The Transformed Life

[The following article is an edited transcription of our audio teaching, The Transformed Life by John W. Schoenheit.]


This month, I want to talk about the Transformed Life. I want to talk about you and me transforming our life so that we can live like Christ. I will tell you that a couple of dozen years ago, I would have titled this teaching The Renewed Mind. I now think differently about the renewed mind. I no longer think of the renewed mind as a goal to reach; but rather, renewing the mind is a process to reach the goal of the transformed life.

You and I have a constant battle going on in our lives between our mind and our heart. What is in the heart will win the battle. That is why when it comes to obeying God we need to remember Ephesians 5.

Ephesians 5:1 and 2
(1) Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children
(2) and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

If we are going to obey God and live a life of love, then knowing the Bible is never enough. Actually, we should understand this from the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses taught us that knowing the Bible, or knowing what to do, was never enough.

Romans 8:3
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,

What does it mean here when it says, “What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature”? The Law had all the right commandments: do not lie, do not cheat, do not steal, love your neighbor etc. But you and I both know that knowing the commandments is not enough to obey them. If we are going to obey the commandments it is not enough to have knowledge. We have to transform are hearts. A constant battle is occurring between what we hold in the depths of our hearts and the information that we are holding in our minds.

This really came up for me a number of years ago. I had been raised atheist, and through my college life, I did not have the cleanest mouth. I used some profanity but I never really worked diligently to get it out of my life. I had a number of people tell me that it was wrong for me to use profanity. I would always say to them to take me to the Word and show me. To their shame, they never could. A few of them would take me to the commandment: “Thou shalt never take the name of the LORD your God in vain,” but that is not about profanity. Then I read:

Ephesians 5:3 and 4
(3) But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
(4) Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

I read those words, “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking” and it hit me so hard that I can tell you exactly where I was. It was 11:30 at night, and I was sitting on my bed. I read that and I thought, “this has got to be wrong.” I could not have been wrong in reading the Bible all these years. I jumped off my bed and being who I am and owning the research library that I do, I started pulling lexicons off the shelf: Bullinger, Bower, Thayer, Liddell and Scott, and Theological dictionaries. Sure enough, in the context of the Roman empire the Greek word which was translated “filthiness” in the King James Version was talking about obscenity. That is the major definition. That night I made my mind up not to use profanity. I said, “That is it, John, now that you found out that this is wrong in the eyes of God, you are done. No more profanity will be used in your life.” I can tell you that lasted until probably the middle of the next day. What was the problem? The problem was that my head knew that using profanity was wrong, but I had self-righteousness in my heart, I had anger in my heart, and I had bitterness in my heart. In the battle between your heart and your mind, what is in your heart will win. This is so important for us to understand. If you and I are going to live like Christians we need to understand what Romans 8:3 is saying to us. The Law could not make anyone righteous in the eyes of God because unless you clean up your heart, you do not have the power to do the Law.

I am sitting here looking at this verse that says that we should not use obscenity, and I did not have the power to live that law because what was in my heart was overriding what was in my head. When we talk about the renewed mind, it is a key to transforming our hearts. If you and I are going to live godly lives before God and before Christ, it is not going to be because we know the Bible. It is going to be because we clean out our hearts. In Matthew 12:34, Christ is speaking to the religious leaders.

Matthew 12:34
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

We run some youth events at our camp, Camp Vision (in Bloomington, IN). It is a camp. We have cots. We do not have a shower in every room. It is not a hotel. It’s a camp. Sometimes we have campers who do not get enough sleep or it is not their mother’s kitchen and they have to eat camp food. They may have to wait in line at the bathhouse for a shower and occasionally they start griping. An incident occurred where a person was being pretty foul mouthed and just nasty in general. I confronted him about it, and he said, “Well, I am only like this when I am hungry and tired.” I thought to myself, “Well that is it.” What is going on in the heart? What is going on in the heart is privilege, me first, and self-centeredness. What happens when this person is hungry and tired? What happens is Matthew 12:34, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” All of a sudden the nastiness in the heart that is so concealed when everything is going your way comes out. It is like two people driving down the road in separate cars. One has love and joy and peace in his heart where he has worked on that and built that. The other person has selfishness and anger and bitterness in his heart. Both people are driving and have flat tires. The first man who has love and peace in his heart and has cultivated a clean heart, says, “Oh, a flat tire. Okay.” He gets out and takes care of his tire and drives on his way. The second man fixes his tire in the exact same amount of time and gets on his way but with an explosion of anger and profanity, kicking the tire, and throwing lug nuts. What is the difference between the two men? One person cleansed his heart, and the other person did not. Out of the overflow of the heart is what is going to come up and out in your life.

