Paul writing to the Romans noted, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (12:2) This is a very interesting verse that we have the contrast of being “conformed to this world,” with “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

As Christians we either conform or are transformed but we cannot have it both ways. In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul writes, “For the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (v. 4, 5) There is little doubt, at least in my mind, that the Christian warfare is over our attitudes towards the grace and love of God.

My beliefs run something like this; God loves us unconditionally and the Christian response to that love is to love Jesus back. If we love Jesus with all our hearts, all my minds, and all our might (Deuteronomy 6:4) then we will trust Him. After all, sin can be defined as a simple lack of trust in God. Adam and Eve did not trust God’s word not to eat of the tree in the Garden so they listened to the voice of Satan. The children of Israel, when tested in the wilderness, did not put their trust in God and, as a result, wandered 40 years when they could have been securing the Promised Land.

Our trust, when we love God, leads us to love each other as well as God. This is the transformation of Romans 12:2. We find our attitudes towards others changes and leads us to a life as described in Colossians Chapter three.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you; fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth.” Colossians 3:2-8

Philippians 4:7 presents this wonderful truth, “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

In Philippians 2 Paul reminds the Christians that they should do nothing out of selfish motives but in humility “count others better than yourselves.” Then he states, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” (v. 5)

I became a Christian under a fairly legalistic approach to the Christian life. I believed that my goal was to live as completely in harmony with God’s laws as possible. As a result I strived to be as good a Christian as I possibly could be. If I followed all the rules and did not give up then God would smile upon me and save me for His Kingdom.

As you can expect this approach was filled with danger and could easily lead to perfectionism and self-glory as believing I was an overcomer of sin in my life. Now that I am a little more mature in my faith I realize how impossible a task I had set for myself, and how I had set myself up for failure by seeing Christianity as a series of rules to be followed.

Discovering grace changed everything and I began the journey out of legalism into the sunshine of God’s love, mercy, and grace. These texts I’ve quoted in this blog are important to me because they present an understanding of what God expects from me as a born again Christian. They tell me that God wants my love. He wants my mind to focus upon Him and His wonderful promises for me. As I reflect upon God’s grace I will be transformed and the love that I experience from God suddenly becomes the great thing that I long to share with others. The result is the transforming of the heart and mind in my understanding and relationship with others.

Let us go back to Romans 12 for a moment. To conform to the world is to change nothing and never to be changed by God’s amazing grace. It is only as we are transformed that we honestly begin to care about people, not as mission projects, but because we love them.

Jim Cymbala tells the story of a homeless man who came up to him after a church service. Cymbala says the man smelled horrible and he figured what he wanted was money. As he went to draw out his wallet the man said, “No you don’t understand—I don’t want your money, I’m going to die out there. I want the Jesus that red-haired girl talked about.”

Cymbala says the man sensed a change in him and felt safe to come forward and he laid his head against the Pastor’s chest. Cymbala writes what happened next, “The Lord seemed to say to me in that instant, Jim, if you and your wife have any value to me, if you have any purpose in my work—it has to do with this odor. This is the smell of the world I died for.” Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire p. 43

The gospel is the cross and Jesus risen to sit at the right hand of the Father. He is ever making intersession for us so that whosoever would long to have their sins forgiven and forgotten, and their life secure in the hands of Jesus could have those gifts. This is what transforms our minds, breaks our hearts and renews our souls. Jesus’ love penetrates the odor of sin, death, and destruction and fills us with the sweet incense of God’s love.

Romans 12 leads to Romans 13 where Paul writes, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” (v. 8)

When we trust God we allow Him to lead in our life journey and if we allow that then we will mingle with men and women in need of the Gospel and that is an amazing privilege. Instead of condemning and chastising we will offer peace, hope, joy, longsuffering and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit to them that only comes through loving the God who first loved us.

* Please take the time to read some of the stories of Christians who are experiencing persecution for their total commitment to Christ. They need our support and prayers.. there is much more on the internet…