One of the most important, day to day habits that we need to develop as followers of Jesus is the practice of renewing our minds (Romans 12:2). As Christian parents, this is a life-giving task that we need to be teaching to our kids as well. This episode we discuss what that parental responsibility looks like and provide some tips to encourage you in it, or help you get started.
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Think for a moment about your common struggles. It might help you get started to focus on the difficulties or problem areas that you experience as a Christian.
- It could be an area of insecurity or condemnation or pride that you’re always battling.
- Perhaps you’re stuck in a pattern of inappropriate “people pleasing” that puts people’s opinions higher in your estimation than God’s opinion.
- Or it could be procrastination, or a bad habit of telling white lies, or any number of things, you fill in the blank.
All of us have besetting struggles that we always are coming against. So take a moment to get a clear picture of what YOURs is…
Do you have it? OK, now stop and think about this: No matter what age your kids are, they are already facing their particular version of similar issues.
- Anxiety and fear
- Lack of confidence
- Tendencies toward dishonesty
Their lists could go on and on too, couldn’t they.
It’s our job as Christian parents to equip our kids to handle their life issues in the strength of the Holy Spirit and with the power that God supplies. We cannot afford to abdicate this to Sunday School teachers, Youth leaders, or even our Pastors, because 9 times out of 10, they are not going to be able to help our kids like they truly need. But there’s another reason that’s even more important…
It simply isn’t their job to do that… it’s OURS as parents.
This episode is about one of the most important ways that we as parents are able to do that… and that’s through what the Bible calls “renewing our minds.”
What does the Bible mean by “renewing our minds?”
We get the phrase “renewing your mind” from Romans 12:2 – but before we dive into the scripture, just take a moment to ponder what the words sound like they mean.
RENEWING: a refresh, starting over, cleaning out the old and putting in the new
OUR MINDS: what we believe, how we think, the tenants and propositions we accept as true
Now let’s look at the passage…
“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 and acceptable and perfect.” – ROMANS 12:2
Since I was a young Christian this has been one of my favorite passages of scripture. I think that’s because it communicates not just hope, but the reality of what can happen when we avail ourselves of the amazing resources God has provided for us in and through what Jesus has done.
As Christian parents, it’s our job to help our kids understand and apply those things too.
This passage clearly teaches us that as believers in Jesus, we have a responsibility to do something about the way we think. We can’t simply roll along through life in our “default” mode of thinking because we can assume, with 100% certainty, that the ways we think are NOT going to be lined up with God’s way of thinking at the outset.
We can say it so confidently because all the years we’ve NOT walked in fellowship with God have conditioned us, patterned us to think in ways that the power of sin and our world system have convinced us are right. God’s ways are different, they are higher (Isaiah 55:8-9). Now that we are redeemed children of the living God and called to be co-workers with Him in the Kingdom work He’s doing, we have a responsibility to renew our thinking until it conforms with His.
The Apostle Pau, who penned the book of Romans, is obviously writing to adults Chrhistians, but we as parents need to think this through for the sake of our kids. Someday they, as believers in Christ themselves, are going to be responsible to do this “mind renewing” for themselves. If they’ve already placed their faith in Jesus as children, then that responsibility is on their plate already.
It’s OUR responsibility to help them walk that path of mind renewal, to give them the tools and habits that will set them up for the kind of God-centered and God-sized thinking that will be required of them as believers in Jesus.
The task before us is to help our children build mental habits, based on God’s truth and way of thinking (revealed in the Bible) that will serve them well in their efforts to overcome the type of things we highlighted at the beginning.
It’s a task they need to learn how to do every day of their lives, because they will be fighting the battle against those negative, damaging thoughts every day of their life.
As they learn to think according to God’s will instead of their will, aligned with what He says is true instead of what culture around them says is true, they will be able to live out the faith they have in Christ, and see Him live through them more readily and powerfully.