Matthew 12:35
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him,

That is right, you and I need to learn the keys to store up good in our hearts. Christ went on to say:

Matthew 12:35
and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

Christ also speaks about the same basic concept:

Mark 7:21-23
(21) For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
(22) greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
(23) All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'”

Absolutely! If you have theft, murder, adultery, greed, and deceit in your heart, you can read a commandment that says, “Thou shalt not lie,” and know the Bible says such a thing; however, when you are pressed, you are going to lie. Why? You will lie because what is in the heart is what will come out of you. That is why you and I need to think in terms of the transformed heart, not the renewed mind.

I want to talk to you a little bit about the heart and about the organs of the body. I was pretty deceived about this—I kind of thought that everything happened in the mind, the brain. I really got a wake up call one day when I was doing some translating work in the book of Revelation and I saw a very interesting occurrence.

In this teaching we are using the New International Version [NIV]—a Bible with which I have a love/hate relationship. This is one of the times that I hate it.

Revelation 2:23
I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

That is great. It says that I search your hearts and your minds. Wonderful, except the Greek text reads, “I search your kidney and your heart.”

Revelation 2:23 (KJV)
And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

At that time, I was pretty arrogant and self-assured. I had read Bible dictionaries and Bible encyclopedias and studied the culture for years. I was well aware of the arguments of the scholars. They said, “Oh, those poor Greeks and Romans. They were so ignorant. They thought that some how the kidneys were involved in the thinking process.” I would read those articles and echo that also, “Those poor Greeks. They did not really know, so they say that God searches your kidney because they think your kidney is what actually thinks.” That is where I was living until a couple of years ago when I was trying to loose weight. A friend of mine sent me a book called The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin. I read something in his book that has sent me on a two year quest that has been truly mind blowing. I feel that this information is important enough to take some time out of this teaching and explore what science is now calling the Enteric Nervous System.

Rubin writes:

“People are taught from childhood to believe that the brain is essentially the boss of the body. While it is true that the brain is the centerpiece of our mental capacity of our nervous system, it is also a fact that there are nearly one hundred million nerve cells in the gut alone [Your gut is your esophagus, your stomach, and your intestines] about the same number that are found in the spinal chord. Fully one half of your nerve cells are located in the gut, so your capacity for feeling and emotional expression depends primarily on the gut and only to a lesser extent on your brain.”

I cannot tell you what that did to me when I read it. “Wow, the gut has as many nerves as the brain.” A lot of your feelings are located in your gut. This was amazing to me.

Rubin continues:

“Most people would say that the brain determines whether you are happy or sad, but they have their facts skewed. It seems that the gut is more responsible than we ever imagined for mental well-being and how we ‘feel’. Award winning science writer Sandra Blakesley specializes in cognitive neuroscience. This is what Sandra wrote: ‘Have you ever wondered why people get butterflies in the stomach before going on stage? Or why an impending job interview can cause an attack of intestinal cramps? And why do antidepressants targeted for the brain cause nausea or abdominal upset in millions of people who take such drugs? The reason for these common experiences is because each of us literally has two brains, the familiar one encased in our skulls and a lesser known but vitally important one found in the human gut. Like Siamese twins, the two brains are interconnected. When one gets upset the other does too. The second brain in the gut is called the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system processes a complex neural circuitry, and this second brain in your gut can act independently from the first brain in your body. Literally, it learns from experiences, remembers past actions and events and produces an entire range of ‘gut feelings’ that can influence your actions. Early in our embryo geneses [meaning when we were early on in the womb] a collection of tissue called the neural crest appears and divides during fetal development. One part turns into the central nervous system; the other migrates to become the enteric nervous system. Both thinking machines form simultaneously and independently of one another until a later stage of development. Dr. Michael Gresham, professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York described the body’s second nervous system in his book The Second Brain. ‘The brain is not the only place in the body full of neurotransmitters. A hundred million neurotransmitters line the length of the gut, approximately the same number that is found in the brain. The brain and the bowel has got to work correctly or no one will have the luxury to think at all.’

