all together.
Back up in verses 6 and 7, Paul says that the wisdom of God that we learn as Christians, it is our life of learning this wisdom, but this wisdom is a mystery. It has actually purposely been hidden by God Himself from other people. What we are talking about here is that when God and Jesus Christ figured out this whole plan, They said, "We're purposely not going to make this easy to understand. We're going to hide things here, there, and everywhere, so that if any person should come along and try to figure this out, they will be stymied. We don't want this to be something that they can just pick up anywhere."
So They made it a hidden mystery. They, especially, as he points out here, kept it from the rulers and the great men. Those people do not know a thing as much as they try to impress us with their wisdom and power. They do not know a thing. And he uses the example of them killing Jesus Christ as proof that they did not know anything. Pilate did not know anything. None of the Jews really knew anything. They thought they did, but they did not, and they killed their very Creator. Sounds like pretty good proof to me that they really did not know much.
So this is the way They set it out from the beginning, that it would be a mystery, and it would need a key to open it up. And also, let us notice, this is in verse 8, that when They did it this way, They did it for our glory, meaning those whom They called. Because the ones that They call in this age are going to be the most glorious in the Kingdom. So They decided that to get this initial group from this age, They would hide these things all over the place and make it so that only those that were specifically called, and as we find out, given the Holy Spirit, could put all the pieces together.
Mr. Armstrong used to talk about the old jigsaw puzzle analogy here, that you had to get pieces from all over and put them all together to make the right picture. And we know that there are a lot of people out there, nominal Christians, that have some of the pieces, and you tell them, "Okay, put them all together" and they get something totally different. Only those with the Spirit of God have the key to making sure that all those puzzle pieces get put together. And it is the Son of Man, it is the new Adam, that we are supposed to be become. That is the picture that we are trying to assemble here. We are supposed to be like Christ, the image of God.
Those things are out there. I mean, this book is free for anybody to read, but they cannot put the pieces together right. Only those with the Spirit of God can do that and reach the right conclusions, and what this does, ultimately, in the end, it is going to bring those who were submissive to God's Spirit to be shown as God's elect. They are the glorious ones that will be with Christ forever and ever and go with Him wherever He goes. They will be the ultimate rulers in the Kingdom because they put the pieces of the puzzle together under God's direction and they submitted to that process, even in these times with all that is going on. So that is why they are the most glorious.
This wisdom of God that he is talking about here is so fantastically wonderful that common men have not even imagined what it could be. That is what he is talking about. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." It is beyond their imaginations what God is preparing, and in many respects it is beyond us. We have an inkling of what our future is going to be like and what we will be doing. But even for us, with the advantage of God's Spirit, it is still pretty murky.
The quote from the Old Testament here is that men, without that help from God's Spirit, have no idea what God is doing and so they get everything wrong. His wisdom and the goal that He is working us toward are revealed only, as he says here at the end of verse 9, to those who love Him and mankind without God's Spirit is incapable of loving Him in the right way. They say they love Him, but they really do not have the ability or the power to do so. They cannot enter into the relationship without the Spirit of God. So that is part of what we are doing. We are learning how to love God and love each other. And this happens because we have a relationship through His Spirit.
It all comes back around to the Spirit here, and it is through that Spirit that is working among all of us and in us that reveals His wisdom. Call it truth. Call it His way. This hidden wisdom is being assembled before us and in us so that we come to a greater understanding of Him and where He is going and how He wants us to be.
By the time we get down to verse 11, the apostle is trying to make us understand it. Remember, he is talking to the Corinthians here, and they were still carnal, so they needed a way, an analogy, to begin to think about this, what God was doing in them through the Spirit. So he comes up with this physical-spiritual comparison saying that as humans we know about physical and material things. We can build a house. We can crack rock and use it to construct things. We can make an aqueduct, or we could funnel water here. We know how to grow crops, all those physical things we understand. And he is saying that we do know those things and animals do not know things because God has given man a specific spirit that gives him intellect to have the ability to be more than just a creature, but to be a human being. This is what Elihu says in Job 32:8, that God has given us a spirit. There is a spirit in man that allows him to have an intellect, to understand, to have language, and be able to communicate, and those sort of things. That is what sets humanity off from other creatures. It is this spirit in man.
Well, in a similar way, God's Spirit, something that comes directly from Him and contains His mind, when it is given to the elect, it reveals and instructs about spiritual, godly things. It is on another level. It does not have a great deal to do with your job at the grocery store or wherever you happen to work. That is not what it is concerned with. It is concerned with higher, spiritual realities that are hedging us in, sending us along the right behavior lines, and giving us a relationship with Him so that we can have communication with Him and learn the things that we need to learn to be prepared for the Kingdom.
So it is on a whole different level from the spirit in man and there is only minimal contact between the two, if you will, because one is so much superior to the other. It is functioning to teach us about these wonderful, astounding truths that the Bible contains that God teaches us.
And it says there, by the time we get to the end of verse 12, we find out that God gives us this freely, and it is just an amazing fact of that He has chosen us out of the world by grace, by His own choice. He has forgiven our sins and He has given us this wonderful gift of His Spirit so that we can commune with Him, we can have fellowship with Him, and learn to be like Him. This free gift that is given to us, which we are not worthy of by any means, but God has chosen us, He has not given to anybody else.
So people can be opera stars. They can make great buildings. They can do all these wonderful things, but without God's Spirit, they are still functioning on a low level. But for us, He has given us the opportunity to function on His level—the spiritual level, the godly level. And He has done this freely.
Then he goes on in verse 13. God's ministers, he says, teach these things. God's ministers teach about the wisdom, the spiritual wisdom of God. They teach the things that we find in God's Word, and we do not couch them, most of the time, hopefully not very often, in the uncertain terms of human wisdom. We do not talk to you philosophy or psychology. Sometimes we throw things in that we find by biblical backing may be true, but we are not trying to win you over to love us because we are great speakers or we can tell jokes well, or that we have all these wonderful metaphors or whatnot.
That is not the way God's ministers are supposed to function. We should be able to keep your attention and make you think "Ah, that's really interesting and I can apply this, sure." But under the direction of God's Spirit, we are to take things up another level. We are supposed to move you into the spiritual plane in your thoughts and how you react to things and how you think about things. We are not supposed to talk to you about physical things much. They have to come in. Sometimes there are Christian living areas that we have to go into. But our main purpose is to get you thinking on the godly level. If we can get you to think of things on the godly level, you can solve your own problems with the Word of God and right God-like thinking and the answers should appear fairly obvious because we are thinking on this higher level.
So he says, "Preachers aren't going to be preaching at you if they are godly ministers from a physical standpoint. They are going to be talking to you from a spiritual standpoint. They're going to be trying to raise your level of consciousness as it were, so that you're thinking of things in a spiritual way the same way Jesus Christ does."
Now, in terms of how that is done, I think we are actually doing exactly what he says here. He says, "These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual." Fairly early on, Herbert Armstrong taught the church of God to do this. Here a little, there a little, taking things from different parts of the Book on a certain subject and putting them together and then making rational spiritual conclusions when we have all the information gathered. So we do not bring in Sigmund Freud or we do not bring in somebody else necessarily to tell us how this all works. We take the Word of God, we smash together all the information that He has given us, and we come to a conclusion.
Maybe we will use a commentator now and then to tell us some technical thing that we need to understand, because this is a different language than we speak. But most of all, we compare spiritual things with spiritual things—things in the Bible from one section with things in the Bible from another section. So we compare one godly revelation in one part of the Bible with an illustration. We pull in a proverb. We get an exhortation from Paul. We go back into the historical parts of the Bible and we get some sort of illustration from somebody's actual life that they lived and we know that the Bible recorded. We pull out a psalm, what have you. We bring all this together and we compare them—spiritual things with spiritual.
From those comparisons, guided by the Holy Spirit helping our thinking, we reach conclusions to learn the mind of God. This is how He looks at things. This is how He decides about things. This is what He says things were going to work out to if we follow certain procedures, if we do certain things. This is how the world is going to end. This is the things that will be doing in the Millennium. All of those things come out of the Word of God, which is Spirit. We put those things together. John 6:63 is what just popped into my head. "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life."
