If someone told you to have a quiet time, you’d know what to do: read your Bible and pray. But what if they told you to renew your mind? Would you know how to renew your mind? Maybe not. The renewing of the mind doesn’t have a clear protocol like a quiet time has. Maybe that’s because it’s so messy.
How is the renewing of the mind different than a quiet time?
With a quiet time, you know you’ve done it when you’ve “read your Bible and prayed.” With the renewing of the mind, you know you’ve done it when you’re seeing life–and more specifically, your current situation–from a biblical perspective.
It might take a simple prayer to get to that point, a long truth journaling session, a Bible passage, a chart, some Scripture meditation, a five minute run-through of some questions, or any number of things.
In order for it to be a true renewing of the mind experience, our thinking needs to be transformed. And in order for our thinking to be transformed, our minds need to be actively engaged.
Listening to a sermon while we clean the kitchen and talk to the kids isn’t going to cut it. Neither is having a quiet time just so we can check it off our list for the day.
What does it mean to renew your mind?
So what is the renewing of the mind? How do you do it? (Note: I give many practical examples of how to do it on the podcast version of this blog post. You can also find examples in the links at the bottom of this post.)
Paul talks about the renewing of the mind in Romans 12:2 where he says:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Paul goes into more detail in Ephesians 4:22-24:
“That, in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
Paul tells us that the renewing of the mind involves a taking off and a putting on. We do this in several different areas:
- Take off the old self and put on the new self.
- Let go of our cultural perspective and put on a biblical perspective.
- Take off lies and replace them with truth.
- Let go of what we learned growing up and put on what we learned in the Bible.
So we’re not just reading the Bible–we’re taking everything we’ve learned in the Bible, talking it all over with God, and actively trying to look at life through His eyes.
You can’t do that without a working knowledge of the Word. You also need a willingness–and a desire–to change. And you need time with God as He is the One who renews our minds.
What does God do through the renewing of the mind?
In a sense, the Holy Spirit is acting as our counselor, peeling away the lies so we can see what life is really like and how we should respond to it.
When I renew my mind, I usually start out frazzled and unhappy, thinking certain things have to happen in order for me to be happy. I usually end up peaceful and content, willing to live any sort of life for God–not always, but more often than not.
God has used this discipline in my own life and the lives of countless others to help them with the following:
- Breaking free from bad habits
- Learning how to work even when you don’t feel like it
- Losing weight and keeping it off
- Letting go of negative emotions such as worry, insecurity, and anger/irritations
- Gaining victory over procrastination
- Starting new habits such as having a quiet time
- Restoring and revitalizing relationships
- Gaining freedom from recurring sins
- Growing closer to God
If we want to see transformation in some area of our lives, it’s important to take the time to renew our minds.
What’s the difference between renewing in general and renewing to break a habit, lose weight, break free from a negative emotion, etc.?
Any time you read the Bible, you’ll have the potential for a renewed mind because God changes us through His Word. How we’ll change will depend on what we’re reading about and how engaged our mind is as we’re reading.
Our minds can also be renewed when we listen to a sermon or read a Christian book. If our mind is thinking biblically by the end of the experience, it has been renewed.
However, when we’re renewing for a specific goal, it’s helpful to do some specific renewing. Following are some suggestions.
How do you renew your mind for a specific goal?
- Focus on one area of life to change. Choose an area that is causing you the most stress or an area you believe God wants you to change. This worksheet can help you choose an area to work on.
- Start with what’s easy. The Renewing of the Mind Project, I Deserve a Donut (And Other Lies That Make You Eat), and my free I Deserve a Donut app are filled with questions you can use to renew your mind. There are questions to break habits, start habits, complete goals, help you gain control with food, and let go of negative emotions. Choose a set of questions based on what you’re working on, then use those questions for a conversation with God. I sometimes imagine God asking me the questions. The questions are designed to help you discover the lies you’re believing and see life from a biblical perspective. I designed them by testing questions to see what would convict me without offending or annoying me.
- Advance to truth journaling. Truth journaling is a little harder to learn but it’s a life-changing practice. Other than Bible study, I can’t think of a discipline in my life that has changed me more. Truth journaling brought me close to God and helped me live a more joyful, peaceful, and self-controlled life. You can find resources to help with truth journaling at the bottom of this post.
