Are you familiar with the toys called “Transformers?” Each one starts out looking like one thing, then various parts move so the whole thing becomes something totally different. Some parts stay the same; others change to take on the appearance of something with a different purpose—a powerful robot. But, it’s not rightly named. The toy gets transformed by me—not itself. It should be called “transformable.” This toy makes a good visual of how, in real life, I am not a transformer either, but one who is transformable in the hands of the living Christ and His transforming power. And, while this toy won’t resist me because it has no will of its own, we can resist our transformer out of fear of the unfamiliar, because of stubbornness—not being convinced that we need transforming, or out of ignorance—not knowing it’s available to us. So, how do we cooperate with our transformer? We do it by faith, like everything else in our Christian life.
In Mark chapter 7, Jesus really began to challenge His disciples to think differently from what had been modeled around them. Cleanness before God comes from the heart not from food or the hands. Jesus showed that God responds to anyone who demonstrates faith in Him, regardless of background or physical capability. In Mark chapter 8, Jesus challenged His disciples to think beyond their stomachs and be more concerned with their hearts toward God, recognizing His power and trusting in it. He warned them to stay away from deceitful influences even though those people have generally garnered respect because of their positions of authority. He also rebuked Peter in front of the group saying that “he did not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Mark 8:33). Then, Jesus called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and issued this challenge,
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)
He repeatedly said to dare to be different from your world.
Dare to be different from your world.
We often think of the word “dare” as something bad, usually associated with someone challenging you to do something dangerous that is unnecessary to life and might even be fatal.
But, when I looked up the verb “dare,” I discovered that it means to “have the courage to do something.” To have the courage to do something. That something can be good for you or bad for you. Jesus was daring His followers to do something for their own good. We are to be different from the world around us knowing it’s for our own good. And, we are to do this by faith, like everything else in our Christian life.
The Holy Spirit through Paul tells us how we can be different in Romans 12:1-2.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this 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 NIV)
Our God is saying here, “Dare to be different. It’s for your own good. It’s My will, and it pleases Me.” God’s almighty Spirit is living inside of us. We can dare to be different. To do so, we must do three things: 1) dare to evaluate, 2) dare to submit, and 3) dare to expect results.
1) Dare to evaluate.
Romans 12:2 begins by telling us to not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world. I learn 3 things from this:
• For every child of God, conforming to the world’s pattern is not a good thing because we are told to stop it.
• We have a choice to not conform to this world.
• Somehow, we need to figure out if we are conforming to this world or not. That requires evaluation.
So, if you want to dare to be different, you’ve first got to dare to evaluate, to have the courage to evaluate your life. Where are you being pulled by the world’s influence and ideas? What advantages or disadvantages have shaped your thinking and your character? What is God showing you about yourself as you read His Word?
After evaluating all of this, then you “dare to submit” it to the living Christ and ask Him to transform you into what He desires for you. You dare to submit to being transformed.
2) Dare to submit.
That’s what Romans 12:2 says. Be transformed. The underlying Greek word is our English word metamorphosis. Think of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly—a total change from the inside out. That caterpillar found its spot, spun a chrysalis, and submitted itself to the transformation, trusting in its Creator.
What does it mean for us to submit and trust ourselves to Jesus’ transforming power? I think there are 2 steps to this.
First step: Recognize that all of you belongs to God anyway, and “daring to submit” to Him pleases God and is for your good.
We get this from Romans 12:1.
“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.” (Romans 12:1)
Offering our bodies means to present the totality of our life and activities to Him. Our bodies live out who we are inside. Paul says this is our reasonable act of worship. What he means is “Duh! It’s the only logical response considering all that God has done for you!”
This is that teachable moment when you decide to be more than just a believer. You decide to be Jesus’ disciple. At the end of Mark chapter 8, Jesus issued that challenge of denying oneself as king of your own life to become His disciple instead. So, what is a disciple? A disciple is an active follower or learner. Jesus Christ calls us to follow Him as His disciples, committed to learning from Him and becoming like Him as we intentionally apply to our lives what He teaches us through His Word and what He allows into our lives.
Being a disciple is a big step. It is a commitment. It is saying to Jesus, “I choose to be your disciple today, tomorrow, and the rest of my life.” That doesn’t mean you’ll always be 100% a disciple every day, but you have made a life decision to pursue this. Maybe you have been a believer since childhood but reached a point in your life when you decided to be more than a believer. That was my experience at the age of 19. Or, perhaps you didn’t believe in Christ until adulthood and jumped right into being His disciple.
Either way, as Jesus’ disciple, you recognize that you belong to God and submitting to Him pleases Him and is for your own good.
Second step: Renew your mind from the world’s way of thinking, feeling, & doing to God’s way of thinking, feeling, & doing.
I call that approaching life God’s way. We get the how to do this from Romans 12:2.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this 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 12:2)
Renewing means to push the conforming influences away from you and to replace them with spiritual input from God’s Word, from prayer, and from friendship with Christians who love God.
Let’s ask some questions to do this. Have you recognized the conforming influences on you yet? Are you putting them away from you? Are you replacing them with God’s Word, time in prayer, and friendships with Christians who love God?
The conforming and the transforming are not one-time action verbs but represent continuous action. So, we should read this as, “Keep on not conforming” and “Keep on being transformed.”
God will do His part to transform us into the likeness of Jesus because that is His will for us. Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18
I read something about 15 years ago by George Barna, the Christian survey guy.
“People pay attention to what they deem important. And many Christians invest more of their mental energy in cultural literacy than in biblical literacy.” (George Barna, Dallas Morning News, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2006.)
Now, we need to know our world to have influence on it. But, the balance of effort is to be on the biblical side. When has the latest textbook on political thought transformed anyone’s life? Or, 10 best tummy-flattening exercises? So, I ask the question of you as I have already done of me, “Where is your mental energy going?”
One of our biggest challenges in America is the pursuit of what is called the American dream. A historian in the 1930s popularized that phrase. Wikipedia defines it as, “the opportunity for prosperity and success and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work.” Nothing wrong with hard work. The idea of the American Dream is rooted in our Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I’m thinking it’s the “pursuit of happiness” that gets us into trouble.
So, how does this affect us as Jesus’ disciples? Jesus warned His followers about being choked by the cares and riches of this world in the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:18-19). He called for His disciples to be willing to sacrifice their own pursuits in order to put Him first (Matthew 6:33; Luke 9:57-62). New Testament writers encouraged Jesus’ disciples to work hard not only to provide their own needs but also to be able to generously share with others (2 Corinthians 8-9; Ephesians 4:28). That requires sacrifice.
So, does the American Dream distract us into consumerism and away from pursuing Christ and His mission for us first and foremost? Can we waste time and energy on pursuing the American Dream at the cost of being transformed into a committed disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ? We certainly can. That’s where you have to go back to the dare to evaluate step. Ask those questions I mentioned above. Find out where you have been sucked into the pursuit of happiness over the pursuit of Jesus. Then, dare to submit that to the living Christ and ask Him to transform you into what He desires for you.
This leads me to the last dare, also from Romans 12:2:
“Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)
That tells me that you and I can dare to expect results.
3) Dare to expect results.
What kind of results can you expect? Some changes take place instantly, like the 35 things that come with your new identity in Christ. But, when God starts His inside-out transformation, usually two things happen.
#1. Priorities get changed.
I like the way the Bible Knowledge Commentary puts this.
“As a Christian is transformed in (her) mind and is made more like Christ, (s)he comes to approve and desire God’s will, not (her) own will for her life. Then (s)he discovers that God’s will is what is good for her, and that it pleases God, and is complete in every way. It is all (s)he needs.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament,page 488)
When you desire to be Jesus’ disciple, committed to Him, priorities in your life get changed. Ask the Lord Jesus what needs to get changed in your life, in your daily activity, in your plans. He will show you. You can trust Him. Your priorities will get changed.
When God starts working from the inside-out, your character will also get changed.
#2. Character gets changed.
Our God will transform us to become like His Son in character. There are two aspects of being transformed to the likeness of Christ. God’s part and your part.
Regarding God’s part, we are told in the Scriptures that He is working according to His will and purpose for your life. We are also told that God will complete His work so that you will be like Jesus in your future. We know that God is the one who puts into your heart the desire to be like Jesus. He wants that for you. He puts that desire in your heart so you want it, too. And, the Bible teaches that God gives you everything you need to be godly, starting with the Holy Spirit’s empowering presence inside you. That’s God’s part.
Your part involves renewing your mind through studying God’s words in the Bible to see how to approach life His way. That’s the dare to evaluate part. Your part also involves having a desire for God’s work in you to give you the character of Christ. When you long for His work in your life, you will want to submit to what He is doing and ask for Him to change you. As you submit to the Spirit’s transforming power, He will clothe you with compassion, kindness, humility, and all those other qualities of Jesus. Your part requires a commitment to doing life God’s way. That’s part of the transformation process. Jesus modeled for us how to approach life God’s way and how to live in dependence upon Him in the process.
Now, God will complete His part. You’ll see some of it during your lifetime as He changes your life. But, you’ll definitely be transformed completely after your life on earth ends and you begin your life in heaven. That’s a promise.
The results we can expect until then are that we are better able to know and follow God’s will and, therefore, do what is good and pleasing to God with our lives.
By faith, you can dare to be different from the world. Accept that challenge. And, trust Him to help you do that in your life.