“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).
“And do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
These two verses from the same letter present an unmistakable contrast: conformity to Christ vs. conformity to the world. Paul’s word translated world literally means an age; it therefore emphasizes prevailing thought.
Dismissing worldly thinking and becoming like Christ is a challenging transformation. The world constantly preaches to us through education, entertainment, news/commentary (there is often little distinction between those two these days!), advertising, and social media, as well as just ordinary conversation. That’s a lot of input! We have to work hard at countering all that by listening to the truth of God’s word. From a time perspective, three or four hours a week at church pales in comparison, and some don’t even get that much. Daily Bible reading is a must!
This transformation applies to every area of life. It applies first of all to our view of Jesus. A balanced biblical view of Him is much different than the world’s skewed view. It applies to the church. Worldly standards or expectations for churches are irrelevant. What is God’s will? It applies to morals and ethics. Worldly thinking here is sometimes exactly opposite God’s: “Woe to those who call good evil and evil good; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). It applies in every relationship: family, work, community, etc. It governs our thinking, our speech, our actions, and our reactions.
Notice that Paul calls on us to prove what God’s will is. The world may be content to merely assert based on scant evidence or even in defiance of the obvious, but Christians must never do that. Don’t just say, “I know God would [would not] want me to . . .”; turn in your Bible and read what He said about it. The gospel’s mission is to destroy speculation and take every thought obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Paul wrote of inspired teaching, “Do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22).
Becoming a Christian is an act of conformity to Christ as we are buried with Him in baptism, a likeness of His death, burial, and resurrection for us (Romans 6:1ff). The conformity of Romans 12:2 is an ongoing process. Let’s give it our best effort.