I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:1-3
After your conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s will is to transform your personality or character from a selfishly motivated individual into a loving Christ-like disciple of Jesus Christ.
As the apostle John makes it clear, “And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.
4 If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. 5 But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. 6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. 1 John 2:3-6 (NLT)
And you must understand that all good or righteous character is God’s nature from the Holy Spirit dwelling inside the Christian. So, the Holy Spirit must gradually empower you through grace with an inward strength that permanently changes your character. That is why STEP 2 is important. You must renew your mind with the will of God. you must change your mind about living your way, and learn the commands of Christ.
As Christ settles into His new home inside your spirit He purifies you. You know, does a thorough house cleaning, taking full control of your life to actually become the Lord of all your life. As you read and learn His word and learning to rethink in God’s way, God brings you into real life situations to train you and test your character.
Hebrews 12:14-15 (NLT) explains, “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”
You must understand this from the beginning. True Christianity is not fire insurance or a happy pill. The salvation of any person is an act of mercy by God. We are convicted criminals before God because we all have broken His Law. Sin is an act of rebellion or neglect, breaking God’s protective Laws. We have dark criminal minds in God’s view and we were born with such sinful nature that judgment hangs over our heads.
For instance, if I traveled in my car through a red light preoccupied with a cell phone and “accidentally” killed a child, I would be charged and put in jail for a crime. If I did it on purpose the law demands justice also. The law demands justice for all my crimes. No matter what my excuse is, the crime was committed.
We are spiritual criminals from birth and our minds and personalities reflect the dragon, the devil, not Christ. And like a cancerous tumor wrapped around our organs, sin is fused into our thoughts and personalities. Everything changes when we are born again.
Therefore, God’s mighty power is released through His Holy Spirit to change your mind about life, about the way you do things in relation to others, and how you respond to God and others. This transformation is so thorough that it is the same as the metamorphosis that changes a caterpillar into a butterfly.
In fact, the Greek word used in Romans 12:2 is the foundational word for the English word, metamorphosis. It should be plain then, God’s intention is an absolute overhaul starting from the old way of thought to a butterfly type transformation of your character. In our case it must be from the ugly skin of the dragon to a new and pure butterfly-like child of God.
The old dragon-like caterpillar must die and the new life of Christ must be clearly visible and real for all men to see.
The old way of thinking must be choked out and killed. The old way of doing things must be ruined and destroyed. Change, real change is the goal!
Impatience must be smashed. Selfishness must be rooted out and dried up. God’s ways must be learned and followed. Militant obedience must be established. Immoveable trust in God’s promises must be cemented into the soul.
Love, gentleness, creativity, righteousness, goodness, and all Christ-like character must be chiseled into your personality. I am sorry to say, most all men are so bent toward selfishness this change will only come with great pain inflected upon them. And this is why we are warned about the danger of bitterness.
Ancient shepherds in Israel had a unique way of transforming a persistently rebellious sheep from their flocks. When one continued to wander and get itself into trouble, the good shepherd would take and break one of its legs. He would then mend it, and carry the sheep over His shoulders for the entire time the sheep was healing. Everywhere the flock went the shepherd carried this sheep. He fed it and watered it personally.
At the end of the terrible experience the shepherd gave his patient freedom, but never worried again. The sheep would never again leave his masters side. Don’t get bitter when you suffer from people or circumstances around you. You must see God at work changing your character! “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.” Hebrews 12:5
In fact you need to worry if you do not experience God’s tough hand upon you. “But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.” Hebrews 12:8
I know ungodly American leaders command parents not to spank their children. But God Almighty says to love your children so much you must hurt them a little to warn them and drive them away from lives full of deep hurts and sinful disaster. [Proverbs 22:15; 23:13; 29:15]
This is how verse 8 makes sense. God so loves you He will hurt you to change you. According to God’s reasoning, people are so deeply blinded by the old caterpillar life they must be chastened [disciplinary-correced] and forced into butterfly transformation.
“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
Righteousness is Christ-like character actively flowing from inside a true disciple of Jesus Christ from the Holy Spirit. New convictions and immoveable standards of morality form like volcanic islands bubbling from the sea. Time and circumstances harded the new character traits to be a normal and permanent life style.
Since God’s grace (see Philippians 2:13) is to cause you to desire His will and empower you to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God“ you must change your mind about the things God is causing in your life.
Stop resisting the circumstances He brings that do not fit into your dreams. Change your dreams! Stop planning your future! Open your mind to His future for you. Offer yourself upon the altar of absolute surrender to His will. Let Him take away things that will hurt you in the end. Let your Father correct you without throwing another temper tantrum. Or He will correct you and be forced to hurt you more!
Spanking always relaxes a rebellious screaming child. In the same way, the more you resist the grace of God, the more He will discipline you for your good. Remember there are only two choices when responding to God’s confusing grace, surrender or bitterness.
Again God’s warnings are clear, “…looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled…” Heb. 12:15
C.S. Lewis wrote the famous series, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. This allegory depicts Jesus as Aslan the mighty Lion. After he sacrifices His life for the world and is raised from the dead the story continues with many Christian lessons. One expresses how Aslan has to use His claws to deeply cut and hurt His little ones destroying the old dragon skin and peeling off this outer layer to reveal the true new nature given through the Holy Spirit life deep within.
Make no mistake true change is painful, but like all mothers know, the pain of delivery is nothing compared to the joy of their little new born baby.
Since no person is willing to hurt themselves enough to get rid of the old sinful skin of the dragon, painful character development is done by your Almighty God. He does not use a magic wand but painful circumstances, trials, tribulations, and expecially your immediate authorities.
In fact, the word character comes from an ancient word for engraving. Craftsmen used hammers and sharp tools to permanently change the characteristics of a piece of leather or metal with decorative shapes or letters. God’s craftsmen are around you everyday actually hurting you for your good and engraving God’s character design on your personality.
The Lion’s claws of hurtful circumstances are tearing off the old dragon skin.
And, like the cocoon, trials that cover you [dark tribulation and testing], hold you still while you are being transformed.
Paul explains it in Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
As your old sinful nature is being pulled off daily, as you die daily to your old self and trust His loving way of spiritual growth, change slowly happens.
But here is your challenge. Will you turn in bitterness or surrender completely to His sovereign hand of purification and artistic character development?
Do you still think like a selfish child? “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11
To renew your mind, surrender and trust God, there is no other way to maturity except in His sovereign hand!