“Be transformed by making your mind over.”—ROMANS 12:2.
1, 2. How does the way we were raised and our environment influence our life?
ALL of us are influenced by the way we were raised and our environment, that is, our friends, our culture, and the community in which we live. That is why we like certain foods and why we dress and behave in a certain way.
2 But some things are much more important than the way we dress or what we eat. For example, as we grow up, we are taught that some things are right and that some things are wrong. But different people have different opinions about what is right and what is wrong. Our conscience also influences the choices we make. The Bible says that often “people of the nations that do not have law do by nature the things of the law.” (Romans 2:14) But if there is no specific law from God, can we just follow the standards of our family or follow the standards that are common where we live?
3. Give two reasons why Christians do not just follow the standards of the world.
3 There are at least two important reasons why Christians do not do that. First, the Bible says: “There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.” (Proverbs 16:25) Because we are imperfect, we are not able to guide our steps perfectly. (Proverbs 28:26; Jeremiah 10:23) Second, the Bible says that Satan is “the god of this system of things.” He controls the world’s standards, that is, what the world thinks is right or wrong and what becomes popular. (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19) If we want to make Jehovah happy and want him to bless us, we must obey what is said at Romans 12:2.—Read.
If we want to make Jehovah happy and want him to bless us, we must be transformed
4. What will we discuss in this article?
4 This article will discuss three important points mentioned at Romans 12:2. They are (1) Why do we need to be “transformed,” or changed? (2) What do we need to transform? (3) How can we be transformed?
WHY DO WE NEED TO BE TRANSFORMED?
5. To whom did Paul write the counsel at Romans 12:2?
5 When Paul wrote the letter to the Romans in the year 56, he was not writing a letter to all the people in Rome. He was writing to the anointed Christians who lived there. (Romans 1:7) He urged them to be transformed and to “quit being fashioned after this system of things.” The “system of things” he wrote about included what the people in Rome thought was right and wrong as well as their customs, conduct, and way of dressing. Paul said “quit being fashioned” because there were brothers and sisters who were still acting and thinking like the Romans. How were they being influenced?
6, 7. In Paul’s day, why was it difficult to be a Christian in Rome?
6 When tourists visit Rome today, they see the ruins of temples, tombs, and monuments that were built thousands of years ago. These buildings help us to learn more about how people lived and worshipped in ancient Rome. In history books we read about violent gladiatorial games, chariot races, and plays and musicals that were sometimes immoral. Rome was a rich city where people had lots of opportunities to make money.—Romans 6:21; 1 Peter 4:3, 4.
7 The Romans had many temples and worshipped many gods, but most people did not try to have a real and close relationship with their gods. The religion of the Romans mainly required that they participate in rituals, such as at births, marriages, or funerals. These rituals were part of their daily life. It must have been very difficult for Christians in Rome. Many of them were raised to worship false gods, so they had to make changes to become Christians. Even after their baptism, they still had changes to make.
8. Why is the world today a dangerous place for Christians?
8 Similarly, the world today is a dangerous place for Christians. Why? Because the spirit of the world is everywhere. (Read Ephesians 2:2, 3; 1 John 2:16.) The world tries to influence us with its desires, thinking, standards, and morals, and we are in constant danger of becoming part of the world. So we really need to obey the counsel to “quit being fashioned after this system of things” and “be transformed.” What must we do to be transformed?
WHAT DO WE NEED TO TRANSFORM?
9. What changes do many make so that they qualify to get baptized?
9 As a person studies the Bible and applies what he learns, he begins to draw closer to Jehovah. He leaves false religion and makes changes in his life. He works hard to develop the new personality and to imitate Jesus. (Ephesians 4:22-24) We are happy that hundreds of thousands of people make this kind of progress each year, dedicate themselves to Jehovah God, and get baptized. This certainly makes Jehovah happy. (Proverbs 27:11) But are these the only changes that a person must make?
10. Why is being transformed more than just improving ourselves?
10 Being transformed is more than making progress or improving ourselves. For example, an item at the market may have a label that says “improved,” that is, the item has been changed to make it better. But often it has only one new ingredient or it is just in a new package. The item is almost the same as it was before. A Bible dictionary says that the expression “be transformed” at Romans 12:2 involves renewing or changing our thinking by the power of holy spirit. So a Christian is not transformed by simply stopping his harmful habits, bad speech, or immoral conduct. Some people who do not know what the Bible says try to avoid these bad things. So, then, what do we as Christians have to do to be transformed, or to change the way we think and feel?
A Christian is not transformed by simply stopping his harmful habits, bad speech, or immoral conduct
11. What did Paul say was needed for a person to be transformed?
11 “Be transformed by making your mind over,” Paul wrote. The “mind” refers to our ability to think. But in the Bible, it also includes what we like to think about as well as our attitude and our ability to reason on a matter. Earlier in his letter to the Romans, Paul described people who had “a disapproved mental state” because of their ‘unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, and badness.’ They were “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit,” and other bad things. (Romans 1:28-31) We can understand why Paul counseled the Christians who lived around people like that to ‘be transformed by making their mind over.’
