Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 5th, 2018.
It is a new month, therefore a new monthly memory verse. This month’s memory verse is last week’s sermon. Romans 12:1. The reason for this is that Romans 12:1 is a verse that you should say to yourself every morning before you get out of bed. Romans 12:1 is the compass of the Christian walk. Therefore, it behooves us to set it to memory. So let us do so now. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1).
As I stated, last week we examined verse 1. Today we will examine verse 2. These two verses are obviously related, but verse 2 takes the command of verse 1 and puts some more meat on it. But let us begin, like we normally do and stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word this morning Romans 12:1-2.
So let us being with “The Don’t”. “Do not be conformed to this world.” To begin, it would do us well to remind ourselves, what is underneath this prohibition. Last week we examined the command to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God, and we saw that the catalyst behind this presentation were the mercies of God. What mercies is the Apostle Paul talking about? The mercies that were laid out in Romans chapters 1-11. Paul has spent 11 chapters unpacking the mercies of God, unpacking the gospel. And it is the gospel, the truth about a Holy God, the truth about sinful man, and the truth about what God has done towards sinners in Christ that causes us to gratefully, joyfully, sacrificially offer ourselves to the Lord. Therefore it is fundamentally important to recognize that the don’ts of the Bible are preceded by what Christ has done.
With that said, let us look at “the don’t.” Do not be conformed to this world. Let us take this apart. What does Paul mean when he says “this world.” When we think of the word “world” we think of the planet earth, a big ball of rock and dirt rotating around the sun. Paul means something significantly deeper than that when he uses the word “world”. The Greek word is aiōn (ī-ō'n).
Who am I to question the people who translate the Bible, but I think a better translation of the word aion is age. This is, in fact, how it is translated in Matthew 12:32 when Jesus says, “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” The word age is the Greek word aion, which is the same word in Romans 12:2. In Matthew 12:32 Jesus seems to be indicating there are two ages, this present age, and age that awaits us.
And I think that the Apostle Paul is talking about here in Romans 12:2. He is saying, do not be conformed to this present age. But let us take this deeper, and explore what Paul means by this present age. If we look at another letter written by Paul, specifically Galatians 1:4 we see Paul using the same word aion, but he adds a word to it. Galatians 1:4 says that Jesus, “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.” So this age that we are currently living in, this present age, Paul sees as an evil age. It is an age that is not righteous, it is an age of unrighteous, it is an age that stands against the will of God.
This then leads to the question, why is this present age, the age that we are now living in, an evil age? Paul tells us in another letter, 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world (aion) has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” This age is evil because of spiritual blindness that is brought on by the god of this age.
Who is the God of this world? Satan. He is the god of this world. He is the one who plunged humanity into darkness. Jesus, right before he lays down his life upon the cross, speaks of Satan’s position as god of this world; John 12:31 “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”
This world, this age, is an age ruled by Satan. This is what makes this age an evil one. We live in a fallen, sinful world. Each day that comes and goes brings about wickedness. And we, before we repented and put our faith in Christ were once a part of this present evil age. Ephesians 2:1-3 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
In summary, this world is an age of self-centeredness, beginning with the fall of Adam and ending upon the return of the second Adam, Jesus the Son of God. This world is a world that is consumed by personal passions and desires, doing things in accordance to our will, not the will of God. It is a World full of lying, stealing, cheating, hating, slandering, gossiping, blaspheming, murdering, and coveting. It is a world that God described in Genesis 6:5, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
And it is with this in mind that the Apostle Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world.” Why? Because, by the mercies of God, we have been delivered from this present evil age through faith in Jesus Christ. We are no longer blind to the glory of God in the face of Jesus. The truth of the gospel has set us free from the bondage of Satan’s dominion. Jesus says to his disciples in John 15:19, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Christ has chosen his followers out of the world, he has delivered them from the present evil age.
But here is the problem, despite our deliverance from the present evil age spiritually, we continue to live in this present evil age physically, and we will do so until death frees us, or Jesus returns. In a sense, we are living in two ages, the current age and the age that is yet to come. It is an already, but not yet. We are sojourners in this age, in this world, but our citizenship is in Heaven.
During Jesus’ High Priestly prayer he speaks of this reality of two worlds; John 17:14, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Jesus is praying to God for protection because his disciples have been taken out of the world, and are no longer of the world, yet they will continue to live in the world.
And that prayer of Jesus is not just for the disciples, for in John 17:20 Jesus continues in his prayer by saying, ““I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,” That verse is a prayer for you and for me. Jesus was praying that you would be kept from the evil one, protected from this present evil age. Jesus was praying that you would not be conformed to this world.
But as we see in our text today, it is not just a prayer by Jesus, it is also a command by God, “ Do not be conformed to this world.” And just so you can feel the full wait of this command. It says very bluntly in James 4:4, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” So in summary, that is the don't. Don't be conformed to the world.
