I think it’s fair to say that we all have things that we fear, and things that keep us from really being who we want to be.
Whether we are wounded by what others have done to us, or by what they have said about us, or even wounded by our own past mistakes. Maybe these things only happen to me, but there have been many times when I have had memories of things flash into my mind that I said or did that were so dumb, and that literally made me slap my hand over my face and shake my head in embarrassment. I have called myself so many names. I have also had memories from years ago come to mind that make me just laugh at myself. We don’t like to relive those moments. The crazy thing to think about is that everyone is probably going to know all that stuff some day when we come before the Lord. Not a super pleasant thing to think about. While I certainly do have regrets and things that I would rather not have people know about, I realize that it’s not about me, or about what I’ve done, where I’ve been, or the mistakes and sins that I have committed. It’s all about the grace of the Lord and what He has done for me and in me. What gives me comfort and hope is that people will see more of what the Lord has been able to do in me, miserable sinner that I am. Seeing this transformation that He guided and the grace that He has given throughout my life, I will only be able to be in awe of God and to see His glory and power. For this reason I do not fear the day that all will see me in the light of God. Yet while here in this life, too often we are guided by the lies that we have begun to believe about ourselves. We determine everything based on our way of thinking. So how do we experience the transformation of grace?
In the Gospel for this weekend, the apostle Peter, who had just received the keys to the kingdom, like we talked about last week, gets told off by Jesus for thinking like human begins think. The passage states, “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, ‘God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.’ He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’ Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me’” (Matthew 16:21-24). In the previous passage from last week when Peter identified Jesus as the Christ, Jesus told him that he did not come up with that on his own, but that it had been revealed to him by God the Father. This week Jesus tells Peter that he is thinking like humans think and not as God does. What Jesus wanted to prepare His disciples for was to know what would happen before hand so that when it happened they would not lose their faith. The human way of thinking is to refuse the cross, reject the suffering and to avoid death at all costs. Jesus knew that it was only by embracing all of these that He would be able to overcome death by his resurrection. But the dying comes first.
This weekend we also hear from St. Paul to the Romans. He says in chapter 12 “I urge you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God to offer you bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of you mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). The key line I think is “be transformed by the renewal of your minds.” This is an interesting thought. What St. Paul is saying is that our lives change when our ideas change. Our lives change when our thoughts about ourselves and about God change. Yet it is so true that we often get stuck and think of ourselves as determined to be a certain way, or to act a certain way. When certain fears come into our minds we automatically think we cannot overcome them. Its kind of like what the Alcoholics Anonymous folks call “stinkin’ thinkin.’” It’s all this gunk that I allow to govern our actions in the present. What I think is really good news though is that we can overcome with the help of God’s grace and by the renewal of our minds about who we are, who we belong to and what we are able to do with His help.
The way to get to a greater freedom here is to embrace the mind of God. What does God think of me, what is God calling me to do, what can separate me from God’s love, who am I to Him? These are important questions to ask Him directly and then listen for the answer. When reading His word in the Holy Scriptures, we will find the answers. It’s so important then to repeat and to declare the truth to ourselves over and over again. We need to speak truth into our lives and into the lives of those around us in order that the truth begin to set us free. The truth is that all of us have human ways of thinking that need to die in us in order that we begin to experience a resurgence of freedom and life. Just as Jesus told His disciples that He had to die in order to be raised, so too the old broken ways of thinking will have to go if we want newness, freshness and freedom. So much healing happens when we begin to see ourselves in the mind of God, and when we accept His mercy that He desires to give us. So allow the thoughts of God to renew your mind about who your really are and what He can really do through you. Experience the transformation and freedom that come with living who you were truly meant be.