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Transformed or Conformed

Powerpoint for this sermon (PDF)

The title of my message today is Transformed or Conformed. It is a follow up message from last week where I did an overview of Romans 12. In the message I brought out five main points. We need to renew our minds, use our gifts well, really love one another, live at peace with everyone and overcome evil with good.

In this message I want to focus and verses one and two and share four main ideas. I want to look at the two Greek words for transformed and conformed and one place where 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 helps us to transform 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


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 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 on the screen, 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. It is very much like this for us as Christians. We start off as one thing and then transform into some very different. Something very beautiful.

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).

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.


The Greek word for conform, suschematzio means “to take the form as another.” It has the context of being molded into another form.

As I said there is the positive context being slowly molded 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 mold 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 molded.

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”.

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. In the last week of His life Jesus surrendered three times. 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 modeled 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 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.

But there needs to be a balance to it. As David Watson once said, “All Word and no Spirit, we dry up. All Spirit and no Word, we blow up. Both Word and Spirit, we grow up”.

4. 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.


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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