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)
As the apostle proceeds to apply all of the grand doctrine that he has so brilliantly laid out for us in the previous chapters he connects it to the actions that he will call for by using ‘therefore’ in vs 1. All that we are called to do in these final chapters of Romans will be based on our believing all that has preceded.
Having called us in vs 1 to worship in view of or by the mercies of God demonstrated so wonderfully in Christ he now moves on to warn us about conformity, call us to transformation and to urge us to discernment.
A dedicated non-conformist
It is ever so easy to fit in, to run with the crowd, to join the bus and to be swept along with the majority. It is always harder to stand with the minority. Christ followers (I prefer that to Christian) invariably will be in the minority and the daily challenge that they will face is to not be conformed to the pattern or squeezed into mould of the world. There is a ‘worldly way’ and there is a ‘Christ honouring way’ or ‘bible way’ and the Christ follower has to decide daily which he will choose. When we bought our new car there were many things I loved about it. One of the best is that it has power steering which makes turning and manoeuvring in tight spots especially easier. There are daily tight spots of life we face and we require some ‘power steering’ which is wonderfully available from the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:8, Rom 8:26) so that the minute that we refuse to go with the sway of the world the power of the Holy Spirit kicks in and helps us steer completely away. By this power we can be a dedicated non-conformist to the ways of the world and a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
A committed transformer
Dotted throughout our city streets are power transformers that receive electricity at a high voltage and step it down to the 220 volts we need for our homes. This transformer needs to work 24 x 7 for us to enjoy all the modern conveniences and amenities of life. A breakdown in that transformer will lead to a breakdown in most things we do. Similarly we need to be dedicated transformers but instead of being a step-down transformer we’re to be a step-up transformer, receiving the power of the Holy Spirit and displaying this in a life that mirrors that of Jesus Christ, for that is God’s ultimate purpose for us (see Rom 8:29). We’re called to be metamorphosed from a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly! This transformation must first happen in our mind in that we daily think differently and according to the word of God. Remember we’re told in Isaiah 55:9 that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. But quickly the prophet follows that up by telling us that like rain the word of God goes from God’s mouth to accomplish the purpose that He intends. One of God’s great purposes is the transformation of our lives to mirror Christ’s. So our daily reading, study, receiving, dependance on and thinking according to the word of God is vital to this transformation. This is the call to be a committed transformer.
An alert discerner
Maturity, Hebrews 5:14 tells us, is seen in those who feed on the ‘solid food’ of God’s word and being empowered by constantly practicing it have trained themselves to discern, to distinguish between good and evil. That is the same discernment that the apostle calls us to Rom 12:2. There is a ‘practicing’ element in both, a trying out, an application of and a use of the word and ways of God that helps us discern the will of God. This is not a discernment that distinguishes to see if God’s ways are good or not for all of God’s ways are correct and righteous (see Psalms 25:8-10). Rather as we apply God’s word to our life we begin to discern ways in us that need changing to line up to God’s will. There is a general will or plan that God has for all of us and we need to be alert to ensure that we are living according to that. All of the instructions that follow this verses and everywhere else in the Scriptures, obeying all of these instructions helps us to live according to the general will of God. Just Romans 12:9-18 will keep me busy throughout the next year and beyond. But we also know that there is a specific will of God for each of our lives. The apostle Paul started this letter to the Romans saying, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle”. He was clear what his calling was for having dedicated his life to conform to God’s ways, being transformed by God’s Spirit into Christlikeness he was also alert to God’s specific plan for his life. All of these three work simultaneously in our lives. The day that Paul met the Lord on the Damascus Road he was also told what God’s specific will for his life was going to be. He had to build the foundation of non-conformity and dedicated transformation and press ahead on that foundation to serve as an apostle.
God will work in the same way with me too. He wants me to be a dedicated non-conformist refusing worldly ways, a committed transformer to the ways of word of God and finally one who by practising and testing will find and fulfil the ‘good and acceptable and perfect will of God’ for my life. Finally there is an element of ‘testing’ that Paul inserts here which makes me wonder if the way I discover who I am and what I am called to do will require me to ‘try out’ several things. Not all of us may have the clarity of calling that Paul received. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a call for us. On the contrary all of us are called to good works (see Eph 2:10) and therefore this pursuit is a vital one.
So lets pursue this pattern of non-conformity, transformation and discernment. For as we do, we will ‘discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’.