- Lecture yourself with truth. If you’re a person who has a hard time sitting still, try lecturing yourself with truth as you go about your day. For example, if you’re working on a weight loss project and happen to see a Dairy Queen while you’re driving, don’t say, “Oh that would be so good! So creamy! So delicious! I should stop there!” Instead say, “Wow, if I break my boundaries and have a big unhealthy treat, I’ll be so regretful. This sort of behavior makes me unhealthy, depressed, it could lead to diseases like cancer, and possibly lead to a binge tonight. I’ll feel hopeless in the morning and probably condemn myself. Is it really worth it? No!!!”
What are some general renewing tips?
- Commit to renewing once a day about anything that comes up in the day. Here are a few examples: If you don’t feel like working on your to-do list, you might answer the Dread or Procrastination questions in the Renewing of the Mind Project. If you’re worried, go through the Worry questions in the free I Deserve a Donut app. If everyone’s out of the house and you feel like doing your bad habit, you could do the Sneakiness questions in the Renewing of the Mind Project. All of these questions will lead to conversations with God about your real-life problems and a chance to see them from His perspective which will help you change.
- Engage your mind. It’s easy to read the Bible while your mind wanders. But the more you engage your mind, the quicker your thinking will change. That’s why I’ll often diagram Bible verses in my journal–because it keeps my mind engaged!
- Do it in writing!! The more senses you engage, the deeper the truth will go. People tell me they usually learn much more truth when they’re writing and I have experienced that as well.
- Do easy things as well. If you can’t make yourself renew in writing, just ask yourself, “What does this look like from a cultural perspective?” “What does this look like from a biblical perspective?” Or you could ask, “How does God want me to respond in this situation?” “How does Satan want me to respond?” (I have some examples of this in the podcast.)
- Try a variety of ways to renew your mind. You’ll find lots of ways to renew your mind in the renewing of the mind tools tab at the top of this blog, including a recent podcast and blog post on scripture meditation.
Why is it important to renew regularly?
If you’re trying to change a habit, you may need to renew several times a day as the truth only changes desires for a few hours in the beginning. Renewing is vital for transformation in the area of our habits, but it’s also helpful for other reasons. Here are a few of them:
- Thoughts swirl in our heads all day and renewing can stop the swirling.
- We’re constantly telling ourselves lies and renewing gets rid of the lies.
- The Bible tells us to rejoice always. Renewing will help us rejoice.
- We’re under spiritual attack and renewing is a way to attack.
- Renewing helps you live in peace. I didn’t think that was possible in the old days, but I’ve found that it IS possible! And delightful.
I hope that you’ll give renewing a try. It’s a life-changing habit, but it takes some stamina in the beginning to learn how to do it in a way that will be effective. My prayer is that God will bless you through this habit!
Blog Posts about Truth Journaling
- How to truth journal
- Truth Journaling for Your To-Do List
- 3 Most Common Truth Journaling Mistakes
- Truth Journaling with the List Method (for income taxes)
- Blog post with truth journaling examples about overeating
- Truth Journaling for Marriage
Books and Apps to Help You Renew Your Mind
- Renewing of the Mind Project
- I Deserve a Donut (And Other Lies That Make You Eat)
- I Deserve a Donut Weight Loss app (This is a renewing your mind app for weight loss and/or negative emotions.)
- Freedom from Emotional Eating This is a Bible study but also contains instruction on how to truth journal.
Other Renewing Resources
- Tools to Help You Renew Your Mind
- Blog post about how to meditate on scripture
- Online Renewing of the Mind Workshop – (This was originally written as a series to help you work on New Year’s resolutions.)
- Blog post about how to do option charts
- How to Renew Consistently (This is a podcast coaching interview, so it deals with other things as well.)
- Option Charts for Marriage
Other Resources We Mentioned on the Podcast
- Julie Ouellette’s Blog and Podcast: A Becoming Journey
How to Listen to the Podcast
- To listen or subscribe on Apple Podcasts: click here
- To listen or subscribe on Android: click here
- To listen or subscribe on Stitcher: click here
- To listen or subscribe on Google Play: click here
- To listen or subscribe on Spotify: click here
- Amazon Alexa: To listen on Amazon Alexa, say, “Alexa, play the Christian Habits Podcast.”