Not Conformed, But Transformed, Part 1

Intro: Our lesson this morning is another link in our continuing study of the Spirit’s teaching in Romans 12. Our focus today (and our verse of interest for the month) is verse 2:

 

Romans 12:2 – “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

 

1.  The word “and”  in this text tells us right off that we can understand this verse apart from what we just viewed in verse 1. Paul commanded us to (present) offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. His urgings here (and throughout chapter 12) are a clarification of how that is to happen. What does a holy sacrifice of our physical bodies look like?  It is seen in the renunciation of the world’s pattern of living and a spiritually renewed mind. This, in turn makes it possible for us to discern and exhibit the will of God in our lives.

2.  Contained in this description of a living sacrifice is both a negative and positive exhortation. The picture is comprehensive in this way. (putting on – putting off). We must give up one thing in order to embrace the other. There is no room to imply a compromise, only a complete change.

 

I.  “Be Not Conformed to this World”  – first to the negative. The verb “be not conformed” is what is called a passive imperative in the original language. It is imperative in that it is a direct command, not a suggestion; it is passive in that the conforming is something that we allow to be done to us. It implies that the “world” is able to conform us.

A.  “Conformed” –  What does this word mean? Our English word means “to be or to become the same or similar”. Do you remember bean bag chairs? They were big in the 70’s. You sit down in them and they conformed to your body. If you got up slowly and looked back you could see the contour of your body left behind in the chair. (probably the wrong word to use there!)

1.  The Greek term is suschematizo ‎(soos-khay-mat-id’-zo); it meant to fashion alike, i.e. conform to the same pattern (figuratively):  Paul uses suggests the idea of “fashioning or shape one thing like another” (Vine).

a.  our English words words “scheme” or “schematic” find their root here.  The “schematic” is the plan or the blue print by which something is made. The product “conforms” to the blue print! In this case, we must not allow “the world” to become the model or blue print for our lives!

b.  The translated verb “fashion” suggests what is transitory and changeable. We speak of what is “in” and “out” of style as a fashion, implying that it changes by nature.

c. Phillip’s translation of this phrase is  “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God remold your minds from within”

B. “This world” – as we have mentioned before there are more than one world in the Bible that are translated as “world”

1.  The word “Kosmos is the common word that refers to both the geographical sphere and those who inhabit it. God created the world (earth), and His son died because he so loved the world (people).  Kosmos is also used to refer to Satan’s dominion and influence. 1 John 2:15 – 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

2.  But  “kosmos” This not the word that Paul uses here. Rahter he uses the word, “aion”  which often translated “age”. It signifies a period of time that has spiritual or moral characteristics. So we might sigh and say. “what is this world coming to?”  

a.  In Jesus’ parable of the soils the seed (the word of God) was sown among the thorns, but the “cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” choke the word out. These cares are specific to the time in which the seed is sown. Our cares are unique to us.

b. So there is an age specific world that we all live in. We might call it our culture. But it is characterized in the Bible as controlled by Satan and antagonistic toward God and his purposes. 

  • Gal. 1:4 – 4 who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
  • 2 Cor 4:4 – 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
  • This culture we live in has the capacity to mold us into it own image. We can allow ourselves to be conformed to it. If that happens then we could be described as being “worldly”. What does a worldly person look like? or sound like? or think like?

c.  We often picture the worldly person as the smoking, drinking cussing, unbeliever who lives down the street. So then we are not worldly because we do not do those things that make a person worldly. (our definitions serve us well)

d.  One writer suggested that in a list of “worldly” characteristics we should include “consumerism” – The insatiable need to buy and consume things. How does that fit your definition of worldly? What is the blueprint that is offered to us?

e.  Jesus said to the people of his day (with a lot fewer things than our age) “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) He then told them an indicting parable where a successful person met an untimely judgment by God and concluded by saying, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”  (Luke 12:21) We must not be molded by the world.

 

II. Do We Fit in the Mold of Our Age?  In what ways do we need to apply this teaching? The implications go far beyond the common vices that we correctly shun. John accounts that we must not be conformed to the affections of the world. (What if we and our culture submitted a profile on Eharmony.com – would we find several levels of compatibility? – do we like the same things?  

  • 1 John 2:15-17 – 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

A. Notice that John creates an irreconcilable struggle for all of us. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.” The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan, who is the ruler of this world, are mutually exclusive in affection and values. They cannot reconcile.

B.  This means that in the moral value issues that face us we must choose.   Luke 16:13-14 – 13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” 14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.

C. The values of this world are easy to identify. Materialism and selfish Indulgence (especially sexual indulgence) rule the day. Individualism and personal freedom are cherished. Self-esteem and personal ambition are promoted.

1.  God specifically calls the Christian to abstain from the activities of the world around him and remain pure. 

  • 1 Cor. 6:19-20 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
  • Eph 5:3-6 – 3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know,* that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
  • 1 Peter 4:3-5 – 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

2.  But the character of the Christian is counter-cultural in more than just the activities of the body. Jesus calls for a revolution of the mind. Jesus’ declarative statements in Matthew 5:3-10 are more than just sermon platitudes. They are the revolutionary marching orders to the Christian in his battle against worldliness.   

  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
  • Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

These are not the values of our culture. If we pursue these things we will not be conformed to this world. We will be transformed.

2.  Notice that Jesus follows up by giving us a positive command to influence others. It is a demand that flows from who we are – “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (v. 13-16) When we do this we glorify God through the holy (separated) sacrifice of ourselves to Him.

3. Are there any sharp corners? Or do we fit comfortably where we live?  J.C. Ryrie asks some pertinent questions: 

  • Are you willing to give up anything which keeps you back from God?… Is there any cross in your Christianity? Are there any sharp corners in your religion, anything that ever jars and comes in collision with the earthly-mindedness around you? Or is all smooth and rounded off, and comfortably fitted into custom and fashion? Do you know anything of the afflictions of the gospel? Is your faith and practice ever a subject of scorn and reproach? Are you thought a fool by anyone because of your soul? – J.C. Ryle
  • Who was Demas? He is mentioned 3 times in scripture. In Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 1:24 he is specifically described by Paul as His fellow laborer, numbered with the other disciples. But then there is that last reference in 2 Timothy 4:10 – “for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica” This is his epitaph.