“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Last time, we looked at some of the key terms used in Romans 12:1. Now, let us look at some of the words used in Verse 2:
The word translated as conformed here appears only one other time in the New Testament. In 1 Peter 1:14, we are told to not fashion ourselves according to the former lusts in our ignorance. The term has to do with the molding of one’s character and personality which is determined by the habits we practice and the choices we make. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action; reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character reap a destiny”
While the Christian’s eternal destiny is not in question, the quality of our lives here on earth and the success of our service to the Lord is directly related to how we allow our minds to be shaped. Whether we fashion them according to our own sinful desires, conforming ourselves to this world, or we allow ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds is entirely up to each one of us. One thing we can be certain of, however, is that we will either be in the process of being conformed to the world or we will be in the process of being transformed into the person God wants us to be. There is no neutral setting in the Christian life!
The term used here is aion. It refers specifically to a space of time or an era (we get the English word eon from it). It literally means an age. Be not conformed to this age, we are being told, that is, do not set your mind and affections on the temporary and fleeting passions and desires of this life. The values, morals, priorities, and purposes of this world are not the factors which should motivate the child of God. We are not to live as the rest of the world does: for the fulfillment of our own sinful pleasures. The Christian should not be driven by the desire to satisfy his selfish urges, enriching himself at the expense of others and gratifying his flesh. We are called to live a life of love toward others, a life of sacrifice and denial of our baser urges. The genuine child of God is not free to live however he pleases but is to live for the glory of the Lord and the advancement of the Kingdom of God. But we cannot live such a life until we have allowed the Spirit of the Lord to transform us by the renewing of our minds.
The term rendered transformed is a remarkable one. Metamorphousthe speaks of a profound change occurring from the inside out. We get the word metamorphosis from this term, which brings to mind the biological process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.
Being transformed is not merely a matter of dropping a few bad habits and picking up a couple of good ones. No, it is a complete and total change from one thing into something else. Occurring only two other times in the New Testament, the root word is also used to describe the unveiling of the glory of the Lord Jesus:
“And [Jesus] was transfigured [transformed] before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2)
Talk about a complete and utter transformation! The glory of the Lord was unveiled before Peter, James, and John and they saw Him as He truly is. Looking forward to the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the prophet Isaiah foretold that the Lord would normally be an ordinary man in appearance (Isa. 53:2), yet Matthew tells us that His face did shine as the Sun during the Transfiguration.
The other occasion where the term appears is in 2 Corinthians 3:18:
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (emphasis added)
How are we changed and transformed? By the Holy Spirit. How does He accomplish this? By the renewing of our minds. How do we renew our minds? By beholding the glory of the Lord. How do we behold the glory of the Lord? By spending time with Him in His Word.
Verse 15 of 2 Corinthians 3 tells us that there remains a veil over the hearts of those who do not belong to God, when specifically? Whenever Moses is read, that is, whenever the Bible that was written up to that point was read, those who rejected God were unable to understand what they were hearing. They could not behold the glory of the Lord because that glory was veiled to them. But we all, with open face, behold the glory of the Lord and are changed (transformed).
Renewing Your Mind
Finally, we come to the expression renewing of your mind. The word translated renewing appears only one other time in the New Testament; in Titus 3:5, where it speaks of the renewing which the Holy Spirit accomplishes within us at Salvation. It is the creating of something entirely new from something old. The mind that we had is no more, but is completely renewed. We don’t think the same way that we used to once God has renewed our minds and transformed us into the image that He wants us to be; our minds work differently.
And this is the concept behind the term noos, translated as mind. One’s mental acumen and intellectual capacity is not what’s in view here. We are not talking about getting smarter but changing our attitude, opinions, and outlook. Transforming our minds is all about beginning to see things as God sees them and to look at things from His perspective. It is to value what He values, reject what He rejects, and think the kind of thought that he thinks. In short, it is about letting the Spirit of the Lord conform us into the image of Jesus Christ by allowing Him to make our minds like His.
Again, this is not accomplished by just trying to think happy thoughts or by going out to the woods to meditate. This is accomplished by digging into the Word of God and drinking deeply from the Truths of Scripture. If we wish to think like the Lord thinks, then we must know His mind and His will. There is simply no other way to do this than to get into the Bible and let the Holy Spirit open our eyes to the wondrous treasures of His Word. Does prayer fit into all of this? Absolutely. We can never obtain intimate fellowship with God apart from a healthy prayer life. But prayer, no matter how frequent and intense, can never be a substitute for ignorance of the Word. Let us go before the Lord, taking our seat at the Master’s feet, and listen to all that He has to say to us. And let us be transformed as our minds are renewed through the careful, thoughtful, and prayerful study of His Holy Word.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,