Christianity 201

April 29, 2016

Not Conformed, But Transformed

For today’s thoughts, we’re showcasing a devotional site that is new to us, and in particular two word studies based on the same passage from Today’s Word with Skip Moen. For those of you who like to dig a little bit deeper, this is a webpage you should plan on returning to often. Clicking this link will take you the page, which shows the reading for that day, but you use a calendar to navigate to other days’ devotionals.

“Today’s Word” with Skip Moen

“and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

Conformed – The word Paul uses for “conformed” is suschematizesthe. A mouthful, for sure. But if we break it down, you will see parts you already know. Sus comes from sum. Of course, it means “with” in the sense of added together. Schematizo is the root verb. We get “schematic” a plan or diagram. Because it’s a verb, the sense is “to make according to a design” or “to fashion like a pattern”. So, we have the meaning. Now we need the tense. That will tell us the “who” and the “when” of this verb. It is plural (all of you), imperative (a command), present tense (an action to do right now), passive (do it to yourself). So, “do not be conformed” is really “every moment, don’t make yourself into a person that is patterned after the world”.

My wife has been sewing since she was a child. In her sewing room are many envelopes with patterns in them. When she uses a skirt pattern, even if the material is different in each skirt, the design follows the same pattern. This is what Paul has in mind. He is telling us that the world has a pattern. Even if we make things look different on the outside, that inner pattern will dictate the shape of our lives. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of that design because it has actually formed the way that we think. Let me give you some examples: Do you place a higher value on gaining knowledge than you do on submitting to God’s wisdom?

Perhaps you will say, “Oh, no. I don’t do that. I want to serve God’s purposes”. But see how you respond to these implications. How often have you shortened your time studying God’s word so that you could get to a training class for work? How many times have you missed a Bible study because you got too busy with ordinary things? Do you tell your children that the way to success is by getting a college degree? How much emphasis do you and your family put on understanding God’s precise purpose for your daily life or do you “assume” it while you rush to get to work or school?

Do you measure achievements according to the standards of your career instead of according to God’s revelation?

I have many college degrees. They are displayed on my wall. Do you think that they make me a better person? When you meet someone, do you judge him or her by their accomplishments before you know if they have submitted their lives to God? If someone asks you what you do, is God’s purpose part of your answer? How many times have you turned down a business deal that looked good just because the other party was not a believer and had motivations that were not in the Christian pattern? How often have you measured your success by the number of converts, the size of the choir, the people in the pews or the budget for the building?

Patterns run deep.

Transformed – In Greek, metamorphousthe. Another big word, but this one we have in English. Metamorphosis. To change from one thing into another. Caterpillar to butterfly. The two words that make up this concept literally mean to move from one place to another. It is the same word that is used to describe Jesus when he was transfigured from the earthly human form into the divine form of glory in that brief moment on the mountain. Much better than caterpillar to butterfly. From this earthly body to a shape fit for glory.

Isn’t that what we want? We want to leave behind this world of toil and care. We want to quit the tears, sorrows and struggles. We want the shape of glory, the everlasting peace of God’s presence. To be really free. Just writing these words brings tears to my eyes. There is something in my soul that longs to be released, to be reunited with my Creator.

This word is so much more than the natural process of becoming a butterfly. It is a divine process of the Holy Spirit as I am transformed into the image of Christ. There is nothing on earth like it.

And the most amazing thing is that it is happening right now. We don’t to wait until we die to get it started. It won’t be finished until death, but we are already being moved from one place to another right now. The trials of this world don’t disturb me as much as they used to. The sorrows find comfort. The pains find fellowship. My purpose looks forward. God is changing the shape of my pattern.

But there is something important hidden in the verb tense. Paul is saying we have to do something. We don’t just sit back and let God work. This is active engagement. Transformation requires participation. Look for the new pattern. Let it sink in. Then, just do it!

“Today’s Word” devotional, from Skip Moen . © 2008 is used by permission. All rights reserved.

December 18, 2010

When Worldliness Invades

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.NLT

Romans 12:2Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.The Message

Other than perhaps a much more liberal use of the word ‘crap’ in the last 2-3 years, I am somewhat guarded in my speech, at least when there are ladies, small children, or anyone else present.

As a writer, I’m also very conscious of changes taking place in language. So back a few years, I couldn’t help but notice the way the ABC TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition with Ty Pennington advanced the broadcast use of the expression, “Oh, My God!” The show’s final segment — called “the reveal” — would contain at least a dozen utterances of this phrase which, unless the participants were truly calling on God to give thanks for the new housing they were about to receive, amounted to a needless invocation of God’s name that I believe the third commandment is referring to.

The proliferation in print and texts of its abbreviation, “OMG,” unless it a reference to the Ohio Macrame Guild, is equally disturbing.

There are some lines I am very assured I will never cross, and speaking the OMG line in either form or using it print is certainly one of those lines. Still, I often find myself falling into an OMG mindset, where I don’t audibly say the words, but think either them, or something reflective of the spirit of them. Unless I am truly crying out to God — and I wonder how many of us today really cry out to Him — I shouldn’t allow that phrase to be part of my unspoken vocabulary.

But what do I mean by the “spirit” of that expression?

I can probably best illustrate that with another three-letter text gem, ‘WTF.’ If you believe this has something to do with a wildlife federation, then I envy you, since such ignorance is truly bliss. It means something else. (Go to the last letter for clues…)

WTF is somewhat of an attitude. It expresses a familiar kind of bewilderment, but is in some respects a statement of a kind of confusion or Twilight Zone moment that didn’t really have a previous equivalent in colloquial speech.

Which is why I was rather amazed to hear it in church recently.

No, it wasn’t uttered out loud — either as an acronym or fully — but the highly respected Christian leader I was talking to was clearly dancing around it. You could feel the tension of the self editing taking place. The words used were different, but the articulation was intended to convey the spirit of WTF. The attitude was 100% present.

For the reference, file away the phrase “Twilight Zone moment” when trying to describe something of this ilk.

Another point — he said, anticipating the comment — is that if we really believe that in all things God is working for our good, should we really ever experience WTF moments? If we are trusting, clinging and relying on God, while unexpected things happen, and while they do bewilder and confuse, should we embrace the WTF kind of attitude? (A friend of ours call these “sand in the gears” moments.) Aren’t these weird and wonderful things the cue for a “count it all joy” attitude? And what about the idea that Christians are expected to “maintain a distinct identity” from the world?

I think it is only a matter a time before OMG and WTF arrive at church. As programs like Extreme Makeover program becomes more entrenched, and other broadcasters follow the trends, it’s easy to predict OMG being on the tongues of people at Sunday worship.

Another translator — it might have been the old Living Bible — put the verse I started out with this way…

Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold…