Be Not Conformed

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. ~Romans 12:2
One of the most shocking revelations of Jesus - both to His hearers then and to those who read and hear His words today - is his teaching that sin is not simply the physical act of doing something against the will of God but that it actually begins within our heart. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ~Matthew 5:27-28  
Here Jesus raises the bar from the physical act of committing adultery to even entertaining lustful thoughts about a woman. A few verses earlier He taught that harboring hatred toward your brother or sister is equated with murder. Our world and culture bombards us with images of sexuality and of violence and teaches us that it is natural and normal to think about these things. Scripture however, tells us not be conformed to this world and its teachings but rather to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Why? So that we may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect.

Each moment of each day, through every situation in which we find ourselves, we are presented with the opportunity to either choose to follow God or to choose to go our own way and submit to our own thoughts and passions. This choice - this battle - is made and fought in our hearts and in our minds. Moment by moment, we choose what to allow into our thoughts and what to focus our internal resources on. In the book of 2nd Corinthians Paul writes:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Choosing to allow only those things that are true and worthy into our thoughts is a mighty battle. Here we must wage war against, not only the world and its messages, but against our own flesh and against Satan himself. We must never forget, however, that we do not wage this war on our own pitiful strength but we have the Spirit of the living God that raised Christ from the dead within us that strengthens and guides us. It is through His power that we gain the strength to take captive every thought to Christ.

I like to picture it this way. Imagine that you have a light inside of you - a physical light bulb - that shines the light of God's love. Above that light bulb is a water spout controlled by two spigots - one representing things holy and one representing things of the world. Whenever you think of things that are holy and good then it is like turning on the holy spigot and pure and clean water runs and washes the light bulb keeping it clean and shining brightly. Whenever you entertain thoughts of the world then it is like turning on the other spigot and the water changes to a dark and thick sludge that cakes the light bulb, baking onto it, and darkening its light making you look just like everybody else. 

It only takes a little sludge to darken the bulb and it takes a lot of water to get the bulb clean. Jesus tells us to be the light of the world, to be like a town built on a hill for others to see.  In the same way, Jesus says, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Guard your thoughts and let your light shine brightly!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things ~Philippians 4:8

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