A Devotional on Romans 12:1-2
Transformation in Christ. Find a New You in the Spirit. All these are things we speak of on a regular basis. Christians all read or hear “we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice” on a montly basis at least, but what do we mean when we say “be transformed?”
Transformation could be radical a thing, that we no longer recognize ourselves on the other side. Or it could be normal a thing, that it happens daily without anyone taking much notice.
At this point in Romans, Paul has painted upon a large theological canvas, detailing our salvation history with God, the role fo the Spirit in our lives, and detailed justification by faith. And Paul has detailed that we, as the church, have taken on the unique role as the brothers and sisters in Christ. We’re entitled to the same inheritance as Christ, he has shared that with us. But now, Paul turns to the daily life.
If this is true, so what? This is the question, we as pastors are uniquely equipped to take on, in fact its what we are called to do. If Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, if the Holy Spirit has set us free from sin and death, so what? In other words, what are we called to do?
Christ’s story is a story with universal implications. Just as all of our stories are universally affected by the narrative of Adam, to say that Christ’s narrative is a superior one is an understatement. So the end goal of all this “gospel” stuff is that we are “in Christ.” Enveloped, enfolded, sewn in, grafted on, we are “in.” To be “in Christ” means to participate in the life of the Spirit, that the Spirit has enable us to do and say Kingdom things. So when we turn to ethics, we of course rely on that same Spirit. And Philippians 2 says “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. ”Living in Christ means we take on the mind of Christ, that we live by the mind of God.
Such a thing is powerful, so Paul gives the advice: do not be conformed to the world. Do not let the world act upon you, do not allow yourself to be controlled by something foreign to you, something different than your nature. The world is precisely the world because it is external to us. Yet, renew your mind and find yourself suddenly transformed. Here we see, transformation for Paul comes through re-aligning our minds with the Spirit. In this world, we are in the tension between the remnants of the old, while being given the gift of thinking and acting out the values of the new world, the freed, grace-filled Kingdom.
Transformation occurs so that we are able to discern the will of God. Now that is a scary thing. How many terrible things have been the “will” of God? Slavery? Countless Wars? The battlecry “Deus vult!” is enough for my skin to cringe at the thought of humans having the ability to discern the will of God. Yet this is the promise.
Ethics no longer resides in a dusty book, we need no elders to hold the tomes of inquiry, but we are given all the virtuous behaviour by the Holy Spirit, which enters our minds, and transforms us, and allows us to flow along, working to discern the will of God.
So, if transformation is anything, it is a constant process. Paul reminds us that our minds will be renewed, not simply made new. In other words: hear the call again, be transformed. Discerning the will of God is not a one and done process, it is a constant quest of discerning struggling and working.
Most importantly, transformation is not individual, we are not discussing here a personal narrative of salvation. Its not about me and my Jesus. Paul addresses the brothers and sisters of the community. Our reformation, and our transformation is in the image of the triune Lord. That pressed upon our souls is a blueprint for community. Our inner relationship with our neighbors mirrors the inner relationship of the trinity. Transformation means re-activating this once lost sense of community, to live by the Spirit together in order to hear anew the voice of God, calling as one, though individual members of the body, to act virtuously and to vividly display love.
I’m new to being a pastor, and if I thought for a moment it was all up to me to be virtuous, to be transformed, to be a minister, I know I would be unable to do it. It is by the uplifting of the HS, and the support of the loving community alone I pursued such a path.
The church IS and HAS been many things throughout history. A place of political power, a source of healing and service, a prominent social entity. In today’s culture I feel the most radical part of the church is the community it offers. As our world continues to progress and invent methods to be more and more self-reliant, it is our church that will always continue to value a communal presence, a place of belonging. After all, it is only together that any transformation can occur.
The nature of the church is always changing. The gospel of Christ is always eternal and unchanging, but our fluff, our minutia, our modus operandi changes with the times. Many issues we face, come from a different world. This piece of scripture Paul gives as eternal advice for us to hear today. The method to the way forward has been made known. If we want to know the will of God, if we want what is good, acceptable, and perfect for the church, then I believe it is found in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit that is present when we gather together, talk with one another, listen to one another. And relying on the Holy Spirit to chart our way forward is as back to the basics as we can get. So re-schematize your mind, so that our actions are holy-spirit-charged without us giving it too much thought.