Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Read: Romans 12:1-8
Consider: In today’s reading Paul encourages the believers in the church at Rome not to conform to the world’s standards, but to be transformed. This is very similar to something Paul says in another letter, but this time to the church at Corinth: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17). The NIV would be better rendered as ‘… if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation …’. So if a person becomes a new creation at conversion, why is it that Paul writes to believers encouraging them to be transformed (particularly to be transformed by the renewing of their minds)?
The new creation Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians is the new life that a person enters when they put their trust in Jesus and receive God’s forgiveness. No matter how dramatic our conversion might be, we all recognise that at conversion we are not a finished work, but that God has much to do in us to purify us. This process takes a lifetime. Think of it this way: however many years you have spent before conversion have all had an effect on moulding your mind to think in the way non-Christians think about life.
When Paul speaks of not conforming ‘… to the pattern of this world …’ (Romans 12:2), what does he mean by ‘the pattern of this world’? Two things come to mind: Firstly, the characteristics we see in the world (things like selfishness, pleasure-seeking, greed) are not to be the characteristics that should be seen in the Christian life. Secondly, the word ‘pattern’ can refer to something that is used to create an exact copy of something else. This means that Christians should be noticeably different from the world in ways that show they are made to a different ‘pattern’; that is in the image of Jesus. Paul puts it this way in his first letter to the Corinthians: And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man (1 Corinthians 15:49). The earthly man being Adam and the heavenly man being Jesus.
Today’s reading teaches us that there is much in our old life that influences how we think and act in our new life in Christ. The process of renewal of our minds (our ways of thinking) does not happen overnight, but lasts a lifetime. While the new creation that takes place at conversion can and does bring about noticeable change in a person’s life, there are many things that God wishes to develop in us over time (for example the fruits of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23). Paul himself recognised that there is a tension between the new and old life (see Romans 7:19-20) and that the process of renewal is gradual and continuous.
Pray: Father, make it a desire of our hearts to allow you to renew our minds, so that we do not conform to the pattern of the world. May we see more and more of the likeness of Christ in us day-by-day. Amen