Tuesday, August 24, 2010

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.”

How do we know if we are being conformed to this world?  The bible clearly lets us know that it is a bad thing to be conformed to the world’s ways of thinking and doing things so it seems like an important thing to know when we are headed this way.  Let’s take a look and see what this verse tells us about conformity to the world, and how we can pursue the alternative.

In what way are we to avoid conformity and instead by transformed?
Now, I’m pretty sure that this scripture is not speaking of issues such as whether to brush your teeth or not.  It would be a bit silly to abstain from brushing your teeth just because most people in society do this.  We get an idea of the things that are really being considered by looking at the next part of the verse and contrasting it with conformity to the world.  Instead of becoming like the world, we are commanded to be changed by renewing our minds.  This means that when we are considering conformity, it is something to do with thinking, or with philosophies, or with ideas.  

So we could say that we are meant to avoid adopting the ideas and philosophies that are common in the world, and instead become changed by consciously adopting a “new” mind.  The remainder of this verse shows what sort of mind we are to build in ourselves.

What sort of mind should we be growing?
The ideas and philosophies we adopt should not be common to the world.  Instead these ideas we are building our life around should enable us to discern what God’s will is.  So our new (renewed) mind should take into account what we know of God’s will.  Where do we find out God’s will?  In the bible, God’s revealed word to the world.  From the bible we can see how God has interacted with His people over the millennia, from which we can deduce some common principles about His will.  We can also see some direct commands from God in the flesh (Jesus Christ) and from his apostles, who were directly instructed by Jesus.  This is a good reason to regularly read the bible.  There is currently no other way to get a direct word from God that will carry the sort of power and authority that the scriptures provide.

So how do we know that we are avoiding conformity to the world?
Conveniently, the ideas and attitudes of the world are also contained within scripture.  Let me see if I can summarise what conformity to the world looks like and what the godly alternative is:

When a person becomes more and more concerned with the pursuit of their own happiness at the expense of others, and at the expense of a worshipful attitude towards God, then they are conforming to the world.  The world says that it is all about you.  The bible says that it is all about God.  If you are not loving God, by learning how to worship Him with the lifestyle that He likes, then you will be loving yourself and your own (false) wisdom about what is good.  That is conforming to the world.  When you find yourself preferring your own comfort over the difficulty of doing what you know to be right, you are also conforming to the world.  When you don’t even really care if you are conforming to the world, or are too afraid to look at your life in case you are conforming, then you are most definitely conforming to the world.

Much more could be said, with a multitude of examples, but it is easier to say what it is to avoid conformity (I only provide the above examples because sometimes people are reluctant to use their mind to think in detail about this sort of thing).  Those who avoid conformity spend time reading what God has communicated to them in the bible.  They are open to correction and changing their mind in case they have got it wrong on some part of their moral development.  This humility and willingness to try and understand more about God’s character, and to build these spiritual characteristics into their life, is what it means to avoid conformity to the world.

At the risk of harping on, the only way we can know that we are on the right track is by comparing our personal development of character to that which the bible continually tells us is good.  One such list is in Galatians chapter 5, the fruit of the Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-24  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  (23)  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  (24)  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

To actively pursue these, and see them grow in your life, is what it means to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  To love God, and to love your neighbour.