In the first century, there were basically two views of the human body. One was that it should be worshiped for its beauty and idolized for its strength. The body was something to be proud of and to flaunt.
On the other hand, some believed that the body was inherently sinful. That the body didn’t matter. Only the spirit mattered. In fact, the body was just a shackle and a prison house. It was something to be despised and ashamed of.
Christianity presented a third view. It’s one that Paul advanced in Rom. 12. That the body is to be consecrated to the Lord. It’s not to be worshiped, nor is it to be abased. We should not flaunt it, but neither should we be ashamed of it. It is given to us by God. It is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
And so the issue Paul raised, is still real and relevant to the 21st century. Will we be conformed or transformed?
The word conform means to fashion outwardly. But the word transformed means to be changed inwardly. From it we get the word metamorphosis. The idea is a change from one stage to the next. When a person becomes a Christian, he is to undergo a change, a metamorphosis. Just like the ugly caterpillar undergoes the metamorphosis and becomes a beautiful butterfly, so the man in sin is to be changed into a “new creation.”
Romans 12 presents 5 ways in which we ought to be spiritually transformed.
(1) In Morals.
James L. Standfield observed that “The world is the Devil’s lair for sinners and its lure for saints.” Just like in Paul’s day, our world is a moral mess. A morass of carnality, sensuality and sexual perversity. The devil’s three main devices for temptation are still the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (I Jn 2:15-17).
The J.B. Phillips renders this text, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into his own mold.” If we are molded into the ways of the world, we will walk, talk and look like worldly people instead of disciples of Christ. We are challenged to be transformed from the deeds, desires and deceitfulness of the world.
(2) In Mind.
To overcome being squeezed into the moral mold of the world, we must be transformed “by the renewing of (our) minds.” “A well-ordered life is the outcome of a well-ordered mind,” declared J. Oswald Sanders.
While Most Christians would agree that moral changes must occur, many are unwilling to affect the mental change necessary. But the only way we can be changed morally, is to be changed mentally. How? By reading the Bible, as well as good books. Attending worship services. And engaging in fellowship with other Christians.
(3) In Motives.
Our motives cause us to act in a certain way. Motives speak to our objectives, aims and goals. Aristotle was right, “All that we do is done with an eye to something else.” Disciples of Christ are driven by motives that are greater, higher, and nobler than selfish ambition or worldly acclaim.
When transformation occurs we “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” We are focused on Jesus “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2) Our motivation is beyond this life. It is spiritual, eternal, and heavenward. (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
(4) In Ministry.
Transformed people seek to serve the needs of others.
Verses 3-8 remind us that in a community of Christians every member is a minister. Every ministry is important. We are all dependant on each other. And our specific ministry is based on our individual gifts.
Paul affirms that we all have gifts. They are all different. They are according to God’s grace. And He wants us to use them.
What is your gift? How can you serve? Where are you needed?
Not all ministry is public and obvious to everyone. While we need ministers of the Word and ministers who Shepherd souls, we also need Christians who minister their gifts of mercy. Visiting the sick, supporting the weak, encouraging the faint hearted and ministering “to the least of these” are important, vital miniseries within the Body of Christ.
(5) In Manner of Life.
The last half of this chapter speaks specifically to a transformed manner of living. Christianity ought to change us in a practical way on an everyday basis. Dee Bowman once wrote, “Christianity is not just about obeying rules and regulations, but about what obeying those rules and regulations does to you.”
We are called and changed to unconditionally love people. Hate evil. Hold on to good. And work enthusiastically.
Generosity, kindness, empathy, hopefulness, humility, patience and prayerfulness should characterize our behavior. And one of the most difficult commands of all challenges us to not return evil for evil or seek revenge. Rather to overcome evil with good.
And so, the daily question we all face is–Am I conformed or transformed?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman