Transformation

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."  Romans 12:2

"Try it … you'll like it."  As a pre-schooler I remember my mother trying to get me to taste apple juice.  It just didn't look right to me.  Having two older brothers, you can imagine I was gun-shy at "trying" things.  Even my mom might be pulling a fast one.  A little guy can't be too careful. …  I was sure it was vinegar and she was getting ready for a big laugh at my expense. …  But it was really apple juice.  I tried it, and of course it was very tasty to a young palate.

I'm known as an amateur connoisseur of good, hole-in-the-wall eating places.  When people are going out of town, they'll ask me a spot to eat and generally I can tell them where to go.  I get to travel a lot, and when I go to an unfamiliar town, I always ask the locals for the best places.  However, I wouldn't know if they were really good unless I tried them for myself. 

There is no way you are ever going to experience personally how wonderful, how good and well-pleasing and perfect God's will is until you:  a) Know what it is, and b) try it for yourself. 

Paul wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can experience how wonderful doing God's will is.  To prove (dokimazo – to approve, test, try, find out) in this case has the idea of finding out and substantiating by personal experience.  You won't taste how good God's will is until you do it; you won't do it until you know what it is; you won't know what it is until you renew your mind

How do we renew our minds?  The noun (anakainosis) is only used here and Titus 3:5, "according to his mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit."  The verb is only used two other times, 2 Corinthians 4:16, "Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though the outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him."

Some clues for renewing our minds are these:  The renewing is something the Holy Spirit does (Titus 3:5).  An outside (A)gent is also implied in the other two verses where "being renewed," or "is renewed," are both in the passive voice.  In other words the inward man, or new man, is not renewing himself (which would require the Greek middle voice), but something or someone outside of him is doing the renewing.  Nevertheless, living according to the Spirit does not mean we are passive (8:1-17).  As mentioned, it requires our willpower and having a spiritual mindset (see Walking According to the Spirit).  Our part in "renewing" our minds would include the Spirit-aided obedience of thinking "on the things of the Spirit" which will include attention to the lifestyle commands which follow (the rest of Romans, 12:3ff.), and ultimately all the Scriptures.

The command "be transformed" concurs with this.  The word metamorphoo, the word from which we derive metamorphosis, is only used four times in the New Testament.  Twice in reference to the transfiguration (Mt. 17:2; Mk 9:2), and illustration of the transformation we will experience when we get our glorified bodies.

The only other reference sheds great light on our passage here.  The metamorphosis of which 2 Corinthians 3:18 speaks is the process of healthy Christian growth, from one stage to the next, which the Holy Spirit produces in us, transforming us to the image of Christ.  We have a vital part in that growth Paul says, "But we all, with unveiled face (he has already explained, that in contrast to the Jew whose heart is still "veiled" in unbelief, the veil is "taken away in Christ" for the believer), beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one stage of glory to the next, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor 3:18).  The miraculous mirror in which we see the image of the glory of the Lord – Jesus Christ (see 2 Cor 4:4) – and into which we are transformed by the Spirit's transforming work, is none other than the mirror of God's Word spoken of in James 1:21-25.

So what is our part in the renewing our minds/transformation process?  It is to pay careful attention to the mirror of God's Word.  As we renew our minds, reminding ourselves each day in God's Word of who we now are by virtue of the new birth, God's Spirit conforms and transforms us into Christ.  Like the ugly duckling, seeing the beautiful swan and not yet realizing it was himself in the reflection, we too ponder the image of the glory of God – Jesus Christ – in the miraculous mirror of His Word.  As you do so, the Spirit causes you to realize, "This is what you were meant to be."  God the Holy Spirit then does His miraculous work, from the inside out, from one glorious stage to the next, of transforming us, "metamorphosizing" us into the image of Christ.

Renewing your mind and speeding-up the transformation process can begin right here.  In the practical commands that follow in the rest of Romans (12:3ff.), it will not take a trained eye to see the image of the glory of the Lord – Jesus Christ – from one verse to the next.  As you ponder the image, and by the Spirit seek to obey the pattern, see if you don't witness immediate new "family resemblance" to your older Brother.  "Try it … you'll like it."

Personal Reflection:

At what stage are you in this Christian transformation?  Are you staying in the larvae stage?  Caterpillar?  Baby butterfly?  Full-grown butterfly? – where are you on the "conformity-to-Christ" growth chart?

Further Thoughts:

My son is reaching young adolescence.  He's at a time often characterized by rapid growth spurts.  He is fourteen, but just now beginning to get his twelve-year-old molars.  Though obviously his growth is accelerating, can you imagine if he got on the scales every day, or measured his height every hour.  Even during a rapid growth period, such measurements would be disappointing.  Even rapid physical growth is by nature relatively slow. 

Why would we think spiritual growth is any different?  Even if we're doing things basically right, as Paul has outlined in Romans – we're thinking right, presenting ourselves to God, walking by the Spirit, trusting God more, etc. – we could become discouraged that transformation into Christ-likeness is not quite as fast as we thought.

If experiencing the life, peace and joy Paul had promised, while hopefully occurring more frequently, is still not as constant as you would like, don't lose heart.  The Christian life is a process, a metamorphosis, from "one stage of glory to the next."  The larvae is not instantly a butterfly.

Group Questions:

1. Renewing our minds has a passive element and an active element.  What is meant by that?

2. The Holy Spirit does the renewing and transforming (Titus 3:5, 2 Cor 3:18).  What is our part in the process?

3. Can you give an example of how one might see Jesus in the Scriptures, even when He is not mentioned specifically?  Would "looking for Jesus" in the Scriptures change your approach to personal Bible study?  As you see Him, "the glory of the Lord," what will the Spirit do in your life (2 Cor 3:18)?


From "The Roman Road Revisited:  New Vistas on the Road to Resurrection Living."  © 2005 by Steve Elkins.  Used by permission of Allie Grace Books.  All rights reserved.

Steve Elkins has been a Young Life leader in East Dallas for over thirty years – serving as the Area Director for the past twenty, sharing the Good News of God's grace and training others in how to do so.  Steve has a BBA from SMU and a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary.  He is also the golf coach at Eastfield College.  Marci and he have three children:  Allie, Abbey and Austin.