Wash Away Your Old Ways of Thinking

by Paul Tautges | July 29, 2021 1:46 am

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Rom. 12:2

What comes to mind when you hear the word worldliness? Is it a certain behavior? A form of entertainment? Or perhaps a personal practice of another Christian, which differs from your own conviction? While all of these may or may not be part of what it means to be worldly, worldliness involves our thinking. Rightly understood, worldliness is a misuse of the Christian mind. The antidote, therefore, is to renew our mind with God’s truth.

Instead of slothfully conforming our mind to the thinking of the rest of the world, we must discipline ourselves to think God’s thoughts according to his Word. The Scripture above begins with an urgent request. That is, in light of “the mercies of God” in bringing redemption to sinners (explained in Romans, chapters 1-11), Paul urges us to present our “bodies as a living sacrifice.” This is a passionate plea to offer ourselves to God for the service of holiness. This appeal is logical since God saved us, owns us, and his Spirit indwells us (see 1 Cor. 6:19–20). Our bodily sacrifice is living, unlike the offerings of the Old Testament, all of which were killed beforehand. However, in order for our “spiritual worship” to glorify God it must meet his holy standard, which is both negative and positive.

It is negative: “Do not be conformed to this world.” The word conform means to mold after something else. This word is traditionally translated in the passive voice in Romans 12:2, as “be conformed.” However, the Greek form allows for the middle voice as well, which would read, “do not conform yourselves.”[1][1] Therefore, you should view this not merely as a warning to beware of the world shaping you into its mold, but also as a discouragement from patterning yourself after the world by adopting its values, priorities, and attitudes—its manner of thinking. Jesus died to deliver you from “the present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). Therefore, to adopt its mindset is not an acceptable response to God’s grace.

God’s standard for disciples is also positive: “be transformed.” The word transformed comes from the same word from which we get “metamorphosis.” This change is a fundamental transformation of character and conduct away from the standards of the world and toward Christlikeness; you are holy. But you will not be transformed into the image of Christ without “the renewal of your mind.”

Renewing your mind means washing out the ways of thinking associated with our “old man” by filling it with a new, fresh supply of God’s way of thinking, our “new man” in Christ. Picture a glass of dirty water. As purified water is poured into the glass, the dirty water is forced out. In a similar way, as you meditate on the Word of God you are sanctified “by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26). Eventually, the renewal of your mind will lead to a promised reward— the discernment of the will of God, that which is “good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

[1][2] Matthew Henry argues for this interpretation in his commentary and translates it as “do not fashion yourselves” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary (McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Co., n.d.), p. 457).

  1. [1]: #_ftn1
  2. [1]: #_ftnref1

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