“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 xii, 2.
This solemn admonition falls with fearful force upon “children of light” in an age like the one in which we live, in which we have such untrammeled liberty to pursue the ways of life, and to accumulate the things of the world.
Long and uninterrupted political and religious liberty has tended to throw us off our guard; and to render us unmindful of earth’s subtle ways. This world is not only not the home of the children of God, but is absolutely an enemy to the Church of Christ; it possesses a mind that we are told is “enmity against God.”
Our earthly nature, which comprises every thing (soul, body and spirit) that comes from, or rather is born of Adam, is in full harmony with the life that is in the world; and runs with the world, as things of similar nature ever run together. The restraining grace of God alone prevents us from running to the excess of riot that others do.
The Spirit of Life Eternal holds our natural powers in subjection. The admonition of the text appeals to the spiritual, certainly not to the natural man, but the natural is brought in subjection to the spiritual. It is not the old man, but it is the new man who is the subject of Gospel address. “The Elder shall serve the younger,” is the Divine order set forth in the Scriptures, and realized in the Gospel experience. Should the in-dwelling treasure of life eternal be taken from the people of God, they would at once sink to the ignorant level of the worldlings around us. But inasmuch as they are blessed with the grace of immortal life (i.e., as hid in Christ in God) we expect better things of them; “things that accompany salvation.” – Hebrews vi, 9. Nor are our expectations in this respect doomed to disappointment. We find what we are looking for; an higher order of people, in whom are made manifest the praises of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.- I Peter ii, 9.
Again the apostle speaks to them as “obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.” - 1 Peter i, 14. They are called to bear witness to the glory and immortality of the other world, and against the wickedness and vanity of this; hence they are prepared by a spiritual birth from on high, by the indwelling life of heaven to give evidence of spiritual and heavenly things. The truth and admonition of our text are predicated upon the principles that we have here stated.
We hope the reader will bear in mind that in order to more clearly see what we understand the apostle to mean in the language of the text; that the apostolic admonition is to the spiritual not to the natural. “Be not conformed to this world,” is the absolute command of heaven to these “children of light.” To be conformed to the world is to be like, to run with the world in its religious practices, in its idolatrous ways; to conform to its views, to bow to its reason, to win its applause, because of our subserviency to its religious ways.
“Know ye not,” says the inspired apostle, “that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” Against this conformity, in opposition to it, the apostle puts the word “transformed.” Against the prefix con, he puts trans, which means against.
The doctrine and the order of the Gospel instead of running parallel to or in line with the world, it is totally against it. The beauty and glory of Gospel grace shines in the life of the child of God, showing the power of the other world, the power of the faith of God’s elect, the fruit of life and immortality. “Be ye transformed,” he says, “by the renewing of your mind.” Most surely this is not the carnal mind that is renewed; the renewing of that would be but developing more of its deadly enmity. It is the mind of the new man, the mind that soars above the things of time, and comprehends the things of eternity; that reflect the glory and beauty of heaven. It is renewed day by day, as the grace of life eternal is reflected therein.
In this glorious manifestation of the power of an endless life, the child of God clearly shows that he is not of this world: his “record is on high.” He is not of the world, though he lives in it: he is of heaven. “There was a man,” says John “sent from God.” - John i, 6. Again, “Greater is He that is in you that he that is in the world.” - I John, iv, 4. The vain toys of earth do not affect these heaven born, heave taught “children of immortality.”
“The pleasures of earth they’ve seen fade away,
That bloom for a season, but soon they decay.”
Their highest, brightest enjoyment is found in the manifestation or development of the spiritual life that is in them; in the pursuit of the things of God: for they that are spiritual do follow after the things of the Spirit. God worketh in them both to will and to do of His own good pleasure.”- Phil. ii, 13. And thus “they prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Thus they bear witness of heaven and immortality. Thus they show forth their high calling of God, and He is made manifest in their midst.
Mark well that the transforming of which we are writing is not the transforming of the natural man into a spiritual one. Not in the slightest, or in any possible sense, as referred to in our text. But it is the legitimate result, the direct manifestation, of life eternal in the new man of our being; and by which that life is made manifest.
The life in Christ is contrary to the life in Adam, “the one to the other.” The life of Adam is the life of the world, which is not to be galvanized, glossed over with the Spirit by a heavenly birth; No! but it is a fading, dying life that falls with passing time. In her visible travel the church manifest the transformation from the world, in her doctrine (which the world hates and disputes,) and order which is opposite to the inventive and creative wisdom of the world. Were we to religiously mix in its worship, to be identified in its Secret orders, this would be a conformity to, not a transforming from the world.
Was the doctrine which we hold mixed with the means and instrumentalities of earth, was it, directly or indirectly, originated or fostered by earthly elements, this would be worldly conformity. The life of the church turns upward to heaven, not downward to earth. Like the growing blooming flower that turns to the sunlight, the life of the new man turns to the eternal sunshine of heaven in its growth and development, growing in grace, “and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
“His Spirit is the heavenly wind,
That o’er His garden blows;
And op’ning each renewed mind
The Savior’s image shows.”
But we desire in this article to call attention to more minute deviations from the apostolic admonition that we have named. To turn from the way of truth to the ways of earth in unsound doctrine and disorderly practice, is the legitimate result of being conformed to the world in its most advanced stages.
But we desire to notice this conformity in its incipient stages. Where we find a desire on the part of a church to avoid a clear strong presentation of Gospel Truth for fear of wounding the feelings of some worldly element in the congregation; where we find an itching desire to forsake Truth and Gospel order to increase the size of the congregation or church; where we find a disposition on the part of a membership to offer and receive flimsy, worldly excuses for negligence in attending meetings; these are some infallible signs of a conformity to worldly ways, a turning to earth, an absence of living, vital faith in church travel.
First always the Kingdom of God, secondary everything else; In this dark, dismal, wicked, and gloomy day, when unrighteousness appears to triumph religiously, socially, and politically; the church is the one only true and faithful institution, the witness of the Truth of God.
“Oft has this city’s strength been tried,
By mighty foes on every side;
But all in vain it yet has been,
She baffles Satan, hell and sin.”
May the Lord our God enable us by His rich, and reigning grace to cleave unto Him with full purpose of heart; to manifest our high calling as children of the day, and not of the night.
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. * * * But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” – Romans xii, 11,12,14.
Elder William Smoot