Help your kids learn to renew their minds
Let’s walk through Romans 12:2 one phrase at a time and we’ll discover what it’s telling us to do in order to renew our minds. Then, we can apply those principles on a kid-level so that we can help our kids do the same.
The first part of the verse, “‘Do not be conformed to this world.” So the first step is to recognize the worldly or ungodly patterns of behavior and thinking that are going on around us so that we can know what it is that we are supposed to get rid of.
In this context, when Paul says “the world,” he’s not talking about the mountains, the sky, the trees… the planet we live on. He’s referring to the society, the culture, the way the people in the world are thinking and living.
So said another way, we are not to be conformed to the sinful patterns and habits of the people around us who do not know Jesus.
Why is that?
Because the people around us who do not know Jesus are directly influenced and led by satan. That may sound extreme, but it’s the truth… and it serves as an example of how we need to learn to think about the world and the things going on around us in the way the Bible reveals it really is.
There are many passages in scripture that tell us that satan (demons) are ruling this world on certain levels. (John 14:30, John 12:31-33, Ephesians 2:1-3, Ephesians 6:12-13, and more).
Let’s just look at one of those… Ephesians 6:12…
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
So, whether you see them or not, there are spiritual forces that are doing their best to exert their influence and power over the world, the societies that you and your kids live in. Our way of thinking as Christ followers needs to be fully aware of this reality and intentionally on guard against those influences.
That goes for your kids too.
You might immediately think, “I don’t want to put such fearful thoughts into my kids’ minds. They’d be scared to death knowing that there’s a real devil who’s trying to lead them down a dark path.”
If that’s how you feel, I want you to know that is a natural and normal response of an appropriately protective parent, so good for you. But (and you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?)…
The way to protect your kids is NOT to withhold the truth from them, but to give them the WHOLE truth… the reality that Jesus is stronger than the devil, that He’s already beaten him, and that your kids have the opportunity to take refuge in Jesus in a way that assures them that there’s nothing to fear from the devil.
And if you’re having a hard time with that, it could be a sign that YOU need to revisit those facts for yourself. Most of the fear you feel when you think about talking to your kids about the reality of the devil and his schemes stems from one of two things…
- The devil is filling your mind with those reservations so you WON’T tell your kids about him (which would mean he gets free reign in their lives if you don’t), OR…
- You’re not convinced that Jesus is stronger and is on your side (and available for your kids).
This is the kind of thing that Paul is talking about when he says we are not to be “conformed to this world.” This is hard for adults to keep in mind and act in light of, much less adults. But we only need to look at our culture to see that evil influences are growing more and more influential and powerful.
So what are we to do in light of this reality? We are not to do what everybody else is doing. We are not to THINK like everybody else is thinking. That’s what Paul means when he says, “Don’t be conformed to the world.”
When we think about helping our kids in this respect, we have to remember that the battle begins in the mind, in how they think. That means that practically, we need to be very careful about the influences we allow into our kids’ lives.
So reexamine what you allow your kids unrestricted or unsupervised access to when it comes to TV, movies, social media, YouTube, podcasts, etc. There are so many open doors well-meaning but sadly naive Christian parents are allowing the enemy to walk through, right into their kids’ minds.
You’re a Christian parent. That’s not you… right?
How transformation happens over time
The next phrase Paul penned says that we are to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
So in other words, we can avoid the evil behavior, the sinful influences and corrupting things around us by thinking rightly about what is true is true and then, conforming our lives to those things.
What are the sorts of things we need to be thinking?
Those of us who have Christ living in us have to know and daily count on the reality that He has saved us from our sins because we’ve accepted him as Lord and Savior. He died for us on the cross and took away our sins. That’s truth.
That means that when the devil comes calling and tries to tell you that you’ve disappointed God for the last time and that He will never accept you again, you go back to the fundamental truth of what Jesus had done for you and you tell the devil to take a hike.
