A Renewed Mind
Neuroplasticity is a fascinating field. It refers to our nervous system’s ability to change, throughout life, in response to internal and external stimuli. Researchers have been studying for years how our brains develop new structure, function, and activity patterns depending on what it is exposed to.
This is not a scientific paper, so I’ll let you find out more about neuroplasticity on your own, if you wish. What I find riveting is the fact that the Apostle Paul may have had an insight into how our brains can change.
In Romans 12:2, he writes:
“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.”
In Greek, “be transformed” is written in one word. The verb is passive, demonstrating that something is taking place in us. When we hear the word metamorphosis (which has the same root of the verb Paul uses here), we usually think of a butterfly. It is a good example of a transformation happening to a creature that cannot delay nor speed the process. And, once completed, it leaves no trace of its former form.
It is amazing that this is the same verb used to describe Christ’s transfiguration! These are the only two times this verb is used in the New Testament. Is Paul suggesting that the glory of God, manifested in Jesus at Mt. Tabor, is available to us? Could it be that the renewal of all things, as God intends, starts with our minds?
Scripture is full of incredible, and seemingly difficult instructions that appear to require much of us. This includes the Scripture in this Sunday’s reading, later in Romans 12:
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. (ESV)
After reading this, you could be crushed under how impossible this “to do” list seems to be. We make a mistake when we think of it as a to do list, or behavior modification that can be accomplished in our own strength. Like a caterpillar in its cocoon, going through a dark period of transformation, what is required of us is to surrender to the necessary death that needs to happen. We can trust Him, who paved the way for us, that we won’t stay the same. It is in the new life that He offers that we get to experience a new reality. We can live out this so called “to do” list in His power, as transformed beings.
The spiritual rewiring of our minds comes through the sanctifying presence of the Spirit of God, the washing of His Word (Eph. 5:26), and the sharpening of fellowship of believers (Prov. 27:17). HE rewires and renews our minds in this process.
When we surrender to this process of transformation, we can’t rush it and we shouldn’t delay it either. The making of new creation is God’s business. We can be assured that what awaits us is nothing short of being made New and sharing in his Glory.
Our brains are being healed, and learning new patterns. It’s forming new synapses, so we can express our True Self – the one that reflects His image in us.
As we continue to look at Romans 12 this Sunday, let’s be aware of the transformation already taking place in us today. Let’s thank Him and be confident, “that He who began a good work in (us) will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”. (Philippians 1:6)
Blessings and peace,
Dr. Christiane and Rev. Todd