Keeping the Mind Renewed
1. Why is it not easy to keep the mind renewed and live in harmony with it?
WE MAY get new knowledge in our heads and have new ideas, but it is not easy to keep the mind in this new state and to order our lives in harmony with it. Not in this world in which the “god of this system of things” is on the loose together with all his demons. And not now while we are in imperfect flesh with its downward inclinations toward sin, selfishness, forgetfulness and disregard for God. The apostle Paul, even though he was favored with such uplifting visions and revelations, did not find it easy to keep in the new way of living according to the knowledge he had of God’s revealed Word. He had a continual battle, and it was not all in the mind, so that we should say, “The battleground is in the mind.” He had the bodily imperfections, the passions and the groveling tendencies of his flesh, to contend with the same as we have today. And as he describes the battle he had with himself, not to speak of the battle with the Devil’s organization on the outside, we can see described our own battle with these bodies of ours which are dying because of inherited sin:
2. How did Paul describe the battle we have with our bodies?
2 “For the good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice. If, now, what I do not wish is what I do, the one working it out is no longer I, but the sin dwelling in me. I find, then, this law in my case: that when I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me. I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members. Miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death? Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So, then, with my mind I myself am a slave to God’s law, but with my flesh to sin’s law.”—Rom. 7:19-25, NW.
3. Whence comes “sin’s law that is in my members”? and how does the “law of my mind” combat it?
3 Take note of these apostolic expressions, “law of my mind” and “sin’s law that is in my members”. A law is a rule of action or conduct according to which a person or thing will operate or move. Jehovah God the Creator did not put sin’s law in mankind. It was our first human parent Adam under influence of the Devil that put it in human flesh and he passed it on to us as an inheritance. Unless controlled or resisted, that law of sin is bound to rule you and move you. What possible way is there of controlling or resisting it? It is by the ‘law of the mind’. Not the old mind, for this is sinful like the world, but the new mind which tends to make you an image of God the Creator of your new personality. This new mind dictates a new rule of action and conduct in your life. But since you have a new mind in an old body with an old brain, there is where the conflict arises. Due to your new process of thinking the ability to wish for better things is present with you, but the ability to do what you wish in a perfect way does not reside in you. This is because you are imperfect and the law of sin wants to have its way in and through your body and mind. Hence you find yourself often serving sin’s law with your flesh. But your comfort is that you do not find pleasure in having thus sinned, but your mind clings to God’s law and approves it and is set on doing it.
4. What more is required than knowledge, and why?
4 According to the inborn law in our minds, our minds desire or find it easy to gravitate to sin and selfishness. To supplant this with a better law, we have to have our minds made over with new knowledge and with what this knowledge now dictates and advises. It is not enough just to have knowledge in our heads. Many clergymen in Christendom and the members of their religious flocks have knowledge of the Bible, but they do not act according to this knowledge. It is no guiding law in their lives. But after we have gathered knowledge from God’s Word, we must work at our minds which are filled with this divine knowledge. Against the sinful inclinations within us and against the tendency to mental laziness and forgetfulness, we must cultivate proper mental habits. In this way we really develop a ‘law of the mind’, a certain mental cast or mold, a mental rule of action, and this becomes a controlling force in our lives.
5. Upon what must we set our minds? Failure to do so means what?
5 With our blessed knowledge from God’s Word we must train our minds in right ways of thinking and in right processes and efforts. Otherwise, we can become persons whose minds have gone bad again, “men completely corrupted in mind, disapproved as regards the faith,” as Paul speaks of them. (1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Tim. 3:8, NW) Our everlasting existence depends upon our establishing a righteous ‘law of the mind’. Our eternal destiny depends upon what we fix our attention on. “For,” as we read at Romans 8:5-7 (NW), “those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those in accord with the spirit on the things of the spirit. For the minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace; because the minding of the flesh means enmity with God, for it is not under subjection to the law of God, nor, in fact, can it be.” If we get our minds off the truth and let them be corrupted again with the things of the Devil’s visible organization, it means the finish of us. “Their finish is destruction, and their god is their belly, and their glory consists in their shame, and they have their minds upon things on the earth.”—Phil. 3:18, 19, NW.
