Posted in encouragement, theology

Joy in renewed church going

By Elizabeth Prata

I appreciate my elders and the crew that sets up for church and cleans up afterward, with my greatest thanks to Jesus of course, our Head of the Church!

You see, yesterday was the second Sunday in a row we have returned to gather for church services. We’ve been in a shelter-in-place/lockdown/quarantine during this weird coronavirus-pandemic time. May 31 was the first time since mid-March that we have been allowed to gather.

We all felt the dearth of the fellowship. We felt dry due to no word being preached. We longed to sing. We wanted to do it all in person, not virtually on a Zoom screen.

The day after the first service back, I went to the city for an errand, it took about 35 min to get there and 35 back. I was enjoying a quiet ride with some hymns in the background. I noticed my mind was fully focused on thinking about Jesus. With all the pastoral scenes I was looking at, or singing, or humming, or thinking of, it was about Him. My mind was alive with connections and thoughts to yesterday’s service, the sermon text, the music, and the devotional we’d all participated in at the service. My mind was alive and lively, and it poured down into my heart with an overflow of gratitude and peace.

Then I got to thinking about why. I decided that as lovely as virtual services are, or sermons viewed online, or even reading them printed out at home, NOTHING compares to being gathered and hearing the word live. We know this, we understand this. But I was actually feeling and noticing the Spirit transforming my mind right before my eyes. (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23). It’s one thing to know in retrospect that the Spirit had been doing His work through the preached word, it’s another to understand when it’s happening right then.

I’m very grateful for our church body, and to my elders for being so steady and true. I pray that the others who gathered yesterday feel the same liveliness of the reverberating word as He causes it to zoom around our minds and hearts. It was good to be together again.

And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)

What does it mean, really, when God transforms our mind? The word transformed is translated transfigured. It is similar to when Jesus was transfigured on the Mount. His change was first seen as an outward appearance change, and his appearance actually did change, but that is not where the change began. It began inside.

This transfiguration that begins in the mind as Romans says, is not a course of self-improvement. It does not begin by deciding to change. That cannot be sustained. If true transformation could be begun by us and sustained to the end, we would not need the Savior. As McLaren notes,

‘You cannot expel nature with a fork,’ said the Roman. ‘What’s bred in the bone won’t come out of the flesh,’ says the Englishman. ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?’ says the Hebrew. … So by the rippling up from within of the renewed mind will come into our lives a transformation not altogether unlike that which passed on Him when His garments did shine ‘so as no fuller on earth could white them’; and His face was as the sun in his strength.

Barnes Notes explains about the mind,

Your mind – that ye may prove – The word translated “mind” properly denotes intellect, as distinguished from the will and affections. But here it seems to be used as applicable to the whole spirit as distinguished from the body, including the understanding, will, and affections. …

The sense is, that such a renewed mind is essential to a successful inquiry after the will of God. Having a disposition to obey him, the mind will be prepared to understand his precepts. There will be a correspondence between the feelings of the heart and his will;

In the 1980s I remember a catchy slogan from a wildly successful ad campaign, “Betcha Can’t Eat Just One” from Lay’s Potato Chips. Part of its premise rested on the fact that the flavor burst on our tongue containing all the addictive elements –  salt, sugar, fat –  what they call the  ‘holy trinity’, would overcome any reluctance to stop at just one but to continue on until the bag was depleted. The chip’s makers sought the perfect balance of those three elements to rest on what they term the “bliss point.”

Reading scripture is like that. Can we read just one verse? No, as the Spirit transforms our inner being starting with the mind, He prepares us to receive more and more. Just as the salt-fat-sugar in a potato chip prepares the tongue and enlivens it to want to consume more, the Holy Trinity prepares us through the mind to receive more and more of His blissful content until the permeation of the truth of it winds down into the heart and the soul too. And the more we consume, the more we are transformed.

Though begun inside, eventually this transformation begins to show on the outside, in a changed countenance, and with un-worldly actions and responses to things. Can we read just one verse? No. The joyful bliss we feel, as I did the day after the first service back, makes us want more and more.

Gathering corporately to hear the word preached, and it transforming the mind, and then going home to read the Bible day by day with more transformations happening, until the next service to repeat this wonderful process, is a life that leads to joy and delight.

This transformation from creature to joyful congregant, peaceful Christian, begins with the Spirit in us, transforming our mind. Read your Bible today. Betcha can’t read just one (verse).

conformed

Author:

Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.