Posted On August 22, 2012

Reforming or Conforming

by | Aug 22, 2012 | The Gospel and the Christian Life

Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodiesas a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed bythe renewal of your mind, that by testing you maydiscern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.“

In Romans 12:-15:13 Paul teaches on God’s righteousness in everyday life. The gift of God’s saving righteousness leads to a new life. In this section Paul works out some of the practical ramifications of God’s saving mercy. Romans 12:-12 is Paul’s paradigm for exhortations a total dedication to God. Romans 12:1-2 summarize the response to God’s grace and serve as the introduction for all of 12:1-15:13. They encapsulate what it means to live in a way that pleases God.

Therefore points back to the entire argument of Romans 1:18-11:36. Christians are to give themselves entirely to God because of his saving grace. This is Paul’s main point in Romans 3:21-11:36. Sacrificial language from the Old Testament is used to denote the new life of Christians, and this means that the word bodies here refers to Christians as whole persons, for body and soul belong to God. They are a living sacrifice, meaning that they are alive from the dead since they enjoy new life with Christ (6:4). “Living” also means that they will not be put to death as Old Testament animal’s sacrifices were for Christ has fulfilled what was predicted by those sacrifices. Whereas Old Testament worship focused on offering animal sacrifices in the temple, Paul says that spiritual worship in a broad sense now includes offering one’s whole life to God (Hebrews 13:15-16). Elsewhere, however, the New Testament can also use the word “worship” in the narrower sense, to speak of specific acts of adoration and praise.

The Greek word for appeal comes from a root which means “to call alongside to help.” Jesus used a related word, often translated comforter in reference to the Holy Spirit. This family of words later came to connote exhorting, encouraging or counseling. Paul was speaking as a counselor to his readers but his counsel carried the weight of his apostleship.

The present evil age still threatens those who belong to Christ, so they must resist its pressure. Their lives are to change as their minds are made new, so that they are able to discern God’s will. By testing you may discern translate from the Greek word “dokmazo”, which often has the sense of dinging out the worth of something by putting it to use or testing it in actual practice.

Conformed refers to assuming an outward expression that does not reflect what is on the inside, a kind of masquerade or act. The word’s form implies that Paul’s readers were already allowing this to happen and must stop conforming to the world. The word “world” is better translated age which refers to the systems of beliefs, values or the spirit of the age- at any time current in the world. This sum of contemporary thinking and values forms the moral atmosphere of our world and is always dominated by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4).

The Greek word for transformed from which the English word “metamorphosis” comes from, connotes a change in outward appearance. Matthew uses the same word to describe the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2). Just as Christ briefly and in a limited way displayed his inner, divine nature and glory at the Transfiguration, Christians should outwardly manifest their inner redeemed natures, not once but daily (2 Cor. 3:18; 5:18). The kind of renewal Paul speaks of can only occur as the Holy Spirit changes our thinking through consistent study and meditation of Scripture (Psalm 119:11; Col. 1:2; 3:10, 16: Phil 4:8).

The renewed mind is one saturated and controlled by the word of God. Good, perfect and acceptable speaks of the holy living of which God approves. These words are borrowed from Old Testament sacrificial language and describe a life that is morally and spiritually spotless, just as the sacrificial animals were to be (Lev 22:19-25).

Paul in Romans 12:1 calls believers to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship.” The point Paul is making here is that in light of all he has taught about justification and sanctification believers are to give themselves over to the great truths he has taught in his epistle. As a result of all that God has done the believer is to respond to Him by living a life in conformity with the standard of the perfection and holiness of God by growing in likeness to Christ.

The standard that Paul sets for believers in Romans 12:2 may seem a little high. Consider though the great truths he has expounded on regarding justification, adoption, regeneration, security, assurance, sanctification, separation, and glorification. In light of these great truths it is not too high of a standard, because believers have been called out of the world to be bondservants of Christ. Paul knows the great truth about the enabling of the believer to live a life in conformity to Christ because of the work of the Spirit. It is because of this that he can say in 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.”

