March 12, 2021
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
I came to faith in Christ at age 27. For years I had been searching for meaning and direction. The turnabout from a secularized mindset was exhilarating, but I realized that I had a lot of work to do. Somebody at IPC recommended Selwyn Hughes’ Daily Bread, a morning devotional which focused, for a period of time, on topics like prayer, and forgiveness. It helped me a great deal to come to understand the Christian life. I actually noticed that my days were different and better when I took the time in the morning to study the devotional and to pray.
I also noticed that during vacations I was less motivated to study and found it harder to take time out for myself. And then I noticed that to stray in vacations caused me to stray spiritually. I needed to be disciplined.
As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, it takes “renewing our minds.” That’s a process. Today I believe it’s a life-long process. We live in a world of patterns which are not according to God’s pleasing and perfect will. To be “in the world, but not OF the world” as Jesus put it in John 17:16-18, means constantly shaping our awareness, so we don’t conform to the pattern of this world.
What do we mean by study? I think it means exactly that: shaping our awareness. There are many ways of doing this: reading; mentoring; listening to podcasts; watching videos; journaling; attending worship services, home groups and courses; praying and meditating. The Bible as God’s Word often speaks very directly to us and should have a prominent place in our studying. As Jesus says in John 17:17, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Which means, I believe, that we must expose ourselves to God’s words in the Bible.
Does that mean we have to read through the Bible in one year? I don’t think so, but it may be a worthwhile experience to get such a condensed exposure to all of God’s Word. I did it once, but to me, it’s too superficial and confining. I prefer to go deeper and take time to think and research.
What it does take is discipline. If you find that difficult, consider this: To develop a habit takes six weeks of discipline. If you are strict with yourself for six weeks, you harvest the fruit of it, which is the freedom to do easily what is good for you. Once it’s a habit, it comes easily. I decided to get up half an hour earlier so I would have time to study and pray every morning. In the beginning, it was hard, but sure enough, after six weeks (maybe earlier), I woke up before the alarm went off. Now after 40 years I’m still habitually getting up at 6 and happy for the good habit.