Why I'm Frustrated About Being Renewed
There is a phrase from Ephesians that has been ringing around in my head for the last couple of weeks. Paul writes:
"...put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." - EPHESIANS 4:22-24
The particular phrase that has been standing out to me and fristrating me is "be renewed in the spirit of your minds."
Why is it bugging me?
For some time now I have had a really hard time actually absorbing - even remembering - what scripture I read that morning.
I have become, like many of us, such a consumer of information that I let me scripture reading wash over me, perhaps even bringing conviction for a moment, which quickly passes when I move into the activity of the rest of my day. I literally forget what most of it says.
Is anyone else in this boat with me? I'm going to assume if you've read this far that perhaps this is striking a cord with you.
The problem with consuming the Bible in this way is that if you don't remember what the word says, how can the spirit of your mind be transformed by it? If the word is not sitting in your mind, rolling around in your thoughts and given time to take root, how can we be changed?
This is the relational equivalent of sitting with someone important in your life, looking them in the eyes while they talk to you and yet not listening to a word they are saying!
How we consume
Here's the deal: the Bible is not a Facebook feed. The way we consume information and conduct relationships in social media is a bad model of interacting with the Word of God.
We can read scripture and mentally 'like' verses all we like - that doesn't make change unless it has time to sink in.
To grow in our relationship with God we must have an honest look at how we're interacting with Him. Are we spending quality time? Note I said QUALITY time.
This is where I have been feeling the rub. Through prayer, God has been leading me forward.
How God has given me breakthrough
These are four things that God has been using to break my funk and allow the word to sit in my mind and grow roots into my soul. I hope these might be helpful for you too:
1. Pray before reading - I earnestly ask God to speak and bring transformation in my life. I tell Him I want to grow, to be more like Jesus and to remember and be change by what I read. I need His grace because it's not happening on my strength!
2. Read the same passage a couple of times. I normally read about a chaper a couple of times through. Think quality time - you want to absorb what it says, not just be able to say you've read your bible that day. It's a bit like when someone is telling you something important - you might ask them to say it again, or maybe you ask some questions to understand better. Re-reading is exactly the same. The great news is that God loves you, He loves your inquisitiveness and desire to know Him more and He wrote down what He said so you can read it as many times as you need!
3. The scripture fuels prayer. Reading scripture fuels prayer because it presents a reality we cannot bring about but by the power of the Spirit of God. The more I read scripture, the more I see my need for grace and the greater I delight in Gods joy in giving said grace. So I read it, ask God to transform me on the basis on what I have read and pray key verses or promises from the passage over others, our church, our community, the city, etc. It's amazing how praying through the scripture it starts to take on meaning and siginificance to you. You find your heart responding more and more and the word gets etched on your soul.
4. Write down the verses or promises somewhere prominent where I will see them. I keep all my 'To Do' lists in the Notes on my phone, so I write them there - often above the 'To Do' list so I see it and pray it regularly.
5. Meditation. I try, amidst the craziness of life, to think about the verses or passages I have read throughout the day. Often, I'll re-read the same passage again to make sure it's fresh and I'm recalling it correctly. In this increased mindfulness, I've found the Holy Spirit bringing direction and conviction throughout the day that changes the way I do things.
6. Use a paper Bible. Maybe it's a lack of self control, but when I use the Bible app on my phone I flip between the passage I'm reading and Facebook, emails, BBC Sport, etc. My paper Bible even just feels special and different from everything else I read, which it is.
Now it's your turn
It takes intentionality to really invest in building a realtionship with God. Because we interect with Him through the written word, it is so much more important that we take the time to set habits that differentiate our relationship with God from the way we consume information.
My core conviction has been that Bible reading is a relational investment not simply information consumption. The goal is not getting through it, maybe pulling a cool quote or two, or just knowing a bunch of information. The goal is personal transformation from intimacy with our Father in Heaven. It's not a job, it's a lifestyle. It's stepping into the grace we've been given and living more fully and freely as people who have been blessed to be a blessing.