A Transformed Life – Romans 12:2

Father, as we open Your Bible, we ask now that You would open our eyes and open our hearts, open our minds that Your Holy Spirit would teach us and instruct us the truth of this passage and of this text. And so, we come to You now desiring, not only to know the truth, but that the truth might possess our lives. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.


Alright, I want you to take your Bible and turn with me to Romans chapter 12, and today we’re going to be looking at just verse 2, Romans 12 verse 2. The title of this message is “A Transformed Life,” a transformed life. So, let me begin by reading verse 2, and I think I’m going to begin reading in verse 1, which is what we looked at last time.


“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.” Now, here we are for today, verse 2, “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.”


A transformed life – it’s been well said that the goal of Scripture is not merely information, but transformation. In other words, it’s not enough to learn the truth; we must also love and live the truth. It’s not enough that we master the Word; the Word must master us. And so, as we are in the Word, the Word must be in us and be transforming us into the very image of Jesus Christ. And this transformed life that Paul addresses in verse 2 is what we call “sanctification,” progressive sanctification, that we are being progressively becoming less and less of what we once were and becoming more and more of what we are becoming which is becoming like Jesus Christ. And this transformed life affects every area of our life, and Romans 12 through 16, will trace out all the various aspects of this transformed life. But verses 1 and 2 are like really an umbrella over the whole of Romans 12:1 through 16. So, that’s why it’s really worth our time for us to make certain that we understand what this transformed life is like.


Now last time we were in verse 1, and I gave you four headings. I just want to quickly repeat those. We noted “The Connection,” the word “therefore” that connects Romans 1 through 11 with 12 through 16. “The Motivation,” “I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God,” the entirety of God’s work in salvation must motivate us to live this transformed life. And then third, “The Presentation,” Paul says, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God. And then, “The Calculation,” which is your spiritual service of worship, best translated “your reasonable or rational service of worship.”


So we come now to verse 2, as we continue in this train of thought. And I have three main headings that I want to set before us as we continue to walk through this. And I want you to note, first, “The Insulation,” the insulation. We are to live, it’s contagious, Kent, we are to live in insulation from the world’s value system. Now, we are to be insulated from the world, but not isolated from the world, in this sense – we are to be in the world, but not of the world. We are to have our boat in the water, but there is to be no water in the boat. So, as we live our Christian lives, we must insulate ourselves from the world’s pressures.


And he says, “And do not be conformed to this world.” That could be rephrased, “Do not be squeezed into the mold of this world,” “Do not be pressed into the shape of this evil world system.” Now, it’s very important that we clarify what “the world” is here. He’s not talking about the people in the world, we are to love the people in the world and we are to reach the people in the world, and “the world” is not referring to the planet that we live on. “The world” here is referring to the evil world system that is all around us. It is the world’s thinking, it is the world’s values, it is the world’s agenda, it is the world’s perspective, it is the world’s mindset in which everything revolves around man. And the world’s system could be rephrased this way, “For from man and through man and to man are all things. To man be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”


“The world” here refers to secular humanism. It refers to godless ideologies. It refers to religious superstitions. It refers to shameful morals. And we must resist the seductive lure of the world to pull us back into that out of which God has delivered us and saved us. We once were a part of the world, this world system that is governed and controlled by Satan himself, who is the god of this age and the prince of this world. And he is over the world of education and the world of media and the world of music and the world of politics. And Satan has his dominating influence over all these various aspects of one world large system, that is the kingdom of darkness. And so, as we live our Christian lives, we’re like points of light in this dark evil age. And Paul is saying to the believers in Rome, we can imagine the pressures that they were feeling to be squeezed into the values of the Roman Empire, “Do not be conformed to this world system in which you are living.”


Now, there are some cross-references that I think would be extremely helpful for us to look to. And so, I want to direct us to 1 John 2 verse 15, 1 John 2 verse 15, in which John, the Apostle John writes, “Do not love the world.” We need to be reminded that there is a love that God hates, and there is a love that you and I need to hate. And we must not love the world, referring to the world order that is under the control of Satan, the invisible spiritual realm of evil that is governed by the god of this age, and it is in opposition to God and the standard of truth that God has set. It is in opposition to the morals that God has established. It’s against the family. It is in rebellion against God. It is antichrist, and it is anti-Christian with its secular philosophies and ideologies.


He’s saying, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.” That’s best understood, “Do not live for the stuff that’s in the world.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with having things. What’s wrong is for things to have you, for you to live in order simply to be in an acquisition mode rather than setting your mind on things above and not on things of this world. This world is completely antithetical to the values of the kingdom of God.


