March 19, 2018
Weekly Reflection – Becoming a Romans 12 Christian
Last week I attended a conference on an island in the Mediterranean Sea. The meeting included a series of lessons delivered by a highly thought of preacher from California who spoke five times over four days; all on the twelfth chapter of Romans. That amounts to a total of five hours on one chapter! This reflection will address some of what I have taken away from that series. It all flows from the first two verses and comes under the heading of becoming a “Romans 12 Christian.”
“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 the 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.” (Romans 12:1-2)
It seems that we are commanded to be radical “non-conformists” in rejecting the pattern of the world. However, as we have all experienced, it is exceedingly difficult to decide not to follow the pattern of the world and then follow through on that with our own “will power.” The Apostle Paul suggests that the way to overcome this difficulty is to “first renew our minds” and to become literally “transformed” from the inside out. So, to me, the verses are a bit out of order.
First, we must renew our minds. Then we can be transformed. New minds transform us and give us the power to present our bodies as a “living sacrifice.” Paul goes on in verses 3 and following to specify what this looks like, i.e., Don’t think more highly of yourself than you should. Love one another, sincerely. Honor others above yourself. Bless those who persecute you, etc.
So, how do we renew our minds? I suggest these three steps:
- Stop thinking what we should not be thinking.
- Begin thinking what we should be thinking
- Commence acting in line with our “new thinking.”
Simple to say but hard to do, eh? Here is how I suggest going about it. First, “bombard the mind” with God’s Word. Read scripture. Memorize scripture. Keep scripture at the tip of my tongue. Squeeze out the world’s thinking, this is how the Allies defeated the Nazis in World War II. Their first step was to bomb the Nazis into submission. Sometimes, especially in the beginning, we are unable to consent to God’s will. It is hard to get going. At those times, we can pray for the desire to consent to God’s will.
Then let the next step carry us forward while we continue to “bombard” our minds with the Word of God. And remember Philippians 4:8 that tells us what to refocus our thinking on.
Once the mind is prepared, I can then allow the Holy Spirit to replace the “old me” with something new. This is accomplished through prayer, especially contemplative prayer and meditation. My sense is that the Holy Spirit works primarily on our subconscious minds. We need to be quiet and, over time, allow the Spirit to do its work.
Our minds have developed very rigid patterns of behavior. They will not give up these patterns easily. However, the mind cannot stand up to a persistent willingness for the Spirit’s transforming work, a work that happens when we become quiet enough. You see, God wants to get a word in between our thoughts (and “gimme” prayers)! He can’t do that if we are doing all the talking.
In World War II the Allies followed their bombing campaign (which defeated the enemy) with the Marshall Plan (which rebuilt or transformed the territory). Marshall had concluded that the defeated enemy could not be left with only a bombed-out wasteland. Something positive had to replace what had been destroyed. So the Allies poured in money, commerce, and goodwill. They “renewed” the territory, i.e., made it new. In our Romans 12 case, we allow the Spirit to pour in the “mind of Christ.”
Finally, once the transformation has taken place, it must be sustained, this is accomplished through community. We bombard our minds with scripture, allow the Holy Spirit to do its work and, finally, support and encourage one another through participation in the body of Christ to deliver those behaviors that Paul lays out in the rest of Romans 12.
Will you join me this week in a radically renewed journey to non-conformity? Will you become a “Romans 12 Christian?”
Blessings and peace,
Read the Chaplain’s reflection on, An Infinite Capacity for Love