*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Romans 12:2 meaning

Romans 12:2 shows that we live out God’s will when we change our thoughts to God’s thoughts, rather than living like the world dictates. The world will always pressure us to live sinfully and selfishly, but to live the good life God wants from us requires changing how we behave—by changing our thoughts.

A life of righteousness does not look like a life of sin. That’s why Paul tells us to not be conformed (resemble, follow) to this world. The word “conform” as a picture looks like taking the shape of something else. Water conforms to the shape of the glass it is in. Believers are admonished not to be shaped by the forces in the world, which has its own ideas of what is honorable and what is shameful – forces that are opposed to the righteousness of God. Rather, believers are admonished to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, to live a life that is transformed from the ways of the world to the ways of God. This is possible when our minds have been changed to think after the ways of God.

The book of Romans is an excellent example of what sort of change of mind is called for. Paul has argued in Romans that sin is self-destructive. The world most certainly does not preach that. The world says sin is fun and desirable. Paul has admonished us to realize how counterproductive and undesirable a life of sin is; a life that is self-seeking, self-justifying, and driven by satisfying appetites. The world says the more appetites we can satisfy the happier we will be. But even logic tells us this is not reality. If we are always pursuing the satisfaction of a new appetite, we cannot be happy with what we are currently experiencing, so we will spend most of our time unhappy.

When we have transformed minds, we prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. We can see how God wants us to live. And when we see how God wants us to live, and follow that path, we do the will of God, and we follow the design God has for us. We prove the “perfect” will of God. The word “perfect” is a translation of the Greek word “teleios”, which is used in the Bible to refer to a destination, such as the finish line in a race. The word here indicates that by living a transformed life with a renewed mind, we become all God intended us to be. Whatever our goals in life, they should include this idea, that we become who God intends us to be by changing our thoughts to God’s thoughts, and living in a manner God directs us to live. All other paths will lead to futility and loss. In a great irony, by trying to live a life apart from God and God’s way, we will lose who we were designed to be, and therefore lose our true selves.

The lifestyle of Christians who are pursuing righteousness through faith will not look like the lifestyles of the rest of the world. This is because the world is not pursuing God’s righteousness; the world pursues sinful desires. If it were inevitable for Christians to pursue the righteousness of faith, it would not make sense for Paul to admonish these Roman believers to pursue a renewed mind. He has already commended them for how their faith is famous throughout the world, yet he is still admonishing them to pursue the renewing of their minds. Becoming transformed is a journey, and requires a lot of effort on our part. That journey has everything to do with whether our lives on earth reflect the reality of our righteousness before God in heaven.

We, as believers, are set apart from the rest of the world in Christ, so it makes sense that Paul would tell us to be transformed and made new by the renewing of our minds. By renewing our minds, we can live the reality of Christ’s redemption in our daily lives. We are no longer slaves to sin and death so we must begin to renew and change our minds in order to live apart from our sinful past through faith. And the primary faith we need is to believe what God tells us is true and to act on it. We saw this in Romans 10, that the righteousness of faith is accomplished by acknowledging what is true in our hearts, speaking that truth, then living it (Romans 10:6-10).

By doing this, we will be accomplishing God’s will for us. It is common for believers to think that seeking God’s will requires discovering a particular circumstance. But the Bible indicates that what God really cares about is us serving Him obediently, sacrificially, no matter what the circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 states this quite plainly: For this is the will of God, your sanctification…

“Sanctification” simply means being “set apart” for special service. By living a life as a living sacrifice to God, we are living in a way that pleases Him, and are clearly set apart for special service. This is God’s will for our lives.

In renewing our minds, we can better understand what is good and what God wants us to do.

Biblical Text

2 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.

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