12. What do many people think today? Why is it dangerous for Christians to think this way?
12 Sadly, many people in the world around us have the kind of thinking that Paul described. They think that it is old-fashioned to live by standards and principles and that no one should force others to live by them. Many teachers and parents allow children to do whatever they want. They even teach them that each person has the freedom to decide for himself what is right or what is wrong. Such people believe that there is really no way to know what is right and what is wrong. Even many who say that they believe in God do not think that they need to do what God says is right. (Psalm 14:1) This attitude is dangerous for Christians. If we are not careful, we might stop following the instructions we receive from God’s organization and may even start complaining about anything we do not like. Or maybe we do not completely agree with Scriptural counsel we receive about entertainment, the use of the Internet, and higher education.
Only we know if we have allowed what we have learned from the Bible to transform us and whether it continues to do so
13. Why should we think honestly about who we really are inside?
13 If we want to stop being “fashioned after this system of things,” that is, not allow the world to mold the way we think and feel, we need to think honestly about the person we really are. We need to examine our deepest attitudes and feelings, our goals, and our standards. Others may not know who we really are inside, and they may tell us that we are doing well. But only we know if we have allowed what we have learned from the Bible to transform us and whether it continues to do so.—Read James 1:23-25.
HOW WE CAN BE TRANSFORMED
14. What can help us to discover the changes we need to make?
14 To be transformed, we need to change what is in our heart, that is, who we really are. What can help us to make such deep changes? When we study the Bible, we learn about the kind of person Jehovah wants us to be. The way we react to what we read in the Bible will help us to discover what is really in our heart. This will help us to know what changes we need to make to do the “perfect will of God.”—Romans 12:2; Hebrews 4:12.
‘Let all anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you.’—Ephesians 4:31
15. What transformation happens to us when Jehovah molds us?
15 Read Isaiah 64:8. The illustration that the prophet Isaiah used teaches us an important lesson. We are like clay, and Jehovah is like a potter. When he molds us as a potter does the clay, he does not change the way we look on the outside. Instead, he changes the kind of person we are on the inside. When we respond to his molding, we allow him to transform us on the inside, that is, he helps us to change how we feel and how we think. This is exactly what we need so that we can fight against the influences of the world. How does Jehovah mold us?
16, 17. (a) Explain what a potter does to the clay he uses to make a valuable vessel. (b) How does God’s Word help us to be transformed into a valuable vessel that Jehovah can use?
16 If a potter wants to make a special vessel, he needs to use very good clay. But there are two things that a potter needs to do to the clay before he molds it. First, the clay needs to be cleaned. Then, the clay needs to have the right amount of water added to it and be worked so that it will be able to keep its shape when it is molded.
17 A potter uses water not only to clean the clay but also to make the clay easy to work with. Then he can make any kind of vessel he wants to make, even a delicate one. Just as the water changes the clay, God’s Word changes us. When we started to learn about God, the Bible helped us to stop thinking like the world and begin thinking the way God thinks. Then he could transform us into a valuable vessel that he could use. (Ephesians 5:26) We have been reminded many times to read the Bible each day and to attend Christian meetings regularly. Why have we been encouraged to do these things? Because by doing them, we respond well to Jehovah’s molding.—Psalm 1:2; Acts 17:11; Hebrews 10:24, 25.
18. (a) Why do we need to meditate on God’s Word if we want it to transform us? (b) What questions can help us do that?
18 If we want God’s Word to transform us, we need to do more than read and learn from it. Many people read the Bible and know a lot about what it says. Perhaps you have met people like this in the ministry. Some are even able to repeat Bible verses from memory.a (See footnote.) But this often does not change their thinking and their way of life. Why? Because God’s Word transforms people only when they allow it to be “sounded down,” that is, to let it reach deep into their heart. (Galatians 6:6, footnote) We need to meditate on what we learn from the Bible. We should ask ourselves: ‘Am I convinced that this is more than just a religious teaching? Have I seen proof in my life that this is really the truth? Do I apply in my own life what I have learned and not just teach it to others? Do I believe that what I learn comes from Jehovah, as if he were talking to me personally?’ If we meditate on questions like these, we will draw closer to Jehovah. When what we learn touches our heart, we will be motivated to make changes in our life that make God happy.—Proverbs 4:23; Luke 6:45.
19, 20. How will we benefit if we apply Bible counsel?
19 If we regularly read the Bible and meditate on it, this will help us to continue to do what Paul said: “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new.” (Colossians 3:9, 10) If we really understand what the Bible teaches and apply what we learn, it will motivate us to put on the new Christian personality that can protect us from Satan’s traps.
If we put on the new Christian personality, we can be protected from Satan’s traps
20 “As obedient children, quit being fashioned according to the desires you formerly had,” the apostle Peter reminds us, but “become holy yourselves in all your conduct.” (1 Peter 1:14, 15) The following article will explain how Jehovah will bless us if we do our best to be transformed in our thinking and attitude.
a See the example given in The Watchtower of February 1, 1994, page 9, paragraph 7.