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.
It’s rather easy to be conformed to the world. And that’s because we were designed to be conformed to the world.
What I mean is that, we were supposed to inherit from previous generations all the good things of life. We were meant to inherit righteousness and learn the ways of God from our parents. All that was good was meant to be passed down to us through the natural mechanisms that God had wired into our nature.
But Adam and Even rebelled against God’s law. And that sin poisoned the source, the wellspring from which we were to receive righteousness and goodness. So now, instead of naturally inheriting only goodness, righteousness, and so on, we inherit sin. The mechanism God designed to deliver blessings from one generation to the next now delivers curses.
We were meant to be conformed to the world when the world was good. It was only natural. But the world is no longer only good. Indeed, the way Paul uses the term, he’s referring to the world in its rebellion against God and his good order. So we must resist what comes so naturally to us, and instead take up a painstaking effort to discern good from evil.
But notice how Paul puts it. He doesn’t say, “transform your own mind.” He says, “be transformed…” In other words, to not be conformed to the world, we have to turn to God with a willing spirit, a spirit of repentance, even. Paul is not talking about a passive spirit, but a teachable one, a humble one. Indeed, the truly passive approach to life really is to simply live like the world around you.
The first step to learning from God is an act of the heart, then. We have to humble ourselves according to the truth—the truth of who God is and the truth of who we are before him. Like Isaiah, we have to confess our errors and our ignorance. But the good news is, he is faithful to forgive. For as the apostle James says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Jesus, my pride keeps me from coming to you, and it’s easier to simply be conformed to the world than it is to humble myself to your teaching. I deserve to be resisted because of my arrogance and self-importance. Please forgive your servant, and teach me to discern good from evil, right from wrong, and to choose to walk according to the Spirit rather than according to the flesh.