Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
There’s a popular adage that’s been the chorus of at least a few good songs, which goes like this: “Everything you know is wrong.” That’s not entirely true, obviously (I think), but there’s still a lot of truth to it.
On the one hand, we put way too much stock in our own opinions and experiences, however true they may or may not be. On the other hand—and sometimes even simultaneously—we allow ourselves to become paralyzed by our lack of knowledge, lack of wisdom, or just plain lack of confidence. And by doing so, we end up acting in a way that betrays what little real knowledge we do have.
So with all this in mind, allow me the grace to put an absolute statement out there anyway: Just about everything you know might be wrong. In fact, most of what we know is some entangled mess of right and wrong. But God is never wrong.
And now, allow me to undercut even that: Because of our own fallenness and self-deception, we often don’t even get our understanding of God’s perfect will totally right.
If all of this sounds confusing, it should.
A big part of the problem—but also, the solution—lies in the connection between our minds and our hearts. There’s a refrain in Jeremiah that captures this well—“the imagination of their own heart” (Jeremiah 9:14, et al., KJV). In fact, Jeremiah often throws in “evil” before “heart,” lest we miss the point.
So often, we believe what we want to believe because we want to believe it, as if our desire by itself—or even more often, our pride—makes it all come out right. I suspect that God is far more offended by our arrogance than by our “going off the deep end,” but both miss the mark badly. Both are about us.
So where do we turn to get it right? Facts? Nope. Facts are good, but facts aren’t always the truth. Surf between news channels reporting on the same story on any given night, and you can readily see how easily different channels bend the facts to fit “the imagination of their own heart.”
Conscience? Better, but not perfect. Our conscience testifies that something’s wrong— that we’re somehow already disconnected from God—even as it potentially points us in the right direction. But though our conscience might alert us correctly, we often do wrong things in response to what it tells us. We take short cuts. We run the other way. We do everything we can to avoid the problem we know is there. More often than not, we’re more concerned with easing our consciences than we are with trying to address the disunity in our souls that our consciences have correctly perceived.
So let’s cut to the point: Our conscience tells us something’s wrong; the Spirit tells us what’s right. To receive what the Spirit’s telling us, we need to lay down our “heads”—our thought lives—before God. We need to humble ourselves enough to let God work, and to allow our convictions—or lack thereof—to be replaced by his.
True story: Romans 12:2 was my life verse even before I came to know Jesus. Here’s the King James version I first read it in more than thirty years ago: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” There’s so much packed into that verse, and space doesn’t allow us to fully unpack it here. Maybe my own pre-Christian experience with it will help illustrate, though.
When I first read this passage as an I-believe-in-God-but-I’ll-be-anything-but-a-Christian thirty years ago, I immediately sat down and wrote an essay on the power of saying “no.” There was truth to that response—but it wasn’t the whole truth. I had locked squarely into “And be not conformed to this world,” and was on board with “but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” but “that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”? Who cared? I didn’t. Not yet. However, without it the little truth I genuinely knew was as good as a lie.
Our lives are no longer our own. The key to a renewed mind is the willingness to lay down our thoughts in order to learn God’s. As we let go of what’s “ours” and take hold of what we know to be God’s, our minds begin to be purified. The Spirit begins to untangle truth from untruth, the wheat from the weeds. God’s will becomes less of a mystery, even as God himself remains an ever-deepening mystery. Even when we can’t immediately see or understand where God is leading us, he honors the spirit of submission he’s given us—and our resolve to stay in submission—and leads us there anyway.
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding….
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul (Proverbs 2:3–6, 9–10).
To know yourself better only makes you more like you. To know Jesus more is to become more like Jesus. That’s what God has desired for us since the day of creation. So lay down your head, and be transformed.
Lay It Down Today
What’s your “life passage”—or at least a passage from God’s Word that’s spoken to you recently? Take fifteen minutes now, and let it speak to you some more. Sit quietly before the Lord and simply meditate on this passage. Then close your time in prayer. Here are a few guiding questions to help you process: