Romans 12:1-2 by Robert Dean
What's on your bucket list that you hope to do before you die? Listen to this lesson to learn how our sin natures and the culture around us make us want to satisfy our every whim and desire but God's plan is to totally overhaul us and our thinking. Recognize that our aim should be to become committed disciples which is a decision we have to renew over and over throughout every day. Learn the true meaning of presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice to God and its connection to authority. Determine to respond to the challenge to be transformed from the inside out by putting God and His Word first in our lives.

Romans 12:1–2

We are in Romans, chapter 12. Tonight we're starting a new section in Romans. This gets into a section related to what, unfortunately, a lot of theologians have divided into the practical section of Romans. It's really unfortunate the way theologians talk about a lot of Paul's epistles. There's a pattern. Galatians is this way. Colossians and Ephesians are both this way. For instance Ephesians 1–3 give instructions regarding the Christian life which is usually labeled doctrinal. Ephesians 4–6 is labeled application. Romans is the same way. Romans 1–11 is labeled as doctrinal and Romans 12–16 is labeled as application. In several other epistles Paul followed that pattern.

To me, that's a problem because what happens it creates the impression that doctrine is separate from application. Doctrine that isn't application isn't biblical doctrine. Application that isn't doctrinal isn't biblical application. Doctrine has been given this sort of restricted and narrow meaning to refer to that which seems to some more abstract theology as opposed to practical principles for the spiritual life. That's a false use of the word doctrine. There are many areas of life and many different disciplines in life, the military is one area, where the word doctrine covers everything from the initial, theoretical design of something all the way through to its final application out on the battlefield. That's how the word doctrine is really used in Scripture because the root word didaskalos is just teaching or instruction. We're instructed about God. We're instructed about salvation. We're instructed about justification. We're instructed about how to apply those principles. It's all instruction. That's what the word doctrine describes.

I prefer to think about this in terms of reality and responsibility. What usually goes under the concept of doctrine is really Paul teaching the nature of reality, such as the nature of God, the nature of salvation, or the nature of whatever the area is. Then in the latter part of the book he's saying that once we understand the nature of reality with respect to different areas of revelation, then he talks about what our responsibility is in the light of that reality. And so, Romans 1–11 has been a discussion of the reality of God's righteousness and how it relates to the human race. Now in light of that, in the latter part of Romans we're going to talk about the responsibility of the truth as explained in the first eleven chapters.

Even in these chapters there are many places where Paul talks about the immediate application of those principles of justification and sanctification. There was much there related to application. We create this false dichotomy and I think that's just one of the ways human viewpoint, which is just a manifestation of Satan's thinking, seems to separate the Word of God from day-to-day significance in people's lives. I think that's what's happened in the evangelical church over the last hundred years. It's created this tendency for people to think of doctrine or theology as something sort of abstract but it doesn't really relate to everyday living.

I want to talk a little bit about that as we go through the lesson today. There's this false separation. Theology is up here and we live down in this everyday area so there's a disconnect between the two. For many Christians that's their reality because over the generations in the last hundred to hundred and fifty years pastors have fallen prey to that kind of thinking so that if you go to a church that's talking about application all the time, you get something like you find in these motivational churches. People feel good. They learn positive thinking. They learn some establishment principles. They get all revved up to face another week but they're never really taught anything about the Bible.

And then there are some churches you go to where the Bible is taught and theology is taught but it's never really connected to day-to-day living. People live with sort of an academic disconnect from the day-to-day issues of life, whereas Scripture teaches and shows us that anything we learn about God is intensely practical. So real theology, Biblical theology, is always going to be intensely practical. Now you may not be able to draw the connection or connect the dots but sound Biblical theology is always intensely practical. And any practical principle of application can never be separated from its theological foundation. You've heard me and others that if we were to ask the Apostle Paul how to brush our teeth, he would start off with Genesis 1 and 2 how God formed man's body from the dust of the earth and the chemicals of the soil so that we would have a proper and Biblical understanding of the significance of the body. Then the responsibility to take care of the body that's created as part of mankind, the whole of which is created in the image and likeness of God.

So we have to understand things in their proper place and the proper structure. We have to understand that this must be understood as God's instruction about every aspect of life and the purpose of that instruction is to teach us how to think with the result that it changes how we live. If we change how we live without changing how we think then we end up being like the Pharisees who are called by Jesus "white-washed sepulchers". They just had an external change but there's no internal transformation and that's at the heart of this opening verse we have in Romans, chapter 12.

This is one of the most challenging pair of verses in the Scripture and I think, at least in my thinking, that this presents the essence of the pastoral mission, especially in verse 2. Now I ran across a quote the other day. It was in a forwarded e-mail, someone with whom this had originated is a retired military officer. He included this as sort of a quotation under his signature in the e-mail. It's a quote from Pericles who was an ancient Greek general but it also states something very significant that I think applies to the local church in many ways, and is a great challenge. Where do you fall within this quote? He says, "Of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there …" He's talking in military terms but there's an application to the church. "Of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there. Eighty are nothing but targets. Nine are real fighters. We're lucky to have them. They make the battle. Ah, but the one. One of them is a warrior and he will bring the others back."

Now I have had the philosophy of ministry for years that I'm in the business of producing people who would fit in those ten, the nine who are the fighters and the one who is the warrior. Many pastors waste their time and truly it is a waste of time because those other ninety never, ever get the picture. I know pastors who'll spend all their time trying to get the ninety to wake up and ignore the other nine or ten. What the church is all about and we're going to see this increasingly in Matthew, what the Christian leadership is all about, is making disciples. The challenge in the gospels of what a disciple is ought to make all of us sit up and pay attention because it isn't just something easy. A disciple isn't someone who is just a casual student or who just seems curious about the Word of God but that's often where we start.

The word disciple means a learner, not just someone who's learning and filling up their doctrinal notebooks with information but is being transformed according to the principles of Romans 12:1–2 where their thinking is being radically overhauled and renovated by the Word of God. You sort of have to start off with the mindset that you want to be one of those ten, you don't want to be one of the ninety. Because if you're one of the ninety you're either a target or you shouldn't be there. And sadly, if you take this and extrapolate it to Christendom I think that fits. I think in this congregation these percentages are skewed. We have many more who are fighters and who are seeking to be the warriors than not. That also means you have many churches such as ones composed of a thousand people 2,500 of them shouldn't be there, and the other 7,500 are targets, including the pastor. Nobody in those churches is a fighter or a warrior. That characterizes too many churches in the world today. We make up for a little of that because I do believe we have people in this congregation and people who listen online who are serious about their spiritual life. They want to step up to the plate to be counted among those who have been faithful in their Christian life and those who have been used by the Lord and have truly wanted to serve the Lord.

So the question is what do you want to be? This is the real challenge we'll see in the Scriptures of being a disciple. There were a lot of people who wanted initially to be disciples. If you trace that through the gospels, you see there are thousands who are the casual, curious disciples that show up to listen to Jesus. But as He starts to make clear what is involved in being a true follower of Jesus, then everything changes. You remember the command given to the disciples and to the original disciples and it is applied to all the pastors in the churches that we are to make disciples. That's our responsibility to challenge people to be disciples. Jesus' responsibility is to build the Church and our job is to feed the sheep and make disciples and let Jesus worry about how He's going to build the Church.

 But what we need to do is lay this challenge out there of whether we want to be just casual, curious believers. Remember when we get to passages like John 6, as people understood what Jesus was saying they just went their own way. They just walked away. They didn't hang in there because they really didn't want to do what it took to be a disciple.

Now I think of all the passages of Scripture that summarize what the Christian life and its challenge is all about, what the pastoral ministry is all about, is in Romans 12:1–2. Paul begins by saying, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, [beseech you] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, {which is} your spiritual [reasonable] 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."

