Do not be conformed to this 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 ESV)
Paul shows that there two paths for us to walk. One is to be conformed to this world and the other is to be transformed by the renewal of your mind. We must accept that these are distinct and in contrast to one another. You can’t be conformed to this world and transformed by God. We isn’t get it out of our heads that we can somehow be both.
We must also note the difference between these two words, conformed and transformed. To be conformed is to be formed “with” and to be transformed is to be formed “against”. The idea is that the world is forming you with the grain of your nature and God is forming you against the grain of your nature. Unless God steps in to change you, you will be conformed to this world. Your nature, that is your sinful nature, will always lead you in that direction. God must give you a new nature altogether. And this is exactly what the gospel teaches us!
To be conformed to this world means to “go with the flow”, as it were, and adopt that which others tell us is important and normal and “what people do.” Without realizing it, you embrace and even fight for the values that culture deems important. A prime example is homosexuality and tolerance toward Muslim religion. Culture would have us embrace them and fight for their freedoms. Other subtle examples are the high level of sexual promiscuity before marriage. It is expected and even thought to be “wise” to find out before marriage if you can satisfy each other.
To be transformed by the renewing of your mind means to relearn what you have learned to embrace and accept. The way you think must change. A new purpose must replace your old one, which is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever”, as the catechism teaches. We do this discerning the will of God, by finding out what is good and pleasing to the Lord. It is a reversal of values and direction. Only a true change of the heart can accomplish this. Only the Lord can to this in us.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)