“Okay, kids, when we go over to our friends’ house for dinner tonight, what should we not do?”
“Stand on the table.”
“Stand on our heads.”
“Kick the hostess.”
“Pretend to throw up.”
“Steal their toys.”
“Steal all their money.”
“Tell them we hate their food.”
“Break all their dishes.”
I play this new game with my kids before putting them in certain social situations. We come up with as many outrageous answers as we can, and then I ask a new question:
“What should we do instead?”
And I get new answers:
“Say please and thank you.”
“Tell them we like the food…if we like it.”
“Sit in our chairs until we are excused.”
“Try at least one bite of everything.”
“Take our dishes to the sink when we’re finished.”
“Be kind to their kids.”
“Take care of their toys.”
“Use a fork unless it’s finger food.”
“Try not to spill things on the floor.”
If we have the time and space, my kids act out their answers to both questions (within reason!). Now, let’s be clear, this game has yet to produce perfect behavior. But it does help. If we play it shortly before the event, my kids still have these manners at the forefront of their minds. They have a mental picture of how not to behave and one of how to behave. They’ve had fun with the silly possibilities but replaced them with appropriate ones.
As adults, we haven’t outgrown the need for activities like this.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24, NIV)
There are three commands here. The first is to put off our old self. The last is to put on the new self. In other words, we need to stop behaving as if we didn’t know Christ and start behaving like we do know Him. We need to turn away from sin and turn toward holiness.
In between these two commands, there is another one. Between the putting off and the putting on, we are called “to be made new in the attitude of [our] minds.” Romans 12:2 puts it this way: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (ESV, emphasis added).
We have to think differently before we can act differently. We need to take the time to see our sin for what it is and to ask ourselves questions such as: How often am I committing this sin? What does God’s Word say about this sin? What attitudes in my heart are leading to this sin? What effect is this sin having on the people around me? What effect is this sin having on my relationship with Jesus? What fruit will this sin bear in my life five, ten, and twenty years from now?
And then we need to create the opposite mental picture by asking questions such as: What godly characteristic could I put on to replace this sin? How does God’s Word say I can cultivate that characteristic? What habits can I develop to respond differently to the triggers for this sin? If I developed these godly characteristics and habits, what would my relationship with Jesus look like? What effect would the change have on my personal life? What effect would it have on the people around me? What fruit would this change bear in my life five, ten, and twenty years from now?
Now, let’s be clear, this mind renewal isn’t going to produce perfect behavior. We’re still sinners.
But we’re sinners saved by grace. And God uses the renewal of our minds to help us grow.
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