Change The Way You Think, And You Change The Way You live

Romans 12:2 (NASB)

“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 (NLT)

“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.”

Romans 12:2 (AMP)

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

Romans 12:2 (MSG)

Don’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.

Regardless of which version you read, there is one thing that is very real about all of them; you must be transformed to “know,” “prove,” “readily recognize,” “learn to know” (NLT), (and other similar terms of other versions), the perfect and good will of God for your life. Therefore, if one is not transformed, then they cannot know (or the other above words) the perfect and good will of God for their lives. If this is true, and I believe that it is, then when we interpret the Word of God, with the goal of understanding what it is actually teaching or saying, whether we are transformed or not will influence what we understand.

Before we start to consider what it means to be transformed, we need to explore what it means not to be transformed. I like the way the (MSG) version puts it: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” The words “well-adjusted to your culture” are so right on. The idea behind these words is that the person (maybe you or me) reacts and/or responds according to the pattern we have already developed over our lifetime. That includes both the “good” behavior, as well as the “bad.” Patterns are develop mostly from reactions we have to certain stimuli; that is, some things cause us to react in specific ways, the more often we react the same way the more quickly it becomes the permanent way we will continue to react in the same manner. After a time, it becomes normal for us to react as we do; to the point that it starts to feels natural. We stop noticing that we are actually reacting, and now believe that it is just who we are, and that this is why we do what we do. It is at this point that we have become “well-adjusted to our culture.”

You have heard people say, “I can’t just change, this is just who I am.” The problem with this is that it does seem to be true. We realize that we keep doing the same types of things, so we assume that it is just us doing what is natural. Part of this is true, we are doing what is natural, but the lie is that we cannot change. Consider this, people are not born with all those “good” and “bad” habits that we have. As we grow, we encounter good times and bad, celebrations and traumas, and blessings and abuses. Any and/or all of these have the potential to impact our lives in such a way as to cause us to react to the situation, circumstance or behavior. For example, one little girl is sexually abused, and the other one is not. They will not both develop the same reactions to other people. One may become fearful of, and angry with, others, while the other may feel safe and comfortable around people. This will only be one of the characteristics she will include in her life pattern.

Every time something happens in our life it affects us, we tend to either consciously choose not to respond to the circumstance, or we unconsciously allow it to force a reaction on us. We will not be aware that we were just changed a bit. In fact it may be such a small change that we may never come to recognize how we were changed. In either case, we are no longer the same person we were before the event happened. Our pattern was changed, even if slightly.

As Christians, we recognize that we can read something from the Word of God early in our walk with God, and understand it in a specific way. Then, later on in our walk, because of experience, better interpretation skills, and maturity we can read the same verses or passages and come to a better understanding. Why? Because we have changed. Our pattern has changed just enough for us to react to things differently, we are beginning to learn how to respond instead of react.

It is the very act of responding as compared to reacting that causes us to see (or understand) things differently. The fact that we can choose to respond (the act of choosing what actions we will take when things happen) helps us to realize that we don’t have to react (the act of doing something only as a result of what has happened, and often unconsciously). This concept alone can change who we are by our choosing to do something because that is what we want to do, and not because “it is just the way we are.”

The fact that we are instructed not to be conformed implies that we can change those things to which we have “conformed” ourselves. The only way we can change what we are conformed to is by changing our life pattern. But, let’s take a moment and look at this word “conformed.”  

Conformed

It seems, according to the above verse, that we are going to be conformed to something whether we like it or not. The only question seems to be whether it will be to the “world,” or by being transformed. Being conformed to this world means that we continue to react to stimuli (circumstances, situations, etc.) in the manner we have done all of our lives. Many Christians still react to stimuli in their lives as though they were not Christians. They still blow up in rage, lose control of themselves, behave unseemly and fearfully, doubt themselves, gossip, mistreat others, and on and on. They hear and/or read what the Bible teaches should be real about them now that they are Christians, but they don’t believe much of it. They tell themselves that they really want those things to be true in their lives, but refuse start living according to the Word. And, remember, that it is what we repeat over and over that becomes part of our pattern. It is this pattern that is the real measure of who we are, our character.

Life Pattern

We call it a pattern because it is behavior that we keep repeating over and over. It is a Life Pattern because we have many behaviors that we repeat over and over throughout our lives. It is our character because our character is who we are. And, who we are decides what we do. If we can change who we are (our life pattern) we can change our character, and then we can change what we do. This is true because who we are decides what we do, what we do does not decide who we are. Let me restate it this way, we can choose to behave this way or that if we want. This only means that we are making a conscious decision (a choice) to act in a specific way. It does not mean that it is a natural reaction on our part. So if we choose to behave in some way, it does not prove that we are either this or that because of the behavior. On the other hand, whatever our nature is (our character) will always dictate what our response or reaction will be. For example, if a person’s character is such that they are willing to deceive others, then lying and fooling people will be natural for them. They will not have to try to be that way, they will just do it. They will believe simply that they are liars and that they will never change. They will keep lying.

If the liar were to change his character (life pattern) then he would find it awkward to lie. He would not find it natural. He could still lie, but his inclination would be to want to be truthful in comparison. His nature, due to a changed character (life pattern) would produce newer different responses to what used to be only reactions.

