Do Not Be Conformed to the World

“Do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2)

When we hear that, we already have an idea of what St. Paul is trying to tell us. And for the most part, we get the message; instead of money, what type of car we own, the clothes we wear, and the trips we take, we should focus on Jesus, on loving those around us and trying to spread the Gospel’s message. And to a certain extent, this is all true, but what St. Paul is trying to say extends much further than that. Even when focusing on God could we still be conforming to the way the world tells us to approach Him? When we perform an act of love, we might think St. Paul is warning us about doing it because of a desire to be liked. But what about doing it because that is how you were raised or what you were taught to do by school, parents, or even the church itself. By prioritizing church or doing what we should do we are simply changing our focus, but we are told to transform our way of thought. St. Paul is urging us to think deeper about our actions and motivators. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). To renew our minds to the point where we know we are talking to a living God that is listening when we pray.  When we set our mind, conscience, hearts on him and have a genuine inward change, we will see our external actions follow suit, naturally and effortlessly. In his commentaries Matthew Henry says: 

“Conversion and sanctification are the renewing of the mind, a change not of the substance, but of the qualities of the soul… so that the man is not what he was—old things are passed away, all things are become new; he acts from new principles, by new rules, with new designs. The mind is the acting ruling part of us; so that the renewing of the mind is the renewing of the whole man”

It really is amazing how changing of the mind can have a rippling effect that can reach every part of our life. Yet, this process should be shocking because it’s out of our ability and not of this world. It is only God’s grace that can cause this permanent and outstanding change in us which occurs when we repent or offer a metanoia. We must detach ourselves first from sin that separates us from God so He can come and change us. While it is God who is changing us, we have to set ourselves up to be changed. Sometimes we would like to think that if we just come to God, he can then just turn our life around for us but that’s not the way God operates. God wants to know that this is our choosing. He knows we can’t change on our own and doesn’t ask that from us; all he is asking from us is our commitment to him throughout and he will take care of the rest. We show Him we are committed by setting our mind on Him and having Him be our goal. We can do that in two ways: stopping harmful and sinful thinking and filling our minds with what is good. In Philippians 4, St. Paul tells us that “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” By filling our mind on the good, which can be as simple as repeating a prayer from the agpeya, saying a prayer, or even humming to a spiritual tune, not only will this keep your gaze on God but at the same time it takes away your mind from distractors. By practicing this daily we will find our mind set on Him and through His grace see your words, actions, desires, and everything else change too.

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