Today’s Reading: Romans 11-13
Today’s Reflection: Romans 12:2
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.
This simple yet profound text begins with a crucial assumption: that we who are born into this world are of this world. Which is to say we are shaped by it, we take our cues from it, we are formed by it’s ideas, values, morality, cultures, philosophies, politics and sociological make up. The text then makes a bold declaration: we ought not to be.
Don’t think this text suggests we are to live in complete repudiation of everything in the world. Rather it says that once our minds are renewed and we are capable of discerning God’s will for us we will then know how to regard the world, the way it is, and know our place and purpose within it. We will know what aspects of the world we should and should not engage in, as well as when and why. For example, most Christians don’t frequent bars, but I remember the story of a pastor passing by one and feeling compelled to enter. Inside he found a former alcoholic, sober now for several months, struggling not to take a drink. He was able to minister to that man, in that place because he could discern the will of God in the context of his cultural surroundings, yet not become enslaved by the ways of that culture.
John 17:15-18 – 15) I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16) They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17) Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18) As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
But this text does set up a conflicting contrast, and this contrast is important because it leads to the idea that transformation is a necessary process we each must go through in order to have this discerning mind. One of the essential tenants to Christian theology is the belief that people can change—or to be more accurate, be changed. Without this belief there would be no point to God’s intervention in the affairs of man, or to Jesus life, death and resurrection for our sake, or to the gift of the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us.
But because change is possible—being transformed into what God originally intended us to be, free from the corruption and penalty of sin—we should all be looking to become changed. If there are aspects of our character that are divisive and destructive to the body of Christ, we shouldn’t be trying to excuse them. We should be seeing them diminish as we are challenged, chastened and ultimately changed through our walk with God. And if this isn’t happening, we have to ask, are we really walking with God? Because if there’s one thing scripture makes clear it’s that those who walk with God, who worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24) are being transformed by the experience.
2 Corinthians 3:18 – And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
The other important point is that this transformation is something that must happen to each of us. You must be able to discern God’s will for your life, what God considers good and what God considers perfect for you. Not every pastor will be called to walk into a bar (or casino, or strip club, etc.) but you may be the one who is. You have an individual calling that everyone else may not understand, but which you and only you are responsible to God for receiving and fulfilling.
1 John 2:27 – But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.