And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2
It is well known that the verse above is key to a successful Christian life, but it has more depth to it than is often realized. In this verse the apostle brought two world views in contrast with one another: the secular and the Christian views.
The cultures that we grow up in are templates that give form to our lives, shaping us to fit in and become acceptable participants in our own social circles. This is a process that happens naturally, and requires no decision on our part. The truth is that we were born into a broken world as fallen beings, and groomed to be part of it. It is the way the world works.
Society recognizes its own by the patterns expressed by their lives: they think like them, talk like them, and behave like them. However, no matter how honest their intentions might be, their ways lead to destruction:
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Proverbs 16:25
The truth of the verse above is clearly displayed by the many failed lives that we see around us. Even so, the unregenerate has no appetite for God’s ways, and stubbornly believes that their own ideas are better suited for the life that they desire to live. The apostle Paul points this out in no uncertain terms:
But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:11,12
It was never the intention of the gospel to soothe the feelings and appetites of carnal men, but rather to lead them away from their destructive ways and into the will of God—the only way to experience lasting peace. For this very reason we are called to repent. The Greek word for repentance is metanoeō, meaning to change one’s mind; heartily to amend with abhorrence one’s past sins.
Saul, the vicious persecutor of the church, turned his life around in such a dramatic way that he even changed his name to Paul, and he became the greatest of the apostles. He set a strong example of how to live a new life for all those who would repent:
However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 1 Timothy 1:16
Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. Philippians 3:17
Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Timothy 1:13
What is the pattern of your life? It is the impression that you make on people’s lives, your attitude, and the way you generally respond to various situations, the atmosphere in a room after you left. It is no wonder, then, that both Jesus and the apostles in their epistles spent so much time on the topic of our conduct as disciples.
For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 1 Corinthians 2:15
Thank God for those who went before us, the good examples that we could learn from! There were men and women of God who remained steadfast in their walk through many tests and trials. We saw them face hardship and hostility, and win spiritual battles. Our troubled world could not extinguish their faith and love for the Lord.
We are also grateful for those around us today, who live lives that please the Lord—living examples that we can look up to for guidance. But now our time has come to lay down some wholesome patterns for others who are still growing up spiritually, especially as our world is crumbling, and hopelessness darkens the hearts of so many.
Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Corinthians 4:16,17
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1
“…imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 6:12
… in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. Titus 2:7,8
Now, we are not to become disciples of Paul, but of Christ, but it was the goodness of God to put role models in our lives to guide us through the minefields of challenges and temptations of life in the flesh. There are no lone rangers in Christianity.
Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14
Whose life is a template that you to pattern your life after? If you don’t have one, find one!
Is your life the kind of role model that inspires others to become true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ? If you don’t have any, find some, because our Father is glorified by the fruit that we bear. (See John 15:8)