God is the one who brings about change in my heart and mind (see Transformation – Part I). So does that make me just a puppet on a string, waiting for God to pull those strings?
Theologians have argued for generations about the sovereignty of God vs. the free will of man, and this isn’t the definitive answer to settle all debates. But, yes, God controls everything; and yes, we have choices to make. In my simple way of looking at it, there is no conflict if I recognize God has the sovereign right to allow me to make choices. He gave me a free will so I can make choices within whatever bounds He sets. He is the source of the faith and wisdom and everything else I need to make right choices. Indeed, I cannot possibly choose rightly unless He equips me to do so. But I can choose to ignore the equipping that He provides.
So God does the transforming of my mind that Romans 12:2 calls for. But before that, in Romans 12:1 Paul says “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” The mercies of God enable me to offer acceptable worship that opens the door for God to transform my mind.
“Present your bodies”. My physical being is supposed to be a part of my worship of God. It’s easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking my mind is all that matters. As long as I know I’m supposed to be humble, what’s the point of kneeling? I know God is most important, so I don’t have to actually give anything up to demonstrate that, do I? But that’s like an athlete saying, “I don’t have to actually exercise or practice, I have the mind of a champion.”
We are holistic beings created in the image of God. So our minds and bodies are not independent of each other. As the mind enables the body, so do the actions of our bodies influence our minds. That’s why Christians practice symbolic acts like baptism and communion. These physical acts reinforce our beliefs. God made us in such a way that our physical activities reinforce our mental, emotional, and spiritual commitments. The more we’ve acted on a belief, the harder it is for us to change our minds about it (for better or worse!)
God doesn’t need my help. But He blesses me with the privilege of participating in His work — even the work of my own transformation. Sometimes what He wants me to do is very clear, and He expects obedience from me. Other times He lets me make decisions, and He looks at my heart to see what motivates my choices.
May those choices always be driven by what pleases God most regardless of whether it is easiest or most pleasant for me!