March 2, 2009

How Are You Being Formed?
By Pastor George Van Alstine

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

You are being “formed.” The crucial question is whether you are being “conformed” or “transformed.”

The easiest path is conformity, shaping from the outside, in which you are passive as various forces in your life influence you to fit into a pre-assigned shape and space. You will not create a stir, because nothing around you will have to adjust to your presence.

In his advice to the Roman believers, Paul spoke of conformity to “this world.” At lease, that’s the way most of our English versions translate it. The actual Greek word Paul chose has a broader, more intriguing meaning, conformity to “this age.”  “This age” in Jesus’ teaching encomposes all that makes our present environment alien to the eternal realities of God’s Kingdom—including culture, values, injustice, mortality and sin. So when we passively allow ourselves to be conformed to this age, we will automatically be shaped in a way that is twisted and very unlike God’s design for us.

By contrast, transformation comes from within, “by the renewing of your mind.” The renewal is the work of the Holy Spirit through our new birth and growth into Christ’s image. This transforming force is not from “this age,” but from the loving and creative heart of God.

Not surprisingly, when you are renewed by this inside-out spiritual dynamic, you emerge into a form that doesn’t fit very well into its environment. There may be a lot of struggle as you grow to occupy a space that’s the wrong size and shape. This may involve some pain and suffering—for some it has even meant martyrdom.

But the inside-out spiritual power is ultimately greater than all the external forces pressing against it. If you patiently persevere in allowing the “renewing of your mind,” the Holy Spirit will force the pressures around you to make room for you. And as they make room for you, they will have to change shape themselves, as the Spirit begins to transform them through your influence.

So, there’s your choice! Will you be shaped by conforming to the external pressures around you, or will you be transformed from within by the Spirit force which is greater than all those external forces and can shape you as God wants you to be? Will you be conformed or transformed?