Stronghold 11: Romans 12 (Be Transformed).
“1Therefore, 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. 2Do 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.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Romans 12:2 is a stronghold for the mind, a place of renewal, transformation and strengthening. It’s a blatantly counter-cultural verse because it starts with the command ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world”. It’s so easy to do just that, because we’re immersed in this world and surrounded by people and institutions whose worldview is focused on and limited to this world. Most people are living just for this life, for the here and now. The pattern of this world is selfishness, me-centred living and the pursuit of power, possessions, pleasure and prestige. All the time we’re egged on in our selfishness by the consumerism of our culture that saturates every media form and bombards us with material messages until we think that’s all there is.
Paul doesn’t want us to live like that. God doesn’t want us to live like that. We’re to live a different lifestyle and have a different worldview. The counter-cultural lifestyle that Paul envisaged is laid out in verses 9-21: devotion to one another, hospitality, selflessness, restraint, generosity and overcoming evil with good. Similar passages can be found in Ephesians 4:17-5:21 and Galatians 5:13-6-10. The different worldview is one where we’re striving towards our real home in heaven and viewing everything in this world through the lens of service to Jesus – the upside down Kingdom seen in many of Jesus’ parables. As Paul says in Philippians 3:20: “But our citizenship is in heaven.”
But the important thing for now is that this shift in thinking and perspective takes place in the mind. Our mind is the key to transformation: ‘but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. Note, this isn’t us transforming ourselves because we can’t renew our minds; no this is about letting God transform us and letting God renew our minds. There’s a temptation in Christian circles sometimes to underplay and undervalue the role of our minds in faith, but Romans 12:2 makes clear that it’s a crucial component. Following Jesus doesn’t rely on blind faith where we just switch off our minds, nor does it engage the heart only. No, Jesus appeals to every part of us and wants every part of us to honour Him. That’s why Jesus says in Mark 12:30: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Do you ever get the sense that you’re not accessing all that God has for you? Do you want to know more of His will for your life? Do you feel trapped in particular habits, sinful practices or harmful patterns of thinking? Even after coming to faith in Christ it’s easy to feel like that, unable to give ourselves fully to the cause of Jesus and live up to what we feel is expected of us. Sometimes it’s hard to honour God fully and to know what He wants for and from us. This verse shows us that the renewal of our minds is key to breaking these limitations and realising God’s plan for us.
God’s will for our lives is not just good nor even just pleasing, it’s actually perfect. It’s the very best we could hope for, perfectly suited to us and the fulfilment of all our potential, with blessings like we couldn’t even imagine. The end of verse 2 calls us to ‘test and approve’ God’s will, but the words ‘Then you will be able to’ establishes a key sequence and progression: it’s only possible once our minds have been renewed. That has to happen first. It’s also tied to wholehearted, day-in-day-out worship, which is what verse 1 is all about.
If you need transformation, if you want to reset your thinking, if you want to unlock your full potential in Christ, you need to have your mind renewed. Come to this stronghold as often as it takes until that renewal happens. It’s not a one-time thing, we have to be renewed again and again because outside this stronghold the tug of the world is constantly trying to pull us back into bad habits and self-centred thinking. Make this your go-to stronghold, and take refuge in it against all the lies and empty promises of a world that’s going nowhere. Instead focus on the God who offers You eternal life and the privilege of helping others get there too. Forget mindfulness, aim for a Christ-renewed mind instead.
(come back next week for Stronghold number 12: 2 Corinthians 10:5. You can find my first ten Strongholds, Numbers 6 , Psalm 23, Psalm 84, Psalm 121, Psalm 139, Proverbs 4, Isaiah 40, Jeremiah 29, Zephaniah 3 & Romans 8:28 here).