“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:1-2, emphasis added.
Anytime you see the word “Therefore” in the Bible, you need to look at what immediately precedes it to get the context. Romans 11: 36 says “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” Paul had just finished praising Jesus Christ for what He had done for you and me. Jesus came to earth and died for us. He did this out of love so that you and I could have a relationship with God; so we could know God and be known by God.
In light of this, Paul is instructing followers of Christ on how to properly worship God. We do this by being noticeably different than the world. Verse two has one of the biggest but’s in the Bible: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
To conform means “to be or become behaviorally or socially similar to; conceived of as being or becoming shaped or molded to a certain pattern” (Logos Bible Software). Paul specifically instructs us to not be conformed to the pattern of this world. We are to look at society and examine it from a biblical perspective. This is called having a “Biblical Worldview.” In other words, we interpret our life in light of what the Bible says. This is counter to what the majority of people do. They read their experiences into the Bible, seeking to justify what they are doing. This results in all sorts of spiritual confusion as God’s Word takes a back seat to our experiences. This should not be the case. Paul presents us with a more perfect way.
To transform means “to be or become changed in outward appearance or expression as manifesting a change in nature or essence.” We are unable to transform on our own. We may be able to make small changes, but to truly be transformed, we need help. I would propose that the only way to be truly transformed is to submit your life and will to Jesus.
Paul says we should be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” How do you do this?
There are three ways God renews our mind.
Our mind is renewed through prayer and confession. The Bible tells a horrific story of a man who commits adultery and then has the lady’s husband killed in battle so he can marry her. What makes it horrific is that this man was the king and could have had any unmarried woman he wanted, but he chose something he shouldn’t have. He is confronted by a spiritual mentor and realizes the depth of his sin. He writes a letter to God, pouring out his heart, asking for forgiveness. Psalm 51 is one of my favorite psalms because of its rawness. At one point, the writer says “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). He cries out to God to make him whole again. When you and I sin (violate God’s standard), we are to confess our sin to God and repent (turn away). In my previous post on “Spiritual Breathing,” I provided a tool for working through your life in prayer with God and confessing sin. Through this process, our mind is renewed because God opens our eyes to prior faults. Our mind is also renewed because we start to think in line with God.
Our mind is renewed through the Holy Spirit. Paul writes to Titus, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:3-6, emphasis added). Here is another big but. Paul contrasts a Christian’s life before following Christ with what their life is like after. Malice, envy, and hatred give way to the grace, mercy, and love of Christ. We cannot change our behavior (long-term) or be renewed without the work of the Holy Spirit. If someone is not a follower of Christ, their mind is depraved, and it gets worse the longer they live apart from God. Romans 1:18-32 traces the process of de-evolution (see my sermon on this passage here). For the follower of Christ, the more we yield to the power and work of the Holy Spirit in our life, the more our mind is renewed and the more we become like Christ.
Our mind is renewed through knowledge of God. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:22-24: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” and again in Colossians 3:10: “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (emphasis added). What is the best way to increase in the knowledge of God?
Read your Bible!
The Bible is God’s Word. At Faith Bible Church, our core belief and value about the Bible is this: We believe the Bible is God’s only written communication of Himself and His plans and purposes for mankind. Therefore, we will believe its promises, obey its commands, and apply its principles.
In addition to the Bible, there are some good books that folks have written over the years that also help us understand God. I’ll make another post shortly with a good reading list, but for now, start with Charles Ryrie’s Basic Theology. For developing a biblical worldview, I highly recommend Focus on the Family’s “The Truth Project” and the Silo Project courses on worldviews.
Please spend some time this week renewing your mind through prayer, confession, yielding to the Holy Spirit, and growing in the knowledge of God. I promise it will be time well spent.