So that is why, as long as we’re on this earth, we are strangers and aliens. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we don’t fit the system here in this world, and that’s part of the pressure that we feel. We’re a round peg in a square hole as we live in this world. And John is saying, what Paul is saying, “Do not be squeezed into the mold of this world, and do not love the world.” I want to say it again, there’s nothing wrong in having possessions – what is wrong is for possessions to have a death grip on your heart and upon your life. You need to hold your possessions with an open hand and realize that you are but a steward of the possessions that God has entrusted to you. And you are to use your possessions for the glory of God, not cling to them as though you love them and cherish them. No. Love God and use what has been entrusted to you for His glory and for His kingdom.


In the next verse, verse 16 of 1 John 2, John writes, “If anyone loves the world,” if anyone lives just a one-dimensional life for the physical things in this world, and not just for the things but for the fame and for the fortune of this world, for the admiration of this world, he says, “The love of the Father is not in him.” The love of the Father and love for the world cannot coexist in the same heart. One will displace the other. When the love of the Father moves into our heart, the love for the things of the world are displaced and moved out. But if we allow love for the things of this world to move back in and establish a beach hold, it will greatly diminish our love for the Father. The two cannot coexist under the same roof at the same time.


And so he says, “The love of the Father is not in him.” And as John writes this, he’s thinking really in black-and-white categorical terms, and he’s actually saying here, “If you’re living for the things of the world, it is a sure sign you’re unconverted and do not know the Lord. Because the love of the Father is not in him,” or that’s at the end of verse 15, excuse me.


Now, verse 16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh,” that’s the cravings of an evil heart, “the lust of the eyes,” the insatiable hunger for more and more and not to be content with what God has provided, “and the boastful pride of life,” which is really just the arrogance and the pride to exalt yourself. He says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father.” He says in verse 17, “The world is passing away,” this whole system is self-destructing, and it is imploding, and it is cannibalizing itself. It’s “passing away and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”


I think it’s good for us to hear this because it’s easy for us to feel too at home in this world. And we need to remember, while we’re living here with the joy of the Lord in our heart, and I do believe that we as Christians can enjoy what God has created more than anyone else because we’re not living for it. So therefore, we can enjoy it because we love the One who has bestowed all of this for us to enjoy. But we need to hear this and be reminded. It maybe even sounds somewhat strange to hear these verses even read, especially with the prosperity gospel, the health-wealth gospel that is so prevalent in so many shallow churches today. “Do not love the world nor the things that are in the world.”


If you would, please come quickly to Ephesians chapter 2, Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 2, and we just need to hear this verse that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus. And in Ephesians 2 verse 2, he says, “You formerly walked according to the course of this world,” the “you” refers to the believers in the church at Ephesus, and “walked” refers to the daily lifestyle with which they once conducted themselves. This is what we could call their “BC days,” “before Christ.” “You formerly walked according to the course of this world,” they formerly, just like we once were, were like dead fish floating downstream, just going according to the flow and the course of this godless age.


And then he says, “According to the prince of the power of the air,” a reference to Satan and his demonic hordes who dominate this evil world system. There are powers behind the thrones of this world, and there are evil powers behind authorities in high places that are controlling and governing the direction of this age.


And then he says, “Of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience,” this spirit is an evil, satanic, demonic influence that is powerfully, in full operation in the sons of disobedience. That’s referring to all unbelievers. They are a part of the family of Satan, and their lifestyle is disobedience because they’re just like their father, the devil, John 8 verse 44. This is just Bible truth.


Now, I want you to turn with me to an even more shocking verse, to James chapter 4. And James, not to be left out, James the half-brother of Jesus, who really was the spiritual overseer of the church in Jerusalem. James chapter 4 and verse 4, this is a hard-hitting verse, so I hope you’ve got your seatbelt on. James begins this way, “You adulteresses.” Now he’s not talking about sexual physical adultery; he’s talking about spiritual adultery. He’s talking about those who have made a covenant with God to serve God and to love God, but you have broken, as you will, your marriage vows, and you have gone after other lovers. You have forsaken your first love, Revelation 2:4, and you now love the world, and you love the things of the world. And James has very strong language to address those.