Rubin continues:

‘We are still discovering ways that the enteric nervous system mirrors the central nervous system. Nearly every substance that helps run and control the brain has turned up in the gut. Major neurotransmitters associated with the brain including serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, noraepinephrine, and nitric oxide are found in plentiful amounts in the gut as well.”

Interestingly enough, we are going to find that if properly translated, the Bible is going to say that the modern research that is just being done in the last 20 years about the enteric nervous system is correct. By the way, why does this information about the enteric nervous system show up in a book about food and diet? The answer is, how many people do you know that are overweight or pudgy and they do not really feel good about themselves? The research is showing that the reason that people do not feel good about themselves if they are overweight is that you cannot fool the brain in your gut. It is trying to tell us to lose weight and get in shape. It produces feelings that, “I do not feel good about myself.” That was in The Maker’s Diet.

Once I realized that the Word of God had been telling me all along that my feelings and my thoughts were generated from more than just my brain, all of a sudden, what the Bible called the heart made sense. I had always known that the Greek word nous was the place in your mind where you think, as we read when Jesus Christ said, “Out of the heart comes all these thoughts.” The heart is not just a muscle. It is part of the enteric nervous system. Good independent research has been done that shows that the heart muscle even contains an independent memory. If we were to look in the Bible, we would see that it has been telling us this all along.

Psalm 26:2 (KJV)
Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.

The word “reins” is the Hebrew word for kidneys. In the Old Testament, it is saying just like Revelation 2:23, “Test my kidneys and my heart.”

Psalm 16:7
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart [kidneys] instructs me.

The word “heart” in the Hebrew is kidneys. Your enteric nervous system, your second brain, is producing thoughts and emotions. How many of us at night have woken up with a good idea or had a dream that helped us, provided guidance, or insight into our lives? Look at this verse. This is the Word of God teaching us about ourselves. It says, “Even at night my kidneys instruct me.” Wow, a pretty powerful truth.

I am going to shift to the bowels. If you remember, the second brain also involves the neurons around the bowels.

Philemon 1:7
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts [bowels] of the saints.

The Greek text reads “bowels” for the word “hearts”; you have refreshed my bowels. I do not understand how these neurons and everything work together, but I can tell you this. I have spent times with good friends where I will be down or stressed or up-tight or having a bad day, and a good friend will come and spend time with me and have a cup of coffee and talk, and then I feel so much better afterwards. It is not that you have a cognitive reason. You just feel better. That is what this verse is telling us. It is telling us that the whole second brain in the gut is producing thoughts and emotions and feelings. The Word tells us here that the “bowels are refreshed.”

I do not have time to go into the liver and belly verses. They are in the Word of God. That is why the Word of God has to be properly translated if we are going to derive truth from it. People sometimes say to me, “John, why are you [Spirit & Truth Fellowship International] working on a translation of the New Testament?” We are because these verses need to be translated properly if we are going to learn what God is telling us about Him and about us.

Why do I bring all this up in a teaching on the transformed life? I think that it is important when you and I go to become more like Christ, that we learn what is involved. We are not just a brain that is stacked on a bunch of muscles. God has just interwoven the emotion and the thinking and the life of God through our whole body. The brain does the thinking, yes, as when I memorize a scripture like, “thou shalt not steal,” and this is resident in my brain. If selfishness is in my heart, and by heart it can mean the inner core of the brain, but it means more than that—If selfishness is imbedded in the cellular memories of my body that exist in my heart muscle, my gut, and wherever else that they exist that we have not even found out about yet, I do not care if I memorize “thou shalt not steal” ten billion times and have it posted on every wall in my house, for I will end up stealing. Why? It is because what is in my heart will come out.