6. Remembering what warning example, why fear corruption of mind?
6 It is right that we fear lest our minds should be corrupted while we are in this world in which the great Serpent is slyly crawling around and misleading the people. The apostle expressed that fear when he said: “I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its craftiness, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3, NW) We remember that originally Eve had a healthy mental process or law, according to God’s revelations in the garden of Eden. But the Devil, alias the Serpent, came along and tried to put unhealthful ideas into her head. Instead of repelling them, Eve entertained them and this breakdown of the righteous law of her mind led to her being tempted into sin. She thought more on the desirability of eating forbidden fruit than on the truth of God’s word and his warning against eating. Following the righteous law in her mental processes, fixing her thoughts on God’s word as being the truth even if it made the Serpent a liar, would have spared her from being tempted and being drawn into temptation and sinning.
7. Where does enmity against God start?
7 If we, today, while the same Tempter is still about, establish the righteous ‘law of the mind’ and resolutely stick to the thinking processes of the new mind, it will keep us from entering into temptation and sinning. Enmity against God starts in the mind. The apostle tells us who have been reconciled to God: “You . . . were once alienated and enemies because your minds were on the works that were wicked.” He says that before we gave ourselves in obedience to God “we all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, doing the things the flesh and the thoughts willed, and we were naturally children of wrath even as the rest”.—Col. 1:21 and Eph. 2:2, 3, NW.
8. How must we think in order to obey the greatest commandment?
8 When we were in that ignorant mental state we did not love God with our minds. The greatest of the commandments that was ever given to men requires us to love God with all our mental powers. Jesus pointed out what this greatest commandment is when he quoted it from God’s Law and said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matt. 22:37, NW; Deut. 6:5, AS; Luke 10:27) What we think on habitually greatly affects and influences us and induces us to take a certain way. To be thinking one way and yet be doing another thing outwardly is hypocrisy. We must think lovingly toward Jehovah God. That means thinking to please him by obeying him and taking faithful care of everything that honors his name and furthers the interests of his kingdom.
9. What judgment comes against double-minded ones?
9 We cannot wholeheartedly serve God with a double mind. The psalmist rightly expressed it: “I hate them that are of a double mind; but thy law do I love.” (Ps. 119:113, AS) “I hate men who are half and half, I love thy law.” (Mo) Jesus hates them, too, and says to the many modern Laodiceans: “So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:16, NW) If you are of a double mind, dividing your attentions between this world and God and not making your mind over wholly to the image which God approves, it will in course of time betray itself without fail. That will mean your rejection. You will become corrupted mentally with infection from this world and you will enter into temptation. That is the very thing that has happened to Christendom. Your love of God with all your thinking processes is what you owe Him. He commands it. It is your safeguard.
10, 11. Because of what mental processes and attitudes do many of those in the truth have difficulty?
10 The whole world is sick mentally, and public and charitable institutions caring for mental cases are crowded. It is because they do not have the sound, healthful doctrine of God’s Word, and the clergy are physicians and psychologists of no value and are miserable comforters. (Job 13:4; 16:2) It is hard to keep well mentally in a world which today is suffering a breakdown in every way. Many who have accepted the truth of God’s Word are having difficulty, particularly because it is hard for them to break off former mental habits. Their minds are continually turned inward upon themselves, introverted, as they say. They have a great inferiority complex, and they are keenly aware of their mistakes. They are painfully conscious of their foolish actions before others, their errors of speech and conversation, their embarrassments, their display of weakness, the criticisms others make of them, the rebukes others give them, the offenses others commit against them. They take these matters to God in prayer, but then they draw no mental relief from this. Why? Because they do not cast their burdens upon Jehovah God and leave them there with him, but carry them away with them and keep them saddled on their backs.
11 They keep their minds bent inward on their imperfect selves, and again and again go over the things that have grieved them. Round and round their mind goes, as they turn these things over in their minds. The more they do this, the deeper these things wear into their minds. They groan within themselves and suffer a thousand deaths by reviewing these things again and yet again.
12. What do true repentance and forgiveness call for?
12 This is not a healthy frame of mind, and it does not promote spiritual health. True repentance before God does not call for such a terribly disturbed mind as an aftereffect. Nor is true forgiveness of the offenses of others against us felt and expressed in this way. If we repent and ask God’s forgiveness, let us trust that he has forgiven us through Christ. So be at peace and try to do differently henceforth. If we have forgiven our offenders and debtors, let us not sulk and keep holding it against them. Love, says 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NW), “does not keep account of the injury.” If we remember our past sins, foolishness and failures at all, it should be, not to torment us, but to warn us and make us avoid doing such things again.—Isa. 46:8.
13, 14. How were improper mental attitudes of mourning and looking back corrected in Zechariah’s day? In Nehemiah’s day?
