Today I heard an amusing story about training wheels. You know, the two extra wheels attached to the back of a bicycle to help kids along until they learn to keep their balance. Well, this kid thought he could just get on his bike and ride it without training wheels. Seeing his friends riding their bikes, he thought, “I can do that!” Does that sound familiar to all of you I can do anything guys?
After numerous failing attempts and embarrassing crashes to the ground, the boy cried out “WHY IS THIS SO HARD!” He was thinking he could just do it on his own.
Many people are like that with their spiritual life. Bound and determined to do it all on their own. Now I’m sure those who have their spiritual lives firing on all 8 cylinders, would be quick to say, “We can only do it with God’s help!” and then go on to quote, as a proof text, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). But, and here’s the important question, what does that verse truly mean? Does Christ give us extra muscles? Stronger bone density? Greater physical stamina, or extra determination, to “do” all He wants us to do? Am I being silly? So how does God give us the ability to live the lives He would want?
Maybe Paul can help us. He writes in Romans, “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” – Romans 12:1-2. This passage is a favorite of many. It’s one of mine.
However, these two familiar verses lead into the rest of chapter 12 and all of chapter 13, which describe what it looks like to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (13:14). These two chapters are meant to be life-changing. But we must understand what these first two verses mean or they will have little, if any, transformative impact in our lives as believers in Jesus. And I don’t mean understanding in some “special knowledge” way, but in a truly spiritual way: Wanting to understand the very heart of God that we might bring Him glory in all things.
Our ability to live lives holy and pleasing (or acceptable), to God, can only come from a changed mind. The “transformed” life is the evidence of a renewed mind. And it’s only after that transformation that we can begin to “discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Unless we understand that, the only thing that will result is some “self-effort” to do what only God can do. And God will have none of that. He has told us, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
So how is it done? What does Paul say? “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” Read that again, slowly, and just let it sink in. Please. To be honest, I’m not very good at that. Do I hear any “Amens”?
So what do we need to understand? To begin with, living out the Christian life and thinking with the mind of Christ requires an act of resignation or surrender. It involves the recognition that we are sinners, incapable of living a pleasing life to God if we are doing it “our way.” It involves the willingness to have our minds transformed and conformed to the way God wants us to think, in accord with His Word. Then, and most importantly, it requires doing, or “putting on,” what we learn the will of God is. That is what repentance looks like. The “changing” of doing what’s in our minds, to doing what is in His.
None of this is easy for many reasons. Even Paul says, “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Strict control of what? The revealed will of God. However, he also says, “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). We just need to learn to use it, so we can keep our balance.
This whole process also involves something equally important. Training. Help from the rest of the Body of Christ. And the only way for that training to be effective is to be connected. Truly connected with mutual support and accountability. “From Him the whole body, fitted and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love through the work of each individual part” (Ephesians 4:16). Training is not just for the “new riders.” It’s a life-long process of growing and holding together. We need each other, now more than ever. Remember, Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Again, is any of this easy? No way. But don’t forget, “With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). We just need to give Him the reins. As I often say, “There is no Plan B”. This is His plan for you and me. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is God’s desire for us! HE is The Transformer.
I believe Paul knew exactly what I’m talking about here. When he wrote to the Galatian church, he was amazed at how they were turned back to trying to live under the law. In other words, they were trying to do it THEIR WAY! “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!” (Galatians 4:19-20).
Paul also tells us, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27). The transformation and preparation come through the process of “washing with water through the word”.
I want to encourage ALL believers to let Him transform us into living the way HE wants us to. It is crucial. We are to glorify Him! He desires His Bride, the church, you and me, to be prepared for when He returns. “Let us rejoice and be glad; let us praise his greatness! For the time has come for the wedding of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself for it” (Revelation 19:7). I want to be prepared for Him. I hope you do too. That is my prayer.
May God bless!