“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” — Romans 12:1-2
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” — Philippians 3:20-21
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” — 2 Corinthians 3:18
It is easy to become convinced that any transformation into a “new self” will take place after death. We are told that we will receive a new body when we are resurrected with Christ. But St. Paul says, in the passage quoted above from 2 Corinthians, that we “are being transformed…from one degree of glory to another”. This is not some future event; it is a constant process taking place in the here and now, for those who are in Christ. And Paul tells the Church at Rome that we are to present our bodies “as a living sacrifice”. Again, that is something that is happening in the moment. This transformation that God wants to work in us must be done in the present because it is not about us—it’s about the Body, it’s about the building of a New Jerusalem! The world is literally dying to know Christ. When we pray “Thy Kingdom come”, God says, okay, let me transform you now into the likeness of My Son. We can no more bring about this transformation in our own power than a caterpillar can will himself to become a butterfly. “For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” We “present ourselves” to God, and we are “transformed by Him” into the likeness of His Son.
In recent events, particularly here in the United States, we have seen much of the Church adapting to the culture and compromising matters of the faith for utilitarian and political ends. But the transformation to which Paul points begins with our decision to “not be conformed to this world”. The Scottish theologian, John Knox, said “One must not live appropriately to the present age, but must live as though the new age had already come. To do this involves a complete reorientation which only the Spirit can bring about. He does this by ‘renewing our mind’—i.e., by giving a new life and power to our mind.” We must decide that we want what Christ wants for us, for His Church, and for the conversion of those outside the walls. The author, Gerald R. Cragg, said, “There is no greater weakness in the Christianity of our day than the fact that so many church members accept without question the dominant intellectual and social atmosphere of the age. The corrosives of secularism have eaten away the imprint of grace. We ought to live in the new age with the power of a risen life; instead we are content to conform to conventions which our society dictates.” That type of wall will not stand!
As noted, we cannot transform ourselves into the image of Christ, but we must be willing to allow God to work His transformation in us. And we must guard our minds and our hearts against the incipient efforts of the world to impose its agenda on our lives. “Our citizenship is in heaven.” Yes, it is good for us to be “informed” about what is going on in the world, but it is extremely important that we do not allow ourselves to be “conformed” to the image of the world. We need to carefully filter what we listen to, and guard our hearts from becoming obedient to the voices of this world. As citizens of the New Jerusalem we are to be obedient to the One who rules that Kingdom. Paul says of Christ, in Colossians 2:9-10, “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Jesus is the “head of all rule and authority”. To Him we must listen. To Him we must submit. And in Him we will be transformed “to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”