Forming the Gospel-Framed Mind | Forming A Gospel Culture (Part IV)
What is the Gospel-framed mind? Let’s go back to what we have said in our previous posts. The Gospel truth is the view of the world according to God. A Gospel framed mind sees the world the way God does. It has a Gospel-based world view.
This explanation may still be at too high of an altitude fly over for some, so let’s break it down a bit more into some bite-sized pieces.
Our Ethos & Ethic
We all constantly make decisions. These decisions come from a place within us that is conditioned to work according to certain principles. This is our ethos and ethic. Our ethos is our driving spirit, culture, inspiration within a group, or within a person. It has a huge impact on our decisions. Likewise, our ethic, the moral principles that have been built into our psyche by nurture and experience do as well. Our actions can be right, wrong, or indifferent. We find something that belongs to another person and return it (which is right). We can steal something or say a negative word about someone (which is wrong), and we choose and ice tea over a lemonade (which is indifferent).
Yet what drives our ethos has greater impact on all our decisions, because ethos tends to drive our ethics. For instance, our ethic can be on the whole good, but if our primary ethos, let’s say, is the accumulation of material things, of money that could have a negative impact on the whole of our decision making to make us greedy and not compassionate towards other. We might make good decisions moral on most days, but our ethos, what we actually live for, has long term consequences for how we think and act.
Gospel-based Decision Making
So what is Gospel-based decision making? Simply put, it is driving all our decisions by the claims of the truth of the Gospel. For this to happen, it means our minds must first be filled with the Gospel and its driving principles. The mind needs to first be “framed” by the Gospel. That is what discipleship does. It is the Gospel truth absorbed in community with other Christians where the mind is transformed by the Gospel truth. Look at what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:2:
Rom. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Let’s take a few minutes to break this down. First Paul lays out first the contrast between the way of the world and the way of God. They are two different ways of thinking and doing. Paul says “do not be conformed…” meaning to fall in line with or follow the pattern of something. In the Gospel, two patterns of life are at stake—a worldly pattern that is against God, the Gospel, and his kingdom, and a Gospel pattern which is the way of God. It swims against the current of the world, it is costly, and it is difficult.
Second, Paul command to be “transformed by the renewing of you remind…” What does he mean by this? It simply implies that the natural mindset we are not only born with but also naturally learn needs to change. It is out of step with God’s will and ways for the world. This is what we mean by developing a Gospel framed mind. Through the Gospel, our mind is being reframed from its former ways for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
While “conformed” here means to fall in line with following a certain pattern, Paul uses a stronger word for “transformed.” This Greek word (metamorphao) through which we get the word “metamorphosis” implies total transformation, transfiguration, and core change at the level of complete demolition and rebuild. It is not just the change shape is “conform” does, but it means to change nature completely from one thing into something totally other. Here we can’t not add as well that he puts special emphasis on “the renewing of your mind…” That is how this radical transformation takes place. It is not overnight, but a gradual transformation that rewrites our moral and spiritual code.
Third and finally, the purpose for this he says is, “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” This is the critical point at issue—the will of God. As I said, there are two ways in the world—God’s way and not God’s way. The Gospel calls us to God’s way, but by nature, we choose the way of the world. The Gospel challenges this and transforms us to be able to begin to discern the will of God.
Gospelizing All Our Decisions
It also changes us at both levels, ethos, and ethics. As we learn the Gospel, we learn God’s commandments Changing the principles upon which we make our decisions. But further, the Gospel changes our ethos—that is our drive or inspiration for living. The Gospel breathes new purpose into all our decisions making some very neutral decisions into morally powerful ones. Where once we might have done something like sit and watch two hours of television by ourselves in the evening, that may be transformed into spending more quality time with children and spouse, serving, or sharing the Gospel.
Here is the big point of the matter: The goal in discipleship is to train the mind to think from a Gospel shaped orientation in life. When someone is hurting us, “How does the Gospel command me to act in this situation?” When we are unemployed or suffering financial hardship, “how does the Gospel command me to think and trust God in this time?” — Get it?
Gospel-based decision making means pouring every decision, however large or small through the strainer of Gospel truth. What this means as well is that there is no “bracketing!”
What do I mean by that? Bracketing the situation is one of the most common sins in the Church. Basically “bracketing” means to tell one’s self, “well the Gospel does not apply to a situation like this.” That is a lie! A deeply hell-filled lie. This is precisely what is destroying the Church and destroying our witness to the world because we think we can rationalize and pick and choose when we want to obey the Gospel!
Well here is the Gospel truth. You can’t! And that is how Jesus sees it. If you are Christian, you are no longer your own, but ought with a price, and you are the servant of God. We do what he says—at all times. So when that person does something wrong to you, the Scriptures give precise commandment on how to respond. Or you borrow something from another Christian and lose it. What do you do? You restitute the wrong. What if you do not have the money to? Then you find a way to work it off.
How We Frame the Mind
How then might we reframe our mind for the Gospel? That brings up back to the four major principles we already briefly outlined. These are (1) Gospel Truth, (2) Gospel Community, (3) Acceptance, and (4) Accountability.
Let’s think about it this way. The Gospel truth lived out in a community of acceptance and accountability is like soaking a shirt in a tub of dye. As it remains, it “soaks up” the color of its environment. There is no single way to do this. There is no one size fits all curriculum for this. What is necessary are these four key elements that create the context and culture through which Gospel transformation takes place. It is here we soak in and marinate in life-transforming truth that gradually replaces the old man with the new.
This leads us to some other key points that we will expand in what follows. First of all, these four elements are driven by the power of the Holy Spirit within the community. It is not in our own power, and the Spirit plays the critical land life-giving role. But know this, The Spirit is a gentleman showing up where he is welcomed. So if you begin to shape your Christian community around these key principles, they are like rolling out the welcome mat for the Spirit to enter and do his work.
The Gospel transforms the mind first. The mind leads and commands the body. When we lead our mind, then our body follows. Yes, our passions and impulses my fight back some. But again, those take place in the mind too. Our lusts, fears, anxieties, and desires are experienced between our ears. That is why Paul says we are to be “transformed by the renewing of our mind.” this is what causes the prolific life change that results in discerning and living the will of God.