And do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of the mind so you may prove what is the holy and well-pleasing and perfect will of God.
Those who follow this blog may note that we studied this passage in Sunday School a few weeks ago (you can find the notes for that class here). However, an application of this passage recently struck me–one that I don’t think we really explored in that lesson.
We live in an incredibly selfish society. That seems a rather bold statement, especially in light of the number of charitable organizations there are, and the many acts of kindness that people do on a regular basis. And yet, if you stop and think about it, how many acts of kindness are done for some kind of personal benefit? Not necessarily monetary benefit (although I’m sure there are those who consider how they might hold their beneficiary hostage by the selfless act done on their behalf), but perhaps to appease one’s own conscience, or even for one’s own personal happiness. These may seem harmless enough, but what when the selfless act might not have any redeeming value to the person performing it? What if it doesn’t bring you happiness, joy–or even brings you ridicule, or death?
In Romans 12:2, Paul says that the mind renewed by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit is one that seeks to do the holy, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. Why? For no other reason than it is the holy, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God. The Christian should need no other reason. If it pleases our Lord, then it should please us to do it, regardless of self. This is what it means to be truly selfless: not just thinking of others, but putting the pleasure of God above our own delights. Making Him our greatest joy. It’s not that pleasing God makes us happy (though it will quite frequently), but that we desire to please Him even at the expense of our own comfort and happiness.
Dr. John Piper would argue that we only find true happiness and self-fulfillment when we are pleasing God (which is the basic principle in his idea of “Christian Hedonism”)–and I’m not questioning that at all. But that happiness we find is not the self-gratifying happiness that the world strives after. It’s a deep joy, a sense of spiritual contentment, that only comes with serving and obeying the Lord, even when our culture and our circumstances would consider it foolish–even when our sense of self-preservation kicks against it.
My challenge to us for this week is to take some time out to reflect on our lives. Are we really putting God first? Are we kind to others first and foremost because it pleases us, or because it pleases Him? Do we seek to serve, and to pour out our lives for the Lord’s sake, even when there’s nothing to gain? Or do we hold back because we don’t want to give up our schedules, our comforts, our lives?
Have a great week!