The words of God that are found in this Book, they are spirit, and we compare one word of spirit with another word of spirit, and we put them together and we come to righteous spiritual conclusions on them because the Bible, as Mr. Armstrong said, interprets itself. We do not need to have long denominational dissertations or this scholar and that scholar telling us the way things should be. It is all right here in the Book. And if we do our job in putting spiritual things with spiritual, we should, under God's Spirit, come up with proper conclusions, the way His mind works. And that, he says, is how the Holy Spirit guides us, guides us into truth, which is something that Jesus said—that He would give us another comforter that would guide us into all truth.
But, he says, the natural man, that is a person without God's Spirit, thinks that what we believe and what we have come to understand by comparing one hidden piece of wisdom with another hidden piece of godly wisdom, he thinks it is foolishness because he cannot make the proper connections. He does not know how it all works because he lacks the Spirit, he lacks the key, lacks the glue that puts it all together. He cannot understand the truths we learn with just the spirit of man. It does not reach high enough to really understand what God has revealed. We could say those kind of people lack the spirituals chops to discern the truth and how they fit together. It is not going to happen. They may know little bits here and there, but trying to put it all together, they do not have the tools to evaluate it properly.
But the Holy Spirit in us gives the spiritual person the ability to discern or evaluate all things. See, we can evaluate physical things too because we have the spirit in man. But we also have the Spirit of God which allows us to evaluate spiritual things so we can evaluate the whole spectrum, both physical and spiritual matters. He says here, "Because of that difference, unbelievers have no right or even ability to criticize us for spiritual truths they can't understand." They just do not have what it takes. He says, "No one can tell God He is wrong and instruct Him." That is how he gets right toward the end there in verse 16 and we have the mind of Christ. So with access to Christ's mind by His Spirit, we can learn to understand Him and His way because we have the tools that it takes. God has revealed the hidden mystery. We just need to do the work to put it all together, and to follow it.
Let us conclude here in Colossians 3.
Colossians 3:9-11 [He says] Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds [We are back to the clothing metaphor here.], and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all [very important].
Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in songs and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
These to me, these verses, take on greater meaning once we understand what we have been called to do and understand the Holy Spirit's part in the development of the mind of Christ in us. Paul here tells us that we have to be renewed. This is anakainoo again. We have to be renewed in knowledge. Renewed in knowledge, that is, we have to refurbish, renovate, what we know. We have to take out the old information that is wrong and put in new, right, godly information that we get out of the Word of God.
Alongside this, he says, we have to be renewed in image. Remember earlier I talked about we have to take off the Adamic image, the human image that we have lived with all of our lives, and put on the new and better and superior image of Jesus Christ, the new man. Why? Because He means everything to us! We are like little kids who look up to their older brother and say, "I want to be like him." And so if we are going to be like Him, we have to put on His image. We have to do the things that He does, go through what He did to reach that place in His life.
So that is what we do. We follow, we imitate Jesus Christ as we have come to understand Him through the Spirit of God, because He is both the means to our goal and the goal. He means everything to us! Christ is all and in all. So Paul's advice is to let the Word of God live in us richly in all wisdom. This may kind of sound like a highfalutin way of putting it, but it suggests that God's Word, the message that Jesus Christ brought to His people, should not only be at the center of our lives, but it should be our constant, deep, and penetrating contemplation at all times.
In other words, we have to be immersed in God's Word. It should infuse us, infuse our minds. We have got to get to know it. We have got to learn this so that you know it is there when we need it so that we can recall what God has said and apply it immediately to a situation. And that is how our minds will be transformed, when God's Word is in us and we are using it.
What he suggests here is something I have mentioned before in my Psalms sermons. We can keep it top of mind through singing the hymns because our hymns are just the psalms put to music. The words have been changed just a little bit, but they are faithful to what God puts in the Bible. And so we sing it and we learn it. We memorize those things that we sing often. It is a tried and true way to memorize Scripture, to sing it. Or we have invented many other ways to put God's Word in us through certain types of Bible study, in certain practices that we do.
That is a wonderful thing—to put the Word of God in our heads so that we can start applying it, using it in our daily situations. And if we do this, if we keep up our study, let the Word of God dwell richly in us in all wisdom, if we do this, you will belie what I said at the beginning of my sermon. We will soon notice real growth in the mind of Christ in us.