2.1 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world”
What is the ‘pattern of this world’? In order to understand what this means, let us look at some:
Giving (lending & borrowing)
The world’s pattern:
“If I give something I must get something in return—even if it just means that the person, or organization, I give to is now beholden to me or owes me a favor. Lending definitely means that I must be repaid—in full, including interest.”
33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. ~ Luke 6:33-35 (NIV)
25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. ~ Exodus 22:25 (NIV)
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
~ Psalm 15:5 (NIV)
17 He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again. ~ Proverbs 19:17 (KJV)
7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. ~ 2 Corinthians 9:7 (KJV)
When we give, we give to the Lord—he is our supply and in Him we trust. We don’t do it out of our wealth, but out of obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit—regardless of our financial situation.
It must be done in faith, not fear—and with a glad heart.
If a church is running a financial organization that lends money, even one that charges no interest, maybe it is time for that church to reexamine the fruit that is coming out of it. If the fruit is rotten, then maybe they should stop it. This includes small or large church groups that lend to each other in an organized fashion expecting to be repaid.
Give with a glad heart without expecting to be repaid.
The world’s pattern:
“The higher you are placed in an organization, the more important you are and the more you are worth—including getting a higher pay packet. Everyone must be unconditionally subservient and obedient to their leaders.”
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” ~ Mark 9:35 (NIV)
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. ~ Romans 12:4-5 (NIV)
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~ Mark 10:45 (NIV)
The world’s management system is ‘top down leadership’:
This is signified with a triangle with the point at the top—that is, the leaders are at the top and everyone else is below them.
In God’s kingdom, leaders are ‘servant leaders’.
This is signified by an upside down triangle where—the leaders are at the bottom, subservient to those they lead.
There are no ‘chiefs’: there are only servants. This does not mean to say that no one can be a leader. A leader, however, is someone who is serving the church and its people: not the other way around. The all-important thing here is humility and attitude. They themselves must be under Christ and being lead by the Holy Spirit in all they do.
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers [masters (KJV)], knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. ~ James 3:1 (NKJV)
If we want to know if we are a leader, look at how many people we are serving (i.e. doing good works for; visiting; showing hospitality; loving them with your time, prayers, grace and compassion). Also look at how many people are following us: because leaders have followers.
We are all equal in the sight of God. No one is better than anyone else.
11 For there is no respect of persons with God. ~ Romans 2:11 (KJV)
Everyone has a role to play in the Body of Christ, of which Christ is the head.
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. ~ 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)
It is also important to understand that all who are Christians, that is, all those who are born again—filled with the Holy Spirit—are anointed to ministry in Christ. When the Apostle Paul is talking of the gifts of the Holy Spirit he does not stop at the fivefold ministry.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (NIV)
Also, earlier in this chapter he fully describes the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (NIV)
When we as leaders and ministers, who are gifted by the Holy Spirit “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry” ~ Ephesians 4:12
If we hold our people back from exercising their gifting, be it through jealousy, a desire to control or even just ignorance, we are clearly not fulfilling our role in the church. Our role is to equip the saints for ministry, not hinder them by placing expectations of absolute perfection on them before they can even practice their gifting.
After all, which one of us is perfect?
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ~ 1 John 1:8 (KJV)
So we can see that the world’s patterns are clearly contrary to God’s patterns and plan for us. Always when we are making decisions for ourselves, our families and in our churches, we need to examine the Word of God carefully to ensure that we are indeed conforming to His pattern, not that of the world’s.
It also pays not to just assume that what we are doing is right: as there are a number of Christian traditions that, over the years, have gotten out of kilter with the Word of God.
As always, judge everything by its fruit. For example, if the fruit of our leadership is an empty church, division, disharmony and our people are not growing in their understanding of the heart of God and growing in faith, love, joy, peace and bearing fruit of their own, then why are we in leadership and who are we there for?
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. ~ Matthew 7:15-17 (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
2.2 “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
How do we renew our mind—or, how is our mind renewed?
Only God can change us and only God can renew our mind. However, the renewing comes from us filling our mind with good things instead of bad things.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~ Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Another way of saying that is: whatever goes into our heart will be what comes out of it. And whatever is in our heart comes out our mouth and defiles us.
18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. ~ Matthew 15:18 (NIV)
Prayer will put you in an attitude of praise and bible reading will help you to fill your heart and mind with the Word of God. These are the two most transformative things you can do—these and helping others.
There is nothing more therapeutic than helping others. When you are feeling down, get out and help other people. God will bless you and lift you up. Also, when you are dealing with another’s issues, you need the Word of God to guide you. Don’t think you know all the answers—seek them out from the Word of God and in prayer.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
~ Proverbs 3:5 (NKJV)
2.3 “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is”
‘Then’, this is another ‘therefore’ like statement. It shows that something is preceding it of significance that this next statement is tied to. The ‘then’ in this part of the verse is a change in our understanding that comes from a renewing of our mind. However, it also comes from the preceding verse: from us knowing who we are in Christ and living according to that knowledge.
When we are living a Christ like life, then it is obvious what attitudes and teachings are contrary to the heart of God. When you are full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit—and the greatest of these is love (13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NKJV)) then you will be living in the light.
When you are living in darkness, shadows are almost impossible to see. However, where there is light, the shadows are obvious—and the darker they are, the more they contrast with the light.
When you know who you are in Christ you will no longer be fooled by nice words, or be condemned by harsh words.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus ~ Romans 8:1 (NIV)
You will no longer be lead astray by false teaching.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. ~ Ephesians 4:14 (NIV)
This is not just about knowledge of the Bible: it is about knowledge of the heart of God.
Many people know Bible verses: for example, if we go and try to preach to a drunkard on the streets, they will probably know more Bible verses than we do. But do they know the heart of God? If they did, then they would not still be a drunkard!
We don’t just need to know God’s word; we need to know God himself.
2.4 “his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The will of God is good, pleasing and perfect. Nothing that produces bad fruit—that does not bring joy (is not pleasing) and does not promote a deeper walk with God (leading to perfection)—is the will of God.
Ultimately it is about love. As God is love, so is His will. We can easily recognize the will of God as it is unselfishly loving towards others.
Knowing who we are in Christ and living a life that reflects that position and understand (verse 1) is the key to knowing the will of God in any situation. From there we must now be careful to abide in God’s will: rejecting the patterns of this world—which are always contrary to God’s patterns—and filling our mind and heart only with good things so that our understanding may be fully transformed.
The more we drench ourselves in good things—not the temptations and problems of this world—the more we will recognize who God really is. If we begin to love ourselves and love others, we will not expect God to needlessly punish others and us. We will understand true love—which is what God is.
Then we will know the heart of God and be able to stand against the tricks and tactics of the enemy—being secure in who we are and knowing His will for us.