WHAT DO YOU EXPECT OUT OF A LIFE TRANSFORMED BY THE WORD OF GOD?
·If you get into the habit of using religious language without knowing what you mean by it, you will increasingly become an empty shell. And many alien affections move into empty religious minds which have language but little or wrong content (John Piper)
·The problem of cultural Christianity is that the culture always predominates over the Christianity (Albert Mohler)
·Transformation is about recognizing the life of God within the believer and how to respond to the work of God’s Spirit within us (Tim Keller).
·It’s not your facility, or your music, or your marketing, or even your sermon that transforms lives… IT IS THE GOSPEL that saves (Lance Witt)
·Our sovereign God will use us to engage and transform our culture for His glory and our good if we will trust Him and follow His Spirit (Jim Denison)
TEXT: Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.2 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.
To conform is to agree with and so imitate one’s perspective to what is accepted as normal. When anything, however good, is put above who God is in the grand hierarchy of importance, then the borderline into the danger zone has been crossed. When the desire for peace with people, good and desirable as it is, is more than desire to be at peace with God, then the line has been crossed. There is a need to distinguish between the peace that the world gives and the peace that Jesus gives. Absence of conflict or trouble fits into what results from peace but may not be what Jesus Christ expects of his disciples. ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives’ (John 14: 27). Jesus' peace is that restfulness, quiet stillness in the heart that results from assurance that one is in the will of God. It is not necessarily being in agreement with the majority of the people that gives peace, but the assurance of God’s presence.
SOME SUBTLE WAYS THAT TEND TO CONFORM ONE TO THE STANDARDS OF THE WORLD
.Democratic elections – Whenever the season of elections is approaching, I wonder about the practicality of not conforming to the pattern of this world. Just as Jesus prayed that the end times do not take place in winter or Sabbath (Matthew 24:20), I fear the trumpet signaling the Second coming during the election period. The word of God implores the believer to have a mind transformed by the word of God. Election is an opportunity in a democratic society where adult individuals exercise their power to choose those to represent them in making policies that govern them. That means the one chosen by more people takes the responsibility to act on behalf of all the people. The challenge is how people have differing values of tolerance, historical conditions, social structures and a worldview that is not informed by the word of God. Quick labeling of what is not understood as ‘negative’ ethnicity, or corruption is only reflection of a mind not renewed. It would be willful naïveté for the believer to ignore the presence and work of Satan.
Non reflectiveness on the prevailing worldview – The mind is the film of thought in that it enables one to have the ability to project into reality that which the mind has conceived to be as real as actual experience. Our natural inheritance is the ability to know things from the worldly perspective. That is why the disciple of Christ has to have the mind renewed by the word of God ‘Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ (Romans 12:2b). Renewed mind is reflective. One needs to critically examine the beliefs that guide communication, release what is not in alignment with the word of God. ‘C.S. Lewis wrote about prosperity knitting us to this world, and while we are seeking our place in the world, the world is actually finding its place in us’. Dr. Larry Crabb who recently (28th February, 2021) rested from this life, in his book ‘The Pressure Off’, shows how Christians have imprisoned themselves by using the world’s ways to ‘get something from God,’ instead of appropriating God’s way to receive something from Him.
Insight of areas commonly attacked – Communication that uses language and symbols that undermine the gospel has threatened the believers from the very beginning of the church. Nicholas T. Batzig in his sermons points to some tactics that manifest Satanic assault as 1) false religions, 2) political oppositions and persecution aimed at the church, 3) false doctrine, 4) hypocrisy, and 5) unwillingness on the part of Christians to receive repentant sinners. The mind that is transformed is able to not only discern the sovereign will of God but to also desire and pray for it to be done on earth as it is in heaven. It is a sign of living according to the standards of this life when prosperity is lacking, and the explanation given is failure to pay a tithe to the church, or demonic forces, curses, and witchcraft. This blocks the mind from experiencing the power of God. Instead the mind is situated on what results in striving and vanity.
Desire to remain within the familiar and controllable – The human mind desires familiarity because it seems secure. What one knows is manageable. The thought of having to assign meaning to what one is not sure of creates anxiety. The loss of stability from rigidity recalibrates settled postures of belief and points of view, out of which emerge fear. To be a disciple is to accept to walk on unfamiliar grounds and beliefs in order to make disciples of all nations.
