Do 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.
In my last post, I put forth the thought that God's mercy is what enables us to live the life of a living sacrifice. Paul continues this thought here, letting us know how we can follow through with this monumental task.
I have to stop there for a second, because I do not think that some think being a follower of Christ should not be a burden. After all, didn't Jesus say that his yoke was easy and his burden light? (Matthew 11:30) Yes, he did. But this should be taken in the context of the yoke of the other rabbis of the time, who placed huge lawkeeping rules and regulations on their followers. In comparison to them, Jesus load was much lighter, because it centered on loving God, and did not burden his followers with man-made rules and regulations.
Being a Christian is not easy. We are told in Philippians 2:12, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" In Matthew 7, he warns that not all those who say, "Lord, Lord" will enter into his kingdom. I could go on, but I hope you get the idea, being a true follower of Jesus is not all fun and games.
Paul gives 2 things that we should do in order to endure. The first is not to conform to the pattern of this world. It is my opinion that what he is saying is that we live in a world that is broken, and where sin is rampant. How easy it would be to just go with the flow. And it is not just the world we live in that is broken, it is the church as well. We are an organism made up of broken individuals. We have lived broken lives, and continue to be confronted by patterns of brokenness. A friend of mine often quotes Proverbs 26:11, and it illustrates the point, "As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly." We must break that old, broken pattern of living that we are so familiar with. Paul continually deals with the imperfections of the church in his letters to them. So not conforming to the patterns of this world is a continual battle that we must meet head on.
The second thing Paul says is that we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind. The picture that is painted here is one of a complete renovation. When you renovate, you take out the old, throw it away and replace it with new. We must develop a new pattern of thinking. It is only through this renewal process that true change can take place. The old way was to think of ourselves first. That way is out. The new way is to focus on God. It is not just putting Him first, it is recognizing His place in the universe, His place in our lives, His place in history. It is seeing Him as the Sovereign God that He is, and then seeing our place as only having any hope or meaning that is imparted by God. A way of thinking that appreciates whatever it is that He as to give, just as the Caananite women in Matthew 15, who was content with the crumbs that would fall from the table. To truly understand the meaning of Psalm 84:10, "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked."
The end result is found in the end of the verse. "Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." If our thinking is transformed, and this can only happen by the mercy of God (Romans 12:1), from the way of this world to a way that understands that whatever we have or whatever is is because of the Sovereign goodness of God, then we can know that we are safe and secure in His hands both for the present and for eternity.