What is in our mind is obvious to us. Someone comes up to us and asks, “Hey, what are you thinking?” You tell them what you are thinking. No problem. Someone comes up to you and asks, “Hey, what is in your heart?” Most of us do not know. The heart, biblically, is just completely interwoven in all that cellular memory; it is in the depths of the mind. It is in the heart muscle itself. It is in the enteric nervous system. It is not immediately accessible to the mind. How do you find out what is in the heart? We do this by paying attention to what Jesus said. He said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” What do you say, and how do you act when you are tired, hungry, lonely, or feeling ripped-off? How do you act when you get a flat tire? How do you act if the dishes come out dirty from the dishwasher? If we pay attention to ourselves and do not excuse our evil behavior then we will know what is in our heart. Again, I am back to the boy that said, “I am only this nasty when I am tired and hungry.” That is nastiness in the heart.

Nobody was more mistreated than Jesus Christ. Nobody was more badly beaten than Jesus Christ. Nobody went through more indignities, being hung up naked in front of God and all those critics that went by and yelled at him and mocked him and laughed at him; and yet, did he get angry? Did he curse? Did he call down lightening on people? No, he did not. He said, “Father forgive them. They do not know what they are doing?” He turned to the thief that was next to him who deserved to be crucified and said, “You will be with me in paradise.” He gave that man comfort and hope on which he could die. How did Jesus Christ do that? I mean, I get upset when I get a flat tire! How did he go through all that and not have all this yuck come out of his life? The answer is that Jesus transformed his heart. He had a clean heart.

One way that you can find out what is in your heart is to pay attention to how you act and what you say when things are not going your way. Another way that you can find out what is going on in your heart, if you are blind to yourself, is by other people—if they are good Christians they will come and tell you. Jesus Christ called a lot of people blind or as Matthew says, “having a beam in your eye,” for you are blind to what is really going on in your life. You will then need friends who will come and help you.

Let’s move on to purifying our hearts. How do we go about it? The first thing that we need is hope. I want to tell you that the good news about the heart is that it is always changing. I do not care how badly you have been raised. I do not care how deeply entrenched your bad habits are. I do not care how much bitterness or anger or problems or selfishness or sexual problems or whatever it is that you have in your heart. I do not care how bad they are; the good news is that the heart is always changing. In Psalm 51, David had murder committed, as he was the guy that ordered it to happen. David committed murder and adultery. In Psalm 51 he did not cry in his beer and say, “Oh God I am just a terrible person. I cannot change.” No, not at all.

Psalm 51:10
Create in me a pure heart, O God…

Amen, that is my prayer too. Create in me a pure heart, O God because the heart is always changing. It can also change in the other direction. If you start looking at this subject in the Word of God, you will find a number of places where the Bible talks about people’s hearts becoming calloused or becoming this way or that way.

Matthew 13:15
For this people’s heart has become calloused…

That is sad because it says that their heart “has become calloused.” Nobody has to have a heart that has become calloused. If your heart becomes calloused, then you are not paying attention to all the signs and sign posts that would stop that from happening.

Ephesians speaks of people that have lost their sensitivity.

Ephesians 4:17-19
(17) So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
(18) They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
(19) Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

1 Timothy talks about people whose consciences have become seared.

1 Timothy 4:1 and 2
(1) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
(2) Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

What you and I want to do as Christians is not become more calloused or more insensitive but to become constantly more sensitive. What we are going to see is that we are going to do that by controlling what goes into our heart. Think of the heart as a can that will hold water. That is your heart. Your mind is like an eyedropper that you are holding above it. What you want to do is to make sure that the stuff that drops into your heart from your mind is the good stuff—it is not hurt, anger, envy, or selfishness; but rather love, joy, peace, and forgiveness. In other words, what we will see in Scripture is that the mind is the gateway to the heart. That is why we need to renew our mind. In renewing our mind, we control the thoughts that go into our heart.

Romans has a key that is absolutely powerful towards living a godly life.

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world…

Amen. To transform your life, you are going to have to purify your heart so that when you are the one who is tired and hungry, nastiness does not ooze out of your pores. So if you have a flat tire, it is not accompanied by a string of expletives [profanity] because you in your heart of hearts do not think that this should happen to you—that is just selfishness. Why do you get angry in those situations? It is all just selfishness and self-centeredness. The first thing that you have to do if you are going to become like Christ and have a transformed heart is that you have to stop putting the nastiness in there. As long as you are putting nastiness into your heart and some good stuff, what will come up most of the time is going to be the bad stuff. That is the way it works—welcome to the fallen nature and sins of the flesh!

