It is hard to think differently to others about particular issues. And increasingly, the traditional Christian viewpoints on issues contrast sharply with those around us. This is quite normal, as we see in Romans 12:1-2:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 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. (Rom 12:1-2 ESV)
Believers are called to worship God with our whole lives, according to v1. And what does that look like? Well, v2 says that it means not being conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds.
Let’s think about that for a moment.
We are not to be conformed to this world. That means we are not to simply think and live by the same values as those around us who do not know Jesus. (The word ‘world’ in the New Testament is almost universally negative). Christians are to be different, to stand out, not to be just the same as others. Our faith needs to practically mean something to us.
But not being conformed is not enough. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In other words, we have to think differently, and that will impact the rest of us. It all starts with what we believe.
We saw in a sermon recently that beliefs always impact actions. If we believe it will rain we will take an umbrella with us. What we believe is very important and will lead to us understanding what God’s will is and what is “good and acceptable and perfect.” So it is right that we search the Scriptures and ask the hard questions. We need to know what God has said so the Holy Spirit can use this to transform our thinking.
So what is the practical impact of this today? Let’s use the current same sex marriage debate as an example.
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, how we impact the secular world as Christians is an important and sometimes complex issue. As citizens we need to speak up about our beliefs when we disagree with things. And we cannot expect people to live as Christians when they are not, otherwise we end up creating moralists at best, and resentful anti-Christians at worst.
But whatever conclusions we draw about our impact on society, we must stand firm in our personal beliefs based on the Bible. We must not be conformed to and have our thinking changed by the influence of the world on us. The Bible is clear on homosexuality, classing it as a sin for which judgement is coming. (Kevin DeYoung has published a very helpful little book on this called ‘What does the Bible really teach about Homosexuality’ which will soon be in the church library). Like all sins, if someone is to come to Jesus they will be called to repent of their sin and alter their lifestyle.
And the Bible does give different roles in marriage and family to husbands and wives (see Eph 5), fathers and mothers. Husbands and wives are not interchangeable in God’s sight. Children benefit most from a family which has two parents of different genders that also honour God.
Saying all of the things in the previous two paragraphs is unpopular in today’s world. And we cannot dictate what those who are not believers think about and do. But for those of us who claim to be believers, we need to not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It actually does matter where you draw the line on these issues as a Christian for it becomes an issue of Biblical authority.
Yes, thinking differently is uncomfortable. It might mean being mocked by the media and seen as discriminatory by our friends. But if we hold to Biblical teaching we have no choice.