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Key to Success

05 August 2020

A wall with arrows drawn on it pointing to the left. A person is drawing an arrow to the right.

Romans 12:2 The Passion Translation

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.


Culture is the shared ideas, practiced customs, and social behaviour of a society. The prevailing ideas in modern society today seem to tend more and more toward selfishness. Divisions and name-calling are customary in political life and even among some Christians. Yet the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul gives instructions for believers living in any age. Simple steps that believers can follow and find success. True and lasting success for the Christian is found in the center of God’s perfect will. We can know and enjoy His perfect will for our life by following Paul’s transformational instruction.


The shared behavior of a society does not spontaneously originate. It is the result of a group’s predominately accepted thinking. An idea is first introduced, debated, and eventually becomes a generally accepted norm. Perhaps, a crude example of this was the cultural practice of men in the mid-seventeenth century to wear high heeled shoes in royal courts. Speaking for myself, I’m thankful this practice was abandoned. However, in 1660 Paris, a man wearing red high heels was a symbol of both wealth and power since only favorites of the King were allowed to wear them. Social ideas about shoes (thankfully) changed, and with those ideas, so did the behavior of society.


The instruction of Paul is given in two parts – but both relate to a single goal, living successfully as a follower of Christ. The first part is to stop doing what everyone else is doing. The second, become something else.


We cannot influence those around us while imitating their ideas and opinions. A successful Christian is one that seeks to move the transformation that has occurred in the heart to outward life. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that we are new creations. That new birth, which Jesus spoke of in John 3, has resulted in a recreation of what the Bible calls the “hidden man of the heart” (1 Peter 3:4).


The key to manifesting this miraculous change that has occurred inside us as believers is here in Romans. Changing what we think on, and how we evaluate our surroundings, according to Paul, results in the transmission of our inward transformation to our outward life. As an example, Romans 5:5 tells us that the love of God has been poured out in our hearts. Though that is an inward reality for anyone that believes in Jesus, we must walk in that love for anyone else to experience it. Imitating the ideas and behavior of modern society, perhaps a thought comes to our mind that someone must pay for the wrong they have done. The letter to the Corinthians tells us that love does not rejoice at evil (1 Corinthians 13:5). When a co-worker asks for yet another favour, there is certainly a temptation to list for them all the times you went out of your way to help. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love does not maintain such records.  Another rendering of Romans 12:2 says it this way, “…don’t be pressed into the world’s mold…” (TPT footnote). Society applies pressure on us to adopt its accepted norms. However, we do have to follow their lead – and choose to imitate God’s ideas, customs, and behavior.


The second part of Paul’s instruction is really an invitation to live in the center of God’s will as an influencer for Him in the present age. To change the way we think and act from following the patterns and culture of the world and, instead, act like God. The Holy Spirit gives us the same instruction in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. “Be imitators of God in everything you do, for then you will represent your Father as his beloved sons and daughters” (Ephesians 5:1 TPT). In Romans 12, we are told not to imitate the world but renew our minds with the living Word of God. This is not a simple behaviour modification to a moral code; this is putting the miraculous transformation of the new birth on display in our everyday lives. This is the powerful witness of Jesus – that Christians imitate Christ. The believers in Antioch were the first to be called Christians, meaning like Christ (Acts 11:26). Why? The church in Antioch was outward focused. The believers there in Antioch imitated Christ to such a degree; it became their identity.


Today let’s renew our commitment to resist the squeeze of modern society and chose to put the supernatural new creation inside us on display. We do this by exchanging what the world tells us to think and how society tells us to react with what the Word of God instructs. By changing our thinking to match the revealed Word of God, we can successfully enjoy God’s perfect will revealed in our lives.

Photo of Matt Hattabaugh

Matt Hattabaugh
Lead Pastor
GoChurch Beirut