1. God's Mercy
2. Your Body
3. Don't Be Conformed
4. Be Transformed

In light of the New Year, and in light of the tendency of all of us to examine our lives and think about what the New Year would bring, and in light of our willingness to make some sweeping changes in our lives to begin the New Year, I preached a message last week entitled, "A Call to Holiness" from Romans 12:1-2. My message this week is entitled, "A Call to Holiness, Part 2." The reason it's "part 2" is because I really only got about half-way through my text last week.

Last week, I preached much about verse 1 and touched only briefly on verse 2. This morning, I plan to touch lightly on verse 1 and preach verse 2. So, let's turn to Romans, chapter 12. I want to read these verses for us. Then, I want to review my message from last week. Then, we will dive into verse 2.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

The call of these verses is a call to holiness. These verses are calling us to a dedicated, sanctified, committed life -- sold out to God! You can see it there in verse 1, "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice." In other words, give yourself entirely to the Lord. Be like the burnt offering that was totally consumed upon the altar. Let your life go up in flames. Give your whole life to God.

Be like Paul, who said to the Ephesian elders, "I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:28). When Paul looked at his life, he saw it as a race that He was running. "I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. ... forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:12-14).

Now, notice that Paul gives us a reason why we should do so. It's right there in verse 1: "The mercies of God."

Paul says, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice." "The mercies of God" should drive us to a life of holiness. That was our first point last week:
1. God's Mercy

And, I trust that you remember from last week, that this little phrase was referring to the entirety of chapters 1-11, where Paul traced God's mercy in our lives. All of us have sinned (Romans 3:23). There is no one who does good; there is not even one (Romans 3:12). As a result, the wrath of God is rightly revealed against us (Romans 1:18). The wages of our sin is death (Romans 6:23).

But, God, in His mercy, sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from our sins (Romans 3:24). And we, who believe in Jesus, are forgiven our sin, which had condemned us. God credits our faith with righteousness (Romans 4:5).

As a result, we face no condemnation (Romans 8:1). We are sons of God, adopted into His family (Romans 8:15). And now, we can cry, "Abba! Father!" to our loving, heavenly Father (Romans 8:15).

What He began, He will complete. Paul says in Romans 8, ...

Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. As James Montgomery Boice writes, ...

What can separate my soul, ...
from the God who made me whole.
Wrote my name in heaven's scroll?
Nothing. Alleluia.

What grace this is! The only right response to God's mercy and grace is a life of total dedication to the Lord! "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" (Rom. 6:2). We can't. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, "You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." That was our second point last week. First was God's Mercy. Secondly, ...
2. Your Body

You can see this in verse 1: "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God." When God instructed the Israelites on the sorts of sacrifices to bring and offer before Him, He told them that they should be flawless and without defect (Leviticus 22). If the sacrifices were blind or maimed or had any sort of scab or open sore, the LORD said, "They shall not be accepted."

The same parallel comes into our lives as well. As we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, we are to be pure and blameless. Or, to use the word that Paul uses, we should be "holy." That's where I have derived the title of my message, "A Call to Holiness." Paul is calling us to a life of holiness, that we might be acceptable to God; that He might receive our lives; that He might be pleased with our lives. And if we lack holiness in our lives, God will not "accept" our lives. He will be displeased with them. The writer to the Hebrews says this, "Without holiness, no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).

Now, the good news is this. Those He saves, He empowers to live such a life. In other words, God doesn't save us and let us alone and say, "I have forgiven you. You are clean. Now, go and see if you can live a holy life. If you do, I'll accept you. If you don't, I'll reject you. Good luck!!! We'll see if you make it to the finish line." That's not what God does. Instead, God works in us to mold us and to conform us to the image of His Son.

Turn back to Romans, chapter 8. Let's look at the glorious verses, beginning in verse 28.

Romans 8:28
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

We know this verse. We love this verse. God is working all things in our lives to bring about good. Even when the temptations come; even when the trials come, they are all designed for our good. That's the point of the verb in verse 28, "God causes." He has an active hand in all of our lives.

You say, how does He do this? Look on at verse 29, ...

Romans 8:29-20
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

God's plan for our lives began in eternity past. The Bible says that before the foundation of the world, He chose us to be His own (Ephesians 1:4). Or, as we read in verse 29, He "foreknew us." That is, He loved us before the creation of the world. And "He predestined us to become conformed to the image of His Son." In other words, God planned beforehand that we who believe in Jesus would become like His Son. He planned that we would be "holy." He planned that we would be "conformed to the image of His Son."

