Just work harder. This is often the thought of how to grow and develop in a certain area. The challenge is that working harder does not always produce the results desired. Growth in an area of life is found by doing the right things that produce growth. This is especially true for the follower of Jesus.
There was one insight from my recent studies on Romans 12:2 on a “Transformed” life that hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. The insight is the key to a transformed life is not necessary working harder, but putting myself in a place where God can work in me. Now, growth in the Christian life does require effort, but what I noticed was, the importance of putting effort into those things that are where God can work in my life. This truth stood out in the second phrase of Romans 12:2. “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.” (Romans 12:2) This verse is a continuation of the previous verse. Our translation gives the conjunction “And” that ties these two verses together in the original language. The Bible is giving us practical instruction on “living sacrifices.” The first thing that we notice is to not be conformed to the world, or our culture. This reflects what I talked about last week that “living sacrifices” are really the choices that we make. Choices that produce a godly lifestyle are acceptable and those choices that do not are unacceptable. Just like the sacrifice brought by the Old Testament worshipers must meet certain criteria so do our sacrifices today. The right kind of choices as we see in the next phrase produces a “transformed” life.
Now my first thoughts on “be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” were that I just need to work harder as Jesus follower. I need to pray more, I need to spend more time reading my Bible, etc, etc. Growth in the Christian life is an individual’s responsibility. It does take work to grow. What I missed was it is not me producing the change but rather God working in me. The construction of the word transformed reminds me that I am changed by something that works on me. Change happens when I do things that allow God to work in me. The emphasis here on “renewing of your mind,” I believe speaks of what happens when I develop habits that get God’s truth into my mind. King David reflected this truth about the transforming power of God working when he memorized Bible verses. ““I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) What I have realized is that most people desiring change in their lives completely miss this step because they fail to put themselves in a place when God can work in them.
We are reminded of the necessity of getting God’s truth into our lives. We can do this through reading our Bible’s every day. We can also accomplish it by faithfully attending church services when God’s word is taught. We can also unleash God’s power in our lives through other sources like solid Christian books, small group studies and even Bible based radio, television and internet programming. The power to avoid being conformed to the standards, beliefs and opinions of our culture is found when we put ourselves in a place where God can transform us.
If you would like to learn more about “Taking the Right Steps to Grow” you can listen to my message here. The challenge for each of us is what one choice could I make this week to place myself in a position where God can work in me?
-Pastor Joe Parkinson