When we go to Israel with our church, part of the trip is to see the sights. The other part is to get to know the people. We visit with Israeli’s, Muslims living in Israel, Christian Arabs, Messianic Jews, Jews and immigrants. The immigrants are brought in and placed in high rise apartment buildings where for a couple of years they are taught the language, the customs and the culture. Once completed, they become citizens. The process works well except for people from Ethiopia. They struggle to assimilate into a first world country. It’s difficult for Ethiopians to go from a rural, agrarian lifestyle to the high paced world of what we are accustomed to live in. They actually have their own building, farm land and a different time table to help them adjust since they don’t readily accept the culture.
In Daniel 1, King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and took the best looking, brightest young men of Israel back to Babylon. Daniel was among those captured. The king said, “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men. Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon” (NLT). He was trying to assimilate them into Babylonian culture. Most men were indoctrinated, but Daniel and his three friends refused to assimilate. They showed that it is possible to live and learn in a culture without accepting it and allowing it to change your beliefs.
Romans 12:2 says, “Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes” (TPT). We live in a culture that is trying to get us to change our beliefs, our way of thinking and our way of living. It is trying to get the Word of God to conform to its standards rather than the
other way around. We cannot allow ourselves to be shaped into its mold which is why we must be transformed from the inside out. We can go through all the indoctrination of our culture and still live a life that is holy and acceptable to Christ. In order to have the resolution that Daniel had, we must be empowered by the Holy Spirit and have a steady diet of God’s Word going into our mind. It’s not easy to do, but is necessary as believers to live according to God’s laws and customs rather than the world’s.
If you grew up in the United States, you more than likely had some Play-Doh at some point. My mom actually made ours. That stuff was and is one of the greatest tactile learning experiences. It’s soft and squishy, yet satisfying to play with. They make all these different toys to play with it. My son has one where it’s a head and you fill the teeth with the Play-Doh. There’s another one I’ve seen where you put the Play-Doh in the top and pull down a lever. The Play-Doh is then squeezed out all these different shaped holes. It doesn’t matter what the shape or mold is, Play-Doh will fill it and take that shape.
In 1 Samuel 8, Israel demanded a king. Up until that point, God had been their leader since He led them out of Egypt. He used people like Moses and Joshua, then judges and prophets to guide them. They didn’t like that they were different from all the other countries of the world. They went to Samuel and told him they wanted to be like world. He prayed and God granted their request, but He warned them first about what would happen. Verses 19-20 say, “The people paid no attention to Samuel, but said, ‘No! We want a king, so that we will be like other nations, with our own king to rule us and to lead us out to war and to fight our battles’” (GNT). They wanted to be like Play-Doh and take the shape of the mold of the world around them.
Romans 12:2 warns you and I of this same mentality. It says, “Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes” (TPT). Paul is warning us not to be like Play-Doh where we are being squeezed into the mold of this world. We are called to be set apart. To live differently. God has always wanted His people to be peculiar. Our flesh wants us to blend in and be like the world, but God has so much more for us if only we will let Him be our guide rather than the world. The Holy Spirit in you is greater than the world and the molds it wants you to fit into. He empowers us to live outside of this world’s mold. It’s time we break the mold of living like the world and live Spirit led lives.
Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but Let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.Romans 12:2 (GNT)
One of Brian Tracy’s psychological laws is the Law of Correspondence. It states that your outer world will always be a reflection of your inner world. Your demeanor, actions and reactions are indicative of what’s going on inside your mind. Jesus put it this way, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)” Whatever is going on in your heart and mind shows up in your words and actions. That’s why you can often look at someone and know there is something wrong going on with them.
We try to cover up our hurt, our insecurities, our fears and sins, but they always seem to find a way to the surface. We can try to change our actions, but those on,y last for a little while. Ben Franklin carried a book with him in which he wrote down his vices. He tried to keep track of what he did, when he did it and what triggered it. Then he would do everything in his power to not repeat those things. What he found was that he could only do it for so long before other vices popped up. He was trying to control an inside problem with an outside mechanism.
Because we judge each other based on external actions, we often try to control our own external actions so as not to be judged. The problem is that we can’t do it for very long either before something else pops up. That’s why God doesn’t deal so much with our actions as He does with our heart. He knows that our external actions and sins are a result of what’s going on inside of us. He doesn’t deal with the fruit of the problem, He deals with the root.
Romans 12:2 tells us that God wants to transform our minds so that we won’t conform to the ways of the world. When we allow God to transform our heart and mind, we begin to act differently than before. II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any person is in Christ, he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old previous moral and spiritual condition has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new one has come! (AMP)” God takes away our old way of thinking and puts in us a new mind that wants to do things his way.
If you’ve accepted Christ, but are still struggling with actions that are in conflict with how He wants you to live, pray and ask God to transform your mind. Give Him permission to come in and change your inner world so that your outer world will be a direct reflection of who He wants you to be. Scripture says that man looks at outward appearances (actions too), but God looks at the heart (mind too). He is more concerned with what’s going on inside than outside. It’s important that we stop trying to control our actions as Ben Franklin tried to do and to allow God to change our actions through the renewing and transforming of our hearts and minds.
If you ever watch a gecko, you’ll notice that they blend in to their environment really well. They have an ability to change colors so they fit in wherever they are. They change colors and patterns as part of their defense mechanism. Once their environment changes, so do they. Their life doesn’t change even though their external appearance does. Contrast that with a caterpillar who enters a cocoon and emerges as a butterfly. His change is permanent because he underwent a transformation and not just a quick change. His life is different in everything he does after his change.
That’s the difference between change and transformation. Change is temporary and doesn’t really affect who you are. You adapt to the hanging environment around you, but then once that is over, you go right back to being who you are. I’m familiar with this because I’ve lived that way. I’d change my colors to reflect the environment of the people I was around. When I was at church, I’d use my head knowledge of the scriptures to wow those in the environment around me. I blended in pretty well. I knew what to say, how to say it and when to say it.
When I was out with certain friends, I was able to change my colors to reflect that environment. I could tell jokes that would make my mom scrape my teeth with Ivory soap. I could be rude, crass and everything they expected me to be. I knew what to say, where to go and what to do. I fit in well in their eyes. I blended in with the group. Isn’t that what we really want? To blend in, be accepted and to be a part of the group. So we change who we are temporarily to reflect the environment we’re in. We become someone else in hopes of being accepted. When we get back home and it’s just us and no one else, we change back to our real colors.
It wasn’t until I was transformed though, that I became someone else. I can look back at the person who I was before my chrysalis and see a completely different person than I am now. Change is temporary, while transformation is permanent. Change is easy, transformation is painful and hard. It took being in a cocoon of pain and suffering to permanently change me. I grew wings through the suffering and my whole mindset changed. I began to see life differently and no longer had to adapt to my environment because I could rise above it.
When God saves us, it’s not a temporary change. It’s a transformation. It requires painful separation from who we once were to who we’re becoming. It means we have to make the hard choices to leave behind the life we lived before so we can embrace the new life He has for us. Instead of changing back and forth from environment to environment, God desires to continuously transform us more into His image each day. The transformation is a journey that will continue throughout life. I’m done with change and living for transformation.
Who do you find yourself relating to more, the gecko or the caterpillar? Are you tired of trying to change all the time in order to meet the expectations others have of you? Do you wish you could just be the person God made you to be? Romans 12:1 calls us to be transformed into a new person by changing the way we think. He wants to renew our minds and transform us, not just change us. He wants to create something new in your life. Ask God today to help transform you more into who He created you to be.