I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:1-2, Emph., RC).
Like the Nations
God expects us to avoid conforming to the world. However, He does what He can within divinely set bounds to encourage us to avoid fashioning our life according to the human standards of those around us. He also informs us to transform, to be Christ-like, as followers of Christ.
During the days of Samuel, the last Judge of Israel, the people sought a new way of being governed. Rejecting Jehovah, they wanted a king (1 Sam. 8:19). Why? The text says they wanted a king “like the nations” (1 Sam. 8:20). In other words, they sought to conform to the world. Until we are transformed, we will be like “the nations.”
The word Paul uses for transform in Romans is metamorphoses. I venture to say that 90 percent of the women and 99 percent of the men would flinch wildly if a worm goes crawling across their arms. Unless you are eight years old, worms are so repulsive! Yet, if the worm in its full form as a butterfly landed on your head, you would grin with delight. Butterflies are absolutely gorgeous. You see where I am going with this? The beautiful butterfly is the wiggly worm after metamorphosis. The ugly sinner is the caterpillar before transforming to the beauty of holiness.
Conform to What?
Paul encourages us to imitate Christ. “Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). He compares this imitation to that of a child (Eph. 5:1). “Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children.” Children are great mimics. When our granddaughter who was about 10 months old greeted a person while her mother held her in her arms, she would bow to the smiling adult in front of her. She bowed so strongly, she almost fell head first out of her mother’s arms. Her mother thought that the daughter was “just being bashful.” The adults then noticed that the little girl was simply acting like the person she was greeting. The person bowed to the daughter because of the height difference, so the little lady bowed in return. Mimics! Aren’t they all?
The apostle Peter adds to this encouragement of change by telling followers to be zealous or followers of “that which is good” (1 Pet. 3:13). We can hear the objector complaining, “Who in the world has the right to tell us what is good?” Let us test a few examples. Do you want the standard of good from politicians who are filled with fornication and hypocrisy? Don’t think so. Maybe you prefer Hollywood. Lewdness and foul language comes from their rule or set of standards. A recent newspaper story tells of an experience by Mr. Nichols who is the chief executive of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park. He heard voices loudly swearing around the corner from where he was standing. It seems that Billy, Elsie, Eric, Jade and Tyson were swearing. They were not employees but African grey parrots that had arrived at the park a week earlier. Clearly, they were mimicking the foul language that they had heard from folks around them.
National news organizations reported another event earlier in the month. A passenger on Southwest Airlines was accused of wearing lewd, obscene and offensive clothing. The picture in the paper shows her wearing a halter top or a bikini top. The lady responded, saying, “I don’t understand how my body part is obscene.” She left the impression her appearance was not obscene since she was not totally nude. From the article, it appears this young lady failed to maintain the norms set by the world. What about the criteria of God? Since it is a higher rule of conduct, she failed it too.
Seek the Christian’s Rule of Conduct
Not only are we begotten by the gospel, but we imitate those who in their own lives present the gospel to us. “For though ye have ten thousand tutors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I begat you through the gospel. I beseech you therefore, be ye imitators of me” (1 Cor 4:15-16). Within the Gospel is revealed the righteousness of God (Rom. 1:16-17). I can still hear brother W.S. Boyett telling us students that the “righteousness of God” is not that God is righteous but that the Gospel reveals how we are to be right with the Father.
“Working on it, Boss!”
“Working on it, Boss!” comes from a TV personality. Neither the caterpillar nor the child of God makes the transformation overnight. It is a work in progress. Transformation is a lifetime endeavor. “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18, Emph., RC).