Romans 12:2

We continue our summer series on favourite verses from the congregation with this one from Sarah Jean.

Romans 12:2 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.

It connects well with our focus this year on spiritual growth and spiritual maturity.

But let’s hear why this verse is Sarah Jean’s favourite…

Let’s break this verse down to its key concepts


Be Not conformed


We are by nature conformists. We are conformists from the time we are born until the time we die. We think of it being a teenager thing but all of us want to conform and want to be accepted into the crowd.  We always feel peer pressure, the pull to be in line with contemporary tastes and standards.


However, the other danger to recognise is that nonconformity can be just as vicious a trap as conformity. There is such a thing as nonconformity for nonconformity’s sake. Paradoxically we all want to be different, so that in the group we will stand out.



Often Christian ethics is determined simply on the basis of antithesis—if the world likes it, then we must not. That’s nonsense, that’s the kind of attitude the Pharisees had, which distorted the truth.


Christ calls us to a special kind of nonconformity: a refusal to conform to the sinful patterns of the world, to patterns of disobedience.[1]


Be transformed


The Greek verb translated “transformed” (metamorphousthe) is seen in the English word “metamorphosis,” a total change from inside out[2]

Note in both the verse from Romans and a verse from 2 Corinthians the transformation is something done to us, rather than us doing it.


2 Corinthians3:18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.





Our role is to submit to God for that transformational process to take place. “Only by continual submission to this new Master, Christ, will we break our habitual allegiance to our former master, sin.”[3]


I love Rick Warren’s explanation of this: Our change takes place not through imitation but by inhabitation. We do not copy God; God lives within us, so God changes us from the inside out.

We are to Renew our minds


There are pathways in our brains – connections between synapses.  They can become highways where our thoughts always go. That is the danger of pornography for example: the more we watch the stronger those pathways become, to the exclusion of all other pathways.


Those pathways (good or bad) are how habits form. We take the meanderings of the thoughts in our brain and reinforce those by continually treading the same path and that causes a habit.  Do it often enough and you will have a hard job breaking it.


People know that certain things are bad for them and that certain relationships are not healthy. They know when they engage in destructive practices and habits. The issue is not a lack of knowledge, or even a lack of awareness that they are engaging in behaviours that are unhealthy[4]


So just telling people that they are doing wrong will not change them; they know they are doing wrong but can’t seem to change their habits


Breaking deeply imbedded habitual tendencies involves more than a little willpower and a few minor changes in our lives[5]


Bad habits are like living roots that return. These roots must be dug away and cleared from the garden of our soul…This requires the direct intervention of God [6]


When we renew our mind, we need God to help us to train our brain to form different pathways and the former highways will become secondary roads again and eventually disappear.


John Ortberg reminds us that this renewal, this Spiritual transformation is not a matter of trying harder, but of training wisely.[7]


D. L. Moody said The Scriptures were not given for our information, but for our transformation.


Just knowing stuff will not transform us. We need God to transform that knowledge from head to heart.


And Marva Dawn tells us that the more we make choices in godly directions, the more our character is formed to be people who will more easily discern godly options, attitudes and habits.[8]


The more we use the new godly pathways, the stronger they become. No longer strange pathways but super highways.


The last concept is


Prove/demonstrate the change


In the NIV translation this interpretation is hard to see but the CEV makes it clearer:


Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him.

The Message says You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.


Perhaps another verse explains it better:


1 Peter 1:7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Our inward transformation must have an external change; that is what proves our inward transformation. It is all very well discerning that God’s way is good, we need to act it out.

An inward transformation of values and character must produce a radical transformation of outward behaviour[9]


Psalm 40:8

I desire to do your will, my God;
    your law is within my heart.”


And the Psalmist continues: he shows that it is also in his heart in verse 9-10


I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
    I do not seal my lips, Lord,
    as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
    I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
    from the great assembly.


We are called to be light to the world, to be the salt of the earth, to show a more excellent way. And that happens when the inner transformation becomes outward actions and behaviors.

A final word from the authors of the Boundaries course: Spiritual growth is not instantaneous. It’s more like what an oven does than a microwave.[10]


So do not be despondent when your mind kicks back into the old pathways. It takes times for those new pathways to form and for the old ones to wither and die.  Keep on reinforcing the new pathways and I can assure you that the old ways will die and there will be fruit consistent with Christ being produced in your life


. Romans 12:2 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.




[2] Witmer, J. A. (Romans. In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 487

[3] Andrew M. Davis An Infinite Journey: Growing toward Christlikeness Highlight Loc. 3669-71 

[4] Gary Moon & David Benner Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls: A Guide to Christian Approaches and Practices Loc. 2849-51

[5] Stephen R Covey The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 47

[6] Peter Scazzero  Emotionally Health Spirituality 121

[7] John Ortberg The Life You've Always Wanted 43

[8] Marva Dawn Joy in Divine Wisdom: practices of discernment from other cultures and Christian traditions 149


[9] Ronald Sider Just Generosity 11


[10] Henry Cloud & John Townsend 12 Christian Beliefs that can drive you crazy 54