Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fourfold Renewing the Mind

It's been a while since I wrote about anything related to ministry work. I actually have a pile of articles and notes with neat spiritual things to blog about. But none of these ideas are ones I need to process more. So they wait for when I have a better block of free time.

Yesterday's sermon and its subsequent discussion are worthy of more processing, however. Here is a summary.

Do not be conformed to This World, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good and acceptable and complete will of God. - Romans 12:2
How does the God's Spirit within us renew our minds? Let's consider four ways. We should be aware of each, to be grateful and cooperating with God in its progress.

First, our conscience is restored. The Apostles write a few times about how people are given pure consciences by God but can then distort their consciences until they find evil acceptable. God's Spirit within us renews our consciences to their intended purity. (The Biblical Greek work for "conscience" is suneidesis. There is no Biblical Hebrew equivalent.)

The author of Hebrews uses suneidesis to mean something else: our mental paradigms, our understandings of the world that guide how we think and act. In Biblical Hebrew these are collectively called yetzer and the sages write about the "good yetzer" and the "evil yetzer" that argue within us. The author of Hebrew also uses those phrases, and in verse 10:22 explains that faith in Yeshua's sacrifice that grants us forgiveness of sin will remove the "evil yetzer" from our minds.

So a second way our minds are renewed is when our evil paradigms are removed. (Ephesians 2:3 emphasizes that this is different from being enslaved to sin through "the flesh").

Other authors of the Apostolic Writings instead use the Greek word dianoia and its conjugations when referring to the yetzer. They even include this work in the Greatest Commandment, which is surprising to a modern Jewish reader: compare Deuteronomy 6:5 (ending in 'muchness') to Matthew 22:37 and its parallel verses (ending in 'paradigms/understandings').

(The author of Hebrews also uses dianoia when not contrasting the good and evil yetzer. Compare Jeremiah's prophecy of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:32(33) and its restatement in Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16: Besides our hearts, God's ways (his torah: teachings) are put on our 'inward parts' in Jeremiah, specified as our 'paradigms/understandings' in Hebrews.)

Third, the indwelling Spirit of God grants our minds strength and protection. In First Corinthians 10:13, Paul writes that God will arrange circumstances so that followers of Yeshua (while following God's plans) are never tempted by more than they can resist or avoid.

Fourth, God shares with us his some of his plans. Not only do we have better thoughts, but we can even know what God wants us to think about and do.