What does Romans 12:2 start out by saying? “Don’t conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” Do not kid yourself about the pattern. The Devil is aggressively working to set an ungodly pattern in society that takes people in the wrong direction. It is absolutely astounding the way that the Devil works in society. Let’s take four letter words [profanity]. When I was a child you would never hear “hell” or “damn” in a movie or on television, but now those are not only on regular television but cable has anything that you want. They hold nothing back. At the movie theater, it is amazing the profanity that is spoken. Why is that? It is because the Devil knows that it is a sin against God. The Devil wants everybody to sin against God. He wants everybody to express their anger toward God and their selfishness toward life. The Devil creates a culture in which everybody does it, and it becomes the pattern of this world.

Ephesians 2:2
in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

You follow the ways of the world and the world has ways of doing things. This is a very interesting Greek word, and I learned a lot while studying this. The Greek word for “ways” is aion {ahee-ohn’). We get our “eon” from it. I always thought that it was a period of time, no big deal, got that, but the verse did not make any sense because it said, “You follow the eon of this world.” You follow the period of time of this world. That did not make any sense to me, so I started to do the lexical work on it. I found out that the word aion as it is used in Greek is what occurs in a period of time. It is not the period of time per se as much as it is the atmosphere or characteristic of that eon. The Romans and Greeks had recognized that various time periods had various characteristics. An example of this would be that we call the period in which we live today the information age. What this verse is saying here is that you follow the atmosphere created by the world. It is just like a restaurant. You go into a Mexican restaurant, and they try to create a Mexican atmosphere. You go into a Japanese restaurant, and they try to create a Japanese atmosphere for you to enjoy eating that particular type of food, and you come back for more. The Devil is not stupid. This is precisely what he does with the world. The Devil creates an atmosphere. He is creating an atmosphere of selfishness. He is creating an atmosphere of free sex. He is creating an atmosphere of “me first.” He is also creating an atmosphere of whatever you feel you just express. You go for it baby. If you are angry, you just let it all hang out, and you rip into those people around you. You let those four letter words fly and let everybody know how upset you are. That is the atmosphere of our age.

What does Romans 12 say? It says for one thing that you are not going to live a godly life if that is the way that you think and act. It says that the first thing that you have to do if you are going to be transformed is that you are going to have to not conform any longer to the pattern of this world. That means that the clothing that you wear may be a little more conservative than the people around you are wearing. They may laugh at you. It will mean that your language is cleaner than the next person’s. It will mean that there are a lot of shows or movies that you will not go see because what is expressed in them is ungodly and not helpful to you, nor would it be approved by our heavenly Father. When you do not conform to the culture, you stand out. That goes with the territory when you are a Christian. God is calling us to stand out, but remember that this is for our blessing. I do not know about you, but I would like to think that I could go down the road and have a flat tire and just deal with it. I would like to think that I could not be all upset or angry or mad or embarrass the people around me or even lash out at the people around me. I would like to think that when I go to a restaurant and the service is slow or the food is not good, I do not make the waiter or waitress feel horrible about themselves by lashing out at them and saying a bunch of nasty things about the restaurant. I would like to think that I could go through life and be peaceful. I can do it, if I am willing to realize that it is only going to occur if I transform my heart. I can stick all of those verses up there that say do not curse, do not lie, and do not steal, but unless I change my heart, then what is in my heart is going to come out to others.

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

A lot of material is here for us to see and contemplate. First of all, “be transformed” is in the passive voice. If you know anything about English grammar, the active voice is what the subject does. I threw the ball. The subject, “I,” is doing the action. The passive voice is what happens to the object. The ball was thrown to me. In this sentence, I passively receive the action done by the subject. The ball was thrown to me. That is important because in this verse, the word transformed is in the passive voice. What does that mean? It means that you can work your tail off and not transform yourself. You do not transform yourself. You say, “But I want to be transformed!” Me too! We cannot transform ourselves; we can only be transformed. That is why I said early on in this teaching that the goal is the transformed life. That is my goal, to be transformed, to be so joyful, so peaceful, so selfless on the inside that things can happen to me like what happened to Christ, and I can then respond like he did, instead of responding with anger or with things that lash out from my selfishness.

Romans 12:2
…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Ah-ha, now we are at the renewed mind. This is why I said that the renewed mind was the key to transformation. You cannot transform yourself. We can pray; we can cry, and we can jump up and down. It does not make any difference. We cannot transform ourselves, but what we can do is renew our minds. As we renew our minds, the wonderful thoughts that we are holding in our renewed minds drip down into our hearts. Over time the heart will be transformed.

Praise the Lord! Let’s look a little closer at the renewed mind. The Greek word for renewed is anakainosis {an-ak-ah’-ee-no-sis). The word “new” in Greek has two different words. Neos is “new in time” like a car that just comes off the assembly line with the paint barely dry—that car is new. It is neos, but you take an old car and fix it up, and you bring it back to a like-new condition that is kainos {kahee-nos’}. This means “new in quality.” I do not know about you, but I am getting old. I am in my 50’s, and I am not going to have a new, neos, mind. I can however have a new, kainos, mind. I can have a mind that is new in quality. The prefix ana means “up.” It is hard to say, “Up new your mind.” The English language does not have such a word, so they make it renew. Maybe if we were computers instead of people, they can call it an upgrade—that would be okay. If we were pipe fitters, they would say, “You up-fit.” For us, what we need to understand is that what the Bible is directing us to do here is to bring our mind up to a new quality. Think about what the average person thinks. I have heard complaints through the years by Christian men who go to work and say, “The men at my work only talk about women and cars.” You will find men and that is all they ever talk about. You will also find women who only talk about worldly things or sensual things. The Bible says that if you want your heart to be transformed, then you have to bring your mind up to a new quality.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things.

Let’s be honest about this. God is telling us how to bring our mind up to a new quality. He is telling us about what to think. He says, “If it is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy, that is what we are to think about.” I do not know about you, but I am thinking that knocks out at least 75% of the television shows and maybe the same percentage of movies.

It is difficult, when the culture is evil, for us to be godly. God is not making any excuses for that. The culture was very ungodly at the time of the Apostle Paul, and the Apostle Paul by revelation gave the Romans this advice, “You cannot conform to your culture. You cannot do it.” We cannot conform to our culture and be transformed by the renewing of our mind because if we conform to our culture by definition, we will not be bringing your mind up to a new quality. It is no different now. It has been over 2000 years, but it is the same Devil, and he still controls the same culture. I guarantee you that if you just go to the movies that come out without being selective, if you just turn on the television, or if you just turn on the radio stations or music without being selective, you will not bring your mind up to a new quality. In a fallen culture, this is very difficult to do.

We have got to make up our minds that we are going to do it. We control the television shows that we watch. We control the music that we listen to. We control the movies that we see. We control the way that we dress. We need to work diligently if we want to have a transformed heart. Remember, you cannot transform your heart. It will only be transformed as you decide to bring up your mind to a new quality, and if you do not make that decision your heart will not change. The behavior and the things that we see coming out of our lives will not make us happy.

Colossians 3:2
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

It is a challenge in a fallen world, but it is what we need to do.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

The life that flows out of you naturally as the events of life unfold, such as you getting up in the morning and realizing that your alarm clock did not go off, or if you get a phone call as your toast pops up, and you have to have cold toast that day, or as you are driving to work, and there is a big traffic jam, these will all reveal what is in your heart. The heart is the well spring of your life, whether you are feeling wonderful about life and able to handle it or whether you are just feeling beaten down, defeated, and angry all day long, it will come right out of the heart. Scripture says, “Guard your heart.” Yes, it is not easy, but as I said, “The heart is constantly changing.”

One of the problems that we have in our society is pornography. The photographic industry has made pornography readily available, so pornography is a huge issue in today’s world. In the March 2008 issue of Christianity Today it has a cover story about pornography. In the Editor’s Column, he writes:

“Seventy percent of American men ages 18 to 34 view Internet pornography once a month. This shocking fact is one of many that Christianity Today consulting editor John Kennedy found during his research for this month’s cover story ‘Help For The Sexually Desperate’. Do not assume that porn is not a problem in the church. One evangelical was skeptical of the survey findings that said 50% of Christian men have looked at porn recently, so he surveyed his own congregation. He found that 60% had done so within the last year, 25% within the last 30 days. Interestingly, other surveys revealed that one in three visitors to adult web sites is a woman.”

