Paul instructed, be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). To be conformed means to be passively fashioned or molded. You don’t have to do anything, you just get shaped. The influences of the world easily settle in and have effects on your life when you do nothing to guard against them. Then as you operate in the same fashion as the world, you reap the same results. On the other hand, being transformed brings God results.
Therefore, if you don’t want to be conformed, it’s imperative that you take measures to guard your heart, and to do as the Lord calls in regard to Babylon, a symbol of the world’s system: Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues (Revelation 18:4).
When the love of a Savior who gave His life and rose again from the dead for us is available, why would anyone want to be conformed to this world? Why would anyone just carelessly allow their lives to be conformed to the ways that lead to anxiety, hopelessness, depression, and death? Why be conformed to the lusts and greed, and all the unbelief that leads to ultimate defeat? It’s madness!
I saw this kind of madness when I was in Tibet. I saw westerners trying to get into Tibetan Buddhism. They were lighting incense, going to the temples, and exposing themselves to all the demonic influences of a religion that is based in uncertainty and fear. But because some famous Hollywood actors are into it, or perhaps because it is trendy to be different, they try to conform to it. It is insanity, being lured to all the bondage latent in Tibetan Buddhism, while Jesus came to set people free!
Most Christians are wise enough to keep away from Buddhism, but their conformity to this world is just as insane. I have seen reports that over 70% of Americans claim to be Christian. If this is true, and if all of these Christians would stop being conformed to this world, America would not be in the mess that it’s now in. People would treat each other better. Tabloids full of lying and gossip would not sell at the supermarkets. Producers of ultra-violent and risqué entertainment would go out of business, because 70% of America would refuse their works. Better leaders and politicians would emerge, because votes would be withheld from those who were dishonest. Christians would not be viewed as hypocrites but as “the real deal.” There would be stronger marriages, and less unwanted pregnancies. There would be more wisdom, better choices, and less crime. Ultimately, there would be a more manifest presence of the kingdom of God.
Agree or Angry
Yet most Christians go right along acting like the world. They read what the world reads, watch what the world watches, and do as the world does. If you stopped and asked them, perhaps they would agree that things are wrong and bad. But it takes more than agreeing that things are bad. There ought to be anger. There ought to be hatred of anything that hinders the cause of godliness in your life and in the world. You hate it because it interferes with the experience of what’s best. You hate it because it robs people of what they really need: true love, peace, and joy.
The word “Protestant” comes from the root, “Protest.” It originally meant one who protests against the errors of the Roman Catholic Church. We’ve made a clean break from that tradition, but we should not have stopped protesting. We should be angry against the injustices and sins of our modern day world.
Now I am not suggesting that we become legalistic killjoys and start blasting everyone with righteous indignation! I don’t believe in beating people up with Bible verses either! But I believe that we can protest by not conforming.
This doesn’t mean that you become proud or alienate yourself from others. They accused Jesus of being a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). This means that he spent time with them, and I’m sure he didn’t scare them away with rigid rebukes. But I believe He stood for what was right. He didn’t participate in their sins. He was to show them the way out.
From “Be not” to “Be”
We have been shown the way out, and not only that, we have been given everything we need to live transformed lives. That’s the beauty of the Christian faith. It’s not about gritting teeth and working hard to become a better person. It’s not about daily struggling to obtain righteousness in order to have eternal life. It’s not about DOING. It is about BEING. Being transformed. The only thing you have to do is renew your mind.
When you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you received eternal life. This eternal life was really and actually imparted to you, just like the download of a program onto your computer. But you can have a great program on your computer and never benefit from it if you don’t install it! The eternal life program has been received by many who have not chosen to use it. They haven’t made it an integral part of their operating system. It just sits in some stored away file and never runs. Things would work so much better if it did.
The eternal life program transforms you. When Paul wrote be ye transformed, the Greek word for transformed was “metamorphousthe”. This is the same word we get “metamorphosis” from. So the change we are talking about is an actual change in nature and not just some kind of outward reformation.
