Transformed By The Renewing Of Our Mind
Be Transformed

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 59b of 83

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

[We are considering the famous words of the apostle Paul as he brings his readers from the doctrinal section of his letter to the practical section of the letter. Essentially, he gives us three instructions: (1) Present your bodies as living sacrifices; (2) Do not be conformed to this world; and (3) Be transformed by the renewing of your minds. We have already looked at the first two imperatives. In this article, we shall be studying the third. —JJL]

2. Be Ye Transformed 
by the Renewing 
of your Mind

a.   What does he mean? Well, it is interesting to note that the word translated “be transformed” (μεταμορφόω, metamorphoō) is the very word from which we get the English word ‘metamorphosis’! If you know a little bit of science, you will know what metamorphosis is. Metamorphosis happens when a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly. It is, as if Paul is saying, “be no more a caterpillar, but be metamorphosised! Be the butterfly you ought to be! Why continue to crawl on leaves and eat bitter herbs, when you can be flying free and drinking sweet nectar?”

Why continue to fill your soul with the bitter pulps of this world, when you can enjoy the sweetness of a godly walk with Christ?

Paul does not explicitly say what he wants us to be transformed from and transformed into. But it is clear that he wants us to be transformed from being earthly-children of the world into heavenly-minded children of God. He wants us to be transformed from the kind of persons that the world loves to the kind of persons that please God and glorify Him.

b.  But now, this transformation does not happen as a matter of impulse—for as the psalmist says, “my soul cleaveth to the dust” (Ps 119:25). We are made of dust, and we love the dust of the world. So it is not possible for you to be transformed at the snap of a finger. No, no; Paul uses the present tense in the Greek to tell us that it is a process that will involve hard work and heart work.

Literally translated, he is saying: “continue to let yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Yes, it will be a continuous process, and the fact that the word “be transformed” is in the passive voice tells us that Paul is basically referring to the work of the Holy Spirit. He is referring to the continual work of sanctification in our heart.

Paul is not interested in mere outward changes. That would not be enough seeing that we are so entrenched in our worldly, mundane existence. A butterfly is not merely a caterpillar with wings. Any science text book will tell you that at the pupa stage, the caterpillar, as it were, dissolves into a soupy paste within the outward shell. And there within the shell, unseen to the naked eye, God slowly forms a butterfly out of the caterpillar soup.

So it us with us: We must be changed from within. We need a radical personal transformation, an inner change, even a renewing of the mind. It requires a new attitude, a new perspective, a new disposition, a new way of thinking. In other words, we are to be totally changed from within. Only God can do this work of change.

But yet “be transformed” is an imperative or a command. What does that mean? It means that we are not totally passive.

Rather, we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling even though it is the Spirit of God who works within us to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil 2:12-13).

c.   But how are we to do so? How are we to work for our transformation? Paul says, “by the renewing of your mind.” What does He mean?

Well, in the first place, we must understand something about the Christian life that the apostle is here suggesting. He is suggesting that Christianity is not a mindless, emotional or mystical religion.

We cannot live the Christian life without thinking. Paul would be horrified by the kind of Christianity that is promoted in many circles today where there is a lot of emphasis on the heart and on love, but no emphasis on teaching and the cultivation the mind.

We noted how, even as he entered into this second division of his letter, he reminds us to use our mind to consider what is our reasonable service in response to what God has done for us. Indeed the word ‘reasonable’ may also be translated ‘logical.’ The Christian life is logic on fire. Not a cold logic, but logic that blossoms into the flower of gratitude.

Every Christian must be a thinking person. We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

But how can we renew our minds? Simply by continuing in the Word, as the Lord Jesus says:

“If ye continue in my word… ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn 8:31-32).

How to continue in the Word? By availing ourselves to the use of all the means of grace, especially the reading and hearing of the Word of God!

Growth in grace, let us understand, does not come magically. It is the sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit which attends our faithful use of the means of grace. God causes the growth, but we have to water ours soul with the Word of God. Jonathan Edwards has well remarked in his sermon on Christian knowledge:

“Christians ought not to content themselves with such degrees of knowledge of divinity as they have already obtained. It should not satisfy them, [to] know [only] as much as is absolutely necessary to salvation, but should seek to make progress. … all Christians should make a business of it. They should look upon it as part of their daily business, and no small part of it either. It should be attended to as a considerable part of the work of their high calling …”

Edwards goes on to explain that if we do not make it a business to improve our intellectual faculties and knowledge, but spend our time gratifying our animal appetites, then we would not only be behaving like unbelievers, but acting as if we have forgotten that we are men and not brute beasts.

Make it the top priority in your life to increase in the knowledge of Christ, dear reader.

Do not allow the television and mobile phone to dumb down your mind!

Do not allow your busy life to rob you of time to spent studying and listening to God’s Word!

And do not ever think that you know enough already. If you know enough already, then you ought to be a teacher of the faith. But if you want to be a teacher of the faith and yet have no desire to increase in the knowledge of the Lord, then you are a danger to the lambs and sheep of Christ!

Do not excuse yourself from hard doctrine by saying that it is only for those who love theology.

Remember that many of the Jew departed from Christ when He begun to preach hard doctrine (see John 6:66). If you refuse hard doctrine, you will be following the example of the unbelieving Jews.

Remember that it is only through the renewing of your minds, that your life will be transformed.

Sadly, many of us are so comfortable where we are that have very little motivation to improve our spiritual walk. We imagine that two hours every week spent sleepily attending a worship service is enough for our souls. But you can be quite sure of something: if all you receive from the Word is from the two hours of sabbath morning worship, then you are very likely backsliding. The LORD, says, my people are bent on backsliding! If your mind is not constantly being transformed by the renewing of your mind, then you will be backsliding!

Oh let us not excuse ourselves from the means of grace whether public or private. We know full well that if we if want to find an excuse for not coming for prayer meeting, for evening worship, for the doctrine classes, or if we want excuses for not having family worship, or personal reading or study of the Bible, we will find the excuses.  The devil has a bag full of excuses enough for all of us to use. And many of them are very good excuses too.

But the devil does not give his excuses for free. You have to buy them. You have to buy them with your soul!

Dear brother or sister in Christ, do not give in to the devices of the wicked one. When Paul says, “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” he is saying that you have to be transformed or you will backslide and be conformed to the world.

If you are a child of God, God has already laid the foundation for the work of transformation in your life! Your soul has been made alive by the Holy Spirit. Oh do not starve your soul. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by hardening your heart and refusing to feed your soul that He has made alive. Oh do not sell your soul to the devil by buying excuses to refuse to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Oh do not miss out on the blessing that comes with a transformed life, for Paul does not leave us to guess what will be the result of being transformed by the renewing of our minds……  

—JJ Lim