Romans 12:2 tells me how to be rightly related to God. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. NASU The negative command is for me to resist being conformed to the prince of the power of the air. The positive command is for me to be conformed to image of Christ. The process for that is laid out in the same verse. I am called to be inwardly renewed which will result in an outward transformation. Surrendering as a living sacrifice results in a progressive conformity to Christ. You know the Greek word used in this verse to describe our transformation. We get our word metamorphosis from it. This word is used only four times in the New Testament. Two times it is used in the gospels to describe the change in Jesus at the Transfiguration. The other two times are here in Romans 12:2 and again in 2 Corinthians 3:18 to describe the change that will occur in Christians. This is a progressive change that slowly takes place over time as we see Christ ever more clearly.
The verb tenses in Romans 12:1 are instructive. The presenting of ourselves as a living sacrifice is a onetime event. The renewing of our mind is an over and over again thing. There can be no outward transformation without this inward renewal. As we are inwardly renewed it is outwardly manifested as a testimony to the goodness and power of God. Our calling is not to “live for Christ” but rather for us to submit to “Christ living through us”. Our part is simply coming to Jesus to see Him which will result in inward renewal followed by outward transformation. As we regularly and consistently (hourly?) repeat this blessed process we become more like the One upon whom we gaze.
The command to not be conformed to the world involves far more than just those pet-peeve sins that we easily spot in others and condemn in our self-righteous smugness. Rather, not being conformed to this world means avoiding everything that is not the will of God. Anything that is contrary to the teaching of Scripture must be rooted out of my life or I will be guilty of conforming to this world. This is the starting point for our transformation. From Romans 12:3 to the end of the book, the Holy Spirit turns His attention to illustrating what that transformation will look like. Romans 12-16 examines every conceivable kind of human relationship and describes exactly how a Christian will operate in those relationships. The Holy Spirit calls us to measure our relationships with these chapters. When and where our relationships don’t match what the Scripture calls for, we are instructed not to work harder but instead to turn our eyes to Jesus so we can be inwardly renewed and outwardly transformed. Then He will be pleased to live through us allowing us the privilege of using His name and being His Body.
Ellison is interim pastor at First Baptist of Horatio, Ark. Contact Pastor Ellison at firstname.lastname@example.org