Paul mentions a danger – conformity to this world – that Christians face. What does Paul mean by ‘world’? He means the environment in which a person lives. We like to identify certain activities as worldly, and they are often the ones that we do not do. Worldliness includes activities, but it involves more. For example, it includes our aspirations and our attitudes. There is a difference between wanting to be great and wanting to do our best, although the actions may be the same.
For example, today it is possible to live your life in isolation because of the use of tablets and phones that can transport the user into spaces and places that he wants to go. Is that worldly? If it reduces his commitment to spiritual devotions and church involvement, such an activity is worldly. Today, it is possible to be so busy in work that spiritual devotions and church involvement are adversely affected. Is that busyness worldly? The fact is, almost everything in life can become worldly. We can say that anything that diminishes our devotion to the things of God is worldly.
What is the antidote to worldliness? The answer is ongoing transformation of the mind. One of the problems with our minds is forgetfulness, and the problem does not get better as we get older. So we have to take steps to ensure that our spiritual thinking is sharp. What steps should we take? Reading the Bible and talking to God are essential steps as is attending the various means of grace. When we think about them, they are not hard, and they are transforming.
Transformation results in testing. While this may include the possibility that we will be tested at times, the words of Paul here say that we will do the testing. We act out the renewed thinking that we have received from God’s Word. Sometimes the application will be obvious, other times we may have to apply it in different ways before we find out which is best. But the point Paul is making is that the ongoing renewal of the mind always leads ultimately to the right decision. That is very comforting. Sometimes, we may face a situation in which both options look equally right. Instead of getting in a dither, we should try one of them and trust that God in his providence will guide us. If we have chosen the wrong one, we should cease it and try the other.
By the process of ongoing transforming of the mind and testing what we have discovered, we find the will of God for ourselves individually and as a church. Some people imagine that somehow information is dropped down on to their laps from heaven and they have to remain in a kind of spiritual dreamland until they receive it, or imagine that they have received it. It won’t come without ongoing transformation and it does not come without applying what we know.
The will of God here is said to be good and acceptable and perfect. What does Paul mean by these terms. ‘Good’ describes its benefits that we receive, ‘acceptable’ points to its suitability for us, and ‘perfect’ means that it is fulfilling in the sense that it accomplishes the highest ends for us. We can imagine easily many of the benefits and blessings that we receive such as God’s peace, answered prayer etc. When we obey God by ensuring that our minds are transformed, we discover that his plans for us fit us perfectly – they suit us. Sometimes we see a person doing for God something that we could not imagine ourselves doing – the reason is that God has fitted the person for that role as they were being transformed. The fact that God’s will is perfect means that at the end of the day he will have done through us what he intended. These are great things to discover.