13 This is not the time to be looking back and mourning, and becoming so swallowed up in our weak selves that we lose sight of Jehovah’s theocratic organization and his glorious deeds of today. In the prophet Zechariah’s days, after the Jewish remnant had returned from Babylon to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem, certain men came to weep, moan, groan and wail at the temple for the past sins of Jerusalem and all the frightful calamities that had come upon her in this month and that month of the year 607 B.C. So they wanted to fast and spread gloom around. Then Jehovah by Zechariah told them this was now out of order, for it was now a time to rejoice over Jehovah’s restoration of his consecrated remnant and the re-establishment of his worship at the place where he had put his name. He said the former fasts of the various months from now on “shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace”. And then he pointed their minds forward and told how ten men out of all nations and of all languages would take hold on the skirt of a Jew and would come along to Jehovah’s temple to worship.—Zech. 7:1 to 8:23.
14 Again, later, in Nehemiah’s day, when the restored remnant were inclined to grow melancholy and bemoan their past wayward course, Governor Nehemiah said to the assembly: “Mourn not, nor weep. . . . for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye grieved; for the joy of Jehovah is your strength.”—Neh. 8:9, 10, AS.
15. What is the Scriptural remedy for this introverted, morbid mental state?
15 The remedy for this introverted, morbid state of mentality is to look ahead, not back. Keep the mind occupied with progressive thoughts. Keep it busy considering forward-looking plans. Keep your thoughts on the obligations ahead of you and how you are going to meet them. Remember the Bible studies for which you have to prepare, the talks you have to prepare for the public platform, the demonstrations which you have to get ready for the weekly service meeting, and all the other things that God has in reservation for you. Do not pull yourself down, do not weaken yourself, do not halt your progress by painful looking back at your sins or by looking back wishfully at the things behind. Copy the apostle: “Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on it; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the calling above and which God extends in Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above attitude to you. At any rate, to what extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same routine. Unitedly become imitators of me.”—Phil. 3:13-17, NW.
THINGS FOR MENTAL OCCUPATION
16. Why and how must we now keep our minds renewed and forward-looking?
16 The resplendent new world is ahead, and we are nearing its portals. The Bible looks forward to it, and it turns our minds forward to it. This is no time for us to suffer a mental relapse into corruption. There is every need and there is every incentive to keep our minds renewed. Our bent of thinking must be kept in the true direction that it may result in the desirable consequences, while we swerve neither to the right nor to the left. The ‘law of our mind’ must be strengthened according to God’s Word and must be made the rule from which we do not deviate, despite the weaknesses of our flesh. This requires mental effort and watching our thoughts as well as going where we can always get our minds refreshed and renewed with the truth, the advancing Word of God. That means we must set aside time and must individually study God’s Word. It means we must attend the meetings of God’s people and join with them in considering and discussing God’s Word. It means we must join with them in lovingly and faithfully building up one another on our most holy faith. Never forsake meeting together.
17. How is God’s Word becoming newer to us? How can we think God’s thoughts?
17 God’s Word is becoming newer to us all the time, not only by newer and better translations of it in our language, but especially by the fulfillments of its prophecies and by the clearing up of its teachings under the illuminating power of God’s spirit and his use of his theocratic organization. Let us think God’s thoughts. Remember that Peter made a mistake and tried to dissuade Jesus from his course of sacrifice because, as Jesus said to Peter, “you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.” (Matt. 16:23, NW) We cannot penetrate into all of God’s thoughts. We cannot advise or instruct God’s mind. His is so much farther ahead and loftier than ours is. But we can receive information, secrets, revelations, from his mind. What thoughts of his he does disclose to his people by his spirit and through his Word, we can think, and by doing so we will be kept from erring as Peter did. Like a loving Father God says to us amid this adulterous generation of mankind: “My son, give me thy heart; and let thine eyes delight in [or, observe] my ways.” (Prov. 23:26, AS, margin) That means giving our hearty attention to him as he discloses himself and taking note of his ways. We can do this only by studying and keeping close to his Word and watching his dealings with his organized people. This will help transform us.
