Don’t Be Conformed but Be Transformed

October 22, 2018 at 11:03 AM Leave a comment

I think anyone who is authentically saved comes to understand that living the Christian life is not an easy road. The only “easy” part of becoming or being a Christian is at the very beginning when a person’s eyes are often involuntarily opened to the truth and reality of the need for salvation. Normally, a person whose eyes have seen the truth embraces that truth and becomes saved.

…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10 ESV)

People who come to the point of realizing that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, will be saved. Only the person who comes to understand these truths begins to understand the meaning of salvation.

Notice also in the above two verses, the writer, Paul the apostle, tells us that belief affects the heart; not as feeling but as knowledge that dawns on the person. That knowledge, while understood intellectually, is embraced in the seat of our emotions. In other words, it comes alive in our hearts and leads us to confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and that He rose from the dead. This results in salvation.

However, I think all true Christians understand that this is the beginning stage. The “narrow” road that leads to life eternal (Matthew 7:14), starts with salvation. The journey to the end of that road where eternal life is actually realized and perfectly lived out forever is a process.

I want to be clear here in stating unequivocally that our salvation is not earned. We do not help God in any way for our salvation. We essentially embrace His free gift of eternal life. That is our reaction to salvation. We receive it. God did all the heavy lifting. As God, He became a Man, while retaining His deity (Philippians 2), lived a perfectly sinless life, and at the end of His life was found worthy to die on behalf of humanity for the forgiveness of sins and to bestow salvation upon all who would come to God in faith. This is the essence of the Gospel message.

The other truth though that is part and parcel of the salvation package is that there is a good amount of “work” that must be done on our part. Again, this “work” is not effort by us to gain salvation, nor do we work to keep our salvation, which the Bible teaches repeatedly cannot be lost or taken from us. No, the “work” that Christians must enter into is the work of growing in Christ. If we do nothing, sit back on our laurels and simply skate through the remainder of our lives, there will be little to no growth in Christ.

I’ve met Christians – and in fact, when I was much younger in the faith also thought – that I didn’t need to apply myself; that God would take care of my “growth” in Him. The fallacy here is that we must make a concerted effort to do what God would have us do so that our growth in Him takes place. If we are unwilling to partner with Him and obey Him, we will not only not grow, but we will become complacent and end up living a life of failure, not victory.

If we look at simply two verses of Romans 12, we see how Paul outlines for us the responsibility we have as Christians that leads us to live a life that not only pleases God, but causes us to grow in Him.

1 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. 2 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 ESV)

There are several principles at work here. First, Paul tells us Christians that we are to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. What does that mean? It means that we are obligated to do the things God wants us to do. God wants us to live in a certain way, to exhibit a certain demeanor as we go through each day of our lives.

Now, if you’re like me, you will find yourself balking at this concept. I can tend not to be a patient person. Sometimes, I’m not humble at all. That is the truth because I still have a sin nature, I’m still guided by Self, and the enemy often attempts to work through these two channels of failure to cause me to fall.

Everyone is selfish to some extent; some more than others. Everyone lacks complete humility; some more than others. Actively being a Christian in daily practice is a process that is designed to move us away from our selfishness and lack of humility. But it can only happen when we actively cooperate with God the Holy Spirit who lives within us. His goal is to create the character of Christ within each Christian. We can either assist in that process or resist it. It’s up to us. Does resisting it mean we lose our salvation? No, as I’ve stated before, when we resist God, we break fellowship with Him and before we can move forward, we need to repent and come clean about our failure. Once we do that, our fellowship with God is resumed.

It is no different from having an argument with someone you love. That argument causes you to move away from that other person. In essence, you are out of fellowship with them. Yes, humanly speaking, the break can be so bad that two people who previously cared about one another, end up going their separate ways never to have “fellowship” again. That’s the human relationship but our relationship with God is not like that. He endeavors to ensure that we are always in fellowship with Him, but He will not force it. If we break fellowship, He will do what He can to woo us back, but He will not necessarily force us to move toward Him. We may stupidly spend the rest of our lives being angry at God and never move back toward Him. This does not mean we lose salvation. However, it does mean we will inevitably lose rewards that could have been ours had we remained in fellowship with God.

Being in fellowship with God means a willingness to “abide” (have you heard that term before, maybe from Scripture?), in Him. If we abide in Him, we will do many things that are God-like because we are essentially cooperating with His Spirit within us. John, who wrote not only the Gospel of John, but also 1, 2, and 3 John fleshes this out for us quite clearly. Take the time to read 1 John in its entirety. It’s not that long – only five short chapters.

