By Ninos Hadjirousou
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”(Romans 12:2)
If you are a young convert to Christianity then this, I hope, will be useful for you to read, my dear young brother or sister.
The word ‘conformed’ in the original Greek means, to be shaped by or live under the influence or by the pattern of something. That something is explained for us in the next words; it is ‘to this world’. What does God mean when he says ‘to this world’? In order to find out, we must again go back to our original Greek text for answers. The word is (eoni) which is simply referring to a particular period of history, generation or spirit of the age, the world’s system and values, the world’s trend, lifestyle or habit which is all dominated by the prince of the power of the air, Satan.
The Apostle, here inspired by the Spirit of God, warns the Roman Christians not to allow themselves to be influenced any more by the spirit of the age, so that they may walk in righteousness. Or, to put it another way, as the Apostle Peter wrote “he (God) who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,”(1 Peter 1:15). This clear statement is also commanding you who are reading this to bear in mind that it is not good for you to have fellowship with the spirit of the age, because God commands you to live in the Spirit; to pursue holiness and Christ-likeness. You no longer belong to yourself, but to God. John Calvin wrote “There must be a new nature”, it “includes a complete reformation of all its parts (Ephesians 4:23)” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, chapter 1, section 9, page 153). Humility is the first step of abandoning self, so devote your mind and energy to God.
The way this is done is through sanctification, which is the work of the Holy Spirit to inwardly change you and transform your mind, conforming you more and more to the image of Jesus Christ. This is done after your conversion, when you have believed in the Gospel and have received the saving knowledge of God, and repented of your former ways. Furthermore, I want to mention something just so I will not be misunderstood. God has given all things richly to enjoy while we are on this earth.
For example, going to the beach and walking on the sand, watching the waves or swimming in them is a good thing. Going camping up in the mountains and looking at the wonders of God’s creation, praising Him, is also not a wrong thing. Doing a sport activity is also not a wrong thing and reading historical books about something other than the Bible is not a wrong thing to do either.
However, we must also recognize that we must be careful of our Christian liberty and be wise. The Apostle Paul later tells us to “be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” (Romans 16:19). We will be able to identify a dark spot from a light one in a room; so we must be capable of questioning ourselves before we try and do something that goes against our conscience. We must be able to discern, to judge what is ungodly or godly. And this is done by the Holy Spirit’s illumination, using the means of daily prayer, meditation study and reading of God’s Word.
It is sad to mention, but I must say this, that there are many young and excited people who have become Christians thinking that they will not need to sacrifice their love of worldliness. They may be called carnal ‘Christians’, but the Bible calls them lukewarm and half hearted. They don’t see it as necessary to separate themselves from the things that the world allows to brainwash the unconverted. If you tell them not to have fellowship with the world, as the Apostle wrote, they will say that your ‘opinion’ is too extreme and not loving, very narrow minded. Then they will ask ‘how will you reach people, if you’re going to give up all these things that the world does? How will you build a bridge to reach them?’
Oh reader, I hope you don’t have such thoughts in your head. Because if you are not careful, if you have no problem continuing what you used to do when you were a non-Christian, then it will be evident through time that your testimony claiming to be a Christian and your desire to walk in Christ’s footsteps is false. By doing this, you are actually misrepresenting what the Christian life is all about to others around you. You’re not bearing His cross (Matthew 16:24-25), and you’re not a living sacrifice any more (Romans 12:1). You are what the Scriptures call a false witness (not a true Christian).
When I was new in the faith, I was in many meetings where many who claim to be faithful followers of God had no problem watching TV series/ movies that teach us nothing about honour and holiness to God. They were watching movies that encourage young men to look at women in a lustful way. They were watching TV comedy series that showed no sense or way for a godly man or woman to live, but how people of the world (unconverted) lived and talked. They had no problem swearing like the world does, talking like the world. They had no problem going out clubbing with non-Christians, and drinking, and partying, claiming it as a way to ‘evangelize’ them. Some have no conviction of sin at all after they used God’s name in vain countless times or even swear or use slang words to each other. I had people talk about how a movie or a song had been produced by an ungodly music/movie company, and yet tells us a ‘Christian message’. They called it relatively safe to watch, because it has a ‘symbolic’ Christian message behind it. But the more I was told about this, the more I was convinced that their love of worldly entertainment has been such a great influence in their private lives that they would try and mix God with it, in order to hold on to that worldly movie or song. Because (let’s be honest) it simply makes them feel good. They do it for the sake of pleasure and not for the sake of knowing the glories of Christ. They talk like the world, smell like the world and are from the world. Therefore, be aware of the Apostle’s warning in (Romans 12:2) ‘Do not be conformed to this world’, do not behave in the way the world does, don’t follow the lifestyle that people of this age do.
There is also a second reason why the Apostle is warning Christians about this. It is because we are not allowing God’s sanctifying Word to shape our mind. Look at the text; ‘be transformed by the renewal of your mind’. Our Lord said that we are sanctified by the Word of God and by obeying it by faith (John 17:17).
When the Scriptures say ‘the mind’, the word is used as a synonym to also describe the heart. The mind is our control centre, the source of reason, thought, intention, purpose of practice and understanding. If the mind is transformed, then our whole will, purpose and understanding change, and then our change of thought will be seen externally by others. Everything is changes in us. This change is known as sanctification, something which only God can do to any wretched sinner by the power of His grace.
If we are not sanctified then we will not be able to identify ‘what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’. We will remain having a baby faith. And if we reject the Spirit’s work of sanctification completely, then we must ask ourselves, whether we were actually saved or not in the first place.
As Christian’s, we must be very careful what we allow to influence us, we must use our time wisely and carefully. Whether it be sports or movies or art or visiting places, test everything, weigh everything and seek for God’s will always. What must be the driving influence in our lives is the Word of God alone, because it is sufficient for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Once you accommodate worldly entertainment, worldly ideology, worldly behaviour, you will be replacing Christ with something that was planned by Satan to capture you. God has given us reason; the ability to reason things with our minds, but the Devil does not want you to use it. The pagan concept of knowing the will of God is switching off your mind. And allowing yourself to enter into the waves of worldly music and box office movies, which are there to manipulate you, and lead you to trust only in your emotions rather than to use your mind to think and reason. Don’t allow it to rule over your personal life, don’t be a participant in things which are an offence to God.
Remember the death of Jesus Christ on Cavalry for our sins. Remember the mercies of God, which motivate us to say ‘no’ to the Devil and ‘yes’ to our Saviour.
Let me give you an illustration. Imagine that you need to go to a college, and you need a certain amount of money in order to enter it. But you don’t have that money, so a friend actually gives you all that is needed for you to enter into college to begin a journey towards a promising future. Then you gamble it away! You decide to quit college, and waste it all on drinking and playing video games all day. Someone made a great sacrifice for you, and you wasted it! And so it is with what you’re doing if you are allowing the world to influence you daily. Christ has died for your sins, in order that you would be saved from the death that you really deserved; and he brought you into the realm of grace. He has placed you at the beginning of a journey towards holiness; all this was done by His sacrifice for you on the cross, while you were yet his enemy (Romans 5:11).
Dear reader, instead of wasting all that Christ has done for you, you are obligated to honour Him because of His great love to you. His will was to die and provide an access by which we can be partakers in His death, burial and resurrection.