Conformity to the world or transformation?
We very much live in a world that really seeks to conform us to its standards and its models. There has never been a culture or society where mass media and advertising has been used to try to shape people’s thoughts and lives. But Paul in Romans 12 offers a challenge to us living in the 21st century that is just as relevant to us as it was to believers living in the first century. We read, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” (Rom.12:1-2 NKJV). In the Old Testament animal sacrifices were a very important part of worship. The priest cut the animal into pieces and would lay it on the altar in accordance with God’s Word. When we come to the New Testament, keep in mind that animal sacrifices were still taking place when Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, Paul is communicating to us that animal sacrifices are no longer the thing that pleases the heart of God. God wants us to present our bodies daily to Him as living sacrifices. The problem with living sacrifices is that they keep getting off the altar, so there is a need for us to regularly recommit our lives to following and performing God’s will in obedience to His Word.
Just a couple of nuances that I would like us to consider for a few moments in my blog today. First of all, the word “therefore” is very important. Someone has stated that whenever you see a “therefore” in Scripture take time to figure out what it’s “therefore”. This “therefore” denotes a change in the Christian life and service that should flow out of all the things that Paul has presented in the first 11 chapters of the book of Romans. “Therefore” in view of all that God has done, Paul urges us to bring a free-will offering of our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to yield our members as instruments to righteousness, which is a double challenge in the face of all the corruption and pollution we’re exposed to on a daily basis. But in view of God’s mercy and all that He has done for us, it is a very reasonable service of worship for us to present our bodies as living sacrifices.
Another interesting note in this passage is that the word “do not be conformed” is in the Greek language in the negative present imperative tense, which means “stop being conformed”. The first-century Christians, in much the same way as the 21st-century Christians were allowing the worldly system
in which they lived to dictate how they were living. There are many examples of how Christians today are allowing the worldly system to creep into their thought processes as well. This conforming of our thought process is such a subtle thing, and it has resulted in many ways in the church itself losing its distinctiveness for Jesus Christ. When the church conforms to the world standards it loses its light and saltiness, which should be an attraction to a lost and dying world.
One other word that I would comment on in this passage is the word “transformed”. This is the Greek word from which we get our English word “metamorphosis”, which speaks of the biological change that occurs when a crawling caterpillar is transformed into a beautiful butterfly or tadpole is transformed into a frog. When Jesus Christ truly comes into our heart and life there is a change of character and destination. Jesus desires to change our lives and He will do that when we are in the practice of renewing our minds through the Word of God and through the Holy Spirit. I would like us to consider further in our blog next week some more thoughts from this particular passage and for us to be challenged in this coming week to look for ways that we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds by allowing the Lord Jesus Christ the speak into our hearts and souls. Be still and know that He is God.
All for God’s Glory,
Pastor Rich Sivo