Notice the progression in verses 29 and 30. Those whom He foreknew, He predestined (verse 29). Those whom He predestined, He called (verse 30). Those whom He called, He justified (verse 30). Those whom He justified, He glorified (verse 30). These are like links on a chain. They are like a series of tunnels on a train track. If you are on the front end, God will see fit to bring you to the end.

If God foreknew you; if God predestined you, then, you can look forward to being glorified with Jesus.

How do you know if you are one of these people? Well, you have been called and justified. God has called you into His kingdom. You have heard the call and have believed on His Son. Through faith, you have been justified in His sight! And you can look forward to your future glorification in heaven with Him.

Notice how certain Paul is that we who believe will enter into His glory. All of these verbs are in the past tense! He foreknew us; He predestined us; He called us; He justified us; and He glorified us. Now, from our standpoint, we aren't glorified yet. But God, who sees and knows all of history, is so sure of our glorification and He can speak of it as being in the past tense.

So, let's get back to this idea that our sacrifice is "acceptable to God" (verse 1). God's mercy is such that He will work in the lives of those who believe to live lives that are holy and acceptable to Him. And then, the obvious question is this: "Do you see God working in your life? Do you see God bringing you into conformity with His Son? Do you know what it means to have victory over your sin? Are you walking closer and closer to the Lord with each passing year?"

What a great New Year's resolution this would be -- "That I would walk closer with the Lord this year than I did last year." Jonathan Edwards, the famous theologian of colonial America, wrote some 70 resolutions over the course of his life. They were pledges that he made to Himself to spur Him on to godliness. If you haven't read them before, I commend them to you. [1] Resolution #30 reads like this:

30. Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

In other words, have an ever-increasing love for the Lord, week by week. And we can add, month by month and year by year.

Perhaps you are here this morning as you are saying, "Steve, I'm not experiencing an ever-increasing work of God in my life. I'm still a slave to my sin. I don't know what victory over sin means." If I'm speaking to you, I have two comments First of all, growth in godliness is a slow process. At times, it is downright painful. Romans 7 speaks about the struggle that it is, even for a believer in Christ. When Paul spoke of his sin he said,

Romans 7:18-19
I know that nothing good dwells in my, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

It may well be that God is taking you through a slow and painful process in your conforming to His Son. But, second, it may be that you are not a believer in Jesus Christ. It may be that you have never really bowed your knee to the Lord. You may say that you believe, but your delight in your sin may be the very proof that you have never trusted in the Savior. It may be that God isn't bringing you into conformity to the image of His Son, because you aren't one of His. It may be that you are trying it all on your own strength -- which will never work. And your body, being unholy, may well be rejected by the Lord.

If this is you, I bring you back to chapter 10, verse 9, "if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;" Believe in the Lord. And offer your body as a living sacrifice.

Perhaps for you, 2013 will be the year that God really works in your life.

Moving on now to verse 2, ...

Romans 12:2
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Verse 1 describes the one-time, full commitment of yourself to the Lord. Verse 2 describes the ongoing, process of how you can continually maintain and increase in your holiness before the Lord. The tense of the verbs in the Greek text give this away. When Paul talked about "presenting your body as a living sacrifice" (in verse 1) the verb that he used was in the aorist tense. This means it is a one-time action. You can understand this verse as speaking about the point of conversion, when a soul is transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13).

But, in verse 2, Paul uses a different tense. There are two commands in verse 2. I think that it's clear what they are. 1: "Do not be conformed to this world." 2: "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind" Both of these commands are in the present tense.

In Greek, the present tense is the tense of continual action. You might well translate these words, "Do not be continually transformed to the pattern of this world." And the second one in the same way, "Be continually transformed by the renewing of your mind." These would be great things to characterize your life in 2013 -- not being conformed to the pattern of this world and being transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Now, before we dig into these commands, I want to make a comment about the end of the verse. It speaks of the will of God.

Romans 12:2
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

People are always looking for the will of God in their lives. And right here we have it. It's not being conformed to this world. It's being transformed by the renewing of your mind. And in so doing, you will pursue your sanctification. You will pursue your holiness.