INDICATORS OF A TRANSFORMED MIND
Determination to live by God’s agenda –There is a need to set time aside to access the light which comes from God's word. ‘Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path’ (Psalm 119:105). This is what gives information that enables one to have a stand on issues. One is able to discuss, disagree and dialogue on issues that affect them. With full submission to God’s knowledge, your thoughts are organized on loving God and loving people. A transformed life is marked by willingly giving up your will to God’s will.
Enlightenment of the eyes of the heart – This is an exercise of the mind where internal digestion of ideas takes place. To live out the change brought about by daily appreciation of the grace of God, one has to continually pray ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law’ (Psalm 119:18). A spiritual mind results from seeing the present in the light of eternity. ‘If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this’ (C. S. Lewis). A transformed life is marked by renewed thinking about the present in the light of eternity .
Available where duty calls – The duty is in the field where one serves every day. In the field, producing, serving as the hymn says,, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus! Stand in His strength alone; The arm of flesh will fail you; Ye dare not trust your own; Put on the gospel armor, Each piece put on with prayer, Where duty calls, or danger, Be never wanting there.” (George Duffield Jr.) A life that has been transformed by having the mind renewed by the word of God does not rely on flesh but on the Lord. Fear of not accessing some field because of corruption, bribery and not being known is indicative of relying on flesh. The believer is the one who knows God opens opaque doors without using known means. A transformed life is marked by the unassuming making disciples service and serving God’s people by being where they are.
Love is the foundation and the content – Love is essentially the choice to value the needs of another rather than our own. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). To be partial or allow bias in making decisions is a reflection of a mind that is not transformed. The living that runs counter to the world is one trait that distinguishes a transformed life from the rest of the world. A transformed life is marked by the kind of love that Jesus Christ demonstrated by His life and lifestyle.
Excellence – Excellence is a habit of the subconscious mind that comes from internalized principles and patterns of behavior informed by the word of God. That is the lifestyle of Joseph when in Egypt without family or hope yet serving God. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters “(Ephesians 3:23). All our habits reflect subconscious feelings or emotions. Excellence is an attitude that insulates one from mediocrity. A transformed mind determines to constantly review what is in one’s heart and is marked by diligence and results in spiritual maturity and service to others.
Sense of direction – Life is a journey where posture matters. A mind renewed by the word of God is revealed by clear understanding of the key questions of life- who am I, why am I here and where am I going. To know that we exist because of the power of God is godliness. ‘Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13). That means the new birth has to be sustained by the word of God as one progresses toward eternity. That perspective makes one allocate time, attention and energy appropriately. Maintaining a perspective of faith will keep believers in a state of reliance on Christ, and it is in this active reliance that living out transformation is possible. A transformed life is marked by a perspective of direction that ends up with eternity with God.
Desire for righteousness – A transformed mind seeks the kingdom of God and His righteousness in every aspect of life. When one is living according to the standards of this world, there is striving, strategizing, and figuring out how to survive using one’s ingenuity and power. A mind renewed recognizes the new reality of living as a child of the King of kings where the Father provides. Instead of living for and by what one can do, one keeps asking the Father, what would He have one do and be. A transformed life is marked by the desire to have the right standing with God.
Every day a Christian is faced with the choice of where to focus the mind. Living at a time of continued anxiety because of Covid 19 virus and political choices while craving for fellowship with other disciples whose viewpoints may be different. “We are perfectly useless as Christians if all we do is conform to the world around us”(John Piper). Each day, the believers in your church struggle with the contrast of who they were, who they are to be in Christ, and who they seem to be in their daily lives. Tim Keller in explaining how a transformed life looks like says, ‘Transformation is not about attaining a spiritual standard. A righteous standard is given to us by Christ at the moment of salvation. It’s not about the impossible task of mimicking every action of Jesus. It is about recognizing the life of God within the believer and how to respond to the work of God’s Spirit within us.’ Transformation is about God working in the mind of the believer and the believer cooperating with Him.
‘Real change is only possible when you face the realities of your internal life and let God mold you into a person who is free to be honest, courageous, and loving’ (Dr. Larry Crabb).