It also means that when your old habits of thinking try to convince you that you’re a loser, or not worthy, or unacceptable, you don’t accept it as truth but instead, align your minds with what God says: He’s given you a new identity from which you are able to combat those lies and show up with power and faith in this world.
So if we understand we are saints of God, not sinners, that we are adopted into His family, not rejected children who are being condemned and chastised by God all the time, it shapes our perspective of how we are supposed to show up in the world and how we can live in the world.
These kinds of truths are transformative for people at all stages of life, but especially for children, for adolescents, for teenagers — those who are engaged in a battle for their minds day after day in a godless culture. If they can learn God’s great love for the NOW, while they are young, you know they are going to be set up to walk in faith more readily and consistently when they are older.
When they know without a doubt that the God of the universe accepts them and loves them, then all the people pleasing and performance that they are pressured to give into can be rejected out of hand. It doesn’t matter what peers or society or certain circles of people say about them, they can be confident that they have the approval of God, because of Jesus.
It’s this kind of certain, firm conviction that can fuel your kids to live in an entirely different way than the world. Rather than living out of insecurities, they can live out of confidence.
Start with yourself, then lead your kids on the path behind you
We parents desperately need to know and practice these truths ourselves. On one level, it’s a life-long battle. We’re never going to stop working on getting our mind aligned with God’s truth.
So if you aren’t in a habit of reading, meditating on, and even memorizing the word of God on a daily basis, figure out a time and a method that works for you and get started. You can’t lead your kids to a place that you have not gone yourself.
And as you’re walking the path, as you benefit from the renewed mind that is developing in you, start to take note of your children’s way of thinking at all different ages and stages. Become a student of each of your kids so that you can know best how to help them.
How can you know what they are thinking and believing? By asking yourself a series of questions, based on their behavior — because our behavior reveals our beliefs. Said another way, what we believe always comes out in the way we live.
So start asking these questions:
- What kind of behavior am I seeing from my kids? What does this tell me about what they believe?
- What kind of things are they saying to one another, or to their friends?
- Is your child reacting in anger?
- Is your child acting proud?
- Is he insecure?
As you begin seeing whether your kids behavior is in alignment with God’s truth or not, you can begin making plans to teach them the truth they need and to guide them in how to apply it to their lives.
Yes, I know I’m making it sound pretty simple. Yes, I know it’s not so simple, especially if your kids are already well into their adolescent or teen years without living or thinking according to God’s truth. But the Spirit of God can and will help you as you step out in faith.
Consider initiating conversations like this…
Let’s say that you see your son being ornery and mean toward his sister. He’s teasing her, calling her names, making fun of her because she’s a girl. How would you step into that situation with the kind of guidance that will help him not only learn how to love his sister better (like Jesus would) but also to address the issues going on inside of him that make him feel like he needs to act in that way?
You should start by bringing up how much God loves him… and take the time needed to lovingly unpack what “G-O-D” really means. He’s GOT to see that we’re talking about the Supreme Being, the God of Creation, the glorious one who holds all things in the palm of His hand. THAT is who cares for him, who loves him so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus.
Hopefully you’ve already had those kinds of conversations, but please make sure you get this point — remind him of the massive love that God has for him. Your son has GOT to be connected to the heart of God in a way that he cares what God thinks about him and his life. That’s when you’re able to point out that it saddens God’s heart when He sees him talk to his sister like he does.
You should also make sure that you’re coming at the conversation with a deeply caring attitude, appealing to him as his parent — the person who cares for him more than anyone on the planet. Make sure he understands that all you want is to guide him in a better way than he’s currently going.
Then, you clearly say that he’s not behaving properly toward his sister. And you can appeal to him based on who God has made him to be, in Christ, if he’s already trusted in Jesus. He’s got the Holy Spirit inside him to produce the right kind of attitude and behavior… and that it’s FUN to see God actually bless people through obedience. That means we seek to be kind, loving, helpful, patient. That’s the way Jesus is towards you, and so you need to be that way towards her.