There are other passages in the Bible that tie together God's will for our lives and our sanctification. How about this one: "This is the will of God, your sanctification;" (1 Thess. 4:3). "What's the will of God for my life?" you ask? Your sanctification. Your holiness. Particularly here, Paul is talking about sexual purity. "This is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality." And I've heard people tell me recently, "The Bible -- it's written so long ago. It's really not applicable to us today." Here we see that statement is untrue. Sexual immorality is still a problem in today's world. God's will is for your sanctification.

How about another one from 1 John 2

1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

What's the will of God? It's to stay away from the world. It's to stay away from the love of the world.

This is almost exactly what we have in our text. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world." 1 John 2:15 says, "Do not love the world." Both passages end with mentions of the will of God. Do you want to know what the will of God is for your life? Look at Romans 12:2, ...

Romans 12:2
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

So, listen, as we look at these two commands this morning, please know that this puts us in the center of the will of God. This is the will of God for your life. This is the will of God for my life.

Third point, ...
3. Don't Be Conformed

"Do not be conformed to this world." Literally, "Do not be conformed to this age." In other words, "Do not let the world have an impact up you." "Do not let the world place its mark upon your character and you're your behavior." The world has a powerful influence upon all of us, especially in America. We have it very nice here in America.

We had some folks over to dinner this past week at our house. They were telling us of a trip that they took a few years ago for their 20th wedding anniversary. They had found some cheap cruise tickets to the Mediterranean. This was around the time of the Arab Spring, when things weren't too safe in the Arab world. So, there were many who backed out of the cruise, making it possible for this couple to get some cheap tickets.

The wife keeps a blog that I follow. And, I remembered some pretty funny pictures that she posted on the website from this trip. So, I was pulling them up. We were having a pretty good laugh. Anyway, one of the places they stopped was Egypt. Here's what she wrote, ...

It is good to travel. It is very easy for those of us living in the U. S. to get the wrong idea of hardships. Hardships in the U. S. come in many forms, like running out of homemade bread and having to make more, or a real hardship--having the dishwasher break, or perhaps, not being able to find the remote for the T. V. or ceiling fan for a few days.

But what about having your country in complete chaos? Having trash in the streets?

And then, she showed a few pictures of the mounds of trash along the river, right in the middle of Alexandria, the second-largest city in Egypt, where some 4 million people live! She showed a few other pictures of crowds and run-down buildings and broken down cars.

She also talked about the experiences that one of her friends from the ship had when walking around the city with her friends in broad daylight. A man touched her inappropriately. So, our friend said that she didn't get out of the bus that day in Alexandria.

Then, reflecting upon America, she wrote, "Do you feel safe walking around in broad daylight with a group of people? Good. So do I. Welcome to our current free country. Welcome to the land where people fought for your freedom."

As you travel to other places in the world, you will have similar experiences. Having travelled to Nepal in recent years, I know of this. America is a comfortable place. We have conveniences that we don't even realize. We don't struggle to get our next meal. We don't have to walk to the market and bring back our daily food. We have stores and restaurants that abound in goods.

I remember a few Chinese students that our family hosted one Thanksgiving weekend. One of the things that they marveled at was the size of our stores. I took one of them to Wal-mart to pick up some supplies. He was amazed at how big and vast the store was.

I remember John Piper calling America, "Disneyland." What we have makes life so easy. Furthermore, we have pleasures all around us. Furthermore, we have incredible freedom in this country.

We can easily find ourselves comfortable in this world. I remember John MacArthur telling about the time that he was teaching the Bible to some Russian pastors. After several days of intense training, one of them asked him, "When are we going to get to the good stuff?" MacArthur was taken back a little bit. They had just experienced a few days of digging into the Bible. What could be better than that? And so, he asked him, "What do you mean?" It came out that the man was talking about "heaven." Heaven is the good stuff!

In other words, his life here upon the earth is so terrible that he's looking forward to heaven. And so, he wants to hear about "the good stuff."

I think that we, in America have it so good, that we can easily miss the fact that this world is not our home. We are just a-passin' through. And perhaps we in America aren't thinking too much about heaven, because things are pretty good for us here upon the earth. Let us not be conformed to this world!

Now, lest you feel guilty in enjoying the comfortable pleasures of life, know that the Bible says, ...

1 Timothy 4:4-5
Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

In other words, the comforts that we enjoy in this world are gifts of God. It's not sinful to enjoy a soft couch or a meal at a nice restaurant or a day at the beach. Realize that they come from the creator and enjoy them with thankfulness. But, such comforts can draw us away to the world. Let us not be conformed to this world!