So I think there are some things in this verse that are a little antiquated, words like "beseech" are a little difficult for people to comprehend today. "Holy" is a word that's been so overused that most people don't understand what that means. The phrase "reasonable service" as it's translated in the New King James doesn't quite capture what the Greek says. But I'm not sure any single words in English really capture the sense of what the Greek is trying to communicate.

Verse 2 is really a contrast for verse 1. Verse 1 tells us we're to present our bodies a living sacrifice and in contrast we're to not be conformed to the world. That's how we present our bodies a living sacrifice, by not being conformed to the world but by being transformed by the renewing of our mind. So let's get into this. A lot of applications come from this but I think we need to understand the translation and understand just what is being said before we go very far.

At the very beginning we have Paul making a very strong personal statement. He says, "I beseech you." "Beseech" is just an old English word and it translates the Greek word parakaleo which means to encourage, to strengthen, to come alongside. It has the idea of urging, exhorting, comforting, or challenging someone to a particular course of action. This is the significance of that word. Paul isn't saying, "I command you to do this" but he's recognizing that the listener, which in the 1st century was the Roman church, by extension that's each one of us. Paul is talking directly to me. He's talking directly to you. He's saying, "I'm giving you this challenge but you're the one that has to make up your mind whether or not you're going to accept the challenge. Some of you are just willing to be E minus students, others of you think B minus is okay, but the focal point of ministry should be toward the ones who want to be A plus students. This is a challenge to them. It has the idea of pressing somebody, pushing them, challenging them to a particular course of action, telling them to do something. I would translate this, "I challenge you" or "I urge you". There's a sense of impending disaster if they don't do this because they'll come under divine discipline and they'll destroy their life or destroy their spiritual life.

He addresses them as "brethren" because he views them as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and he says "I challenge you on the basis of the mercies of God." The word here translated mercy is the Greek word oikternos which is in the plural, and he's talking about the manifold grace of God in his life. This is the ground for his urgent exhortation is that God's mercy has been manifested in his own life. God's saving grace has been manifested and he's talking about the grace of God at the cross that provided a free salvation for us. He's talking about God's free provision of His word to us and He's talking about God's provision of God the Holy Spirit to us to empower us and to fill us with His word so all of these are part of that concept of the mercies of God.

He uses the structure in the Greek, dia plus the genitive, like we have in Ephesians 2:8–9, meaning through faith. It's talking about the intermediate grounds or basis for something. Now we have passages like 2 Corinthians 1:3 where Paul says, "Blessed {be} the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort." He views God and God the Father ultimately as the source of mercy in terms of His plan of salvation and His plan for the spiritual life. So he draws a connection by basing his challenge on the mercies of God. He's drawing a connection back to everything that he has said in the first eleven chapters.

That's reinforced by the fact that he uses the word "therefore". Those of you who have been in the Bible study methods class know that whenever you see a "therefore", you have to see what's it's there for.  This is a conjunction that draws an inference or conclusion. It's the Greek conjunction oun which is one of the strongest inferential conjunctions and it's not just referring to what was just stated in Romans 11 or 9–11 but really on the basis of everything that had been said before. So when you take the "therefore" along with this further statement on the ground or the basis of the mercies of God that all takes us back to this wonderful exposition that Paul has given us of God's wonderful grace in salvation and in justification and in providing God the Holy Spirit and the baptism by the Holy Spirit which frees us from the tyranny of the sin nature. All of this is the manifestation of the mercy of God.

So on that basis, because we see this wonderful manifestation of the mercy of God and this is seen in Romans 9–11 in God's treatment of Israel that this has a natural consequence and that natural consequence is that we should present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Now the concept of presentation here is expressed in the word paristemi which is grammatically an aorist active infinitive. An infinitive is frequently used to express purpose or result. So Paul is stating, is urging them, that the result of his challenge is that we engage in action. That the reader, and that you and I, engage in a particular action and that is to present our bodies as a living sacrifice.

