"Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny."
This often-quoted maxim speaks to a great biblical truth at the core of who we are called to be in Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul writes "...take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). But how do we consistently "sow" thoughts that make us into the people God intends us to be?
Renewing a Spirit of Sacrifice
The framework for this type of spiritual formation can be seen in Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I often hear Christians only quote verse 2. Yet, if you look at this passage in the original Greek, it is all one sentence. This suggests that Paul wanted these two ideas (of being a "living sacrifice" and not conforming to the world but being transformed) linked together.
In a recent blog, I suggested that the gospel calls us to be "all in," to be wholly committed to what God is doing in the world with everything we have. This is what Paul is saying in verse 1; we have to be "all in."
But as a friend of mine often says, "the problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar," which is why "offering our bodies as a living sacrifice" is not a one-off but something we must continuously do. This is why Paul calls this sacrifice worship; it is something we are called to do every day—it is the way we are to live.
With this as a prerequisite, we keep from being conformed "to the pattern of this world" (Rom. 12:2), by being "transformed by the renewing of our minds." Paul goes on to say that only then will we truly know God's will. The question is, how does this renewing of our minds happen and what's the impact in our daily lives?
Sowing Biblical Principles and Reaping Values that Govern Behavior
In a previous blog, I wrote about the foundational biblical principles that undergird the law of God in the Old Testament and how they are a guide to everything we do, including our work and, by extension, our businesses. These principles should inform the values we use to make everyday decisions.
Stephen Covey explains in his book The 8th Habit the important connection between values and principles:
Values are social norms—they're personal, emotional, subjective, and arguable. All of us have values. Even criminals have values. The question you must ask yourself is, Are your values based upon principles? In the last analysis, principles are natural laws—they're impersonal, factual, objective and self-evident. Consequences are governed by principles and behavior is governed by values; therefore, value principles!
Values are the bridge between principles and behavior. Our value system acts as the "operating system" driving our everyday thoughts and behavior. God's principles are external laws that are permanent, unchanging, and universal in nature. Values, on the other hand, are internal and subjective, and they may change over time.
What Paul is telling us in this passage in Romans is that our value system must be reprogrammed from time to time. Our value system, or character, must be continually checked and realigned with God's principles. Many Christians have value systems that are a collection of conflicting ideas gleaned more from the common culture that from God's word.
In his new book, Old Testament Law for Christians, Roy E. Gane writes:
A rich source of wisdom regarding values is contained in OT laws. However, Christians have generally neglected these laws, to our loss, because we have not regarded them as relevant to our lives.
The transformational process that Paul is talking about in verse 2 ("be transformed by the renewing of your mind") is not instantaneous. It's a process wherein the Holy Spirit writes God's laws on our hearts (Heb. 10:16). We are not passive participants in this process—we have an essential, active part to play.
Constant Renewal Is Necessary for Flourishing
As we are committed to the transformative process, we must be actively seeking out the wisdom of God's principles found in his word. The Bible underscores the importance of studying God's word.
- We read in Joshua: "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful" (Josh. 1:8).
- Jesus himself tells us "If you love me, keep my commands" (John 14:15).
- When Paul tells Timothy "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16), he is talking about the Old Testament.
And as you study God's word, it is clear that God's "good, pleasing and perfect will" (Rom. 12:2) is for his creation to flourish. The purpose of our work, all the work we do, is to bring more biblical flourishingto God's creation.
The more we are "all in," the more our thoughts and actions align with God's principles, the more we can glorify God, serve the common good, and further his kingdom in this time and this place—in our particular season on this earth. And it is in the process of bringing more flourishing to the communities we serve that we flourish, too (Jer. 29:7).
Our prayer today should echo that of the psalmist in Psalm 119:10: "I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands."
This is how we change the world; this is how we reap a destiny!
This article is copied with permission from the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (www.tifwe.org). The original article appeared here. IFWE is a Christian research organization committed to advancing biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society. Visit https://tifwe.org/subscribe to subscribe to the free IFWE Daily Blog.