Understanding TPM: Refinement of Faith, Mind Renewal, and Transformation
There are three very important elements which provide the basis for doing TPM that must come into play: All three are needed and must be understood. There is the refinement of your faith, then renewal of our minds, and the predictable, lasting transformation that is a gracious gift from the Holy Spirit. These three elements are mentioned time and again throughout the Bible in different forms. The Bible often reminds us that the trials and tribulations (the “fiery ordeal” in 1 Peter 4:12-13) are the refiner’s fire; purifying our faith. This fire results in a purified belief (mind renewal) that produces an eternal change in our hearts and minds (transformation.) Examples such as, James chapter one that says, “Consider it all joy…. when you encounter various trials KNOWING (mind renewal) that the testing of your faith (REFINEMENT) produces endurance (TRANSFORMATION). Paul wrote, “Be transformed BY the renewing of your mind…” (Rom. 12:2) He also wrote “we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation (refiner’s fire) brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;…” (Transformation) (Rom. 5:3-4)
The Means and Process of Purification
The Bible uses the analogy of a refiner’s fire to depict the need for faith refinement. The very fact that our faith needs to be refined tells us that there is something less than pure about it. Life crises and difficulties are the fire that God uses to bring about this purification. Suffering is the primary tool that He uses to bring about His good in each of us; the refinement and purification of our faith/belief.
God has made it easy for us to identify where our faith is less than pure by the way we feel in any given life difficulty. He designed us to feel joy, peace, confidence and other positive emotions when our faith is pure and we are operating in the truth. However, when our faith is less than pure we will feel emotions that match the lies we believe.
If the “peace of Christ…” is not “ruling in our hearts…” (Col. 3:15) then something is wrong. The Apostle Paul’s prayer for the church revealed how the Lord’s peace should always be present in the believer’s life where he wrote the words, “… may the Lord of peace Himself grant you peace in EVERY circumstance…” (2 Thess. 3:16). “Every circumstance” leaves no room for anything else. When our faith is pure we will “… exalt in our tribulations…” (Rom. 5:3) )and will “…consider it all joy when [we] encounter various trials…” (Jam. 1:2). If our faith is not pure we will feel worry, anxiety, fears, doubting, feeling overwhelmed, lost, abandoned, powerless and helpless and many other lie-based negative emotions. Negative emotion is not a problem to overcome, but rather they are indication of a deeper problem for which we should take notice. Negative emotion is not something to overcome, but a necessary part of the refinement process pointing out our impure faith.
The early apostles agreed that suffering is the context in which God does His finest work. The Apostle Peter declared, “ Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” (1 Pet. 4:12-13).
The Apostle James said it this way, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Ja. 1:2).
The Apostle Paul confirmed this when he said, “ We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4) To the degree that we are able to truly re-frame our troubles as a refining fire being used by God, we will be able to rejoice with the expectation of a fruitful life.
However, believing this truth intellectually, that is, –suffering is beneficial– will only take us so far. We need to know it with our hearts. When we are able to view life difficulties from an experiential perspective, knowing with certainty that God is at work in the midst of our suffering refining our faith/belief, we will spontaneously “… exalt in our tribulations…” and “count it all joy when we encounter various trials.” We cannot produce such joy just by trying to rejoice, it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Knowing these truths are not intellectually accomplished, but an outcome of faith; knowing the truth with absolute certainty in our hearts. It is a God-produced fruit through His Holy Spirit. We cannot produce this kind of fruit ourselves; we either have it or we don’t.
There is a reason if we do not have the fruit of the Spirit
If we do not have it, then it is for one of two reasons. 1) We hold lie-based beliefs that thwart us from experiencing His fruit. 2) Or, sinful behavior may be in the way. However, most true believers do not live in habitual sin. If sin is not our problem and yet we still do not have the fruit, then we should consider that belief may be the problem.
Some might say that we are always sinning in action or thought. If that is the case then we cannot ever know or experience this fruit.
This is where the refiner’s fire comes into play. It is the fire that exposes the impurities of our belief. It is these impurities that thwart our experientially knowing the fruit of His Spirit. When we know that God is using the fire of our life difficulties– or may even be orchestrating and stoking the flames, we are in the position to submit to His handiwork. If we view the fire as our adversary and something to merely endure, then we miss the benefit. The fire is not our enemy even if our enemy is the source of it.
