By Ronny Milliner
What is the relationship that the Christian is to have with the world? Paul answers, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
The Work — Negative
Paul approaches this responsibility first from a negative standpoint. We are not to be conformed to the world. The word “conform” means “to fashion or shape one thing like another. . . . This verb has more especial reference to that which is transitory, changeable, unstable” (Vine, p.227). The ways of the world are unstable compared to God’s ways. We must not allow ourselves to be poured into its mold.
There are a number of areas in which it can be easy for us to become like the world. We can conform to the world in our dialogue. As surely as Peter’s Galilean accent gave him away (Mk. 14:70), our speech will identify us with either the world or God. The speech of the world is characterized by “corrupt communication,” “filthiness,” “foolish talking, ” and “coarse jesting” (Eph. 4:29; 5:4). Our speech should be edifying and contain giving of thanks.
We can also conform to the world in our dress. Some become so fashion-minded that they set aside principles of decency and modesty in order to be like the world. The godly person will dress in “modest apparel, with propriety and moderation” (1 Tim. 2:9-10). A Christian will realize the importance of inward adornment over outward adornment (1 Pet. 3:3-4).
We can conform to the world in our deeds. The works of the flesh are in clear contrast to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:19-23). Yet these deeds will sometimes be found in the lives of Christians. When they are found, it is because we have conformed to the world
The Work — Positive
Not being conformed to the world means we win be “transformed.” The Greek word metamorphoo (from which we get metamorphosis) is a compound word. The first part of the word implies change, and the latter half means “form.” So the Christian is “to change into another form” (Vine, p. 148).
The Christian is one who has changed. He is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He is a new man (Eph. 4:22-24). He wears a new name (Isa. 62:2; Acts 11:26). He walks “in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Why would one want to go back to the old fife of sin (2 Pet. 2:20-22)?
How can one make this important change? How can we avoid falling into the trap of conforming to the world? Paul says we must have a renewing of the mind. We must have an “adjustment of the moral and spiritual vision and thinking to the mind of God, which is designed to have a transforming effect upon the life” (Vine, p. 279).
Renewing the mind will involve us in a change of awareness. There are some things of which the world is aware. But there are some things of which the Christian is aware that the world is not aware (cf. 1 Cor. 8:4,7). Part of our responsibility is to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
Renewing the mind-will involve us in a change of affection. The world loves itself and the things of the world (1 Jn. 2:15-16). The Christian loves God with all of his heart, soul, strength, and mind (Lk. 10:27).
Renewing the mind will also involve us in a change of aspiration. Those in the world aspire to many things. Paul describes the Christian’s aspiration in Colossians 3:1-2. He admonishes, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
The one who makes these changes in his life will d6prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Notice the traits of God’s will. It is good or beneficial. It is acceptable, or literally, well-pleasing. And it is perfect, complete, or f1mished. How does this compare with the ways of the world? There is no comparison.
When a Christian does not conform to the world, but is transformed, he is putting the will of God to a test. Such a life shows the character of God’s will, that it is best.
Paul did not admonish the Roman Christians, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” He urged them to a better way. “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:17).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 10, pp. 296, 303
May 16, 1985