Now let us look at “The Do.” Verse 2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed.” I want you to notice the choice of the Apostle Paul and the Holy spirit to use a totally different word. Paul could have said do not be conformed to the world, but be conformed to God. He could have said that, but he didn't. Why not?
The reason is that the word conformed is the idea of being squeezed into a mold, and outward force. The word “transformed” does not involve an outward force, but instead an inward force. The Greek word for transformed is metamorphoō (me-tä-mor-fo'-ō). As you can guess, this is where we get the word metamorphosis, which many of your are familiar with from 5th grade science. Through the process of metamorphosis, a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly. The caterpillar is not conformed by the world, in fact, it separates itself from the world so that it can be transformed into something beautiful, and the reason it is transformed is because of the inward power of what it is to become. Therefore, every time you see a butterfly, think of Romans 12:2.
Which leads to the question, what is a Christian transforming into? Look at the end of verse 2, “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” A Christian is being transformed into someone who knows and does the will of God. A person who walks through life doing what is good, what is acceptable in the eyes of the Lord; doing things that please God, not displeases God. A Christian is being transformed into perfection.
And what is the picture or example par excellence of human perfection? Jesus. A Christian is being transformed, from the inside out, into Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. And we have already studied this is Romans 8, if you recall. Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
For the Christians, our destiny is to become like Jesus. This is what we are moving to; with each day we are becoming more like Jesus and less like the World. But let me ask, when you examine your life, do you find this to be true. Do you resemble Jesus with each passing day? In our study of 1 Corinthians 11 today, we read in verse 1, Paul say, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Do you look more like the apostle Paul or more like your unbelieving neighbors? If you have more in common with your unbelieving neighbors than you do with the Apostle Paul, then have conformed to the World, and you need to repent. Which leads to the question, then what? If we have been cheating on God with the world, and we repent, then what do we do next so that we are transformed instead of conformed?
This leads us to third and final point for this morning, “The How.” How are we to be transformed into Jesus? Verse 2, “ be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” The How of being transformed is through your mind being renewed.
If you recall, back in Romans 1:21, Paul spoke of the condition of an unbeliever. He said, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” An unsaved man is an ignorant man. I don't care what degrees he has, what books he has read, without Christ, he is a fool. He lives in the dark. All that he does in life is futile, for his mind is not centered upon Christ which is the entire point of the Universe. This futility of the end comes to an abrupt end when the light of Christ shines into our hearts. We become new creations, with knew minds. Our thinking as been redeemed. We now recognize that the chief end of man is not the passions of our flesh, but it is to glorify God. We begin to think rightly about existence and purpose.
However, this knowledge of God, sin, Christ, purpose, is not a perfect knowledge. When we are born again, we are born as infants in Christ. We have a lot to learn. We must learn to crawl, learn to eat, learn to walk, learn to talk, learn to run, learn to work, learn to love. This does not happen overnight, it is a process.
In fact 2 Corinthians 3:18 says we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” Becoming like Christ in in all areas of life is a change of degrees, little by little by little. Some of you forget this. You think that perfection should come like a flash, but that is not how God designed your sanctification. Becoming like Christ takes a lifetime.
But how does this process work? Are our minds renewed automatically? Is it something that just happens by sitting around and being a Christian? Unfortunately, the Church is full of people that think that becoming like Christ is something that is passive. They think they can surf facebook, go to work all day, engage in worldly conversations, talk with their family, watch a little T.V., mow the lawn, do housework, and somehow, someway through these worldly endeavors they will be sanctified. Is this what it looks like to renew your mind...to keep doing what you were doing before you were saved?
Absolutely not. The way our minds are renewed is through reading, studying, meditating, and praying the Bible. To renew our minds takes active participation on your part. It is not a passive transformation, it is an active transformation. This is why it is a command in Romans 12:2.
Earlier, I quoted John 17:15. Do you remember it? Jesus was praying to the Father, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Do you remember that? Guess what Jesus says in the very next verse, verse 17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
The way that we are not conformed to the world, the way that we are transformed into being like Jesus (i.e. sanctification) is through the truth of God's Word. Our minds are renewed by reading the Bible. When we read the Bible morning, noon, and night, we begin to think differently about our mornings, our work, our family, our money, our time, our purpose, our health problems, our every waking second. We begin to approach every situation in a way that Jesus would approach it.
We begin to have the ability to test things, to weight them in the balance, to know what is God's good, acceptable, and perfect will is. If you are tired of the sin in your life, if you are tired of constantly falling short, the answer is simple... read your Bible, not just once a week, but every single day, multiple times a day. This is how God has designed your sanctification by the renewing of your mind.