When was the last time you met up with an old friend? Someone from high school, maybe even middle school. If you’re reading this and you’re in high school, then you have some time before you meet up with an ‘old’ friend 🙂 Assuming you’ve done this before, you’re probably hoping that some things haven’t changed, that you can recognize them, that the characteristics you like are similar to the ones you remember. There’s something nice about that isn’t there? However, I’m guessing you’d also appreciate how they’ve changed over the years; how they’ve grown; what kind of person they’ve become from when you first knew each other. Being the same is nice, but it’s also a little creepy if nothing has changed, right?
With that in mind it’s worth noting that reunion shows are really popular these days; comeback TV shows. Netflix is very willing to produce or air these kinds of shows. Why? Because of two very important reasons: People wanna see what’s the same (from their favourite show), and people wanna see what’s different, what’s changed. The most recent one might be the Gilmore Girls: a year in the life. If you’re familiar with this show you share similar questions: What will Lorelai be like, are her and Luke happy, what about Rory, who did she end up with? Are you on team Jess, team Logan or team Dean? If you have no clue what these names mean, it’s ok, but you probably see where we’re going with this. (or not)
Most of us hope that with time also comes change; we hope that as we grow, we are actually becoming better versions of ourselves. The funny thing is that as much as we hope for this, many of us don’t take transformation seriously. We think that things just happen on their own, but that’s not that case. If we want something to change, we have to be deliberate about changing something.
We’ve been talking about what we take seriously when it comes to our faith – transformation has be at the top of the list. Why you might ask, because the scriptures takes it seriously.
Eugene Peterson once said, “We are not interested in knowing more but in becoming more.”
C.S. Lewis said it this way, “If conversion makes no improvements in a person’s outward actions then I think his or her ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary.”
Surely Jesus didn’t die for his followers to remain the same; he died so they could experience what the NT calls, new life. You’ll find other ways to describe this in the scripture: new creation, born again, made new, and of course the word we’re focusing on today, transformation. This actual word is only found in the NT a couple of times, but it’s alluded to everywhere. Romans 12 is where Paul perhaps makes the best use of this word. Before you read it, consider this question: How do we move from being inspired to being transformed – from a transactional faith (where we receive something) to a transformational faith (where we experience true change in our lives)? With that in mind, let’s see what Paul says:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Message)
This past Sunday we dealt with both verse one and two, but in this post we’ll simply stick with verse two. After Paul urges us to be living sacrifices (unlike the dead sacrifices the Jewish people were accustomed to), in other words, people who, in light of Jesus’, live sacrificially before God and the world as their act of worship, he then moves onto what some might find as difficult language. Difficult perhaps because this language sounds like a command. But Paul is sincere here. He truly wants to help his readers see a better way, the way of Jesus. His challenge not to conform comes as loving encouragement to people who he hopes don’t waste time moving in the wrong direction.
Paul is putting two words and ideas against each other: Conform & Transform.
Don’t conform or get squeezed into someone else’s version of your life. Don’t get stuck in a prefabricated space. You can live in a different space with a fresh view of the world. The only way for that happen is through the renewing of your mind. God actually cares about how you think; he wants you smarter, not academically, but with wisdom. This is all so you can ‘figure out’ how to live – how to live your best life.
Think about the renovation shows we see on TV. People love watching these shows. The best part is always the before and after shots, that’s where we see the magic. We are amazed at the transformation that takes place. We get stuck in our living space and can’t see past what’s there. Contractors or Designers are able to look at what the space can become, not only at what it is. This is what Paul is doing in Romans 12; he’s showing us a better way, a better space to live the lives God is calling us to.
Don’t let faith just be a transaction for you, an exchange, instead, through prayer, community, scripture reading, reflection, and the renewing of your mind, move towards transformation and start living the life you were called to live. Let your faith effect every part of your life. It’s the best way to live. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.
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small(er) group discussion: (video starter)
What is it about transformation that both excites people and scares people?
Is it easier to see what needs to change in others, than what needs to change in you? Why is that?
We said that we want to move from inspiration to transformation; transactional faith to transformational faith. What do you think about that? Do you see the difference in the two sides?
Look at Romans 12:2, break it up at talk about it.
– Do not conform / Don’t become so well-adjusted to culture without even thinking / Don’t get squeezed into someone else’s mould for your life.
– Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind / Instead, fix your attention on God and you’ll be changed from the inside out.
Does the HGTV/Renovation show analogy help us understand what Paul is trying to get at with opening our eyes to a better use of our space, our mind, our heart, our worldview?
What, in your opinion, is God’s good, pleasing & perfect will?