But, Paul isn't primarily talking about comforts in life when he says, "Do not be conformed to this world." Primarily, he is talking about the world's attitudes. He's talking about the world's philosophy (see Colossians 2:8). He's talking about the world's sin. He's talking about the immorality and impurity and sensuality of this world (Gal. 5:19). He's talking about idolatry and sorcery and enmities and strife and jealousy and outbursts of anger and disputes and dissensions and factions (Gal. 5:20). He's talking about the envying and drunkenness and carousing (Gal. 5:21).

He's talking about the world's view of the world. And in our age, this is our particular danger. "Bad company corrupts good morals" (1 Corinthians 15:33). When we are with bad company, it can draw us into the world. You can see this when you are with others who complain. It quickly can turn to a "complaining contest". That is an attitude of conformity to the world, not an attitude of a God-ward focus.

One person described a day in the life of a typical American adult like this:

The waking moments begin with the radio alarm reporting weather, traffic, and headlines. Breakfast is gulped down with a side of business news and features from the morning newspaper.

Then the commute to work, where the companion for the drive is the radio talk show host lathered into a political frenzy or a shock jock whose tongue releases a barrage of crude humor.

At the office, checking e-mail presents opportunities throughout the morning for a bit of extracurricular web-surfing to shop for a birthday gift, check out a favorite blog, and catch up on the latest celebrity news. Lunch in the break-room is spent connecting with a favorite sports magazine while a TV talk show blares overhead, showcasing the latest claimants to fleeting fame. Back in the cubicle's afternoon boredom, virtual adventure can be found on an Internet video game offering a quest for world domination.

When the work grind ceases, the drive home provides a reprieve from thinking and a nostalgic unwinding as the oldies stream in on satellite radio. The trip down memory lane is interrupted by a stop at soccer practice to pick up a young daughter who eagerly buckles up and warmly greets the Disney character coming to life on the DVD screen that descends in the backseat.

After a welcome-home kiss from the wife--and a friendlier kiss from the dog--comes the irresistible beckoning to collapse into the La-Z-Boy, grab the remote, and scan all three hundred digital cable channels to take the edge off the workday weariness. Following dinner, the TV illuminates the family room as all gather to enjoy the hottest sitcoms, reality shows, and crime dramas.

The day concludes with a drift into slumber to the soothing voice of a newscaster recapping headlines on the bedroom TV. [2]

We are being bombarded from all sides with media coming in upon us. Don't think that it passes without its influence. I would encourage you guard well the influences that come into your life through the media, lest you become conformed to this world!

I remember going to a church gathering one time where a pastor was talking about some recent trips that he made to China. A few years before, he adopted a little girl from China. And while he was over there, he developed a relationship with some believers in the country. With the contacts, he made several subsequent trips.

One image has stuck in my mind, the altars in the homes of the people in China. In China there are many who believe in ancestor worship. "After a family member's funeral, Chinese families set up a home altar for the purpose of ancestor worship. The altar normally includes a portrait or photograph of the ancestor, a commemorative plaque and cups for offerings. Altars are usually taken down after 49 days, the period during which the deceased is believed to be undergoing judgment. After the home altar is taken down, the ancestors are believed to dwell in commemorative tablets. Ancestral tablets are pieces of wood inscribed with the name and dates of the deceased. They are kept in a small shrine at home and in the clan ancestral temple. Incense is lit before the tablets daily and offerings of food and prostrations are presented twice a month." [3]

I remember seeing the pictures of the altars in every home and thinking of their idolatry. These were simple folk, who lived out in the country. They had very little. Perhaps they had electricity. They heated their homes with wood.

I wonder what their experience might be if they saw pictures of our homes. I wonder whether they would think that we have our idols as well.

Perhaps they would look at pictures of our living rooms. Perhaps they would see the comfortable seats all facing the same direction. Perhaps they would see our flat idols that are attached to our walls. Perhaps they would wonder at all of the images and the flashes and the sounds that come out of televisions. Perhaps they would think of how we are worshiping idols in our homes as well.

Now, listen: I'm not condemning you for having a large-screen television in your home. I think that we have all of you beat. We don't have a large, flat screen television in our home. I've seen them in the stores, they are pretty big. But, I haven't see anything that matches our set-up. We have a large screen that we can pull down and a projector that can shoot an image that is 10 foot diagonal! Our screen is 8 feet wide and 6 feet tall. We have a monster screen in our home! So we can have some pretty fun movie nights!

