A friend of mine recently shared with me the story of her driving her car until her gas gauge was below E – meaning it was below empty. She sent me a picture of her gas gauge (it is to the left). She said that when she finally filled her tank, it took 16 gallons of gas, which was the most gas she ever put into her tank.
We laughed about it and the what ifs about running out of gas. I remarked at one point that I always refill my gas when I get slightly below the 1/4 tank level. My friend replied something like But how do you know how far you can go if you don’t ever take it below empty?
I’ve never really thought that trying to run out of gas in my car was a good thing. I also have always thought that when the tank in getting close to empty – especially when the warning light comes on – it is a good idea to fill up. And then the inspiration for this article hit me.
How often do we run on empty or below empty spiritually? We may deny this happens but I think it happens…more than we want to admit. Do we even know when we need to refill our tanks, spiritually speaking? Or do we even know why we run on empty? I think I understand why we get to empty and why we tend to be there more than we should.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 NASB
Far too often we conform ourselves to the world. We pick up plenty of bad habits – in dress, attitudes, language – from the world around us. Perhaps the worst habit we pick up is the attitude of self-sufficiency.
Do not be conformed to this world…
Misinterpreting this command is really hard to do, yet we do it all the time. We conform to the world’s standards and expectations. We conform to the world’s views on social issues and, sadly, theological issues. We conform in the use of our time, talent, and treasure. We place more trust in Bitcoin that we do in Christ. What a sad state we find ourselves.
Our tendency to conform to this world is at the root of the problem of running on empty. We wrongly believe that a five minute devotion is just as good as a good hour or so in deep study of God’s word. We convince ourselves that we can multitask our sanctification by listening to someone read the Bible instead of reading it ourselves. We deceive ourselves into believing that our little popcorn prayers – those inane little thought prayers we pop up to God as we think of them – is sufficient communication with out Father in heaven. We do all these things and are surprised that we lack any real power or sensed presence of God in our life. Oh my. Oh my, oh my, oh my. This should not be.
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…
This is an interesting part of this verse. The word transformed can be either in the middle voice or the passive voice. The middle voice is kind of an intensive active voice – I’m doing the action for my own interest or benefit. The passive voice is understood as I am the recipient of the action – someone is doing the action to me. Which voice is in view here depends on the interpreter in many cases. I like them both. Kind of.
If the middle voice is in view, then I am involved in the process of transformation. I’m reminded of the verse work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” That is found in Philippians 2:12. Chapter 2 of Philippians is exhorting us to be like Christ in all we do. If the middle voice is in view, I am to transform myself in my own interest with the result being that I become more like Christ.
If the passive voice is in view here, than I am receiving the transformation – probably through the agency of the Holy Spirit’s role in my progressive sanctification – and am not actively doing it. God is in the driver’s seat here, which suits my Sovereignty of God orientation.
But rather than quibble about which voice is in view, I’d rather focus on the rest of the verse
by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
My – and your – mind must be renewed. And this must be an ongoing action. Now this isn’t just for the sake of me getting better. Oh no, read the verse. It is so that I may prove – PROVE – what the will of God is. Imagine that.
How do I renew my mind?
First, renewing the mind includes a steady diet of God’s Word. We are bombarded with the words of the world. We don’t spend near enough time battling the influence tis has on us. We need to bathe our mind in the ever-soothing salve of God’s word so that our battered soul may take refuge in Him.
Second, we must communicate with our Father. This means not only do we speak to Him, but we listen for His voice in our life. This takes time and is definitely what the world has in mind for us in the gotta-get-it-now culture. Our culture definitely creates an unworkable framework furor spiritual growth.
If we don’t listen to what our Father has to say to us – through His word, HIs Spirit in us, and HIs people around us – then we really are not communicating with Him.
Third, we need not only to serve others but receive service from others. We can refill ourselves by giving when we can and receiving when we need to receive. This promotes our community – the Church – to rely on each other.
Are you running on empty?
Have you run your tank to below the E on your spiritual life gauge? If you’re like me, you have done this more than once. You may be there right now. And you know what? Its OK to be there. You can do this every once in awhile. The important thing is not to stay below the E in your life.
May you prosper in the Lord in the coming weeks as you fill, use, refill, use, and refill again your spiritual tank all to the glory of God.