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 12:2 ESV
New Year’s Resolutions, many people tend to make them. The top ten New Year’s Resolutions this last year were diet, exercise, lose weight, save more money and spend less, learn a new skill or hobby, quit smoking, read more, new job, drink less alcohol, and spending more time with friends and family. We tend to look at New Year’s resolutions as a form of self improvement goals, things we want to do for ourselves either to fulfill our desires or to make ourselves appear better in some for or another. Now I am not saying there is anything completely wrong with New Year’s Resolutions, I mean half of them are regarding living a healthier lifestyle. The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is how many people actually stick to them? I mean the big joke is if you want to start working out at a gym, start in February after those who made resolutions have quit and the gym becomes less crowded.
The question is do we often take a similar approach to our spiritual life? We make promises that we will do things to improve ourselves spiritually only to give up on them after a short amount of time. How many of us made a resolution to read the Bible through in a year, or to do a daily devotional? How many of us have actually stuck to that resolution? One thing I will state New Year’s Resolutions it is said that 80% fail by February and only 8% of people actually achieve their resolutions.
The thing is what Paul is getting at here in this verse goes so much deeper than the concept of a resolution. In fact if you look at verse 1 we see that this is a daily intentional decision. To be transformed and not conformed is not something we can do on our own; but it is done by daily giving ourselves to God. It is humbling ourselves before God, looking to Him and seeking His desires, which in turn eventually become our desires as we are transformed. You see being conformed to the world is asking what can we do for ourselves, how can we make ourselves look good; even the most giving person if they are not following God their motives are purely for their own purpose. On the other side to be transformed is to rather ask what can I do to make God look good, what can I do to bring Him glory? You see the reason in the previous verse Paul states we need to present ourselves daily as a living sacrifice is that in order to be transformed we need to kill our selfish desires and humble ourselves daily, as pride is something we all struggle with and it is turning from our selfish desires and looking towards God and seeking His desires that results in the transformation. One verse I like to look at regarding this is Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Not in that God will be a genie and give you what you want, but as you look towards God, He will change or transform your desires to line up with His desires; or He renews your mind so that “you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Ephesians 1:17
Do you know God? I don’t mean an intellectual knowledge of God; knowing and understanding the concept of God. To know God is not just stating that God is the creator of all, or even just to state that He exists or that He is our savior. As a Christian our knowledge of God should be something much deeper than just a surface level belief.
When Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians, he was not writing to unbelievers stating that he was praying that they would gain knowledge of God; but he was telling fellow believers that he was wanting them to gain a knowledge of God. In other words this was written to people that knew of God so far that they understood Him to be the one to offer salvation, what Paul is getting at is a more intimate knowledge of who God is.
We see this intimate use of knowing played out many times in our Bible, Adam knew Eve, Abraham knew Sarah, Isaac knew Rebecca, when Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of Christ she stated she never knew a man. While this use is more sexual in nature it drives home the point that a true knowledge of God is something deeper than just being a surface level abstract thought. It is a learning of His likes and dislikes, finding out what He desires and being obedient to those desires. It is having a relationship with Him; when we are born we don’t have just an abstract knowledge of our parents, we form a relationship with them and interact with them, knowing them on a deeper level.
This was Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church, and I will add probably his prayer for all believers; and it is also what God desires from us. What parent doesn’t want their children to have a relationship with them and know them? You can bet our Heavenly Father desires it even more so.
Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 CSB
What are you teaching?
How often do we remember people either telling us to “do as I say and not as I do?” Or perhaps we are the ones making that statement to someone else. The problem is our actions say as much about what we believe and sometimes more so than what our words do. When you see that someone’s actions and words don’t line up, how likely are you to listen to the advice that they give you? If someone were to tell you not to drive fast all while going ten over the speed limit would you listen to them? I know when you look at a child they are more likely to imitate what they see adults do over that an adult will tell them to do; that is why the saying “actions speak louder than words” is so true.
In this verse Paul is encouraging Timothy to keep a check on his actions, telling him to work towards living in such a way that when he comes before God he won’t be ashamed of how he lived, much like an employee standing before their boss during a performance review. If you worked hard, trying to meet the expectations of your employer there is nothing to be ashamed of; but if you slack off and don’t do anything there is plenty to be ashamed of. Our Christian walk should be like that of an employee looking to get a good review, and how do we know what the performance expectations are? That is where the last part of the verse comes in. In the Christian Standard Bible it states “correctly teaching the word of truth,” however other translations mention dividing or handling the word of truth. What this means is that we should be measuring our actions against what we see in the Bible, but not only that we should as John mentions test the spirits to make sure what we are doing and listening to is truth. That is because there are some out there that will use the Bible to teach what they want, but take verses out of context or twist their meaning to support their personal agendas rather than to promote God’s will.
So again I will ask what are you teaching? Are you living in such a way as to promote God’s message?
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)
This verse is one that is so theologically rich that I am not sure how to properly approach it and do it justice for a short devotional. This is a verse that is used often as the basis for a study known as Apologetics where one defends their faith, thus it also has implications for evangelism as you are sharing your faith with unbelievers. If you ask me however, I feel that while those are important aspects of the verse when it is put into the context of its section in 1 Peter 3 and even in the context of 1 Peter as a whole this verse seems to be getting at more than defending our faith or even evangelism. This verse is talking about our actions as Christians, it is talking about our holiness.
Let’s look at 1 Peter 3:13-17 together:
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
You see when you read 1 Peter you notice Peter charging Christians to live holy lives and this verse comes right smack in the middle of 1 Peter, where he states that they are being questioned about their hope. Holiness is the outward expression of our inward hope. It is this holiness this expression of our hope that causes people to take a look at us and notice we are different from the world. It is this outward expression of our hope that should be causing unbelievers to question us about the reasons for why we act the way we do. It is this outward expression of our hope that requires us to share and explain the Gospel to any we encounter.
Yes evangelism and apologetics are an important part of this verse. The thing is however, they are meaningless if our lives aren’t displaying the hope we have. Though just like it is stated in an often overused and misused phrase, “Preach the Gospel at all times; and if necessary use words,” Remember people won’t listen to your words, if your actions don’t match.