When was the last time you thought deeply about something?
Truly deeply. You thought so long and so hard, maybe you even got tired or broke a sweat?
One professor I had used to goad us saying, “You think you think? All you do is rearrange your prejudices!” Mind you, he was not asking us if we thought; he was telling us that we were foolish to think we think! While he meant it all in good fun, the truth hung in the air.
Henry Ford said it well,
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”
When we are young we seem to know everything, especially if we are dealing with older people. By the time we get into our 30s, 40s, and 50s, we typically develop some humility and realize we are not that smart and need others help. We need experts, doctors, attorneys, estate planners and those who can provide expertise we simply do not possess.
Hopefully about this time, we think a little deeper. Perhaps you read widely. I find the only way I continue to learn is to read others who are much more knowledgeable than I can ever be. So reading “outside the box” widens and deepens not merely my knowledge base, but my mind, my ability to think critically.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this 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. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (Romans 12:1–3, NASB)
Paul pleaded with the Roman Christians to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Most of us are familiar with the contrast between conforming and transforming.
My mother has this copper colored Jello mold that’s shaped like a fish. She made some delicious Jello recipe dishes in that mold. But no matter what the flavor, they all looked like the same fish. You see, whatever was poured into that mold was conformed by it and took on its appearance. It would be correct to say, the Jello was passively conformed into the shape of the fish.
Transform is the Greek word metamorphoō, brought into the English language as metamorphosis. Frequently it is illustrated that a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly. The caterpillar and butterfly have very little in common; it has been transformed, it has changed in form. And most of us prefer the beauty of the butterfly to that of the caterpillar.
But we don’t spin our way into a cocoon to endure the spiritual winter and emerge a Christian butterfly. Rather, we are transformed by the renewing of your mind. So this is where our thinking comes into play.
Renewing our minds involves cooperation. That is, we must think properly. We are renewed by the Holy Spirit’s work (Titus 3:5; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:22-23) and it is the rebirth that begins this process. This thinking properly is the opposite of being conformed passively by the world. Thinking properly, biblically and critically is imperative in nature. We must keep on being transformed and it begins in our minds. Central to this transformation is nothing less than a total and radical transformation of our minds, a change from the inside out.
No matter how old we were when we came to faith in Christ, to trust in Christ and Christ alone for our salvation, we are never done “transforming.” Our transformation stops when we cross over this threshold of life to eternal life and then one might argue, transformation really takes place! While we all have different seasons of growth, is transformation still taking place in your life? Or as my professor said, “we think we think, or are we merely rearrange our prejudices?”
Paul is urging you and me to think. How about thinking on a few questions in the days ahead. Reflect on the passage and write out your thoughts on the questions below.
- For my life to be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God it would mean…?
- In what ways have I been conformed to the likeness of the world?
- How distinct is my life from the world around me? How would anyone know that I am a follower of Christ?
- What are the 2 – 3 greatest areas of transformation I can identify in my life?
- Would those who know me best be in agreement with where and how my life has been transformed?
- What are the 2 – 3 areas that plague me most, where I long to be transformed, and how can I begin to renew my mind?
Start thinking. God’s word, God’s Spirit and God’s people can help us be transformed into being more like Jesus and less like our sinful selves. He delights in transforming sinners.