Transformed or Conformed

February 28th, 2015

The title of my message today is Transformed or Conformed. In this message I want to look at the words Transformed and Conformed, the two Greek words for them and the one place they are found in the Bible together. One is positive and the other is used in a negative way or as a warning.

I also want to look at what we are supposed to be transformed into, what stops us from being transformed, what we should do to aid the transformation process and what should be our ultimate motivation for staying the course of transformation.

But first let us have a look at the text of Romans 12:1-2.

Bible Reading – Romans 12:1-2 NIV

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

There are two key words in this passage. Transformed and Conformed. Right now I want to have a look at the two Greek words used for them.

1. Definition of the Key Words for Transformed and Conformed

A. Transformed

The New Testament Greek word for transformed is metamorphoo. It means to change, transform or morph into something else. Meta means change, morph means transform into something else… and the oo is the ending bit just determines if it is a noun, verb or adjective.

The word metamorphoo is used twice in the New Testament. Once in Matthew 17:1-2 when Jesus was Transfigured on the mountain. The other one is in Romans 12:2 that we read just now. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Metamorphoo is the word we get metamorphosis from which talks about the transformation from a caterpillar into a butterfly and the tadpole into a frog.

As you can see in the picture – the butterfly starts out as something very different. It looks different, it behaves differently, it eats different food. Then after the transformation it takes on a new way. Instead of crawling along the ground or branches, it flies from tree to tree or flower to flower.

In Paul’s letters, this word is used to describe an inward renewal of a Christian’s mind where the mind and thinking is changed into the likeness of Christ and His Kingdom thinking. As we saw Paul told the Roman believers: “Do not be conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2).

The best way to escape conforming to this world is not by trying to be unlike the world in our own strength, but by allowing ourselves to become like Christ. This change is not effected by a change in outward behaviour or trying to live a certain way, but by a change in one’s thinking. When our thinking is changed our perceptions change. We see things through the eyes of faith and through the lens of eternity. Transformation begins in the mind and continues in the mind. A transformed mind produces transformed behaviour.

As one’s Christian life progresses, he or she should gradually notice that one’s thought life is being changed from Christ-lessness to Christ-likeness. Transformation does not happen overnight. People are transformed to Christ’s image gradually, as they spend time in intimate fellowship with Him and by prayer and reflective Bible reading. We need to read the Bible and meditate on it and allow His Spirit to change us from the inside out.

B. Conformed

The Greek word for conform, suschematzio means “to take the form as another.” It has the context of being moulded into another form or fashioned into something else. Vines Expository Dictionary tells us that it is something “transitory, changable or unstable”.

As I said there is the positive context being slowly moulded into Christ in Romans 8:29, but there is also the negative one when we are shaped into something else. It is very much like we do with kids when we play with play do. We roll it, squash it down, roll it some more and finally we force it into a mould and the lump is then changed into a giraffe, a chicken or a pig.

Both of these Greek words talk about being changed. One is slowly transformed over time, the other is about being moulded.

2. What is the goal of being transformed?

If the goal of the Christian is to be transformed into something else – what is the goal? There are two main things.

A. To become like Christ

The goal of this transformation is become like Christ – to become conformed to His likeness, to become like our Teacher and to reflect His glory in the world.

Romans 8:29-30 tells us that “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”.

It is interesting to note that in Romans 8:29-30 it uses a past tense. the words “predestined,” “called,” “justified,” and especially “glorified” in Romans 8:29 and 30 are in the past tense. The past tense is used because God, from His eternal perspective, has already seen this completed process.

Luke 6:40 says “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher”.

This is our goal as Christians – to become like our teacher. This is the path of the disciple. In the Bible the term disciple is used 282 times to describe Jesus’ followers, while it uses the terms believers 26 times and Christians only 3 times. In the New Testament there are two Greek words for disciple. One is math-ay-tes’ – this means learner or pupil. The other is math-ayt-yoo’-o – this talks about being a student or a pupil, but also a teacher too. It is about learning and also passing it on to others.

2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”.

Our role as Christians to reflect His glory to the world around.

Again, the goal of this transformation is become like Christ – to become conformed to His likeness, to become like our Teacher and to reflect His glory in the world.

B. To live like Christ

Christ lived a life of surrender and this should be our pattern too. Several months ago I shared about the three surrenders of Christ for communion. We saw that Jesus surrendered His will in the Garden of Gethsemane, He surrenders His rights before Pilate at Gabatha, and He surrendered His life on the cross at Golgotha. John 6:38 tells us that Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me”.

Jesus also lived a life of servant-hood. He washed others feet. He modelled whoever wants to be the greatest must be a servant of all (Mark 10:45).