18. How can we have the mind of Christ?
18 In the same way we must observe God’s Son Jesus Christ, “the leader and perfecter of our faith.” (Heb. 12:2, NW) We may not be able to know fully the mind of Jehovah, because it is unfathomable to us; but, says the apostle, “we do have the mind of Christ.” Yes, we do have what he thinks; we share his thoughts, for he came to earth and disclosed them to us. In proportion as we are zealous and mature Christians, our thoughts are his thoughts. So we can appreciate why he spoke and acted as he did, and why he humbled himself under his heavenly Father’s hand, even down to the disgraceful death on the torture stake. If we are his faithful followers, we must follow the apostle’s counsel: “Keep this mental attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” This we can do only by having the mind of Christ, his thought, and to this end we have to study God’s Word, which gives us the account of what Jesus said and how he lived and what prophecies he fulfilled and what prophecies he is now in course of fulfilling or will yet fulfill.
LIVING ACCORDING TO THE RENEWED MIND
19. What must we have, despite whose opposition?
19 Our weak, fallen flesh and all this world of wicked demons and men will oppose our giving expression to our minds by living in accordance with our new mental attitude. But we are entitled by God’s law not only to freedom of thought but also to freedom of expression. Everyone that is a real Christian must have a mind made over according to God’s will. “Consequently, if anyone is in union with Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away, look! new things have come into existence.” So we read at 2 Corinthians 5:17, NW. Likewise, if anyone of good will is destined for life eternal on the paradise earth after the battle of Armageddon, he must have a mind made over from what it was and it must transform him from any likeness to this corrupt world.
20. What is the purpose for renovating our minds, and how is this purpose realized?
20 Let us remember why we have this renovation of our minds. Hear again the complete words of the apostle: “Be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God.” (Rom. 12:2, NW) In Christendom there is great confusion as to what the will of God is, and so Christendom continues fashioning herself after this world. But we must prove to ourselves what his will is by getting a new mind, and that means getting new information, new knowledge, in our minds. If it is to disclose God’s will to us, then that information, knowledge and enlightenment must come from him, and we can get it only from his Word with the aid of his spirit and organization. When we thus prove to ourselves what it is, we come to appreciate that his will is one of goodness. There could be no better purpose that anyone could have for us. It is the only thing that is acceptable to him. We can therefore not alter his will, but must bow to it and seek to comply with it in every respect. And then as our information increases and we gain greater knowledge and study his will further, we see that it is a complete will. It covers everything we need to do in order to carry out our part in God’s life-giving arrangement and to share in vindicating his name and sovereignty before all the universe. Being persuaded in our new minds what God’s will is, we must now do this good, acceptable and complete will.
21. How and why must you “brace up your minds for activity”?
21 This requires setting our minds. “Hence,” the apostle Peter tells us, “brace up your minds for activity, keep completely balanced and set your hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, quit being fashioned according to the desires you formerly had in your ignorance, but, in accord with the holy one who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct, because it is written: ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:13-16, NW) It is with the girdle of truth that we must brace up our minds for the strenuous activity that yet lies ahead. And as a protection for our heads we can have on “as a helmet the hope of salvation; because God assigned us, not to wrath, but to the acquiring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”. And again for this needed girdle of truth and helmet of hope we must continue feeding upon the Word of God under the enlightenment of his spirit and with the assistance of his theocratic organization.—1 Thess. 5:8, 9, NW.
22. What new viewpoint does the renewed mind give us of sufferings for doing God’s will?
22 What a new viewpoint the new mind gives us of the activity necessary to doing the good, acceptable and complete will of God! How it imparts a glory to this activity! We are forewarned that we shall suffer for our faithful activity. But in this case, too, the mind which is made over by God’s Word and spirit helps us to see our sufferings in a different light. We view them as a great privilege, for our eyes of understanding see that they are meant to prove our integrity toward God as loyal supporters of his sovereignty and as faithful slaves of his kingdom by Christ. To face and endure such sufferings we can ‘arm ourselves with the same mental disposition that Christ Jesus had’ and so keep our integrity as he did. We must suffer because we cannot go along with this world in its policies. Our new minds will not allow us to go along with worldly policies, and so we choose to suffer. But for thus proving our integrity there is an unspeakable reward of endless joy in God’s new world of new heavens and a new earth.—1 Pet. 4:1, 2, NW; 2 Pet. 3:13.
23. What do we now resolve, and to what do we look forward?
23 By all the evidences, oh how near that new world of righteousness is! Oh, then, let us no longer be fashioned after this world of wickedness, so near its complete end, but acquire the new mind filled with the knowledge of God’s will. Let us keep that mind renewed by faithfully doing his will, and live now as blessed proclaimers of God’s kingdom and as inheritors of his glorious new world. Then, if God favors us with survival of the battle of Armageddon and we enter the new world without dying, although we shall not have new bodies instantaneously we shall have new minds wholly in tune with the righteous new world.