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You Can’t Turn from Temptation on Your Own

What’s the remedy to the problem of the mind and the heart? Be transformed in the renewal of your mind.

How’s that going to happen? It’s going to happen by the power of the Holy Spirit. The reason I emphasize the Holy Spirit, even though the Holy Spirit is not mentioned in Romans 12:2, is because in Titus 3:5, the word “renewal” occurs, and it’s the only place in the Bible that it occurs outside of Romans 12:2.

The whole Greek Old Testament, the whole Greek New Testament, not one other occasion does the noun for “renewal” occur except in Titus 3:5, so I feel some warrant in saying that Paul’s use of it there would help us here. And he says, “[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

If you ask, how does the renewal happen? How does the mind of the spirit get altered so that I’m not in rebellion anymore, and I’m not finding more pleasure in me, but more in God? The answer is, the Holy Spirit comes and does a double work.

The Double Work of the Holy Spirit

 To set the stage for what that double work is, listen to 2 Corinthians 3:18, probably the most important verse I’ll quote outside the text: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed” — beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed — “into the same image” — that’s the image of Christ — “from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

The key to a transformed mind is the steady gaze at the glory of Jesus Christ. For that to happen, we need a double work from the Holy Spirit. Let me describe what I mean and show you how you can join him in this work. We need the Holy Spirit to work from the outside in by putting before us Christ-exalting truth in the gospel, and we need the Holy Spirit to work from the inside out by humbling our hard hearts. Both have to happen.

He must lead us to hear the gospel, read our Bibles, study Christ-exalting writings of great saints, meditate on the perfections of Christ. Our great enemy, the devil, does not want this to happen because it says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”

The devil fears one thing more than anything else: your seeing the glory of Christ — seeing Christ for who he really is, seeing with the eyes of the heart, seeing with the spirit of the mind, seeing him for who he really is in all of his glory, and embracing him. The devil fears that more than anything because Paul says that’s the way we get transformed, that’s the way our minds are altered: by gazing at the glory of Christ with an unveiled face.

Direction number one that the Holy Spirit has to work is he must present us with the gospel. He must put Jesus Christ in the truth, in a book, in a sermon, on the radio, on television, in a tract, in the mouth of a trusted friend. He must put Jesus Christ before you so that you can have an objective exposure to his glory, which does no good at all unless he does the second work. Namely, he moves inside and explodes that hard heart, takes out the heart of stone, puts in the heart of flesh, and makes us have a truth-embracing humility.

Let me sum up the two. It works up like this. When you pray for the Holy Spirit to work, ask that he would objectively lead you to Christ-exalting truth and that he would inside subjectively lead you to truth-embracing humility. Christ-exalting truth must come to you from outside. Truth-embracing humility must rise up on the inside. And when those two works of the Holy Spirit happen, worship happens, because of the transformed mind, the renewed mind.

What Should You Do?

 I ask, finally, what should you do? The answer is, with the Holy Spirit, pursue Christ-exalting truth. Listen to rich expository messages about the glories of Christ. Whatever it takes, find them, listen to them. Read your Bible from cover to cover on the lookout for the perfections and the glories and the beauty of Jesus Christ. Read great, old, rich, deep expositions of the nature of Christ and the work of Christ.

Then pray, pray, pray, pray that the Holy Spirit would renew your mind by shattering the heart of hardness, by giving you a truth-embracing humility and openness and teachability and a whole new mindset so that this truth, which you are now reading, hearing, meditating on, pondering, will be seen and Christ will be seen for who he really is. And then 2 Corinthians 3:18 will come true:

Beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Source: John Piper | Desiring God