And he says, “You adulteresses, do you not know?” and when he says, “Do you not know?” that’s another way of saying, “You know this, I know this, everyone knows this. Every Christian knows this. This is Christianity 101. This is kindergarten in the school of discipleship.” “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?” “Friendship with the world” means you become too chummy with the things of this world. You’ve gotten in bed with the evil world system, and that is hostility toward God, meaning enmity and warfare against God. James is saying, “You can’t straddle the fence. You can’t have one foot in and one foot out. You can’t be a friend of the world and a friend of God at the same time. Choose which will it be. It’s either-or, not both-and.”


And then he says, “Therefore,” and this is maybe an even stronger punch. The end of the verse, James 4 verse 4, “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world,” and the word “friend” here is phila from which we get “Philadelphia,” it’s the city of brotherly love, and the idea is mutual affection for other people, here it’s for the world system. Whoever wishes to be a close confidant of the world, whoever wishes to be best friends with the world makes himself an enemy of God. Now, I didn’t write this. I’m just the messenger, and this is the message that we cannot dabble with friendship with the world. 


Now, please do not misunderstand. We are to go into the highways and byways of this world, and we are to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that involves rubbing shoulders with next door neighbors. That involves reaching out to work associates. That involves being involved in the lives of unsaved people. But as we do, we must remember, we cannot buy into the evil world system and go soft on the world because if we do, we have postured ourselves in a place of hostility toward God.


So, let me ask you, have you become too at-home in this world? Have you forgotten that your citizenship is in heaven? Have you become a friend of this evil world system? If so, I caution you and warn you that you are setting your face against God, who calls us to come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. What fellowship can there be between Belial and Christ? What fellowship can there be between darkness and light? And the answer is, there can be no compatibility between that which we have been called out of. So we are to be isolated, or excuse me, yeah, we are to be isolated from the world…excuse me, insulated but not isolated. I’m too clever for my own good there on that, Kent. So, I think you’ve got the point and I’ve got the point, and I need to have this down in my heart and soul.


Now second, “The Transformation.” He says, “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The first half of the verse is the negative, “Do not be conformed to this world.” Now the positive, it’s not either-or; it’s both-and. It’s the heads and tails of the same coin. One is the brake; the other is the gas pedal. One is the cold water; the other is the hot water. It’s both-and. “But be transformed,” and the word “transformed” means to be radically changed from the inside out into Christ’s likeness. “But be transformed,” it’s used of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, and the transformation that takes place in our Christian lives really from what we once were into what God is now conforming us to become.


“But be transformed.” How are we going to be transformed? “By the renewing of your mind.” It’s so important, R.C. Sproul named his radio program “Renewing Your Mind” because he understood rightly from this text that the battle for the Christian life is the battle for the Christian mind. Our emotions can fluctuate, be up and down and all around, but it is the mind that is really what is driving our Christian lives. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he,” Proverbs says. And so, “By the renewing of your mind,” means that our mind must have God’s thoughts and God’s beliefs. And our convictions must be rooted and grounded in Scripture. And we must have a Christian worldview. And we must have an eternal perspective so that we can assess life as God would have us to assess it. As the mind goes, so goes the life.


Colossians 3:2, which I’ve already quoted, “Set your mind on things above and not on things of the earth.” In other words, be focused upon God and Christ and eternal things. Matthew 22:37, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” A transformed life necessitates a transformed mind, and high thoughts of God and Christ and His kingdom produces a high and holy life.


This begins with being immersed in the Word of God. So therefore, we must read the Bible, we must study it, we must hear it in that we sit under its preaching and teaching, we must meditate upon it, we must memorize it, and we must apply it. Jesus said in John 17:17 in His prayer, “Sanctify them by Your Word. Your Word is truth.” The instrument that God uses to sanctify our lives is the Word of God, and it is that which renews our mind.


Well, this now leads to the third heading that I want to set before you, “The Realization.” We’ve talked about “The Insulation,” we’ve talked about “The Transformation,” now “The Realization.” What is the result of not being conformed to the world and being transformed by the renewing of our mind? Here it is, “So that,” in other words, “Here’s the bottom line on this,” “you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” When he says “that you may prove,” the word “prove,” it’s a verb that means “to test and to try,” “to come to know by experience.” In other words, it will lead you into the personal experience of the will of God. God has a chosen path for us to walk in this world. He has already marked it out. And we must depart from the evil world system and be on the path that is marked out by Scripture, which is the narrow path that leads to life.