But, we don't have many movie nights in our home. We have a handful each year. We choose some specially chosen and screened DVD's for the family to enjoy. We don't do this very often, because it takes a good bit of time to set up everything. We have to pull out our DVD player and the projector and the cables and pull in the extension cord. But, we are attempting to be strategic in our home about the values that are coming into our home through the television.

And I warn you who can easily flick on the television and let the world come into your home. The television in your home is seeking to conform you to the world.

I remember reading George Orwell's classic, "1984." There were telescreens everywhere. They were like security cameras which the ruling Party in Oceania placed everywhere to keep its subjects under constant surveillance. But, on top of the surveillance, they regularly blasted the propaganda. False news reports. False military victories. The national anthem. This was all to promote a people that would follow the ways of the ruling party in Oceania.

The only major difference today is that we have the ability to turn it off. But, many don't, because the lure is too strong. I would have you seriously and carefully consider everything that comes into your home on your television.

Whereas culture used to be determined by literature, it is no longer the case. Today, it is all media. Much is being driven by the world. For the Jews, it may be Jerusalem. For the Muslims, it may be Mecca. But, for Americans, it is definitely Hollywood. Quite frankly, I fear the influence that Hollywood is making in our lives. Even in the lives of professing believers.

Recently, I was speaking to fellow believers. They told me of a movie that they went to. I didn't know much about the movie, so I looked up the reviews on one of these websites that will break down the movie. It tells you the overall message of the movie as well as how much language, violence and sexual content there is. I read a portion of this review to Yvonne, summarizing the sorts of content that was in the movie, and felt like I had polluted her mind.

As a husband, one of my responsibilities is to purify my wife. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the word" (Eph 5:25-26).

The movie was rated PG-13. The summary that I read came from a Christian perspective, and so, it was careful in its language. But, I'm telling you, a Christianized summary of this PG-13 movie was terrible. I hate to think about the effect of the actual images themselves might have upon many professing believers who saw the movie.

A few weeks later, I heard of another movie that some other friends were attending. Again, I looked it up on the web to see the language, violence, and sexual content. It was a movie that Yvonne and I were considering. Again, it was a PG-13 movie. So, I looked it up on my iPod touch. I briefly scanned it and showed it to Yvonne, who briefly scanned it. Again, a bit similar effect. It was polluting my mind. It was polluting her mind. But, at least I didn't read it out loud. We won't be seeing that movie either.

When Joshua Harris described the influence of media upon our souls, he said that it was like taking half a poison pill. True, it won't kill you, but it will have its effect upon your life. So, why would you take half a poison pill? He also addressed those who say, "Well, I'm discerning, so it won't affect me." He said, this is like saying, "Well, I disapprove of the calories in this donut, so eating it won't affect me."

The world's influence through media is profound. Be on guard. "Do not be conformed to the world."

But, it's true that the temptation in our world today is far beyond the television. The temptation in our world today is far beyond movies. Today we have computers. We have iPads. We have iPods. We have the internet! We can't get away from our screens. These are just as dangerous as movies and prime-time.

Recently a man from church gave me a DVD entitled, "Captivated!" The subtitle is this, "finding freedom in a media captive culture." [4] It's a documentary, addressing the issue of how the screens have captured us. It talks of the danger of the influence of the world upon us through the screen. It can be movies. It can be video games. It can be text messaging. It can be email. It can be Facebook. The danger isn't merely in the content that we may view. The danger may also come in the shear time that we spend looking at these screens, taking us away from other profitable activities.

It's a wonderful documentary that shows the real dangers of the world's influence that can easily come into our lives through the screen. It is so good that I'm planning to show this during our regular parent's training time on January 16th. Our youth group sometimes meets as fathers and sons. Sometimes it's mothers and daughters. Sometimes it's fathers and daughters. Every six weeks, we have scheduled a parents' training session. We are going to watch this and discuss it. I want you parents to be fully aware of the influence that the digital screens are having upon you and upon your children. And you make the choices of how you want to run your home and how much media you want to allow into the lives of your children.

