“Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
– Romans 12:2
I remember this time I took a theater class when I was in high school. I’m not really a theater-artsy kind of guy, so it was a challenge to get into character… I didn’t know how to act at all. I remember how frustrated I was with the whole ordeal. I had the right outfit with the right props and I had the lines memorized but my performance was still crap. Somewhere along the way I had missed something crucial to the performance process. So I stayed after class to talk with my teacher, and she gave me some great advice: I had to put myself in the mindset of the character… get to know the character I was playing and then mold my viewpoints to fit that person before my performance would be believable. If I didn’t make that change in my mind, my role would conform to my personality rather than come off the way it was meant to be played. She told me it wasn’t just about the props or the wardrobe, or even the lines… acting wasn’t about representing someone else’s character on stage, it was actually being that character, and that started on the inside.
So that memory got me thinking… aren’t we Christians like that? It seems as if we’ve got the lines memorized (“I’m good, how are you? How can I be praying for you?”), we have the right clothes for church and our Christian camp t-shirts for class, and we even have the coolest props around (iPods with sermons and acoustic praise music, worn-looking Bibles and trendy journals).
The problem is, the performance isn’t real unless we have the character of Christ on the inside. And if we appear to do everything right on the outside but inwardly we’re not living it out, Jesus calls us whitewashed tombs. Our role as Christians won’t resemble Christ, but will rather conform to our own fallen flesh. If we are trying to deal with sin but aren’t dwelling in the victory that we have in Jesus, then we’re trying to tackle a monumental spiritual problem with just our discipline, reliability, and faithfulness. That leaves us shorthanded and outmatched with no reinforcements… pretty much a strategic nightmare.
However, if the mind is renewed and if we are transformed in light of that, then we live in the purity that Christ purchased in His death on the cross as well as the victory that He accomplished at His resurrection. And when we base our lives (or ‘performance’ as it were) on our Lord Jesus, then He gets the glory and He saves the day. It then rests on His perfect will, not our imperfect one. Our outward character will begin resembling our renewed inward soul as the glorious grace of Christ moves from inside out.
What I’ve found in my short time on this planet is that God is the only one who can change hearts. I’ve tried it without Him, and it just flat doesn’t work.
Another thing that I’ve found… when God begins this renewing and molding process, we begin conforming to the image of Christ and start thinking like Him, walking like Him, talking like Him, and acting like Him. We start memorizing our lines (of Scripture), and we begin really playing our part in the Kingdom.