“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 will.” ~ Romans 12:2 (ESV)
Do you want to be conformed or transformed?
That’s the question that God is posing to you in this passage from Romans.
I remember when I was a teenager, I thought conformity was for losers. It was cool to be “anti-conformity”, to be your own person and do your own thing. This attitude is still very much alive.
But that’s the not exactly what Paul is getting at in Romans 12:2. It’s not a choice between following someone else’s standards or being your own person and charting your own path.
Whether you want to admit it or not, you are being molded and shaped into something. In Paul’s mind, we have two options–either we’re conformed to the mold of this fallen, sinful world, or we’re transformed into the image of Jesus.
Conform or transform. Those are our options in life.
The Greek word for conform carries this idea of following the pattern of something, and ending up looking like it. Conforming looks like following a pro athlete’s training regimen, until your athletic performance matches the pro. Or following the steps taken by a successful business person, until your success looks like theirs.
So you follow the pattern, and eventually you look the thing the pattern originates from or points to.
But transform carries a different idea. The Greek word, metamorphoó, is where we get the word “metamorphosis”–a change of outward form. So with transform, we’re not following a pattern to look like something. Rather, a change is happening to us and we now outwardly look totally different.
In Mark 9 and Matthew 17, when Jesus was transfigured before the disciples’ eyes and took on a brilliant, shining appearance, the same Greek word is used. It’s the same idea.
“Be transformed” is a command. God commands us to be changed. It’s not an option. If we don’t transform, we’ll conform to the pattern of this fallen age–to selfishness, pride, idolatry, etc.
But how is one transformed? “Be transformed” sounds like “just do it”. Is that what Paul means?
Notice the keyword “by” right after the word “transform”. How are we changed? By the renewing of our minds. An inner change produced by God takes place in our thinking, and this leads to an external change of behavior. And as a result, we’ll possess a new ability to discern the will of God.
Interestingly, the way we can know what God desires is by having our minds renewed. Not working really hard. Not by some “mystical” means, but by the Spirit working in our minds and making them new.
Our minds need to be renewed, so we can discern what the will of God is. That’s really the chief point in Romans 12:2–pursuing what God wants, what He desires. God wants you to know what His will is. It’s not hidden from you, in the sense that there’s no way for you to know it. You can it know it through renewal, and you can find it in His Word.
In my fallen state, I don’t have the ability to discern God’s will, much less the desire to carry it out. That’s why you and I desperately need renewal from the Holy Spirit. Unless God intervenes, we’ll drift into conforming to the world.
Jesus died and rose again to secure this process of transformation for all those who believe in Him. Our old sinful, God-hating selves died on the cross with Him, and by rising from the dead, He secured a new identity and a new nature for us–His own. Like branches connected to a vine, we receive the very life and nature of Christ into us as the Spirit fills us and goes to work on transforming us from the inside out.
Today, will you conform, or transform? Yield yourself to the process of renewal, and be transformed. By His Spirit, through His Word, let Him transform you into a new form–the form of Christ. And walk in his good, pleasing, and perfect will.