Romans 12:1-2, 15:4
2 Timothy 3:12-17
When our thinking is changed by and through the Word, our lives will follow suit. This isn't a direct one-to-one correlation because we can still reject what we know. At the same time, we can't live in what we don't know. True life change begins with a position change, then a mind change, then to a whole life change. That seems to be the pattern throughout Scripture. Think about it: Why was it that God attacked the false gods of Egypt with each plague? To establish Himself as the one true God in the minds and hearts of the Israelites. He was addressing a worldview they had adopted for 400 years. God first addressed their minds, then their beliefs, and then He asked them to follow Him. It seems throughout Scripture that this has been God's plan for life change.
In Colossians, prior to God's exhortation to put off all that is earthly in us (Col. 3:5) and put on the Christ life (Col 3:12-14), God exhorts us to seek the things above. He goes on to explain a way to do that is to set our minds on those things above (Col 3:1-2). When we yield our minds to the power of God's Word and the Person of Christ in us, God in turn transforms us to be more like His Son. Of course, the mind isn't everything, but it is the starting point, and it cannot be overlooked.
When the mind is changed, the life can change as well. It is the power of God's Word and the Person of Christ in us that changes our mind. A Church that finds its sole dependence on the Word (Christ), will be transformed by God to be more like Him. It is the Word of God working in the lives of the Church, by the power of Spirit, that causes the Church to grow (soul and numerical growth).
Let’s say for instance, there is indeed a form of “life change” prior to a genuine “mind change” in the Church. Isn’t that the very definition of legalism and hypocrisy? In truth, the change you see is not change at all, but rather a formalistic and ritualist view of change and Christianity. In contrast to this view, God constantly presses for a mind/heart change prior to any talk of works or behavior change. In fact, it is the behaviors that would change as a result of the inner transformation that God has first accomplished in the believer, not the other way around.
Life is tough. We all struggle with temptation, sin, heartache, failures, unmet expectations, frustration, etc. That is part of life here are earth. However, we are called to live a life worthy of our wonderful calling in Christ (Eph 4:1). It is the privilege and responsibility of the elders, leadership, and the spiritually healthy members of the Church (male and female) to help others in time of need. What is the Church to use in discipling a husband who has rejected an unbelieving stepson? What guides them in helping an older gentleman who has fallen back into drunkenness? What should the Church use to counsel people in sin and behaviors that the Word doesn't specifically address? What will lead the Church when they counsel a parent who molests their own child? When a husband beats his wife or children? What about when a believer is living in self-protection patterns that hinder him from being intimate with his wife and “present” for his kids? What is at the Church's disposal in all the struggles of life? The Word. Is the Church prepared for that?
Sole dependency on the Word is the only thing that is going to produce a Church that can function in this way. If there is a crutch of any kind that is hindering the Church from depending solely on the Word, the Church would then be stunted in its ability to use the Word in that fashion. It is our responsibility to disciple and equip the Church for a ministry at this level because life is not so much in the black and white but in the gray. Truth and light gives perfect direction in the gray.
As the Church or an individual struggles, is the Church prepared to use the Word of God to graciously and lovingly nurture the believer back to health. The Word is completely sufficient for that; however, we must think, believe and live lives that model, disciple and equip the Church for that. As we disciple, the Word of God must never be seen as a supplement to our words and our teaching. The Word must always be seen as the epicenter, basis, foundation, and source of all we think, say and do.
The goal of the Church is to be like Christ. If that is true, then God needs to do some massive work in our lives and the life of the Church; thankfully He is both willing and able to bring about that change in us. God is a God of change. He brought us who were once dead to true life (Eph. 2:1-6) — into the greatest change that anybody could possibly go through. He is still desirous to transform our thinking that it might become new (Romans 12:1-2, Col. 3:10). God has changed our position from one of death to one of life in Christ (Romans 6:2-5) and He is in the process of changing our condition/walk as well (Romans 8:28-29). One day, He will fully complete the change in us (Eph. 1:14). God is indeed the God of change.
If that is God's desire for the Church, then we must align with Him by teaching and discipling with worldview and life change in mind. For this to take place, the Church must understand what the Word means and understand how to properly apply the meaning of it to their lives. We have not been asked to simply spark the intellect, but rather to have the Word shed light on areas of our lives that have been hidden and need to be exposed for change. For this to take place in the life of an individual and the Church, the parts must be understood in context of the whole and vice versa. The truth of God's Word needs to be understood from both the macro and micro perspective.
Every New Testament letter must be understood from this big picture/small picture viewpoint. It seems that teaching and discipling through the letters of the New Testament from a whole book/letter perspective can best incorporate the macro and micro level understanding of the book/letter. Teaching from a whole book perspective of course gives a macro level perspective of that book by accurately setting the background and context of the book, and it prepares the Church for the micro (smaller) level study as well. Perhaps it should be noted that this is not a word study approach where theology is established at primarily a word level, but we are describing more of a concept-by-concept level. Once a concept is understood, it is then connected back into the macro level to ensure a holistic understanding of the concept.
When studying through Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, and Revelation it becomes obvious that there was thought and purpose in the sequence of these books. They didn't happen by chance. For example, why was it that God started Romans 1-3 with the “lostness” of all mankind then moved to the finished work of Christ by explaining our justification; addressed faith in chapter 4; the results of our justification in 5; only to proceed to chapters 6-8 to explain our sanctification? There was purpose in all of this. Without understanding the parts in connection to the whole, it would be difficult to see these distinctions. It is important for the Church to grow in their study of the Word from this perspective.