In the Bible study last night, we studied Romans 12:2:“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” J.B. Phillips, in his paraphrase of the New Testament, talks about ‘do not be squeezed into the world’s mould.’ The Message version says ‘Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.’

The first step to God recycling our minds as well as our bodies is our recognition that we are born into a sinful way of thinking, and our culture and philosophy feeds the lie that we can manage quite successfully without any reference to God. The devil doesn’t mind which ‘pattern’ or ‘way’ of the world we follow, so long as we are not following God. In one of the American presidential campaigns, anti-Bush followers coined the phrase ‘ABB’ – ‘anyone but Bush’ – as their slogan for the campaign. The devil’s slogan is ‘ABJ’ – ‘anyone but Jesus’. We can follow Eastern religions or humanist philosophies, atheism or any other cult or fad we like, so long as we don’t follow Jesus. The challenge is to recognise the mould and understand that we no longer have an obligation to be squeezed into it.

A mould forces something into its shape, whether that’s injection moulding for bottles:

or fancy cake shapes:

Our minds are shaped and influenced by the culture all around us – by the media, by music, by TV, by films, by peer pressure, by advertising, by our family. From birth, we are bombarded by ‘nurture’, often in ways that are directly contrary to God’s ways, and we need to be re-moulded so that our thinking is renewed and we can see things from God’s perspective and think His thoughts. Just as the water in a fish tank gradually becomes unclean and this change is not necessarily visibly noticeable, so too we often fail to see how the world is squeezing us into its mould.

The process of transformation and renewal required is not easy. It’s achieved by fixing our attention on God and being washed by His word. (Eph 5:26) The Message translates the rest of Romans 12:2 like this: “Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” The difference is profound and life-changing. And just as we need to wash our bodies on a daily basis to remain clean, whether we ‘feel’ dirty or not, so too we need to wash our minds in the word of God so that we can know how we should be thinking and can therefore discern, recognise and do God’s will.