Are you reforming to the standard of God as set forth in Scripture or are you conforming to the world? The question may appear simple perhaps even silly to some, but it is a deadly serious question in light of the truth of Romans 12:1-2, and the argument Paul is making in the book of Romans. The main point of Romans 12:1 is that believers must give themselves over to God. It is not enough to just know the truth about justification and sanctification or even a whole host of other doctrines. If the knowing of the doctrine of God as set forth in His Word does not penetrate the heart of man- if it does not lead you to “present your bodies” and your life to God, the Gospel of God, and the Word of God then you are not worshiping God nor reforming to His standard, but instead to the standard of the world.

Paul doesn’t stop at just conforming to this world. Paul knows that believers need instruction on how to not conform to the world and live a life that is thoroughly grounded in the Gospel. He teaches this in Romans 12:2 when he says, “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 is this done? How do I reform my life in accordance to the Word of God? How do I not conform to the world?

There are many ways to not conform to the world. The first is to give yourself over to God and make sure that you belong to Him. First check your understanding of Romans 1-3. Do you understand that you are a sinner and that your sin offends a holy God? Second, do you understand the truth of justification of being declared not guilty? Do you often rely on your own righteousness, or have you cast yourself wholly upon the righteousness of Christ as Romans 4-5 teach? Third, do you understand the truth of Romans 6-8? Do you understand that you have a new identity in Christ which calls you to a new way of living? Do you understand that the Holy Spirit enables you to live a life in accordance with the Word of God? Do you understand that your battle with sin will one day end and you will be glorified? Fourth, do you understand the truth of Romans 9-11?  Do you understand the sovereignty and character of God? Fifth, do you understand Romans 12-14 that Paul is writing to the Romans so that they will join Him in proclaiming the Gospel in Spain and beyond? Do you understand that the theology he sets forth in the first eleven chapters of Romans lead to the practical explanations he gives in Romans 12-14? Sixth, are you daily in the Word of God and prayer? Seventh, are you a member of a local Church? Finally, do you have an accountability team of godly men or women around you to hold you accountable, to pray with you, and whom you can call to a listening ear and or godly counsel?

In conclusion, my brothers and sisters, I appeal to you in the name of Romans 12:1-2 to give yourself afresh to the work of God in your life, in your marriages, in your local church, in your neighborhoods, your communities, your cities and your nations! Give yourself over to the beauty of the Gospel. Give yourself over to worshipping and enjoying the God who sent forth His Son Jesus Christ to die for you in your place, be buried and rise again. Give yourself over to the God who enables you to live for Him, to enjoy Him, to be satisfied in Him. Finally give yourself to a God who is truly worth living for.

As you give yourself over to God- may God open your eyes to the reality and pervasiveness of the sin in your heart, but equally so, the beauty, and the majesty of God who sent His Son into the world to die in our place for our sin, be buried and rise again. May you taste and see that the Lord is good, and that truly His mercy endures forever.

J.C. Ryle said, “‎”Look at the cross. Think of the cross. Meditate on the Cross, and then go and set affections on the world if you can.” Once you’ve looked at the Cross, thought of the Cross, meditated on the Cross and your gaze is Godward as Ryle says- go ahead and try to set your affections on the world. The point Ryle is making is that once your affections have tasted of the superior pleasure of knowing and enjoying God- the power of sin will lessen in your life, and this is exactly the point Paul is making in Romans 12:1-2.

The power sin ought to be lessening in your life as you- the believer continues to look at the Cross, think of the Cross and meditate on the Cross. Once you know who Jesus is, and what He has done to purchase you- understanding that precious truth will humble, and transform your life. As you humble yourself before the Lord- you will continue to find that He is all together precious and superior in every way to the lie of sin, and your life will progressively conform and demonstrate the joy of the Lord to others. May you be found today to be reforming in accordance to the Word of God. May you be found today even now turning from false pleasure that sin offers, and to the preciousness of knowing and enjoying the preciousness of our great Savior, Redeemer and King- Jesus Christ.

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  1. Weekly Roundup 8/19/-8/25/2012 | Servants of Grace - [...] Wed 8/22- Reforming or Conforming by Dave Jenkins https://servantsofgrace.org/2012/08/22/reforming-or-conforming/ [...]

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