Parents, do you see that you need to have your antenna up all the time, watching for the opportunities to teach your children how to renew their thinking about themselves, about the people around them, about how they live, and about God’s role in their lives as King and Lord.
Your kids can know God’s will, too
Let’s look at the next section of the verse. It says that once we’re transformed by the renewing of our mind, then we’ll be able to “test and discern what the will of God is.”
That means in a daily situation, in whatever is happening in life next year, in the big decisions you have to make, you’ll be able to know what God wants you to do if your mind is renewed. That’s true for your kids as well.
So when we go through the processes of thinking through and analyzing what we might be thinking or feeling, we’re able to discern through the help of the Holy Spirit, if we are off course or if we are headed in the right direction. The Holy Spirit, who lives inside us, is helping fashion our thoughts after God’s thoughts and to think of people and things and situations the way God thinks about them. As we think that way, we’re able to more easily see what God wants in a given situation.
In all of this, we’re teaching our kids how to think about themselves, about God, about the world. We’re teaching them truth, and that truth is what is what is renewing their mind. It’s pulling them away from the worldly mindset that we’re not to be conformed to, and helping them become transformed, by thinking on truth.
When this is happening, they will be able to know what God wants in any given circumstance.
An obvious piece of this that hasn’t been said is that we have to be actively learning and knowing God’s word, both us and our children. We’ve got to know what is true if we’re going to be able to be transformed into its image.
So how would we do that?
- We parents need to be committed to our own private time with the Lord on a regular basis — daily, opening the Bible, spending time digesting what it has to say, memorizing it, getting it to be part of our heartbeat, so to speak. This is what will enable us to recognize places in our children’s lives where their behavior or feelings or thoughts need to be addressed.
- Then we’ll be able to help them through instruction from the Bible when it’s needed in those circumstances.
Get your kids started early with the use of Bible storybooks, Bible time at bed, implementing a family time together where you’re doing Bible reading and you’re memorizing verses together. We’ve done that for years with our kids around the dinner table. It’s part of our responsibility as Christian parents to be guiding our kids in those ways.
That’s being proactive, helping them know how to think. And it’s a great blessing to them for you to be able to be ahead of them in this, even if it’s only a little way down the road.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5 the Apostle Paul explains how worldly philosophies and worldly ways of thinking can come into the church and take us captive. That’s a strong word, so pay attention to this when it comes to your children. You don’t want them taken captive by worldly philosophies.
So Paul says, that instead of being taken captive, we need to be destroying “arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
He’s describing the type of alertness that Christian parents need to have. It’s being aware of what mindsets and philosophies are being perpetrated all around me and all around my kids, and asking myself, “What do I need to do to counteract those with the truth of God?”
Parents, we are on the hook. We are responsible to help our kids move in that direction. It is vital that you do the work necessary to get to your child’s heart, and thereby get to the way they think. Your goal is not simply to correct your children’s outward behavior. Your main job is to help them to know what their thoughts are, what their feelings are, then to help them take all of that captive to the obedience of Jesus.
So friends, if this feels like a weighty responsibility to you, there’s no way to soften it. It is. But the reality is that we have the Spirit of God within us to help us do this as parents. And we can guide our children step by step, day by day, to renew their minds so that those things we talked about at the beginning of the episode, those things that we are fighting every day, don’t have as big of a grip on our kids as they have on us. That can happen if they’re learning earlier in life how to transform their way of thinking according to the truth of God’s Word.
MOM & DAD LISTEN SEPARATELY then set a weekly appointment to discuss what you’ve heard, pray about what God may want YOU to adjust or implement, then plan how you will do so.
LISTEN TOGETHER: Mom & Dad set a standing weekly date to listen together, pray over what you’ve heard, discuss, and strategize how to implement relevant things into your parenting.
SINGLE PARENTS: Make an appointment with God (and yourself) to listen, prayerfully consider how what you’ve heard fits your situation, and seek the Lord’s help for how to implement what you’ve learned.
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