The great comic book superhero, the Incredible Hulk, illustrates an extreme metamorphosis. The man got infected by gamma rays, and when triggered by anger, he grew out of his clothes into this big green monster good guy. His entire nature transformed, and then he smashed evil. Talk about getting angry over sin!
In real life, we have an obvious illustration of such transformation in the butterfly. A caterpillar separates itself from the world in a cocoon, and its nature is changed into a winged creature that flies above the world. We can be so transformed that we float above the circumstances in life.
Also in real life we have the example of Jesus. He was transfigured on the mountain (see Matthew 17:1-9). The same Greek word translated as “transformed” in Romans 12 is the same that is translated as “transfigured” here.
This was a case of Jesus’ true glorious nature shining brightly through His appearance. Contrast this to Moses, whose face shone brightly when he came down from the mount after receiving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:30). Moses only reflected the glory of God. The transfiguration was not a reflection but the actual glory that belonged to Jesus.
As Christians, we don’t just reflect the nature of God, we have the very nature of God on the inside: if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (2Corinthians 5:17; ESV). We have been changed in the new birth, and as he is, so are we in this world (1John 4:17).
Yet we still live as if we are average people, just trying to get by. Why? Because we haven’t renewed our minds to these truths.
Renewing the mind doesn’t mean simply subscribing to some new ideas or values. It’s not just about changing what we believe, or simply accepting Christian doctrine. It’s actually about changing the entire way we think. It’s about our mindset.
Married people have an idea of what this means. When they got married, they had to quit thinking like single people. They had to remind themselves that they were in a different situation now. They couldn’t just go hang out with their friends like they used to, because they had a spouse to think about. That took a time of adjustment, but eventually it sank in.
The Word of God refers to us as more than conquerors, righteous in Christ, and accepted in the beloved! Is that your mindset? You may not feel like these, and you may feel like hanging out with your old friends, Sin, Failure, and Rejection. But you still need to act according to the right mindset- The mindset according to what God says, not what you feel.
I’ve been a teacher for a long time. I’ve taught from elementary to college classes. I don’t think much about it now, I just teach. But I’ll never forget the first time I taught my first class. It was a college public speaking course. I was barely out of college myself, and some of the students were even older than me.
I was nervous and decided to dress the part. I put on a coat and tie. At least I would look like I had some authority. Then I got to the classroom early. My feeling was to sit in the students’ seats, because that’s what I was used to. But I remembered and stayed up front. Then students began to come in.
The bell rang and every eye was staring at me, waiting with bated breath for me to begin to drop wisdom and knowledge into their hungry heads. I wanted to run, but I knew that wasn’t an option! I didn’t know how to teach, but I decided that I knew how to act. It felt so strange and unnatural, but I just acted- like I was on TV and playing the role of a teacher.
It worked! By the end of the class they were calling me Professor Bell! Now you may accuse me and say that I was being a hypocrite because I was just acting. But the truth is that the school hired me to be a teacher and my contract said that I was their teacher. So I was acting according to the truth. It would have been hypocritical of me to act according to my feelings and be an idiot in front of the group.
It felt awkward to get in line with the truth and act the part, but it didn’t take long before it started to become more natural. Today it is a no brainer. I was transformed into a teacher because I renewed the way I saw myself. I saw myself according to what that contract said, and acted on it.
You have a holy contract with God through Jesus. And in that contract it says that you have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3; ESV). It says you are the righteousness of God (2Corinthians 5:21). It says that God is for you and not against you and that nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:31-39). Do you have this mindset, and do you act on it?
Live as someone greatly beloved! You have the very power of God working on the inside of you (Ephesians 3:20). But it’s like that computer program that is downloaded. It must be installed and run, or you will not benefit from it.
How do you install and run it? The install is your commitment to BE. You choose this day to be not conformed, but to be transformed. Choose to devote yourself to God.
Then run the program. Act on what the word of God says. Change your mindset to what God says is true, not the way things seem or how you feel. Then act upon the truth of the matter. If the circumstances are screaming at you: “you can’t do it!” Rebuke the circumstances and say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)!
Then be an actor. Act out your role according to the word of God. In due time, you will find that you are no longer acting, but being. A transformed Christian!