By: Edward Kyle Richey
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. 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 12:1-2 (KJV)
And do not be conformed
As born-again Christians we are not to be part of this world living in the flesh or by the relative standards of the world. We are to live a life representative of Christ. In an earlier chapter of Romans Paul writes:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans 8:5-6).
The world is living by the flesh; the world is living in sin. And every person ever to be born is born in retched sin. We know this because the collected infallible word of God, the Sacred Scriptures, tell us this to be the case. This understanding begins with the sin of Adam who caused the fall of mankind:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned… Romans 5:12
Thusly the world was and remains damned without grace; without the blood of Christ humanity cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Let me reiterate by providing two examples of men who have indeed sinned and who grasped their eternal position. King David, repenting for all he had done against God after lusting over another man’s wife, taking her for his own, and then murdering her husband, cries out in Psalms 51:4-5:
Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
David understood his condition. He, as we all do, had a condition that is worse than any cancer or disease. We are all conceived with a terminal illness. In his sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, the great Jonathan Edwards would preach before his congregation a warning to all those who lacked Christ:
And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the Pit of Hell, whether they be old Men and Women, or middle Aged, or young People, or little Children, now hearken to the loud Calls of God’s Word and Providence (Edwards, 1741, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God)
It must be noted that David did indeed have Christ, for he believed in the promise of the Messiah and it was that promise that brought all believers in the Old Testament to heaven. Now moving on to my second example.
Scriptures inform us that this man persecuted the Church, he was set on imprisoning and killing Christians and yet, God had another purpose for him. This man’s name was Saul. He who would become the Apostle Paul was a man who had been bound by the shackles of sin; the very shackles that the world says are acceptable because they are “natural” but the world fails to realize that nature is the very nature that damns all to an eternal damnation away from God. What then is sin? In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul describes this sin of man:
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
It is important that we breakdown the nature of sin. God brought the laws to man in the Old Testament not because he believed the Jews could obey the laws perfectly, but rather to make humanity aware of their sinful nature (Romans 3:20; 5:20; 7:7-8). Sin has not disappeared and it never will until the return of Christ. To make sin more relative, consider that mass consumerism is sin when material goods overtake the providence of God. Every time I disrespect my parents, lust after another woman, curse, or cause ungodly dissension I am being anti-God; I am living on the wages of sin rather than the spirit of Christ. Romans 8:7-8 warns us of the dangers of worldly standards and man’s conformity to them:
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Enmity, do you know what that means? Enmity is “the state or feeling of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.” Every time we please the flesh in opposition to God, we are being therefore hostile toward God. Displeasuring God for our own selfish desires ought to bring fear to our hearts. During a sermon on the phrase “enmity against God”, the “Prince of Preachers” Charles Spurgeon would bellow out this fair warning:
It does not charge manhood with an aversion merely to the dominion, laws, or doctrines of Jehovah; but it strikes a deeper and surer blow. It does not strike man upon the head; it penetrates into his heart; it lays the axe at the root of the tree, and pronounces him “enmity against God,” against the person of the Godhead, against the Deity, against the mighty Maker of this world; not at enmity against his Bible or against his gospel, though that were true, but against God himself, against his essence, his existence, and his person (Spurgeon, 1855, The Carnal Mind Enmity Against God).
Sin is the opposite nature of God. God and sin never mix just as oil and water. This is why we must be transformed for transformation allows us to go before the Holy God of the universe.
But be ye transformed
Humanity cannot save itself from death. We learn this throughout the Bible, but take to heart these two verses:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Titus 3:5)
Transformation, in the context of this verse, is equivalent to a “permanent state to which a change takes place”; a metamorphoses that can never be retracted once it occurs. This should both excite and frighten us. True believers in Christ should be shouting in joy for they are eternally secured (John 6:37; John 10:27-29; Romans 6:23; Romans 8:38-39; Romans 11:29; 2 Timothy 2:19). To be clear, to burrow a popular phrase, “once saved, always saved” is a doctrine I believe to be biblically sound. However, do not be quick to rejoice. Pastor and author of the book, Crazy Love, Francis Chan in a chapter titled, “Profile Of The Lukewarm” warns people who call themselves “Christian” to check themselves and to “not assume you are good soil” (Chan, 67, Crazy Love) a phrase used to insinuate the parable of the sower spoken by Christ. Therefore, let us turn to the book of Luke 8:4-8 which reads as thus:
And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
In response to this parable Francis Chan wrote the following:
I think most American churchgoers are the soil that chokes the seed because of all the thorns. Thorns are anything that distracts us from God. When we want God and a bunch of other stuff then that means we have thorns in our soil. A relationship with God simply cannot grow when money, sins, activities, favorite sports teams, addictions, or commitments are piled on top of it (Chan, 67, Crazy Love).
Chan later asks an important set of questions in his book, “Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of this world” (Chan, 67, Crazy Love)? The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that:
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Christ tells us in Luke 9:23-24 that:
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
These are not words that speak of a people that have conformed to the world, but have been transformed with their minds renewed.
Next, Part 2: The Renewing of the Mind