Jesus lived a life of compassion. He saw people were hungry and He fed them (Mark 8:2). He had compassion on the widow and raised her only son back to life (Luke 7:13-15). He became a compassionate Shepherd to the people in Mark 6:34. In Matthew 14:14 He felt sorry for them and healed all their sick.

As a result of all these things and Jesus’ compassion great crowds followed Him and many came to faith. He turned the world upside down and it continues to be changed today as a result of this one solitary life.

Our goal as Christians is to become like Christ and to live like Christ. This is the Transformation God wants for us.

3. What stops us from being transformed?

A. The world and all it alluring things.

1 John 2:15-16 NLT says “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

The world and everything it offers can be enticing, but we need to remember it is passing away. It has a use by date. As Christians we look forward to the great day when everything will be made new and we will live in the new heavens and new earth and when God will dwell among His people (Revelation 21:1-3).

B. The world and it choking effect.

In Matthew 13 Jesus talks about seed being scattered on various types of ground. Some fell on the pathway, some on rocky ground, some fell on thorny ground that choked it and some fell on good soil.

In Matthew 13:22 Jesus explained His message. “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful”.

The world and all its pressures has a way of choking us. The lack of transformation happens when the world presses in hard on us and we bow to its pressure. We become conformed to its patterns. Sometimes we get too busy, sometimes we get caught up in money and wealth, sometimes we are so tired we get lazy, sometimes we get worried about the future, sometimes we try to work it all out ourselves, and sometimes we get frustrated that we don’t see the fruit of our work and we grow weary.

The world and its alluring things and the choking effect it has can stop the transformation taking place if we allow it.

4. What helps us to transform?

In my morning devotions a while back I was reflecting on the way that God changes our lives over time. Our old habits and attitudes slowly fall away and good deeds start to flow. As I was thinking about this I was thinking of two ways this process happens.

A. The Word of God

The Bible has a way of transforming our thinking. As Hebrews 4:12 says “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.

The Word of God cuts to the heart of things and shows us where we are wrong and when we are not living the way God wants. But it doesn’t leave us all condemned, it gives hope and forgiveness and shows us the right way to think and live. Time spent reflectively in God’s Word brings godly change.

We need to hear the Word of God because faith come by hearing the Word (Romans 10:17). We need to study it like the Bereans in Acts 17:11. They studied it to see if what Paul said was true. We need to memorize it and keep it hidden in our hearts to keep our lives on track (Psalm 119:9-11). We need to meditate on it to be blessed and fruitful like trees planted by streams of living water (Psalm 1:2-3). We need to do what it says otherwise we are just deceiving ourselves (James 1:22). When we do these things our minds are renewed like Paul was calling for in Romans 12:2. As we saw earlier transformation begins in the mind and continues in the mind. A transformed mind produces transformed behaviour. It changes us on the inside from worldly thinking to Christ centred Kingdom thinking.

B. The Spirit of God

God’s Holy Spirit helps to transform us inwardly. When we come to Christ the Holy Spirit resides in us (Romans 8:11) and He helps us to change. The power that raised Christ from the dead lives inside us. Day by day this power transforms us inwardly (2 Corinthians 4:16) and we are changed into the likeness of Christ.

So the Word of God and the Spirit of God work hand in hand. As we spend time in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit teaches, changes and strengthens us to become the people God intended us to be all along. Like the grub who builds a cocoon to change into the butterfly we need to build our cocoon of Bible reading and allow the Holy Spirit to speak and bring change.

5. What should motivate us?

If the world and everything in it tries to draw us away from the God and this transformation process, and we know what we need to do, what should motivate us to stay on track.

A. The love of Christ

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV).

B. The mercy of the Father

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1 NIV). We have been forgiven and set free (Romans 6:17-18), we have eternal life (Romans 6:23), we have peace with God (Romans 5:1) and we are saved from His wrath (Romans 5:9).

C. God’s promise to keep working on us

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

D. Future giving account to God

So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:9-10 NIV).

The love of Christ, the mercy of the Father, God’s promise to keep working on us and that one day we will stand before God keeps us motivated to keep pressing on.

Closing

Today we have looked at Romans 12:1-2. At the heart of these verses is the call to be transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. It tells us not to fall into line and be conformed to the pattern of this world.

We saw that this transformation takes place when we renew our minds. We become changed to become like Christ, so we can live like Christ. And even though the world and its pressures try to stall or even side track our transformation, we know that by renewing our minds in the Word of God and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, this transformation can take place. Our motivation is the love of Christ, the mercy of the Father, God’s promise to keep working on us and the knowledge that we will one day stand before Christ and give account of our lives.

Final Thought

Today I want to leave you with this thought…

We are all being transformed into something. What are you being transformed into? Is it Christ? Or is it conformed to the pattern of this world?

Let’s pray.

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