One of the effects on my life of watching this video is that I have read more to my children. One of the things that I appreciate about this documentary is that it does a great job of putting forth the greater delight that comes from being God-focused, rather than being driven by the media. There are plenty of testimonies in the film of people who have found themselves addicted to their media (for some reason or another). At one point, they put it all aside for a week or a month or a year. And instead, they focused their attention upon God's word. And the joy that comes on their faces speaks volumes. They are delighting in the freedom that they now enjoy; free, after having been held captive by these things.

What the documentary shows is the solution to being influenced by the world. The solution is: being transformed by the renewing of your mind. This is our fourth point, ...
4. Be Transformed

Again, let's read verse 2, ...

Romans 12:2
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

How are we to fight from being conformed to this world? Realize, first of all, where the battlefield is. The reason why I have focused so much of my application this morning upon media is because the battlefield is in your mind.

The battlefields of the Civil War were the open fields. The battlefields of Desert Storm was the sandy desert. The battlefields in Afghanistan are the mountains. The battlefield for your soul takes place in your mind.

We need to "aim" our minds God-ward. Your mind needs to be continually transformed. It needs to be continually renewed!

"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." This word, "be transformed," is used only three times in Scripture. Twice it is used to describe the transfiguration of Jesus. Do you remember when Jesus took Peter and James and John up the mountain? It was there that His appearance began to change. "He was transfigured before them. His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them" (Mark 9:2-3). Such is what God calls us to do with our minds. He wants our minds to be changed, transformed, transfigured. He wants our minds to be different than the minds of the world.

He wants our minds to become more and more like the mind of God. "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed [there's our word] into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18).

This word, "renewing" is also used only a few times in Scripture. The verb and the noun describe the process of "making new." In Titus 3:5 it is used to describe the process of becoming a believer: "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." In 2 Corinthians 4:16, Paul sets up the contrast of our mind with our body. Our body is getting older. But, our inner man is getting younger. "Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). In Colossians 3:10 it is used much like we have here in our passage. "You have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him."

Church family, this is what we must do. We must continually be in the process of transforming our minds to the truth. It will make us different. People may think we are weird!The cable guy thinks our family is weird because I told him that we don't have cable -- and we don't want it, either. But, let's be weird to the world. We must be weird if we are to be different.

I know of no other way to do this but to intake God's word into our mind. As Colossians 3:16 says, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you." And God's word in the mind will have an effect upon your life.

And I say this: be as active as you can to get God's word into your mind. Read the Bible. Read books about the Bible. Listen to the Bible. Listen to books about the Bible. Listen to sermons. Listen to good things. May it be as the Psalmist says in Psalm 119. May we be crushed with longing for God's word, "My soul is crushed with longing after Your ordinances at all times" (Psalm 119:20).

One of the things that I most appreciate about the internet is that we can customize what we want when we want it. When dealing with the radio or with television, you are at the whims of the stations. But, with the internet, you are the radio station. You are the television station. Find some good podcasts and listen to them.

Yvonne and I have made it our practice in recent years to listen to Al Mohler's daily commentary each morning as we shower. If you are into video, there are some wonderful movies made about the Bible. Whatever it takes, transform your mind by renewing it constantly in God's word. Meditate upon what the Bible says. Memorize what it says. It will refresh your soul and transform your mind.

I will close with a "Bunyan-esque" quote which is a good illustration of Romans 12:1-2:

We came to a gate called submission. And once passed through it, we entered a sanctuary. And upon its altars are engraved the words, "A living and holy sacrifice." As an act of worship in full surrender, we laid ourselves upon that altar. And as we did, the door marked, "world," began slowly closing. And a stairway appeared called, "Transformation." With each step we took up the transforming staircase, our thoughts became more and more god-conscious, our understanding of His will ever clearer, and our memories of the world more distant and faint. Upon each step was the word of God and with each step taken our minds were renewed and we knew that with every fiber of our being that walking in the word of God is the only pathway marked good, acceptable and perfect. [5]

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on January 6, 2012 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/works1.i.iii.html

[2] Worldliness (edited by C. J. Mahaney), Chapter 2, "God, My Heart, and Media," by Craig Cabaniss, pp. 36-37

[3] http://www.religionfacts.com/chinese_religion/practices/ancestor_worship.htm

[4] http://www.captivatedthemovie.com/

[5] Quoted by Rich Kerns (it may be original) in a sermon entitled, "Transformed" based on Romans 12:2, delivered at Grace Church of DuPage, Warrenville, Illinois on July 7, 1992.