What can any man do to us that might thwart the will of God for us? Anything that anyone does to us becomes an instrument for good in the hand of God and therefore works for our benefit. The Bible declares the truth of this where it says, “all things work together for the good, for those who love Him and are call according to His purpose…” and “… if God be for us, then who can be against us …” (Rom. 8:28, 31). Anything that anyone does “against us” becomes “for us” because God is for us. In the same way that evil men schemed and plotted to crucify the Lord, God’s perfect plan of redemption was brought about in this context of freewill. God does the same for us in all our difficulties, even when those who might bring us harm do so with evil motive. Others people’s evil motives and behaviors have no bearing on God working out His perfect plan for us.
As far as our enduring a trial, this is not even a consideration since we will make it through every trial no matter what we do. Many people believe that we need endurance in order to get through our trial, whereas, James the Apostle says that endurance is the outcome of the testing. Hear his words again where he declares, “Count it all joy when you encounter various trials KNOWING that the testing of your faith PRODUCES endurance.” (James 1:2 Emphasis is mine.) Getting through a trial is a given and what all people do whether believers or not. All that is required to pass through a trial is to just keep breathing.
As a matter of fact, the Apostle Peter’s instruction for those in the midst of suffering was simple, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [he has equated the suffering with God’s hand], that He may exalt you at the proper time” 1 Pet. 5:6).
Even from a cursory pass through the Scriptures we can see that this is the primary method that God has used with His saints throughout the ages. We find God’s fire purifying the lives of persons like Job, Abraham, Jacob and Esau, Joseph, King David, and more. When we can grasp this concept, we will then agree with Joseph, “… It was not you who sent me here, but God… You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result” (Gen. 45:8, 50:20).
Paul declared this same message when he said, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31). In its most basic form this passage simply means that everything that is brought against us is actually for us since God is for us. Since He is for us, all things work together for us as well. Anything that seems against us falls into the “God is for us” category.
Just so that I am not misunderstood, I am not saying that God is the one who is literally bringing evil upon us. God is not the source of evil, but He is a God that is comfortable and capable of using anything or one He chooses –whether evil or not– to bring about the fulfilling of His perfect plan in lives of His beloved. I am also saying that no evil that comes into our lives has ever made its way past God unnoticed. He is fully aware of all that we encounter and endure. I no longer hold a “passive-permissive” understanding of God. He has a plan that will not be thwarted. He is purposeful, intentional and totally involved at all levels of the lives of His children. I take literal where the Bible says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32) He is “all-in” and nothing that comes upon us can hamper what He is invested in bringing about.
The refiner’s fire exposes our lie-based belief through what we feel
The reason that our life difficulties feel bad is not because of the situation, but rather because of how we interpret it. “We feel whatever we believe.” The pain of the tribulation is not the fire itself, but rather the lies that the tribulation exposes. Our emotional response is totally because of how we are interpreting what is happening. What happens is not causing us pain (other than the physical element). It was because of the “Joy that was set before him the (Jesus) endured the cross…” (Heb. 12:2) When we know the truth and interpret the difficulty through it, we will be able to “… rejoice with exultation.” (1 Pet. 4:13)
The source of the emotional pain felt during our crisis is the impurity (lie-based beliefs) being exposed. If we identify what we feel while in the fire of adversity, we will discover emotions such as fear, worry, anxiety, doubt and feelings of abandonment, overwhelm, powerlessness, etc. These are not truth-based emotions, but we do nonetheless experience real emotional pain since we will feel whatever we believe. Not everything that we believe is true.
This does not infer that we are to discredit physical pain that we may feel in the same situations. If I am physically afflicted, I should feel physical pain. Physical pain is truth-based. If I were whipped with forty lashes it would result in real excruciating pain. However, negative emotions I might feel in the same situation would be coming from my beliefs. I would physically feel the whipping, but I would emotionally feel whatever I believed.
Jesus modeled this during His trial and crucifixion. He felt the physical pain and yet responded with emotions of love and compassion to those who brutally wounded Him. The only record of what may have been negative emotion expressed by Jesus during His entire experience, was a feeling of being forsaken by His Father when He cried, “My God, My God, Why has thou forsaken me?” The emotions Jesus felt while being forsaken of His Father was a truth-based emotion and one expected. The good news is this: He will never forsake us since He is with us “… even unto the ends of the earth.” (Matt. 28:20). So any time we feel forsaken or abandoned, it is a lie.
Exchanging the Lie for Truth
The Apostle Paul describes those who have a depraved mind as those who have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Rom. 1:25). We seek to do just the opposite in TPM: to exchange the lies we believe for the Lord’s truth, thereby experiencing mind renewal. Mind renewal is not adding more Biblical knowledge on top of the lies we believe. Rather, it is replacing lies we believe with the Lord’s perspective. Bible knowledge is very important in the greater scheme of things, but knowledge alone provides no guarantee of mind renewal or transformation. Without question, there is a time and place for biblical instruction, correction and spiritual counseling; and he written Word provides this, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
Again, being Bible smart does not mean that our minds have been renewed. The proof of mind renewal is the subsequent transformation that will follow. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “… be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2) Mind renewal produces spontaneous and effortless transformation in our thinking and life. If there is no evidence of genuine and lasting transformation, then there is no reason to believe that mind renewal has occurred. When our mind is renewed with truth the lies we believed fall away. The lies that have felt true all of our lives will no longer feel true. Transformation is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Thus, when our mind is renewed, we will see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control flow naturally from our lives. If there is no fruit then there has been no mind renewal. Gaining knowledge alone is no guarantee of change; and controlling our behavior through self effort and performance is not transformation.
Transformation –as the outcome of mind renewal, is a lifelong journey of identifying the impurities in our faith and having them replaced with the experiential knowledge of God. This is accomplished lie-by-lie and truth-by truth.
Facilitators do not need to provide the truth during a ministry session
There is a time and place for biblical instruction and teaching; and a TPM ministry session is not that time. In reality, most people already know the truth that they need, they just cannot seem to make it work for them. They may even say something like, “I know it’s not true (what they believe), but it feels true that I am worthless, without any value, a defect, trapped, out of control, etc.” Or they will quote the Bible by saying something like, “I know the Bible says that ‘God will supply all my needs’ (Phil 4:19), but I still worry over my finances.” Or “I know God is my protector, but I am afraid.”
Instead of the facilitator giving information, biblical teaching or instruction during a ministry session, a TPM facilitator encourages the person to focus on what he feels, to allow his mind to associate the feeling with any related memory, and then to identify what he believes to be the root of his emotional pain. He is then asked to submit his lie-based belief to the Lord so that it may be exchanged for His truth. It is interesting to note that during a ministry session a person rarely receives more biblical truth; rather, as he lets go of his lie-based belief, he receives the heart-level understanding of the truth that he already knew intellectually. This form of mind renewal is not about correcting inaccurate biblical knowledge or giving additional knowledge, but rather about coming to believe the intellectual truths we know in an experiential way; belief of the heart.
A passage that describes moving beyond intellectual knowledge to a deeper experiential way was expressed by Paul to the Ephesians when he wrote, “To know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:19). Notice that the outcome of knowing at this level is being filled up with the fullness of God. We can intellectually know all about God and yet not know God. We are called to know with an understanding that surpasses knowledge. This is experienced at our very core and is the level of mind renewal sought during a TPM session.
In summary, mind renewal is the process of replacing impurities exposed by negative emotions through truth/perspective/light via the Holy Spirit. In other terms, it is the process by which the Holy Spirit makes the truth known to our “inner man” (experiential knowledge). The outcome of this process is seen in the “Transformation Box” portion of the TPM process and is that which produces the change in thinking (from lie to truth). The ultimate outcome of having our faith refined and our minds renewed is life-changing transformation.
The natural, expected outcome/benefit of a purified faith -knowing the truth experientially with the heart
Transformation is wholly a work of God and not accomplished by anything that we might contribute to the process. Performance does not produce genuine transformation. We cannot bring it about, but we can hinder it unless we choose to submit to God’s refining work.
Transformation results in an increasing amount of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Acting in a loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle or self-controlled way is not fruit. These are deeds of performance. We can produce deeds with our own effort, fruit we cannot. A transformed life is not produced by doing good deeds; rather fruit from good deeds is its outcome.
Transformation is Christ living His life in and through us