[we continue our exploration of Romans 12]
Yesterday’s verse spoke about us making a living sacrifice – daily laying down our own desires and giving our life over to Jesus & His plan for us. Today’s verse continues on that theme:
‘Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.’ Romans 12:2 NLT
Our society should come with an enormous health warning. There are so many huge pressures, which, if we’re not aware of them, can change the way we think and behave. There is a massive pressure to ‘conform’ – to follow the ‘customs of this world’ and to fit in. Most of the pressures are negative: dodgy messages from the media, gangs, and sometimes ‘friendship’ groups too. If we’re not aware of those pressures & the messages that are being given, often very subtly, then we run the risk of simply falling in line and going along with them, without questioning them. When we go along with them they become normal, not just in society, but more importantly in us. Some of our behaviours reinforce themselves – the more we do them, the more we will continue to do them, and it takes a lot of strength of character & will power to do anything else. But today’s verse is absolutely clear – we must not simply conform and fit in with the standards & expectations of the rest of society. We cannot afford to. We are called to be different – to be distinctive, because we’re Christians. That means being a follower of Jesus, not of society. C.S. Lewis said that being a Christian means that we are to become a ‘little Christ’ – each day becoming more like Jesus.
‘Your life as a Christian should make non believers question their disbelief in God.’ – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
There’s always a ‘but’. And in this case it’s a positive ‘but. ‘Don’t copy the behaviour & customs of this world, but [instead] let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think‘. Even if we have simply been following the ways of the world (which I’m pretty confident we all have to some extent) it’s not the end of the story – we can still change. But we must let God change us – more than that, we must be willing for Him to transform us. It’s no good simply adjusting a little bit here and there – that’s not enough. That’s more like altering, rather than transformation. Altering means to adapt or revise something – you might alter a dress to make it a better fit, but it’s still recognisable as the same dress. Transformation is about changing from a caterpillar into a butterfly – it is a drastic and marked change.
Did you know that if you cut a butterfly out of its chrysalis, instead of it struggling and fighting its way out, that its muscles would not have developed enough strength for it to fly… Just like the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, the transformation of your mind from your old attitudes (falling in line with society) to Christ’s attitudes, can be a struggle. But it is in that struggle that you gain the strength you need to fly.
This verse follows up the ‘but’ with a ‘then’. If you do this, then…you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Then you will start to live the life God created you to live. I don’t know about you – but that sounds like a pretty good plan to me. Something worth striving for…
Here’s the same verse again but this time from The Message version, which puts it in a different way:
‘Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.’ – Romans 12:2 MSG
– in what ways do I simply ‘conform’, go along with the crowd in order to fit in?
– what would it mean to take a different approach, and to stand out from the crowd?
– what would I risk if I chose to do that?
Father God, forgive me when I take the easy option.
Help me to be discerning
– to think more deeply about the choices I make
– how they will affect me & others
– how they will affect my relationship with you
Give me courage to live out what I believe,
And give me confidence to stick to it when it go against the norm.