Now as we look at this word we recognize that it is a word that is commonly used to express the act of bringing a sacrifice to the altar. A living sacrifice which of course would be killed but what Paul is talking about here is like a praise offering where there's not a death but something given to the Lord in response to what he has done which is a sacrifice. The verb here is the same word that's used in Luke 2:22 when Jesus' human parents brought Him to the temple to present him and to consecrate or set Him apart for service a week after He was born. It's also used frequently of offering sacrifices. Josephus tells us this was a technical term for the offering of sacrifice and it's used of the Christian presenting himself to the service of God in Romans 6:13–16. So this isn't the first time Paul has mentioned this concept.

He's going right back to connect what he's saying here to the foundation he's explained already in relation to the spiritual life in Romans 6. It's also related to God presenting the saved. What we are to present, then, to God is our bodies. There's a couple of different ways we might take that. First of all, we could take it literally and this is a problem you would have if you were thinking in terms of Greek culture that there's a harsh distinction between the material part of man, the body, and the immaterial part of man, the soul and the spirit. But Paul is not talking about just a bodily sacrifice. Part of the problem you have from Greek philosophy is that they would create certain artificial distinctions in the composition of man.

Under Platonism they put such an emphasis on the immaterial part of man that the material part of man was not really that important. So they would emphasize that what's really important is your soul. But see the Lord created man as a unit, as a body, where the body was specifically designed by God for a purpose. You can't go in and say, "Well, the soul is the real you." That's pure Neo-Platonism when people say that the soul is the real you. The Bible emphasizes value of both the material and the immaterial. Platonism says the material is not that important, that what's important is the soul. That has tremendous problems with it. There are implications to that that have baggage we don't want to deal with.

So what Paul is emphasizing here is the body. He doesn't just mean the physical body. That is the first option to just think he is talking about a bodily or material sacrifice. Second, Paul is using the body as a figure of speech where the body is used to represent the whole of the person. This is called a synecdoche, which means a part for a whole. That's the technical term for this kind of figure of speech where you talk about a part of a thing and it involves all of the thing.

The fact that the party involves all of you is indicated by the fact that you can't have your body go someplace without having your soul go with it. That is a unity there. If you think about it, the soul never, ever has an existence without a body. How can you see without a body? How can you hear without a body? How can you experience all of the essential feelings if you don't have a body?

Even in the interim state we have the story in Luke 16 where you have the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus is a beggar outside the gates of the rich man, who is never named. The fact that Lazarus is given a name indicates that this isn't simply a parable. It is a story about a real person. If you read all the other parables they just talk about a certain man, a rich man, a landowner, a servant. It never names them. The fact there is an individual identified here with a specific name indicates that Jesus is talking about a specific situation and a specific reality. When Lazarus died, he goes with the Old Testament saints to an area called Abraham's Bosom which is in Sheol. Sheol is divided into two compartments, the New Testament word for it is Hades. It is divided into two compartments. The compartment for the righteous was known as Abraham's Bosom or Paradise. Then there was another area known as Torments. The rich man was not a believer so he died and he went to Torments. While he's in Torments he can look across this great chasm or gulf which is between Torments and Paradise and he sees Abraham on the other side. He begs Abraham that Lazarus can take his finger, which means Lazarus has a finger, to dip in the water and put it on the rich man's tongue because he's burning up.

