“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2) (KJV).
What does it mean to be conformed to this world? And what does it mean to be transformed by the renewing of the mind? These are formidable questions that, when answered properly, can serve a huge difference in the life of a Christian. I suppose no other religion can match the deception that is ensconced in Christianity, due to failure to understand the meaning of these two words.
However, the deception may emanate from inability to distinguish between a religion and a Kingdom. Christianity is based on the teachings of Jesus, born within the Jewish customs. However, Jesus never taught anything about religion, as strictly practiced in Jerusalem. His focus was on God’s Kingdom, as promised in Jewish prophecies.
Even the religious establishment in Jerusalem, understood that a Kingdom was different from the Levitical priesthood. The historical authority of Jewish Kingdom had initially been conferred on Saul, before later being transferred to David. The Levites simply exercised the religious functions, which included the administration of ritual activities within the temple.
The Jews understood all prophesies, as pointing at the promise of the coming Messiah, serving to re-establish their lost Kingdom. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Jews had still been under the authority of the Roman Empire—another of the Gentile kingdoms.
At that time, the Jews were waiting and hoping for the Messiah. However, they could not recognize Jesus, due to their failure to understand prophetic scriptures.
The Jewish kingdom is traced from the tribe of Judah, through David and Solomon. That kingdom faced challenges after the death of Solomon, later deteriorating to eventually being lost, during Jehoiachin and Zedekiah (2 Chronicles 36:9-12).
The Jewish kingdom had been passed from one inheritance to the other. The end of the reign of each of those heirs is characterized with, either of the following narrations:
“He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father” (2 Chronicles 34:2). Or “And he forsook the Lord God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 33:2)
The words may not be similarly framed, but showing that some of the kings in the lineage of David either pleased God or displeased Him. Eventually, foreign kingdoms took over; leaving God’s people enslaved again. Those kings had led God’s people into violating their covenant with God.
From then on, the hope of the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel rested on Messianic prophesies, whose Kingdom would replace all other kingdoms of the world. Traditionally, the story of Jesus starts with His birth, as announced by the Shepherds and the Wise men from the East.
The twelve disciples were picked up from ordinary people, who could not be viewed as befitting of such royal calling, just as Jesus could not be appreciated as carrying qualities of royalty. This is the starting point, depicting cause for need to be transformed by the renewing of the mind, according to the admonition of Paul (Romans 12:1-2).
The world that Paul talks about comprises the systems, cultures and traditions that characterize the ordinary thinking of humanity. For instance, this world thinks in terms of categorizing people according to value assumption on each. God values people according to their original purpose of creation. Jesus’ sacrifice is not for valueless things, but for that which was created in God’s image.
According to God’s word, there cannot be a single person created without value. When the Bible says a human being was created in God’s image; only those despising God, take comfort in despising other fellow human beings.
Understandably, it cannot be easy to renounce the mindset that views people according to value assumption. Humans are stuck in failure to regard everyone equally. This is why Paul is earnestly calling for radical transformation of the mind. [See also, “The greatest person the world has ever known”]
The transformation of the mind is particularly a tall order for the moralistic religious people, behaving like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. Ordinary people are at home with the principle of categorizing people according to abilities and moral standing. They do not entertain ideas that do not categorize people, according to perceived value; though aware of everyone having been created in God’s image.
However, while Paul was greatly used by God, not everything he said in his epistles, should be treated as gospel. This is why he often castigated those putting faith in humans, instead of Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:1-5). Spotting the difference is as simple as comparing what Paul said, to what Jesus taught.
One of Jesus’ main responsibilities was to bring liberty to humanity, from an enslaving system (Luke 4:18). Only a few die having discovered the purpose of their existence. The rest die without ever knowing the reason why they were born. Their existence is not different from not having existed at all.
Humanity is under captivity, due to the subjugation of authoritarianism, which appears normal, but ensconced on false data. [See false data stripping] Unless there is radical renewal of the mind, it is not possible to accept that humans should not be controlled by others.
Paul shows that each person was accorded some spiritual gift, requiring no bragging about it: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3) (ESV).
Each person was created for purposes that may be unidentifiable with others. Each person is special, in their own right, as to possess qualities that no other person holds. To emphasize the need for radical change, Jesus had to suggest becoming like a little child (Matthew 18:3-5).
Jesus was rejected in His home town, due to His violation of common assumptions and traditions (Mark 6:1-6). It is not easy to introduce new teachings to those comfortably sitting on established knowledge. Unless you become a child; it is impossible to understand new things, as Jesus said.
What seems as undiscovered, even in the Christian world, is that each person is different and, therefore, not comparable to anyone else. Just as Jesus was different, having come to fulfill His Father’s purpose, each person is different, having been created to fulfill his/her Father’s purpose.
The Father of humanity is the same God, who was also the Father of Jesus, whose principles are our stable data. Intrinsically, Jesus was Lord, in His human form. But, everything He did was meant to lead us into discovering our own individual personality, as portrayed in His behavior.
The words of Jesus, showing commitment to the purpose for His coming to the world, can be repeated by those discovering their purpose of being God’s children. Such purposes may have nothing to do with other people’s purposes, except allegiance to the same God, for each of them.
This is why Jesus Christ nullified the responsibility of judging one another (Matthew 7:1-4). This is why Jesus also said no-one should accept being called Rabbi, instructor, teacher or father, except Him (Matthew 23: 7-12).
God’s children seek to effectively serve other people, without considering whether those other people fulfill their part of the bargain, or not. True worshipers aim at fulfilling their individual purposes for which God called them, but regarding none as better or worse than others. Each one is committed to doing what benefits others, according to their respective areas of specialty and ability.
The parable of the Talents reveals the method by which God uses each Christian, to empower those called to serve in His church (Matthew 25:14-30). However, the fact that, to whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48), reveals folly in evaluating people according to own standards.
Jesus never instructed His disciples to supervise one another; but that each should produce according to the measure of talent given to him/her. With God, it is moronic for any person to expect others to produce as much as one does.
Each one is gifted in special ways as to fulfill roles that no-one else would be able to fulfill, whether positive or negative. The most important thing to bear in mind is that we are all answerable to the one who allocated gifts according to God’s discretion.
Admittedly, this new philosophy is not acceptable to ordinary people, used to the status quo. This is why Paul is imploring his audience to be transformed by renewing their minds. The new teaching requires radical transformation of the mind.
It replaces the old person, wired to think in terms of invalidating other people, while adulating others. It is impossible to eliminate the problem of pride, when stuck in the old mindset, from which Paul says we should be transformed.
The idea of accepting each person, as having been created in God’s image is foreign. Even the educational system encourages the production of graduates, trained to maintain the status quo.
This ought not to be surprising, when practiced outside Christianity. But, what is most deplorable is observing this being highly encouraged, among seminaries of diverse church denominations. Criminalizing those preaching without certification is, itself, criminal against God’s principles. Jesus is the only one who is Lord, whose word should be treated as Law.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
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