2 And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be [a]transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on Godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]. [Romans 12:2 – AMP][a] Romans 12:2 From the Greek word meaning “metamorphosis.” Refers to a hidden endogenous process that results in an outward, permanent change.
We are all very familiar with Paul’s exhortation to the church found in Romans 12:2, but do we really understand what he is saying? We believe that the full depth of Holy Spirit revelation in this verse will be fully realized in the decade to come.
The decade of the 20-teens has been one of seismic shifts and separation, both in the natural and in the spiritual, evidenced by events and trends that we have witnessed:
The assault on traditional marriage was highlighted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on June 26, 2015 (mid-point of the decade) to strike down all state legislation banning same sex marriage, legalizing same sex marriage in all 50 states and requiring states to honor out-of-state same sex marriage licenses [Obergfell v Hodges]
Following on the heels of this decision was the rapid rise of transgenderism and transgender activism. At least (13) states have current transgender laws that allow access to school, public and business bathrooms, as well as athletic participation, based on gender identification, as well as supporting participatory education in transgenderism to students as young as 6-years old
The Catholic Church, under the leadership of Pope Francis, has moved dramatically away from orthodoxy towards a radical socialist, left-leaning political, universalist, and anti-fundamentalist agenda
The passing of many ‘generals’ of the faith during this decade (Billy Graham, Reinhard Bonnke, David Wilkerson, John Paul Jackson, Steve Hill, Kim Clement, R.C Sproul, etc), the high-profile apostasy of a number of leading Christian voices, including Hillsong worship leader Marty Sampson and Author Josh Harris, the preeminence of personality led churches, humanistic motivational teachings that elevate health, wealth and temporal happiness of the individual, a persuasive inclusiveness that focuses on non-confrontational acceptance of sin, along with the sinner, the absence of any comprehension of the holiness of God and the sacredness of Christ’s cross, have all led to rampant doctrinal confusion amongst many ‘ungrounded’ Christians in the western church – This is directly opposed to the Bible’s clear teaching – “So that we are no longer children [spiritually immature], tossed back and forth [like ships on a stormy sea] and carried about by every wind of [shifting] doctrine, by the cunning and trickery of [unscrupulous] men, by the deceitful scheming of people ready to do anything [for personal profit].” Ephesians 4:14
In the U.S. and throughout Europe, political upheaval has reflected a growing rift between liberal and conservative forces. Complicating this chasm between world views, is the continuing rise of Moslem hegemony in the 10/40 window, and the interminable and calculated expansionism of Islam into the nations of Europe and beyond.
On every level this last decade has seen the erosion of morality, orthodoxy, balanced governance and social order. Despite this seeming global societal, moral and religious decline, however, there are signs that God is about to move the chess pieces of the great cosmic chess game in this next decade for the purposes of His Glory and His Glory alone!
Iran is listed as one of the world’s top 10 countries for the persecution of Christians, and yet, despite of this, Iran is home to the world’s fastest growing Christian population – 10-years ago the number of Moslem converts to Christianity was numbered in the hundreds, while today estimates range anywhere from 300,000 to 1-million dedicated converts (for a great expose of this, see YouTube documentary “Sheep among Wolves II”).
The Chinese evangelical church, which in the 1970’s was estimated to number about 3-million adherents, is now estimated to include between 120- to 150-million followers and is growing at rate 5X the growth rate of the general Chinese population
Evangelical Christianity’s growth in South America has been just as astounding, from an estimated 50,000 followers in 1900, to approximately 70-million Evangelical Christians today (8,000 people a day are estimated to be leaving the Roman Catholic church in South America and joining with Evangelical Christians)
And in Africa, we are experiencing perhaps the most incredible story of the richness of God’s limitless grace. By 1900, the faithfulness of the great European and American missionary outreach into the “dark” continent” had resulted in some 10-million Africans confessing Christ as Lord. Today, missiologists estimate that there are more than 300-million adherents to Evangelical Christianity in Africa – in the nation of Zambia, for example, there are an estimated 14.5-million Protestant believers (about 78% of the total population – as compared to the U.S. where Protestants number less than 50%). True Christianity in Africa is experiencing unprecedented growth, with estimates of 30,000 conversions, per day!
