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The Renewing of the Mind (3) - Romans 12.2

M Hayward, Faversham

A three-fold appeal

In order to encourage us in these things the apostle makes a three-fold appeal in Romans 12.1-2: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God".

The first appeal is that we be surrendered to God’s will as those who have been associated with Christ in His resurrection life. This implies that the old man is crucified and that we are in a position to yield ourselves to God’s purpose for us. To facilitate this, the apostle makes his second appeal, that we renounce the world and its fashions. By "fashion" is not specifically meant clothing fashions, although that comes into it (for it is recognised even by the world that our dress code reflects our inner attitude - casual dress means casual attitude), but rather the ways of the world in all its manifestations. We should note that although the word "form" is found in both "conformed" and "transformed" in English, nevertheless the ideas in the words are different. To be not conformed means to be not fashioned according to the externals of the world. Believers by identification with Christ are crucified to the world (see Gal 6.14), and as such are not, and cannot be, conformed to the inner reality of the world. But we can be conformed to its fashion or scheme of things. We are not of the world in principle, yet need to be kept from the evil of the world in practice (Jn 17.15).

The third exhortation is that we be transformed. With the word "transform" there is the idea of manifesting the reality of what is true about us. We are of God, not of the world, and the more we concentrate our minds on the new things that Christ has brought us into the more we shall be what the Lord desires us to be. Hence the apostle writes of proving what the good and acceptable and perfect will of God is. In this context, the will of God is what we should be in devotion to Him. This finds its expression in doing the things detailed in the rest of the epistle, starting with the exercise of gift.

Knowing the will of God

When we have presented our bodies a living sacrifice, and resolved to be not conformed to the world but rather be transformed by setting our mind on new things, then we shall know what the will of God is in terms of separation from all that displeases Him. We shall know before situations arise what to do because we shall be governed by principles rather than circumstances.

This is what is meant by proving the will of God. It is not proving after the event but before it. Abraham’s servant could testify, "I being in the way, the Lord led me" (Gen 24.27). He was in line with the will of God as he set out on his journey, being instructed of Abraham. Then he prayed at a critical juncture that he might still be led in line with God’s will. The result was that the perfect will of God was done, for Rebekah was incorporated into the line of the Messiah.

Progress in truth

We find an advance on these truths in the Epistle to the Colossians. The Epistle to the Romans leaves us, so to speak, on the earth, walking in newness of life in association with Christ risen. The Colossian epistle, however, takes us a stage further, and represents us as seeking heavenly things: "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Col 3.1).

The apostle appeals to us, since we are risen with Christ, to be actively and constantly seeking the things which are above. Christ has ascended to heaven, and that is where our aspirations should lie. He Himself said that "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mt 6.21).There were two and a half tribes of Israel that preferred to stay the wilderness side of the Jordan, and the Lord allowed them to do so (for He often allows us our carnal desires so that we may see the folly of our ways and change our minds). They were required to cross the Jordan with the other tribes, but then allowed to return (Josh 1.12-18). This illustrates the fact that every believer is associated with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (typified by the crossing of the Jordan), but not all go in for the things they have been brought into. Content with the place of compromise and half-heartedness, they do not realise the potential that God has in mind for all His people. Yet the very fact that it was two and a half tribes that did this is instructive. One half of the tribe of Manasseh went in and came back, the other half stayed in their proper place in the land. It was not a question of upbringing or environment that made the difference; it was simply the lack of interest on the part of some which caused them to miss out.

Christ sits in heaven

Where Christ is matters, for it indicates where our interests should be. Those interests are the highest and noblest, for He is in the place of honour, and is settled there; His is not a provisional position. There were those coming amongst the believers at Colosse who were trying to teach them a mixture of Judaism and Gnosticism. Judaism is the practice of the religion of the Jews without faith. Gnosticism is the teaching of those who claim to have a higher knowledge than Christianity makes known, and who speculate and fantasise about angel hierarchies and the like. The modern equivalent is found in the New Age movement, which is rooted in pantheism. Christ is elevated far above all such things for He is at the highest pinnacle of glory. Believers can safely dispense with "philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world", and go in for the things that are "after Christ", the things that He can be associated with (Col 2.8).

To be continued.


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