By Mr. Sungmin Park, MHS Bible Teacher
Transformation through the renewal of mind
Rom 12:2 is our theme scripture for this year: “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.” There are many important messages communicated in this verse; however, I would like to highlight three messages here:
- Fight the system of the world through the renewal of your mind.
- Not just one time transformation, but constant, gradual transformation.
- Test and prove your transformation in life.
1. Fight the system of the world through the renewal of your mind.
The NIV translation translates “Do not conform to the pattern of this world”, and the Greek word here for the pattern of the world is “aiôn” (αἰῶν). Apparently, the NIV translators decided to add the phrase “the pattern of” in the hope of fully delivering the nuance of the word aiôn, which can be simply translated as ‘age’ or ‘world.’ The word aiôn can mean not just the ‘world’ itself, but rather ‘the spirit, ethos, system or pattern of the world’ (aiôn/αἰῶν). Here we need to be aware of the fact that this world revolves around a certain pattern/system (i.e., culture, ideologies, philosophies, etc.) that go against the rule of God’s kingdom. This pattern/system brings humanity to death; this pattern distances humanity away from God; this pattern divests humanity of its hope and life; this pattern/system kills humanity. Believers are called to run away from this system so that they are no longer under the influence of this system of the world. But it is always easier said than done. Paul wrote to those Christians who lived in Rome, and the system and culture of Rome was deeply immersed in idolatry, sexual immorality, greed, and so on – no different our own modern, secular culture. Paul calls the believers to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. According to Paul, the first step to resist and nullify the power of this secular culture is only through transformation through the renewal of mind. So, in order to effectively fight the culture/system of this world, first and foremost, our thought-life needs to be transformed and renewed.
Here then we come to this question: How can we be renewed in our mind? In fact, Paul already extensively dealt with the question as to how we should renew our mind in previous chapters, especially in the eight chapter: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6). Based on this text, the renewal of our mind takes place when we have our minds set on what the Spirit desires. We can ask this challenging question to our own selves then: “What are we thinking these days? What are the things that are running in our head?” Our thought-life reflects who we are, and if we call ourselves “real” Christians, our mind should be filled with all kinds of good things which the Spirit desires, such as “love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). However, if we are fake/nominal Christians, our mind would be filled with all kinds of evil things, such as “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Gal 5:19-21).
Why are we at HIS? Why are we attending the Christian school called HIS, instead of attending other public schools or other private schools? What is the primary purpose of us being here? We are here because we want to train our minds and sanctify our thought-life, so that we can think in ways Christ wants us to think, so that we can think in ways the Bible commands us to think, so that we want to think in ways the Spirit is calling us to think. We want our thought life to be glorifying to God so that our whole life will be a worship to him (cf. Rom 12:1-2). This should be the primary reason why we are attending here at HIS. We are here at HIS primarily to learn how to think, talk, and live like Christ so that we live a life that is truly an honor and glory to God and his kingdom.
2. Not just one-time transformation, but constant, gradual transformation.
Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit commands us to be ‘transformed,’ and this call to transformation was communicated through a ‘present imperative.’ In Greek, the present tense always implies a continual action. If we understand this command in a more nuanced way, we can translate: “Continually be transformed! Paul’s command is to be transformed, not just once, but continuously and without ceasing. When we accept Christ into our life as our Lord and Savior, transformation takes place instantaneously (2 Cor 5:17): “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” However, in Christian faith journey there is another aspect of transformation that needs to take place. That is, the constant and continual sanctification or transformation of our being, especially through the renewal of our mind. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus; however, on the other hand, we also need to be continually sanctified and be transformed day by day so that we become more like Christ every day. Rom 12:2 is calling us to experience not just one-time instantaneous change but rather constant and gradual aspect of transformation so that we become more like Christ so that our life will be a glory and honor to God (cf. Rom 12:1-2). At HIS, we want to continually work on this task of continual transformation; we want to continually cultivate holiness; we want to grow and be more like Christ every day. Don’t ever stop being changed because Christ-likeness will not happen right away. It needs work. We have a lot of work to do. That is why we work hard and study hard here at HIS so that we can experience the Christ-like transformation.
3. Test and prove your transformation in life.
According to Paul, if we are transformed through the renewal of mind, we will be able to test and prove God’s will, not just in our head, but also in real life. What are ‘tests’ for? Why do teachers give out tests and exams? They do that because they want to see if students actually know what they have studied; teachers do not want students’ knowledge to be just knowledge in their head but knowledge that is applicable and relevant in life. Paul asserts: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor 13:5). Our knowledge about Christ must be the knowledge that works in real life. Most of Paul’s letters are divided into two sections. The first half focuses on theology and the latter half focuses on application. In Rom 1-11, Paul talks about Christian ‘theology’ in depth, and in Rom 12-16 he talks about Christian ‘life.’ Paul concludes the first half in this way: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!… To him be glory forever! Amen” (Rom 11:33-36). Paul was truly impressed and overwhelmed by the wonder of the truth of God. He could not help but praise God. However, he did not stop there but he wanted to go beyond that. He gives a godly charge: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 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” (Rom 12:1-2). He is calling us to live a life of worship. That is the primary calling of every Christian. We are not called to be satisfied with mere meditation of the truth. We are called to live a life that experiences God’s truth being experienced, applied, and practiced. Don’t be just content with your head knowledge but adventure into the life of application and practice. That is the calling that we have received from God.