… but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (verses 2)
This is our second day in Romans 12, and we’ve only gotten to the second verse! But the insights are rich. Whereas the first verb in this verse (conform) could possibly be either active or passive (“do not conform” or “do not be conformed”), here the verb can only be taken one way. It’s not what we do. Rather, it’s what gets done to us. “Be transformed.”
The Greek word Paul uses comes into the English language as “metamorphosis.” It’s what happens to a caterpillar when it wraps itself in a cocoon, emerging as a butterfly. Transformed. The caterpillar hasn’t gritted its teeth, pulled up its socks, worked hard to get this done. No. It simply submitted to the process. Transformation.
“Be transformed.” This word is only used four times in the whole of the New Testament, but each time it’s powerful. Significantly, two times it’s a word that describes Jesus. He’s on the mountain with three of his disciples – Peter, James, John – and suddenly he’s transformed before them. They experience a revelation of his glory. His face and body and clothing fairly blaze with divine brilliance, whiter than any launderer could manage, as bright as the sun. Struggling to put this into words, both Matthew and Mark (Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:2) chose this particular word to describe it. Transformed.
The only other New Testament writer who uses the word is Paul. Both times, he uses the word of us. Once is here in Romans 12 – be transformed. Just like Jesus. Let his glory emerge in your life.
The other time Paul uses it the connection is even clearer. It’s in 2 Corinthians 3:18. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with every-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Transformation. You can’t grit your teeth to get’er done. We’ve got even less ability than a caterpillar to pull it off. We simply receive. It has to be done for us. Transformation comes from the Lord, the Spirit – that’s what Paul tells us.
So, what process does the Spirit use? How does it happen? Paul tells us – it’s by the renewing of your mind.
Paul described that process back in Romans 8:5-9: “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires … Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.”
He’s talking about life in the Spirit. We walk in relationship with him, and as we do, he gives us his mind. Our own mind is renewed according to his pattern. If we find ourselves reflecting on temptation, getting drawn in, dreaming according to the patterns of the world, letting our mind settle on the things of the sinful nature, we need to make a choice to disengage, and step back into conscious relationship with the Spirit.
The Spirit gives us his mind. As he does, he renews ours, working transformation in us.
From one degree of glory to another. Praise God.
O Lord, do your work in me. Thank you for your Spirit – may his mind renew mine. I submit it to you. It needs such renewal, always. Holy Spirit, come. Take every thought captive in obedience to Christ. Cleanse. Refresh. Renew.
Transform me. May the likeness of Jesus permeate more and more, touching every fibre.
Thank you. This all comes from you. I receive – hands outstretched and ready.
Reflect: Choose a scripture or song or prayer for the day that can focus your thoughts, drawing you back to the Spirit’s mind. Submit to him. Yield to his renewal. Watch for his transforming work.