 So all of this indicates there's something there. It's not the present, corporeal body but it is an interim body. After the resurrection, there's a resurrection body. There's even some sort of body for the unsaved and it is through the body that the soul is able to interact with what surrounds it. Without the body the soul would just be blind and deaf and speechless. The body is important and theologians from the 1st century, including the Apostle Paul, have understood and taught the importance of the body for the composition of man. Very much against the Neo-Platonic idea. So Paul uses the term body here to represent the totality of each person. Some translations come along and translate this as yourself but that's open to interpretation. Paul is talking about body, soul, and spirit here. He's talking about the entire makeup of the regenerate believer. He's talking about the fact that the body is important. He's done this already in Romans 6. The body can be an instrument of righteousness in 6:13, that the body is a member of Christ in 1 Corinthians 6:15, that the body is  made a temple by the Holy Spirit for the indwelling of Christ in 1 Corinthians 6:19 which sanctifies or sets apart the physical body so the body is important and significant.

So he says we're to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. The fact that it's living shows that this is something that is going to endure. This will continue. That is indicated also by the present tense of the verb. The aspect of presenting your body is an aorist infinitive which is simply presenting it as a single action. It's not a single, one-shot decision. That's how people taught this that weren't well-schooled in Greek. When it comes to the aorist tense it was taught this was punctiliar action, a one-shot decision. That's not what it means. It just means that when you're talking about the aorist tense, it's a summary tense. It's taking a lot of action and summarizing it at one-point, not that it is one-point. An aorist infinitive is simply expressing that as one action but Paul recognizes by using the present tense in other places that this is something that goes on and on. We don't just make a one-shot decision and that's it. Every single day we have to reinforce that particular decision.

Now this concept of presenting ourselves to God is clearly stated in passages like Romans 6:13–16. In Romans 6:13 Paul says, "And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin {as} instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members {as} instruments of righteousness to God." Members there is talking about the parts of your body. See contrast in Romans 12:1 you present your bodies as service to God, where in 6:13 it is saying not to present your bodies to sin. Why? In the Baptism by the Holy Spirit the tyranny of the sin nature is broken so we're no longer in the position of being a slave to sin. If you re enslaved to sin it's because you've put yourself back in that position. You no longer have to be a slave to sin. We have been freed from the power of the sin nature, though we still have the presence of the sin nature.

We don't have to yield to it. Yield is another antiquated term. You read Lewis Sperry Chafer's volume on "He That is Spiritual" and he talks about yieldedness. That was a catch phrase that came out of the victorious life movement at the end of the 19th century. Yieldedness was just another way to talk about presenting yourself to God. It's the presentation of something to a superior for His use. So we are not to present our bodies as members of unrighteousness to sin but we're to present ourselves to God for His service because He's the One who has made us alive.

We're to present ourselves to God as being alive from the dead and the members of our body as instruments of righteousness to God. Why? He explains in verse 14, "For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace." In verse 15 he draws another conclusion. He says, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone {as} slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" You have two options. You're either going to present yourself as a slave to obey your sin nature or you're presenting yourself as a slave to serve God. One or the other; there's no in-between.

When I present myself to do what I want to do and I'm just serving my own selfish desires and needs, I'm serving my sin nature. Because the primary focus of the sin nature is on the self. What Paul says is that we need to learn that we're either serving ourselves and our sin nature or we're serving God. It's an authority issue. It always boils down to an authority issue. Are we going to obey God or just do what we want to do?

Now back to Romans 12:1, "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 [reasonable] service of worship." Now when we look at this in terms of the original Greek. The last phrase is describing categories relating to service, not related to the sacrifice. The sacrifice is not a sacrifice in the sense that we're going to feel like we're just suffering, like we're giving something up. You know, some people get the mistaken notion that sacrifice means you're giving something up. Actually not. You're not giving anything up. You're accepting the authority of God in your life, which means you're going to have the fullness of life that Jesus promised. You're not giving up anything. That's what a sacrifice is in the Old Testament imagery. It is giving something to God.