And he gives us three qualifiers of this. He says, “That which is,” referring to the will of God, number one, “it’s good,” it’s what we would choose for ourselves if we were only as wise as God. It is so good, the will of God. And any other path that we walk in life is bad – this is good. And then he adds “and acceptable.” The word “acceptable” means well-pleasing, and it is acceptable to us as we have this transformed mind, this renewed mind. And then he adds “and perfect,” and the word “perfect” here means “complete,” “whole,” “lacking in nothing.” In other words, it’s comprehensive for our entire Christian life. The entirety of our Christian life is to be lived out in the will of God on this narrow path. There is no part of our Christian life that is to be lived outside of the will of God. And so, the word “perfect” here actually speaks of its comprehensive nature.


So, as we bring this to conclusion, and we’ll have time for questions, I want to ask you, so how do you resist being conformed into this evil world system? How do you tap the brakes and resist this lure and temptation? And the answer is that there must be a greater love and a greater affection for God and for Jesus Christ that is so powerful that you would never settle for the things of this world. I mean, when you were converted, you gave up dirt for diamonds. Why would you go back to the dirt, now that you have been entrusted with the diamonds of God’s grace? 


And I think of an illustration. Kent, you and I have been to Edinburgh, Scotland, together, and I’ve had the privilege of taking you to a statue that is up on Prince Street. It is of a man named Thomas Chalmers, who was one of the greatest preachers and ministers in the history of Scotland back in the nineteenth century. And it’s an interesting story about Thomas Chalmers, he was a brilliant young man. He went to the University of St. Andrews, and we’ve been to St. Andrews together, and he majored in mathematics. He had a brilliant mind for mathematics. And he became a professor of mathematics and instructor at St. Andrews University, which was a very prestigious university, while at the same time also pastoring a church. And he felt it was so easy to pastor a church that he could just do that two days a week, and the other days of the week he would just give to the study of mathematics. 


Unknown to him, he was unconverted. And there was an elder in his church, in the Church of Scotland, who would come by on Saturday evenings and walk by his house and call on him. And the elder said, “Why do I never see you reading your Bible on Saturday night?” And he gave an answer to the effect, “I’ve studied it all I need to to preach tomorrow.” Well, he came down with tuberculosis, Thomas Chalmers, and was fearful of his own death and life, and God used that to bring him to saving faith in Christ. And he suddenly was born again, and as you can imagine, he became a totally different preacher. The power of God was upon his life, and he eventually went to Glasgow and pastored the very famous Tron Church there, where Sinclair Ferguson also pastored, and Eric Alexander also pastored.


Well, Thomas Chalmers back in the nineteenth century pastored there. And he preached a sermon on 1 John 2 verse 15, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world,” and he converted it into a book, and that book is called, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” that when you’re born again, there is an explosive power within your soul that gives you a new affection for the things of God. And so, what Chalmers wrote in this book, and he says, “What cannot be destroyed,” which is our former love for the world, it’s still in our drinking water. “What cannot be destroyed can be displaced by another, greater love.” He says, “Displaced affections need to be replaced by the far greater power of the affection of the gospel.” So in other words, the way to have a decreasing love for the world is very simple. You have an increasing love, which is far greater, which is for Christ. Why would you go back to the dirt? Why would you love the dirt if you truly love the diamond of God’s grace?


And so, Chalmers also said in this very famous book, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection,” he says, “One taste may give way to another taste,” and by that he means, if you just taste the gospel, the world’s not going to taste the same. The world will taste somewhat bitter as you taste the sweetness of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, one taste will give way to another taste, and it will lose its power. And he then concludes, and I say conclude, it’s a whole book, but he adds, “It is seldom that any of our tastes are made to disappear by a mere process of natural extinction.” In other words, love for the world is just not going to naturally go away if we just kind of, with sheer will power, just say, “Well, I’m not going to love the world, I’m not going to love the world.” That’ll last about a day or two. You’ll be back unless, Chalmers argues, there is a far greater affection. 


It is like a man who loves golf and loves to play golf, and he’s a single guy, and he just lives out at the golf course until he meets another single girl. And suddenly there’s a far greater love, and instead of playing thirty-six holes, he may shorten it down to nine holes, so he can get in his car and drive to where this new love and this far greater affection that he has. And if he just tried to give up golf, he couldn’t just give up golf. It’s kind of in him. But if there is a new love, a greater love, that’s what will pull him away.


And so, the point I think is this, that, as Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world,” that’s a struggle. That’s hard because we can still so easily be pulled back and lured. There’s got to be a new love, a far greater love that we have for the Lord Jesus Christ. And as Chalmers argues, and as Paul writes, and as John writes, and the whole Bible writes, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things will be added unto you.”