Everything has to have the essence for it to be the thing. For example, salt has to have saltiness to be salt; A body without spirit is dead. The idea of the essence also applies to the change of a thing into another. For a thing to be changed into another, the essence has to be changed. A tadpole, which is basically a fish, changes into a frog, which is an ambivalent. The gill is replaced by lung; the tale for swimming disappears and the legs come out. This change in essence is termed metamorphosis, which means transformation. Please keep this principle of the essence for the transformation in your mind for the discussion of this week.
The book of Romans chapter 12 verse 2 is based on the principle regarding the transformation of a person. It says, “Be transformed by renewal of your mind.” This verse gives us the idea on what the essence of a person is. It is the mind of the person. Therefore, a person is transformed into another, when the mind is changed.
This is the topic we will discuss this week. This will lead us further from the topic of the last week, “Be A Good Tree.” It is about how to be a good tree, that is, transformation. I hope we may enjoy this mental voyage through the week.
The 12:2 of the book of Romans basically teaches a person is transformed by the renewal of mind. It means the mind is the thing that we have to change for us to be transformed into the person we wish to be. If we apply the principle of the essence for transformation we talked about earlier, the mind is the essence of a person. So, the mind is the key for the transformation of a person. Then, what does the mind mean?
Are you familiar with the literary term, synecdoche? We need to talk about it to understand the meaning of the mind in the verse. It means, according to Dictionary.com, “a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for the part ….” Simply it is a part that is used to refer to the whole and the way around. Soul is an example when it is used to mean a person. The Xerox is one as we use it to mean the copy machine. We use synecdoche everyday.
Ancient Hebrews thought of mind as the seat of the spirit. When the Bible uses the word mind, most of time it means not only the mind but also the spirit which, the Hebrews believed, dwells in the mind. In this regard, the mind in the Bible is a synecdoche. The mind in the Bible, therefore, normally means the spirit or the whole mind in which the spirit is dwelling; it is assumed that the mind is not whole without the spirit in it. It is not only the ancient Hebrews, among whom the Bible was written, but also people in general who use the mind in the meaning. The mind in Romans 12:2 is not an exception to it. Therefore, the verse teaches the truth that the essence of a person is the spirit. James 2:26, “the body without the spirit is dead,” affirms the truth. Therefore, applying to the principle for transformation, what we have to change for us to transform ourselves into another person we wish to be is our spirit.
Then, how can we change our spirit? For us to answer this question, we need go back to the “mind.” How can we change our mind? To answer this question, we need understand how our mind works. With the mind we make decisions, which compose our life. One of its main functions is making decisions. Then how?
Decision making assumes judging. Judging involves the judgment, the standard, by which to judge if a thing is good for the person or not. Here ‘good’ means valuable to the person. In this regard, the standard of the judgment is that of the value judgment. So, let’s call it ‘value.’ The value functions like the gatekeeper of the mind, who lets in or rejects things the person is considering. Therefore, as the value changes,
what are coming into mind changes. Because the contents of mind is the spirit–the mind is the seat of the spirit–change of value results in the change of the spirit. So, we change our spirit by changing our value. Then, how does the value change?
If one sets a thing in his mind, his or her value is determined according to it. The thing sets the direction of the person’s life; the value just follows it. It is the person’s goal of life–what s/he pursues after for his or her life. If one’s goal of life is wealth, then, the value will be money, and s/he will judge things are good as they benefit him or her materially. If one’s goal of life is serving people with goodness, only things will be good for him or her if they are good for people. So, if one changes his goal of life, his or her value changes; according to the value, what is in the mind, which is the spirit, changes.
Therefore, for us to change our spirit, we have to change our goal of life. The Bible teaches it: Romans 8:5 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” Here, setting mind on something means setting the goal of life on the thing (cf. Matthew 16:23).
For us to transform ourselves into another person we wish to be, we have to change the goal of life. Here, we have to remember that every thing has its essence and the thing is not changed substantially unless the essence is changed. Therefore, if we want to change our goal of life, we have to change the essence of it. What is it?
We know that changing the goal from a thing to another among things in the world does not result in a substantial change in life. The man when he pursues money is not so different from the man when he does political power. So, only when he changes the thing he sets his life goal on from a thing of ‘this world’ to a thing of ‘the other world,’ he makes a substantial change of his goal of life. The things of the other world are the godly things, such as, eternal life, resurrection, immortality, and the kingdom of heaven. For transformation, he has to change his goal set on the wordly things to one set on the godly things.
Who pursue the godly things? Those who believe God’s word and love God. Whereas, who are they that pursue the worldly things? Those who do not take heed to God’s word and love this world. What makes both different from each other? Which they love between God and the world. Then, what is the essence of the goal of life? Our love which is toward either God or the world. Then, what should we change for us to be transformed? What we love for our lives between God and the world. It is what 1 John 2:15 says: “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love for the Father is not in you.”
From a common standpoint, nothing is wrong to live for a goal set on the things of this world. Each person has his or her freedom how s/he would live his or her life. As far as it is not beyond the common sense, nobody may say it is wrong. Then, why have we discussed how to transform ourselves? It is because, as far as I know, some people really need it. Those, who view that their life is not right and have decided to live differently from before, really want to know about it.
Why do they change their view of life? One has to be so serious about his or her life to change it. However, because anyone, who is so serious about life, would not destroy life but rather everyone would better life, if one changes view of life, it is usually in the good direction. That is, they, who change it, have found the better life for them. This assumes there are substantially different ways of life.
What does the better life mean? Some may think it is better that they live up to what they want in this world. Others may think there may be the other life beyond the physical life. They may not agree with the life up to desires of this world. It is because they view the world differently. So, it is really depends on the person’s view of the world to judge which life is better.
If one views there is no other world than this one we live in in the body, for him or her there is no reason to think about transformation and everything else we discussed so far. All things we discussed have significance only when one views that there is the other world beyond this one. It is one’s world view–where did this world, including human being, come and where is it going? The transformation of a person assumes the change of his or her worldview.