Pornography is an example of something in our culture that has just become an epidemic. It takes really setting your mind and getting help to break that cycle. Scripture is way ahead of us on this.

2 Peter 2:14 makes a very interesting statement. It is so helpful if we have translations that accurately portray the Greek text. It is the text that is God’s Word not the translation of it, unless the translation matches perfectly.

2 Peter 2:14
With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning;

The Greek text does not read this way. Get out your Interlinear Bible or Lexicon and check it yourself. It says, “With eyes full of an adulteress, they never stop sinning.” I have had men come to me and say, “John, I just do not know what to do. I have not looked at pornography in six months, and I can bring those pictures back in a snap. I just close my eyes, and there they are.” Because of the way that God designed us as sexual beings, when we are sexually excited, a biochemical reaction occurs, so it is not just a memory that occurs in us as in when we are memorizing flash cards or something. God designed us as sexual beings, so that when we get excited sexually, a biochemical locking occurs. It is supposed to work in your marriage; that is the whole thesis behind this. God created this so that our marriages would be completely wonderful. What happens when we get off into sin is unfortunately the same processes that God put in place to make our sexual lives within our marriages wonderful and exciting, also keep us in bondage when pornography or the such is introduced.

One study that I read said that it takes up to 3 years to break down those memory pathways. What is the good news? They do go away. What is the bad news? They go away slowly. We have to be diligent by renewing our minds, up-newing—bringing our minds up to that new quality constantly.

1 Corinthians 9:24 is where I think that the Christian who is really going to go after this has to set him or herself apart. We have to really be aggressive at obeying Scripture. In this Scripture, the Apostle Paul certainly was doing this.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
(24) Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
(25) Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
(26) Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.
(27) No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

This is a great verse that shows the contrast between the Christian and the American culture. The Christian is willing to discipline his body and make it his slave, and the culture is saying, “Do what you feel. Do what makes you feel good. Follow your feelings.” I trust that you do realize that following your feelings will not make things better. It will only make things worse. Paul made his body his slave. He did what he knew to be right, not what he felt like doing. When you and I start out on our journey to be Christ-like, what we want to do does not feel good or natural. That is why God designed us so that the brain rules the body. You can be feeling, “I am uncomfortable doing this,” but if you know that it is the right thing to do, then you push through it. Those feelings will change.

I am sure that you are familiar with this verse:

James 4:7
… Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

There is a corollary to this. I have had people fail when they try to stop sinning, but we have to be aware with what kind of sin with which we are dealing.

1 Corinthians 6:18
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

James 4:7 said that we are to resist the Devil, and he will flee. 1 Corinthians 6:18 says that we are to flee from sexual immorality. Have you thought about the fact that as a Christian, certain sins are there from which we need to flee. In this case, this verse says to flee from sexual immorality. This is very easy for me to understand because God created us as sexual beings, so your sexual feelings are not unnatural. You cannot resist them and hope that they will just go away. You have to flee from them. Get yourself away from ungodly sexual situations or sexual temptations. That means that if you are tempted by pornography on the Internet, then you take the actions that are necessary so that you flee from that. For example, you could get a Christian Internet service provider that simply filters all of that stuff out for you [or a software program like Covenant Eyes]. Obviously every situation is different. We each go to the Lord, and we figure out how we are not going to conform to the culture and keep it that way and fight through it. Some of the things from which we are to flee is sexual sin (1 Cor. 6:18). 1 Corinthians 10:14 says to flee idolatry and 1 Timothy 6:10 and 11 says to flee the love of money.

1 Corinthians 10:14
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

1 Timothy 6:10 and 11
(10) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
(11) But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

As we are working with our minds to become more like Christ, we should be aware of some really helpful things.

Let us first of all not fall into the cultural trap of saying, “That is just the way that I am.” I cannot tell you how many people that I have talked to through the years that when it comes to being more like Christ, less like Christ, reading the Bible, not reading the Bible, going to Church, being more romantic in their relationships, etc. and they say, “Well, that is just the way that I am.” That is never true. God designed us to be like Christ. We can be like Christ because the heart is always changing. Do not ever be satisfied with being just the way that you are if it is not like Christ.