It does not have the primary idea of suffering through some sort of pain or discomfort. It is giving something over to the service of God. That's what a sacrifice is. It's being given to serve God, not to serve our own desires. For many people, that's what makes it suffering because we just don't want to give it up. We just don't want to let God use us in the way He would use us. We want to live life on our own terms. So this is what is addressed in these next two words. Hagios which is translated holy, a word that is so overused and abused that most people don't know what it means. The core meaning of holy is to give something, to consecrate, to set apart something to the service to God. It doesn't have the idea of moral purity. That's a secondary idea in many contexts but it's not the primary idea. How do we know this? We know this because a form of the word hagios is used to describe the male and female prostitutes who served in the fertility religions of the Baal's and the Ashtoreth's. Now they certainly weren't morally pure as male and female religious prostitutes but they were given over to the service of their god.

The same thing can be said about the inanimate objects that were part of the worship in the Tabernacle and the Temple. The bowls that were used, the laver, the altar, all of these are impersonal and inanimate. They can neither be moral or immoral. A piece of metal can be neither moral now immoral. A piece of wood can be neither moral nor immoral but it can be set apart to the service of God. That's what makes them holy. It is that they're set apart to the service of God. It's set apart for a divine purpose.

This is why the land of Israel has been called the holy land. I remember going to Israel on the first trip and someone asked, "Why do they always want to call it the holy land?" Holy means set apart. It's the only piece of real estate on the earth that's set apart for God's people and God's purpose. That's what makes it holy. It's a set-apart piece of real estate. So that's why it's accurate to refer to it as the holy land even though most people think that means it's something special.

You always get these people who have the "Jerusalem syndrome". They end up coming to Jerusalem and all of the sudden they have all kind of mystical experiences. They end up in the insane ward in a hospital in Jerusalem thinking they're the Messiah or Peter or Abraham or David or something like that. Some people flip out when they go over there, thinking it's something special. It is in one sense but it's not a mystical type of special.

So when we present ourselves to God what we're saying is, "God, I want my life to be used by you. I want to serve you. I want Your will, not my will, to be accomplished in my life. I understand I was saved and redeemed for a purpose and that purpose is to serve you." So that's the idea of the fact we are to be a living sacrifice, set apart to God, acceptable which is the word euarestos, meaning something that is acceptable and pleasing to God. It's acceptable and pleasing to God because it is functioning as God intended us to function. He saved us to serve Him. So it's pleasing to Him because we're doing His will.

This is then described as out "reasonable service". Now this two-word phrase is one that's difficult to translate into English because we don't really have words that fully capture the translation. The word translated "reasonable" is the Greek word logikos. It's a hard "g". We would soften it if we brought it into English. It's where we get our word "logic". It has something to do with thinking something through from its foundation to its conclusion, to reflect upon it. It's something that is logically derived from a certain set of assumptions. Now what this is showing is that the Christian life is to be a life based on thought, not a life based on emotion, not a life based on a response to some kind of emotional appeal or a feel-good sermon.

It is something where people are taught to understand what God has done for them as we've done by going through the first eleven chapters of Romans, that God had a plan for salvation, that He sent His Son to become a human being, to go to the cross and to die on the cross as a substitute for every human being, to bear in His own body on the cross the punishment for our sins so that we could have freedom from sin and forgiveness from sin by simply trusting in Him and His substitutionary death. Now once we come to understand all that God has done for us and we reflect upon that we realize that by believing in Christ we become identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection and we are given a new life in Christ. Then the logical consequence of understanding that is that we should live that new life in service to God. So the idea of using the word logikos here brings us to the fact that a person should reach this point through a logical consideration of all that God has done for them with the result that they recognize they are to live to serve God and not themselves.

The second word there "service" is the word latreia. Now this isn't your normal word for worship, which has more the idea of bowing the knee. This is another aspect of worship, which is service. It's not emphasizing the submission to authority side, which the other word emphasizes but it's emphasizing the service side. So it's a service of worship. It is serving God with our life. That's why it's a living, on-going sacrifice because we're serving God rather than the desires of our sin nature.

