“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
One of my favorite worldview teachers, John Stonestreet, likes to ask this question when talking about culture: Why shouldn’t you ask a fish about water? When asking that question to an audience of teenagers once someone shouted back, “Because fish can’t talk!” True though that may be, you shouldn’t ask a fish about water because it doesn’t know what that is. In the same way, culture is the water in which we swim each day. If we’re not intentional and careful, it is easy to just be wet and not know it. Paul here calls us to another way.
Paul told the Roman church members to not be conformed to their age. His was a deeply pagan age in which most of the world had not yet been impacted by the cross and the Gospel it propelled. Nearly everything we know to be right and true and good today wasn’t even a thought process then. It was a pretty terrible place to live by our standards…or any standards for that matter. Why would anybody want to be conformed to that?
Because for them it simply was. Most people didn’t know anything else and for the folks in the church who now did, they spent most of their time living in that world. Unless they actively put on the wetsuit of a different worldview and way of doing life, they were just going to be wet.
The same thing goes for us. And as for our culture, it is beginning to resemble theirs more and more these days; not in the externals, but in the ways we think and the kinds of things we assume to be true about the world. Unless we actively put on and live in the wetsuit of the Christian worldview, we’ll just be wet like everyone else.
But how do we do that? We have to learn to think differently. As Paul puts it here, we have to renew our minds. This take a couple of different things to see happen. Consider the process of renewing or restoring an old piece of furniture.
The first thing you have to do is to strip off what is currently on it. For most of the piece, this is a pretty straightforward process. You just scrape or sand for a bit and it’s gone. But, when you get into some of the nooks and crannies it can get a little more difficult to get all of it off. Many folks will quit and just put the new on over it. But if you do that, the old stuff will always be under the new meaning the new won’t ever really stick well. Those are the places where the new will bubble off first. Are you with me?
The second thing you have to do is to actually put the new stuff on. Sometimes it takes a few coats. And it may not go on perfectly. Some of the scars and scrapes that the piece has received along the course of its life may show through, but when the new stuff is put on well, this just tends to give it character and enhance its beauty. You see those old scars through the lens of the new stuff and they become a part of what makes it so attractive.
If we are going to renew our minds, we’ve got to be intentional about unlearning what our culture has taught us. We must reframe how we see the world in light of the truth of the word of God. This takes consistent exposure and application. But, by doing this, we will be able to live in light of what is true. And when we can see what’s true, we will be able to better understand the will of God. It all starts by standing out. Let’s get going.