Another thing of which we should be aware is that acting out in ungodly behavior never releases the pressure that we feel, but it rather reinforces the behavior. This is important and has been proven over and over again. A period of time occurred in modern psychology when people thought that if someone had anger they could just act it out and release it, then all that anger would go away. They would do things like hitting each other with rubber sticks, get punching bags and punch out the anger, or other things, or have a period of time where they had something called primal scream therapy. It was believed that if you were all pent up inside, then you would scream and let it all out, and everything would be better. Do you know what they found out clinically? They found out what the Word of God would tell us. If you act out bad behavior, then the bad behavior will become worse. We see this with pornography all the time. The man who is content at first seeing a women with just her bare breasts, a year down the road, has to see her fully naked. Another year or two down the road, that man has now got to see a woman in some kind of perverted or twisted thing. Psychology has proven over and over again what the Bible would tell us, which is do not act on your evil thoughts and inclinations. Cut them off and do not act on them and work on changing your mind.

By the way, in talking about what we found out in clinical knowledge a second response can help you. If you say, for example, in the flat tire situation, where the man started cursing; instead of just stopping to curse, take the time to stop and breath, apologize to God and say what you would have liked to have said. This is called the second response. It helps train your brain to do the godly thing the first time. Sometimes when you are changing from an ungodly behavior to a godly behavior, I know that people say to just quit. Sometimes that is difficult. If it is hard for you to just quit, then try replacement. People who want to stop smoking will find that it is sometimes easier if they do something else rather than just stop. We need to be aware that sometimes we cannot just stop, but we need to shift our behavior.

I know that this is true in my case. Be patient with yourself and persevere. It was a number of years ago that I found out that obscenity was not a godly thing and is a sin in the eyes of God. Although I have gotten it mostly out of my life, I still wrestle with it in certain situations. Always be patient with yourself and persevere. Remember that you have a sin nature. You are not just changing a habit. You are repressing your very sin nature. Every once in a while, that sin nature will leak out of you, so cut yourself some slack for that. Do not beat yourself up horribly if you make an occasional mistake. Be patient with yourself and persevere—that is important. The battle to resist temptation can be very difficult, so be willing to roll up your sleeves and fight. It is not easy to not conform to our culture. It is not easy to be transformed by bringing your mind up to a new level, but it is important that we are striving to do it. As we are in the battle, and we are doing God’s will and obeying God, it will bless God, and it will be a blessing to us.

God bless you as we walk together in this walk of transformation to be like Christ in the depths of our hearts!

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  1. Great teaching John! Can’t believe no one has commented on it. People have a really tough time with this stuff. I see that in the people closest to me. It is so much work to avoid filling our minds with things that are not lovely excellent and of good report. The devil sees to it that things that would otherwise be a blessing are ruined by a bunch of cuss words thrown in or gratuitous sex scenes. It is so much effort to sift through what is available and be selective that many people tire of the effort and decide that they can just ignore the bad parts like mental editing out and just not let it affect them. Sometimes you have to do this because it is all around you. Many work places are rife with people speaking obscenity. If you are in the military you will be constantly bombarded with it. I think people have gotten to the point that they don’t want to speak against it and ask people not to do it. They do t want ridiculed.

    Your article has really encouraged me to take more of a stand. I have lost friends in the recent past because I spoke against what they were promoting and doing. These people professed to be Christians but were full of obscenities and teaching others that there is nothing wrong with that. They also were obsessed with movies full of witchcraft and glorifying witchcraft and I reprimanded them. I got rejected. Your teaching comforted me about that and that I did the right thing even though it was painful.

  2. Thankyou John,
    many years ago when I was in a crisis in my marriage and caught in an addiction to
    pornography…..this teaching was literally the life transforming lesson I needed!
    It took a lot! but the heart of true change got through to me in this teaching.
    I’m now 91/2 years free from any relapse into porn……and will thankfully be celebrating
    my 40th anniversary this year.
    Grateful, Dave

  3. Dear John,
    Thank you for the teaching. It comforted me. when you are not conformed to this world like you say,you will be rejected, looked down upon Just like people did with Jesus. But it feels so good to think that we are pleasing our GOD and I know it`s rewarding also.
    I must confess that sometimes it`s difficult but I can do anything through Christ who strenthen me !


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