The sentence ends there in English but it really doesn't end there in Greek. It continues on. The thought of the second verse grows out of and develops from the first verse. Here we read the prohibition, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…" There's a reason for that because it demonstrates something. It puts something to the test. The word "proof" there is dokimazo which has the idea of not just proving something but it's like in a laboratory where you're demonstrating the truth of something through your life. It's not just testing just for testing sake but it's testing to demonstrate the quality of something. "… So that you may prove [demonstrate] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." I prefer to translate that as that "you're supposed to demonstrate that the will of God is good and acceptable and perfect". It's demonstrated through our life.

So let's just look at the first part of this. The first part we have a present passive imperative. Present imperatives emphasize sort of a standard operating procedure in the Christian life whereas an aorist imperative is more like a jab to get our attention or to emphasize a priority; a present imperative emphasizes something that is to continually be a reality in our life. It's an ongoing characteristic in the Christian life. So we're not to be conformed, which is the word suschematizo. It has the idea of not being impressed into a mold of something.

So the picture is that we have our sin nature but there's something outside of us that is pushing us to conform to this preset mold of the world and the environment around us. We're not to be conformed to this world but instead we're to be transformed. The word schema is emphasizing more of an external conformity whereas the word here is metamorphoo which emphasizes an internal transformation. It, too, is a present passive imperative. We don't transform ourselves. There's something else acting upon us that brings about that transformation. That's the Word of God and the Spirit of God, which we learn about from other passages. It changes us from the inside out. It's not just an external transformation.

So we're not to be conformed to the world but we're transformed by the renewing of our emotions. Right? No, that's not what it says. But that's what you think when you look at a lot of Christians. They've given up on rationally defending the Scripture. They've given up on believing in the inerrancy and the infallibility of the Word of God. They don't believe it's historically accurate. They don't believe it's scientifically accurate. They don't believe that when it touches on things of history or archeology or science that it's right. They say it's right in the spiritual things but remember, Jesus said that since we can't validate the spiritual things, the way that we know that it's true spiritually because when it talks about the things that we can validate it's always true. So modern man has everything turned inside out. So we have to believe in the Word of God and trust in the Word of God and that changes our thinking, not our emotions.

It is by transforming the way we think and not just what we think but how we think. It's not just changing the content of our thinking but how we think, the structure, the forms in which we use to think. We can think right thoughts in a wrong way and a right thing done in a wrong way is wrong. I've seen this happen a lot of times. You get a certain type of people who are saved out of an existential mystical background which was typical of hippies coming out of the 60s and they get converted and they hear the gospel and they get converted through some sort of the ministry of a charismatic church. But charismatic theology is basically existential mystical theology so they don't have to change their worldview at all. They're still existential and mystical but they go from being in a pagan environment to charismatic theology. They change a lot of the content but it's still within the same structure of existential mysticism. It doesn't do them much good because it's a right thing now but it's done in a wrong way. So we have to learn how to think differently. As one of my professors in seminary said so wisely at one time, "It's hard enough to think. But it's really difficult to think about how we think, to analyze our own thought forms and structure that." That gets really tough.

Fortunately, it's not ultimately up to us, we have God the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Now we're not supposed to be conformed to this world. The word for world there is not the word you might expect. The Greek word normally translated world such as "For God so loved the world," is the Greek word kosmos which is sometimes translated earth but ultimately it refers to an orderly or organized system. Often it refers to the earth. Sometimes as in John 3:16 it refers to the inhabitants of that system.

