Most of us have had the frustrating experience of making a sincere commitment only to find that several days later we’ve abandoned it. I call it the “youth camp syndrome.” At many of the churches I pastored through the years, the youth attended camp just about every summer. As is the case with many camps, we always ended the week with a commitment service. Each year was the same. Everyone cried and promised God the moon—no more lying, cursing, cheating, smoking, drinking, and on and on it went. Unfortunately, most of those promises were broken before we ever made it back to the church parking lot the next afternoon.
I believe most of the decisions made during those sessions were sincere. The problem was the follow through. While the youth were clear on the “oughts” and “ought nots,” it was the “how to’s” that remained difficult to implement. And the same is true for all of us—no matter what our age.
Because of his background, the apostle Paul knew all too well the frustration of knowing what to do without knowing how to do it. No doubt it was his own experience that made him sensitive to his readers’ needs in this area. And so in one perfectly-penned statement he summarized the key to consistent change: “by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2).
Paul knew that our behavior is directly affected by the way we think. For real change to take place externally, there must first be a change in our thinking. Until we get involved in the process of renewing our minds, any behavioral change is going to be short-lived.
Renewing the mind is a little like refinishing furniture. It’s a two-stage process. It involves taking off the old and replacing it with the new. The old is the lies you’ve learned to tell or were taught by those around you; it’s the attitudes and ideas that have become a part of your thinking but don’t reflect reality. The new is the truth. To renew your mind is to involve yourself in the process of allowing God to bring to the surface the lies you’ve mistakenly accepted and replace them with truth. To the degree that you do this, your behavior—and your entire life—will be completely transformed.