You wake with the sun streaming through your window and are at your garden in a few minutes. With transformation on your mind, you wonder where to start.
“I thought I might find you here,” comes a now familiar voice.
“Hey, Aunt Loola,” you say. “What are you doing here?”
"You visited me; I thought I'd return the favor," she says, coming up slowly with her cane in hand. After some pleasant small talk, you get down to business.
“So, what do I need to do now?” you ask. After looking around, Aunt Loola rubs her lower back.
"First thing, I need a chair,” she says but then adds, "and I wouldn't argue with some coffee." You rush off to arrange for seating and to make coffee. By the time you return, the sun is climbing through the trees. A gentle breeze pushes the morning fog along. Within a few minutes, you are sitting with your new friend, next to the wild thorn-covered patch of ground, somewhere beneath, a sprig of a fruit tree lives.
“Now, what do I need to do?" you ask. Loola simply looks at the mess of vines and tangles of weeds. When she doesn't respond, you start offering up ideas.
“Should I water?” you ask.
"Yes, but not right now. If the water sits only on the surface, the roots won't go deep."
“Should I fertilize?”
"Not yet, you don't want to hurt the sapling's tender feeder roots with fertilizer. That comes later."
“Should I pull the weeds?”
“You’ll have to pull some weeds soon, but the weeds are probably entangled with the roots, so let’s wait to do that,” she says. “The one thing we need to figure out is if the soil is right.”
“So, I need to focus on the soil?” you ask.
“Yes,” she says. “Soil is like a recipe. It’s got to have all the right ingredients.”
“So, how do I know if the soil is right?” you ask.
"The soil is where the magic happens. When it's right, the tree will grow. The soil has to be well-drained. Sandy loam is good. Too much clay, rock, or acid, and the tree won't go to fruit."
“So we’ve got to get the soil right?” you ask again, noticing she hasn’t given any actual instructions.
“Yep,” she says as she takes a sip of her coffee.
“So, how do we do that?”
“Let’s talk about it,” she says, placing her coffee cup next to her chair and rising to her feet. “Tomorrow. My place.”
To have abundant life, you will need to be transformed by God's Spirit. In order to be transformed, there is something relatively simple you must do. Paul explained it when he said, do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.1 The transformation we need comes from a renewed mind. It's your mindset that determines the rate at which the Spirit transforms you.
To gain abundant life through transformation, you must focus your mind on a particular set of ideas. Paul says it this way, The mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace. Peace is one of the marks of an abundant life. It's one of the fruits of the Spirit. When you take your mind off of the flesh and its desires and focus on Spiritual things, you will begin to be transformed into an abundant lifer.
Paul explains the importance of the mindset to accomplish life's ultimate goal in another one of his letters to some of his friends in Colossi. In that letter, Paul said, "Set your mind on things above…”2 Along with this, he gives some examples of things to set one's mind on. He says, "…Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.”3
Some of those above things are Christ, where He's at, and the things that are available through Him. Setting your mind on things above bears a strong resemblance to the phrase seek those things which are above. That’s like saying, set your sights on things above.
In another letter to a different group of friends, Paul explains what that mindset should look like when he says, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind…" Having a Spiritual mindset includes a focus on the reward Christ will give to those who obey.4 It will often include remembering that Christ could return at any moment.
In that same letter, he offered this as a note on our mindset—Whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, any virtue and, anything praiseworthy—think about these things.5 It's more simple than you might think. Basically, anything that is spiritually valuable is worth thinking about. When you spend your time with a mind focused on spiritually valuable things, you are accomplishing his instructions.
This is what the prophet Isaiah meant when he said, You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.6 The one who focuses their mind on God, especially considering His trustworthiness, is going to be a peaceful person. Peace is a fruit that only the Spirit can grow.
When you focus on spiritual things, spiritual fruits start to grow. So, if you want to accomplish the ultimate goal of your life, then it's simple. You need to change your mindset, from a mindset of the flesh— which will kill the fruit— to a mindset of the Spirit— which invites the Spirit to produce fruit in you. The result will be an incredibly abundant life.
Simple right? Yeah, it's simple, but it's not necessarily easy. Paul warns over and over of the damage that the wrong mindset will cause. He says that the mindset of the flesh is death. Those who suffer spiritual defeat have their minds set on earthly things.7 Those filled with vanity are puffed up because of a fleshly mind.8 He even says there are people who are always learning but never able to come to knowledge of the truth who have corrupt minds.9 Every problem stems from the wrong mindset.
Your spiritual success or failure will be determined by your mindset. No one experiences spiritual success with a corrupt mindset, but no one experiences ultimate spiritual failure who has a mind perpetually set on the Spirit. I love how everything can fall squarely under this easy-to-remember rule: The right mindset transforms, bringing abundant life.
Though it sounds simple, that doesn't mean it's easy. It's possible to fail at this simple task. Much of the Bible is devoted to bringing believers into alignment with the right mindset. Do you want spiritual success? I know I do. We are going to need to get our minds right. In some ways, this may seem counter-intuitive, so in the next chapters, we're going to talk about why this mysterious method works, and why it's so hard, and what we need to do to improve our spiritual focus.
1 Romans 12:2
2 Colossians 3:2
3 Colossians 3:1
4 Reward is not eternal salvation, but a repayment for a believer’s obedience.
5 Philippians 4:6-9 (edited for brevity)
6 Isaiah 26:3
7 Philippians 3:19
8 Colossians 2:18
9 2 Timothy 3:7-9