But the word used here is aion. It's a time word. Sometimes it's translated "age" but each age of earth's history is characterized by different thought forms. Worldliness based on the word kosmos often talks about how human beings think a certain way that is in contrast to God's way. What aion emphasizes is that this is related to a certain time frame in history. Just think about the history of ideas. We know there was a time before Greek philosophy when things emphasized the fact that things were more supernatural. Then the Greeks came along and began to transform that into ways to try to remove any religion or supernatural ideas or superstition and you had the pre-Socratics and then you had Heraclitus and Parmenides and then you had Plato and Aristotle and then the Neo-Platonics and others like the Epicureans and the Stoics who came along. Each age does a shift in the way people think. You get into the period of Christianity some people thought according to the Bible but a lot of early Christians were still thinking within the structure of Neo-Platonism. That characterized much of the early Church. It wasn't biblical Christianity. It was a Neo-Platonic interpretation of Christianity. Until you get to the Middle Ages around the 11th or 12th century and there's a rediscovery of Aristotle under most notably Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure and some others. Then they had an Aristotelian interpretation of Christianity. It wasn't until Luther came along and argued for the Scripture alone that you have a genuine "back to the Bible" movement that gave birth to the Protestant reformation. But then it's not long before Europe gets corrupted again by secular forms of the ancient rationalism of Plato, now the rationalism of Descartes and the empiricism of Aristotle becomes the empiricism of Berkeley and Hume and Spinoza and some others. Excuse me, Spinoza was a rationalist. So each era is characterized by different ways of thinking.

We live in one of those eras where most people have one leg in one era and another leg in another era. One leg is firmly planted in modernism and the other leg is firmly planted in post-modernism so they have a really jumbled way of thinking. But that's the spirit of the age, the zeitgeist as the German word calls it. It's the common way in which people think. It's gotten really screwy how people think. If you look around, many of you wonder and ask me questions about what in the world is going on. Well, people are working out the implications of their assumptions. These assumptions got firmly embedded in Western culture as a result of Darwin, Freud, Spencer, Marx, and many others. Ideas that were on the fringe 150 years ago are now embedded so deeply in the thinking of the children running around the ghetto that they're existential nihilists and they can't even say they word, but that's what they are. And they're post-modern relativists. They know how to work those systems and they think that way. Your children are that way and your grandchildren are that way. You wonder where in the world they're getting these ideas. They just sort of absorb them from the culture. And they pick it up. Why? Because they've got a little culture magnet inside of them called the sin nature that just attracts these ideas, and their sin natures just love these ideas because it gives them a rationale for self-serving.

We're not immune from that. Just because you've been around for a while and you're a believer doesn't mean you're immune from this same kind of thing. We are all very prone to falling into the trap because that's our sin nature and it gravitates to these different kinds of thought forms. So this is the command to us. We're not to be conformed to this world but we have to be transformed by the renovation or overhaul of our thinking. The word there for renewing is anakainosis meaning to renew, and it has to do with a transformative overhaul. The word mind is the word nous which is the idea of a manner of thinking, the way in which you think.

The illustration I've used is that most Christians are in a mess. If you're north of 15 when you get saved you're probably a little bit unhappy. It's not quite what you thought it would be. But if you got saved like I did at six there's not a whole lot to repent from and not a whole lot of problems because you're just a little kid. When you get older you mess up and you figure out that you need to really rely upon the Lord but the way most Christians are is that they have a house that's just disheveled. It's in shambles. The sheetrock is peeling off the walls. The paint's peeling off. The hinges in the kitchen cabinets are breaking. The roof leaks a little bit and the house has settled, it's a little crooked and if you put a ball down on the floor it's going to roll from one end of the house to the other. They want God to come and straighten it all up.

The trouble is the Holy Spirit shows up with a bulldozer. They just want Him to come in and kind of, like an interior decorator, slap some new paint on the place and kind of straighten up the cabinets and a few things and just do a superficial fix but the Holy Spirit shows up with a bulldozer and He wants to tear it all down, including your rotten human viewpoint foundation and rebuild from the get-go. Most Christians once they realize that's what the Christian life is all about say, "Uh Oh. Wait a minute. You're not the guy I want. I want the guy who's just going to slap on a fresh coat of paint and whitewash everything so it looks good." We don't want to really substantively change anything from the inside out and yet that's what Romans 12:1–2 is talking about, a deep, internal renovation, down to a destruction and replacement of the very foundation of how we think. We'll get into that next time.