At this time of pressure, almost our biggest enemy is the world and its values. In the end it will be a battle between what this life offers, and the promise of a better life to come.
The Apostle Paul told believers the same thing many years ago. He prefaced his remarks by urging us all to become available to God. Instead of a blood sacrifice presented at the temples of the pagan gods (of Greece and Rome) he urged a willing sacrifice of our OWN bodies and minds offered at God’s Throne.
Romans 12:1-2 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.
Every observant Jew understood that sacrifices had to be perfect, unblemished, flawless, and acceptable to God.
IF we presented ourselves to the Throne merely as unaltered human beings, it would not matter how willing, how dedicated or earnest we were in that noble sacrifice of our lives. We would still be found unacceptable.
It is a tragedy that so many clerics, monks, nuns, pastors and other religious people have given up their lives supposedly into God’s service only to be found unacceptable. No unchanged unredeemed human flesh CAN ever be acceptable to God.
[Romans 8:5-8] For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, **nor indeed can be**. So then, those who are in the flesh CANNOT PLEASE GOD.
Paul then continued:
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.
How to Know God’s Will
Here we find the secret of knowing what is God’s will, and proving – or testing by application – what is good or bad, acceptable or offensive, what is flawed or perfect, what is God’s will or a deception.
Sometimes it’s not easy to know, yet here Paul shows the way. It’s to have a renewed mind that is transformed by the Spirit of God. To have the mind of Christ in effect! Paul himself claimed to be in that condition in 1 Corinthians 2:16
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Con versus Trans
Looking at the verse in Romans, I see two words that we need to explore.
- Do not be CON-formed (to this world and its activities and values)
- But do be TRANS-formed (by a renewed mind)
These two phrases seem similar, but there is an important difference. The method is not the same for both. and I can demonstrate this by looking at the two words CON and TRANS.
CON = with, together with. This little word tacked onto another means the method of getting the thing done is WITH something, in unity.
- CON – ference — talking together WITH others
- CON – sensus — a mutual accord or agreement WITH others
- CON – vene — link together WITH others
So CONform is to be made like something that you are with, united to. A gel sets into the shape, CONFORMS to the shape, of its mould. Conformity is mutual agreement.
Imagine someone making an ice structure. Firstly the ice block has to be formed with (CON) a mould. Then the artist sets to work with (CON) various tools to hack and melt and shape the block into a beautiful statue.
This is the way the world tries to shape us, to form us! United together with this world, we are seduced and wooed and feather-bedded until it becomes something we value too much to lose. But now look at the alternative – transformation.
TRANS = through, across, beyond
- TRANS – mission — sending something through cables or air
- TRANS – fusion — infusing something through barriers
- TRANS – luscent — seeing light through something
So Paul is showing the two methods by which we are influenced, as Christians. Firstly there is the world pressing us into a mould and making us conform to it; secondly there is God’s method.
These are not the same. God doesn’t force us into a pre-shaped God-mould. Instead He sends the Holy Spirit to change our hearts and minds and attitudes about what we see and hear and do.
We have to mindfully accept that shaping. We need to humbly submit to His renewal of our inner being, and walk in His light. That in turn (by His indwelling presence) filters through into every attitude we have towards this world.
No longer do we see value in the world’s methods and aims! No longer are our eyes dazzled by the (supposed) luxury and enjoyment of possessions, achievements, praise, comfort and all that this life offers. As well as that, our allegiances shift away from humanity to God.
No more does human love come first, nor do friendships and churches, family and the social network that is so all-consuming. We can appreciate all these things while knowing that first and foremost Jesus is the only starting-block and finishing-line of our race. (Heb 12:1-2)
Ultimately, if everything is lost we will say – like Job – though God go to the full extent of taking all I have and even ending my life, still will I praise him and be faithful to him. And THAT, dear friends, is the only attitude that will enable us to make it through the ‘perilous times’ ahead.
We are not CON-formed (formed with the tools of the world, united with their values) but by TRANS-formation (through God’s Holy Spirit working in our hearts and minds, given free access to our will so as to change it into HIS will.)