There’s a section in department stores these days called “shapewear.” It’s in both women’s and men’s clothing. These stores are banking on our concern with the shape of our bodies and our willingness to invest in garments that promise to give us the shape we’re looking for.
But when we read Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, we discover it’s not what is shaping our bodies that he is most concerned about. He’s concerned about what is shaping our perspective, our priorities, our pursuits, and our opinions. He writes:
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. 12:2)
His words force us to ask ourselves: What external forces are shaping my internal dialogue about what matters? What pressures me to make the choices I am making about how I spend my money, my time, and my energies? Am I self-aware enough to know?
Ever since we were born into this world, it has been working to press us into its mold. Of course, we don’t like to think of ourselves as this impressionable. We like to think we are independent in our thinking. But the truth is, we are such products of the environment we live in that we often don’t recognize what is pressing in on us. Or perhaps we don’t feel the pressure because we simply give in to it. It makes no sense to Paul, however, for the lives of those who have been called and foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son instead to be conformed to this world.
Instead of being conformed, Paul instructs us to be transformed. There’s a contrast here between something pressing in on us from the outside that causes us to be conformed and something taking place on the inside that causes us to be transformed. Where inside is this taking place? In our minds. And what is happening in our minds? They are being renewed. There’s a renovation project going on.
Have you ever renovated anything? The word used by Paul for the “renewal” of our minds literally means “to renovate”—to rip out the old and put in the new. The one doing the renovation work is the Holy Spirit. But there is something here for us to do. The tool the Holy Spirit uses is the Word. This means we must bring ourselves under the influence of the Word.
In his book Growing Your Faith, the late Jerry Bridges explains this process as similar to what we tell our son when he comes in from playing on the dirt pile: “Go take a shower.” It is the soap and water that will wash away the sweat and the dirt. But Tommy must bring himself under their cleansing action to become clean. So we say to him, “Go take a shower.”