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Background Scripture: Romans 12


Do not conform any longer 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 12:2

This is the third in a four part series dealing with the command to the Christian to not be like the world in which we live.  Our failure to follow the command of Romans 12:2 is something most of us experience daily.  The command is to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.”  Our failure in this regard is more serious than most of us comprehend.  The tragedy which Paul is addressing here is not the often heard interpretation, to wit: Do not be like the world in dress, hair style, jewelry, etc.  No, Paul is concerned with something far more important than the clothes we wear and the style of our hair cut.  He is concerned about our thought life.  By thinking like the world thinks, we Christians become confused.  This confusion makes it difficult, even impossible, for us to understand the things of God.  This is the tragedy Paul is concerned about in Romans 12:2. We are confused about the things of God, including His character, because we are thinking like the world.  Yes, this is our act of conforming to the pattern of this world.  What is this pattern of this world” of which Paul speaks?  It is injustice, untruthfulness, impurity, slander, deceit, selfishness, pride, sexual immorality, and love of the world and its ways.

That Christians think like the world should not surprise us.  First, we are all sinners.  Second, many of us have been educated in the secular schools of the world.  We have studied, observed, learned and loved the ways of the world.  We have done this in direct disobedience to the clear command to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.”  Paul is simply and straight forwardly telling us to “stop it.”

“Alas!”, you say, “how do you expect a sinner like me to, in Paul’s words, ‘not conform to the pattern of this world’?  After all, we are constantly bombarded with the things of the world.  Books, movies, plays, television, newspapers, speeches, politicians, special interest groups, the people we work with, etc. all tell me to be like the world.  We are rewarded if we are like the world.  We become popular, successful in the market place, life is good – if we conform to the pattern of this world.  Why would anyone in his right mind give all that up?  Because God’s Word, which we often claim to believe, says so!  “But,” you protest, “should we not at least be tolerant of the ideals of the world?”  Paul was telling the Roman Christians to be nonconformists.  His command to them is equally applicable to the modern day Christian, perhaps even more so than Paul’s time.

Today, as in Paul’s time, there are two “patterns” seeking to mold our thinking: (1) the world; and (2) the kingdom of God.  Paul was obviously very concerned that Christians not be molded by the world.

Why was Paul so concerned?  He was so concerned because thinking like the world thinks has seriously adverse consequences for the Christian.  One of the adverse consequence is that the Christian will act, look, smell, talk and think like everyone else.  We will not be “salt” to the world.  We will be ineffective witnesses for our Lord Jesus Christ.  Second, the Christian will decline in character and morality.  This decline in character and morality results in a loss of loyalty to God.  Many readers will disagree here.  Carefully read and study Romans 12:2.  The word used by Paul for “conform” here literally means “de-gradation,” a grading down of values and character.  Our world teaches that character is irrelevant.  God’s Word teaches that it is vital. Simply look at what happened to the Israelites when they conformed to the ways of the pagan nations around them.  The result was an absolute disaster.  The spiritual life of the Israelites was severely damaged.  Elsewhere in Scripture we read of the church at Sardis being “dead.”  How many modern churches are likewise “dead.”  Laodicea was “lukewarm.”  When the members of the modern church conform to the pattern of this world, we are unfaithful to our God.  Such unfaithfulness is displeasing to a Holy and Righteous God.  “Friendship of the world is enmity to God.”

How can we no longer be so conformed?  Paul gives us a “power source” which cannot fail!  It is called a “transformation.”  Surely, we can agree that we need to be transformed!  Paul says we are transformed by the renewing of our mind.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit who is in every true believer.  “Old things pass away; all things become new.”  He will do it!  Let Him do it!  Begin each day in prayer.  Study and meditate on God’s Word every day.  Ask him to strengthen you this very moment!  You will be transformed.

James McLaughlin


– This article comes from AI’s devotional for lawyers titled, “What Does the Lord Require of You?”