Are you being conformed or transformed? This is a powerful question and can lead to in depth self-reflection. Learn how to allow for God's transformation.
A God Who Transforms Us
“I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God. This will please Him … In other words; do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the world. Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what He wants is good, satisfying and able to succeed.” - Romans 12:1-2
Am I being conformed or transformed? Am I living as though I am set apart for God? If so, do the behaviors in my life such as … use of time, speech, use of material possessions and/or financial resources, reaction to frustration or stress, responses in relationships when hurt, thoughts, habits and priorities, reaction to others’ hurt and suffering … indicate to others that my life is set apart?
Paul writes in Romans 12:2 to let ourselves be transformed by the renewing of our minds instead of being transformed by the world … our pop culture, society, media, pressures, standards, opinions of others and so on. I find it interesting that prior to this though, Paul says to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, set apart for God. Perhaps that is the key to being transformed … and thereby how others see and recognize a difference.
These thoughts about being conformed or transformed came to mind, during an experience combined with time in God’s Word. Several years ago, when I was still single, I decided on impulse to go camping during a holiday weekend. Alone. (Well, not exactly alone, my Siberian husky was a constant companion.)
I loaded up my car with camping gear, food and my dog, and headed out to a nearby state park and campground. This was the second time in four years to go camping by myself, but I really felt the need to get away. I thought between my Siberian husky and a campground monitored well by park rangers, I would be relatively safe.
The campground was pretty full when I arrived … tents and campers with families, children running, laughing and playing … I circled back around to a spot I liked that was next to the woods. I unloaded the car and set up my tent next to a family that was setting up theirs. I noticed that the two children helping their dad put up the tent were cooperative and there seemed to be an easy rapport between them. Later on, the mother and oldest daughter were getting all the food ready to prepare for dinner.
My husky is often a conversation starter … and this occasion was no different … after nice comments about my dog, the woman asked if I was camping alone … I said, “Well, yes, but I have him with me” nodding to my husky. We chatted a few more minutes and then we each went back to the tasks at hand. A little while later the entire family was gathered … father, mother, three girls and two boys ranging in age from 14 to 3.
As a camping neighbor I couldn’t help but notice that this family was different … Different how? … They showed love to one another. They treated each other with kindness and respect. The children were well behaved and polite. Not once did I hear them yell, not once did I hear a harsh tone from their parents. In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5
“‘You are to love the Lord God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength.’ This is the greatest and most important commandment. And second is similar to it; (Leviticus 19:18) ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’ All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent upon these two commandments.”
And in John 13:34 Jesus said, “A new command I give you, that you love one another just as I have loved you. By this all men will know that you are my disciples.”
John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; and everyone who loves has God as His father and knows God. Those who do not love, do not know God; because God is love.” (I John 4:7-8) … how will they (anyone and everyone) know we are Christians? By our love. By our love. By our love.
Here was a family that was clearly set apart because of their love. I sensed the difference immediately. The difference was also evident in their attitudes, speech, behavior, conduct, and dress. As the day faded to evening and dinner was finished, they invited me to join them for some homemade ice cream in front of the fire. One of the boys offered me his chair and they invited my dog over too.
What I had sensed was confirmed as we talked…I was in the company of a devoted Christian family. And even though the father was not using his seminary degree in his job, in my mind, his ministry was in how he treated his wife and children. The mother has a heart for ministry as well, a common purpose, among others, that brought this couple together. She is a stay-at-home mom and home schools all five children. The couple moved back to Tennessee to be near the wife’s parents; so this family has the added wisdom, experience, interaction and love of parents/grandparents nearby. The next morning, I took over a note I’d written … the wife asked for my phone number “so I could join them sometime for a home-cooked meal with a family and have a break from apartment living.” My eyes filled with tears; I was so touched by their kindness.
This story may sound so simple, even trivial perhaps, but we cannot ever underestimate the power of God’s love shown through kindness. This family is living out Romans 12:9-21. People notice the light of Jesus Christ in us. Are we allowing it to shine brightly in a dark and distressed world?
We are called to live in the world but set apart from the world. Surrendering my heart and every area of my life to Jesus Christ is the beginning of that transformation process. Paul said, “…keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds.
I can therefore conclude that renewing my mind in God’s Word, speaking to and listening to God through prayer, cultivating an intimate, actively growing relationship The Lord, worship, praise, giving through service, connection to a church body … is how I continue to be transformed.
In addition, how I spend or invest my time, talent and treasure, how I respond in adversity, how I treat others in relationships, what my attitude is, what books I am reading, movies or television shows I am watching and music I am listening to, what thoughts I am dwelling on throughout the day … all this is also how I continue to be transformed …. or…. conformed.
It’s challenging, isn’t it? And I can’t do any of it without God’s grace. Paul says, “I exhort you, therefore, brothers [and sisters], in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God.” (Romans 12:1)
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 1:13). Let me take you back for a moment, to the Nation of Israel after they were delivered from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, to the building of the Ark of the Covenant and Tabernacle (or Tent of Meeting) which God instructed Moses in every intricate detail in making.
Exodus 28 is a chapter devoted to the garments for Aaron, the High Priest, and his sons, the Priests of Israel. In Exodus 28:36 God instructed that a plate of pure gold, engraved as a seal, be placed on the front of the turban over Aaron’s forehead. What was engraved in the gold? “Set apart for the Lord.” Exodus 28:38 explains that as the High Priest for Israel, Aaron bore the guilt of any errors committed by the people when they brought their gifts and/or sacrifices to the Tabernacle. With the gold seal on the forehead of the High Priest, God would accept the gifts and sacrifices of the people.
Hebrews 4:14-16 states that Jesus Christ is our High Priest. So, with Jesus Christ as my High Priest, by faith in Him, I am sealed with the Holy Spirit … I am therefore, set apart for God. I may not walk around with a gold plate on a turban over my forehead (thankfully!), but I am set apart none-the-less.
The Lord has recently shown me how He wants to be there in every detail of my life and how lasting change is impossible without Him. Transformation is an ongoing, active process.
Paul says in I Corinthians 6:19-20, “The fact is, you don’t belong to yourselves; for you were bought at a price.” The price was the precious blood of Jesus Christ spilled for my sins. Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for me, so that I could have freedom from sin, and a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. The same gift is freely offered to all who believe.
Are there areas in your life in which you have conformed? Are those areas you would be willing to surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ and let Him transform with His love and grace? I gently encourage you to ask the Lord to show you these areas in your life. And I encourage you to read the Scriptures referenced and ask The Lord to speak to you through His Word. May you be blessed!
This blog is by Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching Founder and Christian Life Coach, Jen Stone-Sexton. She is currently accepting new clients. You can learn more about Jen here.
Jennifer Stone-Sexton © 2022. Freedom to Flourish Life Coaching. All Rights Reserved.
All Scripture references and quotations used with permission: Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern, Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., Clarksville, Maryland USA & Jerusalem, Israel
Photo Credits: Cover & Photo 4 by Julia Caesar on Unsplash | Photo 1 by Jonathan Forage on Unsplash | Photo 2 by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash | Photo 3 by Timothy Meinberg on Unsplash