Most would have expected to see John 3:16 at the top, but there was Romans 12:2 leading an annual list of the most bookmarked, highlighted, and shared Bible verses. Since smartphones have become ubiquitous, it is now possible for software developers to glean bits of information about what large numbers of people are doing on these devices. It was intriguing to see the list compiled by the popular Bible app YouVersion, now installed on almost two hundred million devices.
Romans 12:2 is a frequently discussed verse around Ligonier as we think through new ways to serve Christians who are pursuing a renewed mind. When he named Ligonier’s daily radio broadcast in 1994, Dr. Sproul turned to Romans 12:2 to describe the broadcast’s purpose: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” From this verse, our most far-reaching ministry initiative, Renewing Your Mind, was launched. Dr. Sproul explains:
God gives us the revelation of sacred Scripture in order for us to have our minds changed so we begin to think like Jesus. Sanctification and spiritual growth is all about this. If you just have it in your mind and you don’t have it in your heart, you don’t have it. But you can’t have it in your heart without first having it in your mind. We want to have a mind informed by the Word of God.
In another exhortation from his classic work The Holiness of God, Dr. Sproul wrote:
The key method Paul underscores as the means to the transformed life is by the “renewal of the mind.” This means nothing more and nothing less than education. Serious education. In-depth education. Disciplined education in the things of God. It calls for a mastery of the Word of God. We need to be people whose lives have changed because our minds have changed.
There can be a temptation for some Christians to take a verse like Romans 12:2 and turn it into a “just do it” Nike-style battle cry of transformational sanctification divorced from the previous eleven chapters penned by the Apostle Paul. Yet the imperative of Romans 12:2 flows from the “mercies of God” outlined in Romans 3:21–12:1. This undeserved favor for redeemed sinners, given through the grace of God in Christ, provokes an outpouring of gratitude and a life of joyful duty.
Romans 12:2 is a vital hinge on the door of biblical truth. On one side, we have the breathtaking vista of doxology found in Romans 11:36: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” On the other side of the door, in Romans 12:3–21, we have flesh-and-blood illustrations of godliness. The character of the Christian is marked by kingdom-minded, humble service. The triumphant indicative of the gospel leads to new life marked by a new pursuit for the mind of Christ. Merely imparting information to a human mind is insufficient. From interactions with the most learned scholars of his day in Israel and Greece—and even from reflecting on his own life before conversion—Paul knew that knowledge puffs up. To be sure, the gospel is good news about Jesus. But God’s Word also explains how the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit makes that news effectual in our lives as we repent of sin and believe the truth as it is found in Jesus.
Unsurprisingly, the darkened mind shifts the boundaries of ethical norms and clamors for everyone’s approval, even enlisting public shaming and legal force in its cause. The revolution is in full swing. Self-appointed, self-determined rights in the pursuit of dignity and liberty supposedly trump any outside influence. The tragedy of the darkened mind is evident as those we care for self-destruct in sinful labyrinths of their own making. We grieve when righteousness is cast aside because of the harm it can mean for our families and our neighbors (Ps. 119:136). We know that their feet will slip in due time (Deut. 32:35).
The renewed mind is marked by a reliance on the Bible, the only infallible rule for faith and practice. Through the light of Scripture, we begin to understand God’s holy character and realize our sinfulness. We begin to understand all that was lost in Eden, and discover why we long to return from exile to the Father’s fellowship. That leads us to look with joy to the redemption found only in the Lord Jesus Christ. Peace with God is now possible. Being found in Christ, living by His revealed Word, brings true human dignity and liberty. A renewed mind leads to a transformed life.