Is Conformity to the World a Benefit?

A recent sermon I heard attempted to treat the text of Romans 12:1-2. The theme or point of the sermon was represented in two questions asked of the congregation: What is commitment? and What does it cost?

The first two verses of Romans 12 speak of presenting our bodies a living sacrifice to God, and of being transformed by the renewing of our mind instead of being conformed to the world. According to the preacher, the commitment of Romans 12:1-2 involved presenting ourselves as living sacrifices. This sacrificial presentation required ‘total commitment’ involved in a ‘once-for-all’ sacrifice. Accordingly, no ‘rededication’ is necessary for the believer who presents himself a living sacrifice.

The transformation that comes from mind renewal involves 1) submission to the Holy Spirit; 2) adherence to the word of God; 3) prayer; and 4) a pursuit of God. I’m not quite certain that I agree with all of the preacher’s applications, or the method that he arrived at them (ok – I don’t agree), but those things were minor compared to what I considered a crucial error.

The preacher considered the ‘cost’ of commitment, the adverse effect of presenting ourselves as sacrifices and being transformed, as avoiding conformity to the world! That is, if we are transformed by the renewing of our mind – which is posed by the text as the opposite of conformity to the world – the ‘cost’ to us is no longer being conformed to the world. Perhaps, to give the benefit of the doubt, the preacher meant ‘cost’ in terms of ‘counting the cost’ – being aware of what we must ‘give up’ in order to follow Christ.

But I don’t believe this is the tenor of Romans 12. Here, the reader has been instructed for 11 prior chapters about how great is God’s grace to choose his people despite their wretchedness, and chapter 12 constitutes instruction about what great things that means for the believer! Instead of being a ‘cost’ of renewal, of sacrifice to God, nonconformity to the world is a tremendous benefit. Because it is in nonconformity to the world (the age) that we ‘prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.’

Those who have their minds renewed by the grace of God no longer view the world’s things or thoughts as benefits lost by joining God’s kingdom. Instead, we view conformity to the world as part of the old man, gladly left behind so that we can put on the new man through Christ. Avoiding conformity to the world is a benefit to the believer who has been transformed and renewed.

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