But getting back to Paul’s words in Romans 12, verse one tells us that we need to be offering our bodies (including our minds and our wills) to God as a reasonable sacrifice to Him, in response to all that He did for us. But then in verse two, Paul makes things very practical by telling us exactly how to do that.

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 12:2 ESV)

Paul says to “not be conformed” to the way the world thinks and operates. We should eschew it and avoid it. We are also told that love of the world is enmity toward God (James 4:4). We cannot on one hand be a living example of Christianity if we are loving the world. To love the world is to literally hate God because this world’s system is undergirded by Satan himself. So we must separate from the world emotionally. We must not be caught up in the trappings of this world, which is unfortunately way too easy to do because there are so many things that appear attractive that are in the world. Styles, fashions, speech, music, movies, video games, books and much more all compete for our attention and want to draw us away from God.

Paul tells us that Christians should not and cannot be conformed to the principles that guide this world. Instead, Paul says we must be “transformed” in our thinking and here is where Paul becomes very specific. How can Christians be transformed in the way they think? They are transformed by the “renewal” of our minds. But what does that mean? How are our minds renewed or literally transformed into the mind of Christ? Remember, God’s goal is to remake each Christian into a “little Christ” so that our words, our actions, our thoughts are what Jesus would say, do, and think. All of this brings glory to God.

To renew our minds is to literally soak our minds in Scripture. That is the only thing that will renew our minds. Scripture will renew the way we think, as it will renew the way we speak, and will be seen in renewed actions. Again, these things will glorify God because in essence, God’s will is being lived out in and through us because we become people who willingly submit to His will.

The Christian’s mind is renewed as it dwells continually on Scripture. In order for that to happen, people must not only read the Bible, but become very familiar with it and even memorize it. Is this just a pipe dream? Is it asking too much of us?

The writer of Hebrews tells us virtually the same thing but in a different way.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

God’s Word is not simply text on a page that we read every once in a while or even memorize because we think it’s a good idea. God’s Word is…

  • living
  • active
  • sharper than any two-edged sword
  • piercing to the dividing of soul and spirit; joints and marrow
  • discerns the thoughts
  • discerns the intentions of the heart

God’s Word – the Bible – is our fountain of Life, literally because the Bible is God’s Word to us. Because God ultimately wrote it, it is all the things listed above for us.

As we read God’s Word, as we ponder its meaning, and as we hide the Word in our heart (memorize it), God will use it to conform us to the blessed image of God the Son. But if we never read it or if we only take verses out of context that become favorites for us, we are not doing justice to the whole of God’s Word.

Do you want power to do what Paul outlines in Romans 12:9-21? It is in these verses that Paul provides numerous examples of what it means to actually live the Christian life. That is quite a list, but who can do that?! Who can actually live from the inside out the things that Paul highlights there?

People can “put on” Christianity. They can make it appear that they are caring, that they love others, that they live a life that brings glory to God, but too often, over time, we see the holes in their mask. We see problems in their life. We eventually realize that they have merely adopted an outward protocol that makes people think they have their act together, but they don’t.

This is far different from the Christian who willingly, even with pain, fights the battle within to submit one’s self to God in all things. People can pretend they like or love others. They can pretend they are humble. They can play act that they are Christians living the life of Christ out in them. But eventually, they are seen for what they are and Paul had to deal with these types of people.

Some well-meaning Christians do this, thinking that eventually, their facade will take on a reality if they persevere. The perseverance should be in voraciously reading and “eating” God’s Word so that our minds can be renewed by the indwelling Holy Spirit who will actually have something to use to make that happen.

Are you reading God’s Word enough? Are you memorizing the Bible daily? If so, then your mind is being renewed and you will start to see and even experience more of God’s power within you to do what? To live the life that pleases God.

This is what it is all about. It is not having power so that we can feel powerful. It is having a mind that is constantly being renewed for one major purpose: So that we will be able to test and discern “…what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2b ESV).

Our salvation provides eternal life, yes. Thank God for that! But for the here and now, where the rubber meets the road, we are to live a life in total submission and commitment to God so that His will for us will be discerned and lived our through our lives. The more we read, study, and memorize His Word, the more we will see this happening in our lives.

It is very simply to understand but the hard work is making it happen because our fallen nature and self fight us every step of the way. Not one of us Christians does this perfectly (myself included). However, that should never be the excuse. God has provided our marching orders. He tells us how to get from here to there once we have received salvation. It is up to us to move toward Him on a daily basis and that only happens through the renewal of our minds by the application of Scripture. I know of no other way.

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, christianity, Demonic, devil worship, eternity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: , , , .

Can People Be Good? Is It This or That?

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