What we are witnessing is the stewardship of our Lord’s church being transferred from the traditional ‘Christian’ nations of Europe and North America, to the emerging nations of Africa, Asia & South America – is this the removal of the ‘lampstand’ that our Lord warned the Ephesian church about in Revelation 2:5?
“So remember the heights from which you have fallen, and repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, your sinful behavior—seek God’s will] and do the works you did at first [when you first knew Me]; otherwise, I will visit you and remove your lampstand [the church and its impact] from its place—unless you repent.”
So what does all this have to do with 2020 being the beginning of the decade of “transformation“?
Carefully compare the warning that Christ gives the Ephesian church above and his caveat, “unless you repent“, with the admonition that Paul gives to the early church in Romans 12:2, cited at the top of the page.
We, in the western church, must undergo a ‘metamorphosis‘ in our faith or risk becoming an irrelevant part of God’s great plan for His Church in the end times.
Let’s breakdown Romans 12:2 into manageable concepts that we can consider and meditate on:
“And do not be conformed to this world,…”
The Greek word used and translated here in this passage as ‘conformed’, means to be ‘fashioned alike to‘ or ‘conforming to the same pattern as‘ – has the church in the West, and perhaps even more damning have we, individually, been ‘conformed‘ to this world.
Do we look like, do we act like, do we speak like, do we behave like, those that live a worldly life?
The beloved Apostle, John put it this way –
“Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”I John 2:15-17 (MSG)
“…but be transformed and progressively changed…”
The Greek word used and translated here in this passage as ‘transformed’, is ‘metamorphoo‘, from which we derive the English word ‘metamorphosis‘, meaning ‘the process of great and usually rather sudden change in the form and habits of some animals during transformation from an immature stage (as a caterpillar) to an adult stage (as a butterfly)’ or, more generically, “a marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function“. God is going to bring about dramatic changes in our personal witness of the truth and in our churches, if we are willing to submit to His correction, and set aside our own prideful and selfish governance of our lives and ministries.
“…by the renewing of your mind,…”
Again, it is interesting to note that the Greek word that Paul uses here, translated as ‘renewing‘, means ‘renovation‘ – we have to, as individuals, and as a church in the West, literally rebuild the foundations of our faith – reading of the Word, fasting and prayer, teaching the entire counsel of God, family devotions, evangelism, loving God and loving each other.
“…so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Yes, we all want to be assured of God’s will for us. What is our destiny? What is our role in the kingdom? Perhaps, we are asking the wrong question.
When we repent of ‘conformance‘ to this world, when we allow ourselves to be ‘transformed’ by the ‘renewing of our minds‘ – a renovation of what we think, how we respond to God and to others, how we live, and ultimately who we are – the true meaning of this passage will become clear. It’s not necessarily so much about God’s will for us, but rather it refers to His overarching will for Creation, “which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Indeed His will was demonstrated perfectly on the Cross. Yes, Jesus came to atone for our sin, something that only he could achieve as the “hypostasis” of God and man; He came, too, to reveal the perfect image of the invisible Father to His children; but most importantly, Jesus came to reconcile sinful, prideful, independent man to Himself, that He might, once again, live in intimacy with man in the perfection of the Garden, unmarred by sin.
Do you want to know what your destiny is? It’s that! To be reconciled to your Father and to live in perfect intimacy with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and for eternity!
So what is God’s will for our lives?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.
And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.II Corinthians 5:17-21 (NIV)
The will of God for all of our lives is simply this – that we are to become ‘ambassadors of reconciliation‘, within our own spheres of influence, reconciling men, women and children back into an intimate relationship with the Father.
When we truly forfeit control of our lives to the Father’s purposes, He will increase those spheres of influence like ripples extending outwards from a pebble tossed into a lake.
Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to His plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good. God, in His foreknowledge, chose them to bear the family likeness of His Son, that Jesus might be the eldest of a family of many brothers. He chose them long ago; when the time came He called them, He made them righteous in His sight, and then lifted them to the splendour of life as His own sons.Romans 8:28-30 (PHILLIPS)