Character

So, if the above is correct, the verse is teaching is that what we should do is to change our character. I like using a funny but poignant analogy. If you take a pig out of the slop, wash him down, comb his little pig hairs, and dress him in a tuxedo, what will he do when he gets put back on the ground? Right, he will head back to the slop. Why? Because he is a pig. Even if were to put a saddle on the pig, he still would not be a horse. Pigs act like pigs, because it is natural. Horses act like horses, because it is just as natural to them. A pig will never act like a horse, and a horse will never act like a pig. We are not horses or pigs, we can choose to behave differently than what we are; on the other hand, we will always act according to our nature.

So, then, if you naturally act in some specific way, this will prove who you believe yourself to be. I am not saying that it will prove what you tell yourself is true about you. Too many people tell themselves that they are this way or that. They have an image in their minds of what they want to be real about themselves. The problem is that they start to believe the lie that the image represents. They see themselves from the perspective of what the image represents. The sad truth is that then the person is obligated to maintain this image by living up to the lies. The person does this by pretending to be what the image implies. They know that they are not really what the image implies, but their real lives are not as good as what the image portrays. They live in hypocrisy; pretending to be something they are not, while feeling condemned for failing to live up to the image. They prefer the false image to the truth, because they are not happy with who they really are.

Renewing your Mind

So you may ask, “What does one have to do to stop trying to live up to the false image and start living what is true?” The answer is found in John 8:32 (NASB) “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” The problem with truth is that sometimes it is cold and hard. Too many persons avoid the truth because they don’t want to accept, much less believe, it. Many non-Christians have the concept that truth is whatever truth is to them. In their minds there is no arguing about what the truth is, and don’t even show them the facts or proof, they know what they want to believe and they are not going to change their minds.

Other people have a different problem, they have looked the data over, made conclusions and decided what the truth is. It is not that they did not reason out their conclusions, the problem is often that because of their life experiences, traumas, abuses, or other fears, some people’s perspectives are already distorted, resulting in faulty ideas of the truth. In fact most humans are this way, they evaluate what is truth with the measuring stick of their past experiences and life pattern. Because they suffered this or experienced that, they believe that they have a clear understanding of the truth as compared to those around them. If you present truth to them, they will consider it from that distorted perspective and argue with you that you are incapable of understanding the truth correctly because you have not experienced the same as them.

Still there are others who base truth on their feelings. If they disagree something because they feel it is wrong, then to them it is wrong. Your arguments will have no effect on their reasoning because you are excluding what they depend on the most to reach conclusions on truth: their feelings. For example, these people will argue that when God tells us to love our enemy that He is saying we should have good and happy feelings toward them. They will not only ignore passages from the Bible where God speaks of punishing and disciplining those that are His children, but they will tell you that there is something wrong with you. They are those who will read a verse like Luke 14:26 (NASB), “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple,” and will tell you it is a misprint or a bad translation. It does not matter to them whether the Lord actually said these words or not, they will not accept this part of the Scriptures because it does not line up with their feelings about love and hate.

Renewing our minds is an interesting concept. The best way I can understand it is to use the analogy of a computer. You can have an operating system installed on it and after a time it could become corrupted and start causing problems. The best solution is to completely erase the computer hard drive and reinstall the operating system again. The new fresh installation of the operating system will cause the computer to behave like it’s new. In the same way, I believe, we can renew our minds.

However, I will admit that it is not just as easy as the above analogy, because we cannot simply erase our memories entirely. The better example in the case would be to say that instead of just erasing the entire hard disk, we erase parts of it at a time, while replacing the space with new information. For example, again using the computer; when someone deletes something on their computer it goes to the “recycle bin.” It is not completely erased yet; it is marked as though it is erased. Once you start writing new information to the hard drive, it uses this space marked as though it is erased and writes over that information. When that happens, the old information is really erased and the new data is now in the place that the old used to be. The result is that you end up with new information; in a sense, a new computer system.

While we would have obvious problems with applying the first computer analogy, the second one is workable. We can get “rid” of the old data in our minds (mark it as erasable) by choosing to learn new and different information which counters or disproves the original old information. As we learn the truth about something, the old “truth” (which were really lies) starts to get replaced by the real truth as we apply the truth in our lives. The principle here is: People do what they do because they believe what they believe. Or, in other words, whatever you choose to believe is the truth is also what you will choose to practice in your life. And, whatever you practice in your life will be the proof of what you actually believe. So, practice the truth and you will eliminate lies from your life. The more one does this, the more they renew their minds. The more they renew their minds the more they become transformed. And, once they become transformed, they will “know,” “prove,” “readily recognize,” “learn to know” (NLT), (and other similar terms of other versions), “that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Transformation is the key. We want this transformation for two reasons: (1) because God wants it for us, and (2) because it means we will know His will for us. If we know what His will is for us, “that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” then at least we have the option of living in that manner. Presently we may want to know His will, even want it to actually happen in our lives, but if we do not know it, how can we choose to do it? Therefore be transformed, my brother or sister, and know God’s will for your life.

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