April 1, 2012
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1,2)
When Paul writes, “Don’t be conformed to the world” many Christians will say, “Oh, that means don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Don’t play cards.” and so on. None of which is the real issue.
The reality is that each day, whether we are conscious of it or not, the world we live in tries to conform us to its way of thinking. This programming of our minds and behavior doesn’t happen over night. But it does happen 24/7/365. Slowly, purposefully, the effort is made to conform us to the thinking of this world.
How does the world think? The whole world is focused on self - the advancement of self, personal happiness, and self-gratification. “What’s in it for me?” A philosophy and a thought process that promises so much and yet when it infiltrates our homes, community, and church tears us apart leading to heartache, ruin, and disaster.
Paul writes, “but be transformed.” Our English word “metamorphosis” comes from the same Greek word as “transformed.” Think caterpillars becoming butterflies. A complete change in form, shape, and structure. Paul writes, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” “Renewing” is complete renovation. Think “Extreme Makeover.”
We thought like the world. We were focused on ourselves. But, now we’re coming to think focused on God. Which is the opposite of how the world thinks. The result, Paul writes, is that we will experience what God wills for us in our homes, community, and church - that which is “good and acceptable and perfect.”
Not bad. Except for one small problem. Its impossible. At least if we try to accomplish this transformation by our own will, wisdom, and work. Transformation is a work of God.
Salvation opens up to us the transformed life - the abundant life that Jesus spoke about (John 10:10b). Life lived beyond the limitations of what we can imagine for ourselves. Life as God has created life to be lived.
God by His grace breaks into our lives - the once foolish - disobedient - enslaved - deceived by this world. God’s love is poured out as Jesus, dying on a cross, takes on Himself the penalty for our sins. Not because we deserve it. But because God is gracious. Because God is loving. We no longer belong to evil. God ransoms us from fear and hatred. God makes us to be heirs of life with Him. Paul writes that only reasonable response is to give ourselves totally to God.
That’s why Paul writes about presenting out bodies as living sacrifices, totally giving ourselves to God (holy), in the way which is acceptable to Him. That means committing all that we are to God by laying ourselves without reservation on the altar before God - and leaving ourselves there 24/7/365. As we give ourselves totally to God we place ourselves before Him in openness to His ongoing work of transformation and renewing of our lives. Put simply: As we give ourselves to God He gives to us the abundant life we deeply crave.
What all this means in the real world of our lives is very intentional. I’m finding that spending regular time with God by reading His word and in prayer (think daily) places me where He has access to my heart. Worship opens my heart to Him. Not indulging in sin keeps my heart connected with Him. Obedience allows Him to shape my character from the inside out. Choosing to trust Him when I have no clue what comes next and finding Him faithful changes my thinking about the circumstances of my life. Put simply: Intentionally attending to the basics of the Christian life is huge.
Lately my prayer has become this (maybe you might pray this for yourself): God, cause me to think differently than how the world has shaped me to see, hear, and feel. God cause me to have open eyes, open ears, and a heart open to see, hear, and feel the world around me as you see, hear, and feel it.