In the previous post, we looked at the apostle John’s exhortation to fight against the pull of the world on believer’s hearts by purposing not to love the world. Here we want to look at the apostle Paul’s instructions.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice, living, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship. 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).
These verses mark a pivotal turn in the book of Romans. The first eleven chapters were all doctrinal instruction. Now, Paul makes the turn to application. Chapters 12-16 of the book of Romans are all application of the great doctrines of the Christian faith. So what did he says in the first eleven chapters? he began by explaining the power of the gospel (ch 1); humanity’s fundamental sin is a failure to worship God (ch 1); God’s wrath against sinners (chs 1-3); The saving work of God (chs 3-4); The hope we can have through faith in God’s Son (chs 5-8); God’s salvation of His people Israel and now the rest the world (chs 9-11).
Paul calls these things “the mercies of God.” In the next five chapters of this great book, Paul will call us to “live for God, to love God, to obey God, to delight in God’s word; to delight in God’s will, to delight in God’s law, to live it out because of the mercy of God toward us. Thus, Paul is saying that Christian living is based on having received grace. He is calling us to obey God because of what God has done for us. It is vital that we understand this. If you cannot see the call to obedience against the backdrop of what God has already done, you will either be really confused, or really resentful of God.
Do Not Be Conformed to the World
So, what is the call of God on our life? In the opening verses of chapter 12, he says, “present your bodies as a sacrifice, living, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship.” In some translations it says, our spiritual worship. The word behind ‘spiritual’ is a difficult word to translate. Some translations have reasonable worship instead of spiritual. The idea is that it is a worship of the mind and heart. It is thus a reasonable response in light of God’s mercies as well as more than just a physical response. In other words, Paul is saying give God everything; give him all of your life. In his most famous work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, the reformation theologian John Calvin writes,
“We are not our own, therefore let not our reason, nor our will sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own, let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own. In so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we belong to God. Let us therefore, let us live for Him and die for Him, we belong to God. Let His wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We belong to God. Let all the parts of our lives accordingly strive toward Him as our only lawful goal.”
Likewise, Pastor Ligon Duncan says, “The Apostle Paul is saying…. I want a Christian who is a twenty-four hour, seven-day a week worship machine. You are always thinking about glorifying God, you’re always thinking about adoring God and in every mundane event of life, or every extraordinary event of life your agenda is to be a person who is worshipping God.”
Right Living Comes from Right Thinking
If we’re called to not conform to the sinful world around us, how are we to fulfill our calling? Look at the second part of the verse – “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.”
Just as John said, ‘do not love the world,’ so now Paul says, ‘do not be conformed to the world.’ The world is constantly bombarding you with the message to conform. Be like everyone else; be normal. But Paul says, don’t conform to this world. Do not let your life be controlled by the social mores of the culture around you. Do not make society’s morality and values, your morality and values. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Instead of being conformed to the values of this world, be transformed. But that begs the question, ‘How are we to be transformed?’ Paul says, ‘by the renewal of our minds.’
The word Paul uses for transformed is the same from which we get our English word, metamorphosis. Paul is calling for a total, on-going change in our being. Thus, real, biblical worship rejects any notion of stagnation or complacency. This transformation is possible, but it will not happen overnight. It is a life-long process. It is a continual coming to God’s Word, allowing God’s Spirit to apply it to our lives and change our minds.
For the Bible teaches that right living comes from right thinking. Thus, the psalmist can say in Psalm 119:104, “Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.” Through God’s instruction – his word – the psalmist gains understanding; his thinking is changed. And through understanding, he comes to hate sin. Hating sin means loving righteousness, and all of this means a transformed life. One that is lived according to God’s ways and not in conformity to the world.
Scriptures teaches over and over again, we lose our taste for sin and the world by increasing our appetite for God. How do you that? By daily getting on your knees in prayer and reading his word. By bombarding your mind with the Scriptures and allowing God’s Spirit to cultivate within you a desire for God and godliness.
And ask for help when you spend time with God in his word. Pray things like – Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (Psalm 119:18). Incline my heart to your testimonies (Ps 119:36). Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love, that I may rejoice and be glad all my days! (Ps 90:14). Please, show me your glory (Ex 33:18).