Thesis:Genuine "transformation" occurs under two major principles: eternity over time; and discipline over lusts.
Introduction:In our study last week we zeroed in on the terminology of the sacrifice of the body to God. It is to be rooted in a legitimate perception of the compassions of God and is to follow the characteristics of "life", "holiness", and "divine satisfaction". We also saw that it was to be a "formal presentation".
This evening we are planning to go into what I will call "follow-through". The formal presentation is an act in time. But one act in time, when dealing with the process of living the "daylies", is of only limited impact. There must be an on-going process that will effectively address the "daylies" so that, as the minutes, hours, and days go by, the "sacrifice" is genuine. Otherwise, a formal presentation will be corrupted into hypocrisy.
I. The "Follow-Through" and the Idea of "Conformity".
A. The English word "conform" is used three times in the Bible.
1. It is used to translate two different Greek words.
a. One of those words has the idea of an "essential" conformity ("essential" as in "essence").
b. The other has the idea of an "outward" conformity that, actually, has little to do with the "essence" of a thing.
2. It is used in the translation of Romans to communicate the "meaning" of both of these distinct Greek words.
a. Romans 8:29 uses the word that has to do with a conformity to the essence.
1) This is the kind of "conformity" that addresses "character"/"glory" issues.
2) This is the divine objective for every believer and will occur.
a) The determination of God to do this is declared and essential to the Kingdom's success and takes no account of any kind of "temporal" matters (the thief on the cross and John the long-lived apostle of love will both be equally "essentially" conformed to the image of the Son of God).
b) The obstacles God faces are significantly beyond human capacity but not divine capacity as Philippians 3:21 shows.
b. Romans 12:2 uses the word that has to do with a conformity of a significantly different kind.
1) This word is not widely used anywhere (twice in the Bible and only a few times in the Greek literature covered by Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon).
2) The secular literature uses the word in ways that show us that the meaning has little to do with "essence" issues and everything to do with "position/form" issues.
a) If a heavenly body takes up the same position in the stellar heavens as another heavenly body, it is said to have been "conformed" to that other body.
b) If the linguistic forms found in a Greek form of expression are repeated with other words, those words, though of enormous "essential" distinction, are said to "be conformed to the original words.
3) The two uses in the Bible (Romans 12:2 and 1 Peter 1:14) reveal a deliberate "theology" of human activity.
a) Paul acknowledges that "believers", who cannot be "essentially conformed" to the fallen reality in which they live, often are "moved into a position" that dictates what they will do.
b) Peter is much more specific in that he insists that "believers" be "obedient" and not allow themselves to be pressed by their "lusts" into that "position" that will override their better judgment and dictate evil behavior.
B. Paul's concept of "conformity" in our text.
1. It has a very specific "position" that is very counter-productive to the notion of a "living, holy, God-pleasing sacrifice."
2. This "position" is revealed by the word he used, which the translators call "this world".
a. The typical word for "world" in the New Testament is "kosmos" (used 187 times and translated "world" 186 of them).
b. Paul's term in our text is "aion" (pronounced "eye-own").
1) This word is significantly distinct from "kosmos"; so much so that they share almost no "field-of-meaning" overlap.
2) Paul's word is deliberately attached in Romans to the question of just "how long" should God be "blessed" (1:25 and 9:5) and "glorified" (11:36 and 16:27) ["unto the ages"].
a) This means that its meaning is attached to the flow of time.
b) Because 12:2 is the only use in Romans that is not attached to the question above, and because 12:2 has "this" attached to its use, we understand that Paul was addressing a particular "setting" or "position" that is tied up with a succession of time frames.
c) The problem is this: the "time frames" of God's Grand Plan are "temporally instructive" for a particular focus of attention in the communication of "Truth" and, once that "truth" is covered, the time frame is no longer a valid "position" out of which to operate.
d) What this boils down to is this: any behavior that is ruled by one's "position" in "this current time frame" and not by the superior "position" of the "eternal Day" is going to be proven to be fruitless.
3. The issue: letting behavior be driven by a "position" in an "age" because the "age" has been cut off from its place in the progression of the plan and made into the "be-all end-all" and because the objective of the behavior has suffered the same fate -- cut loose from its place in a progression so that it becomes an idolatrous "be-all end-all".
C. The Essence of Paul's Required "Follow-Through".
1. He is insisting, first, that his readers accept the reality of his prophetic writings so that they do not allow the present "setting" to govern their "sacrifice".
2. He, then, is also insisting that his readers subject their "impulses to act" to the scrutiny of the Final Age as the only valid criterion for action.