True Worship, Part 2 (Romans 12:1-2)

Last week we saw true worship had 3 aspects to it:  we need to see it as important, mercy needs to be our motivation, and sacrificing our bodies to righteousness.  This week we see the other three aspects of true worship:  rebel against the world, renew your mind, and prove God’s will.


Fourthly, true worship means we rebel against the world.  Verse 2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world…”  

Conforming here means to take on the same shape, or to be fashioned after the likeness of something else, or to be molded into the same pattern as something.  It means to form something after a model.  

This is easy enough to see.  Kids come home from school and they start dressing like their peers, or they start having the same perspectives and attitudes as the other kids at school.  They want to be like others.  Its the same with adults too:  we see what others are like and what they have and we want to be like them and have what they have.  We call it “keeping up with the Jones’.”  Pastors want to be like the bigger more successful church down the road, or they want to be like their favorite theologians.  If you walk into a Reformed circle you’ll hear things like the “five solas” and “the sovereignty of God” and “the doctrines of grace.”  If you walk into a Charismatic circle you’ll hear about “manifestations” and “a word from the Lord.”  If you walk into EFC you’ll hear:  ________________. LOL  The language we use, the clothes we wear, the perspectives we have, the attitudes we adopt, the ways we act, and so much more often times are reflections of how we’ve assimilated into the groups we admire.  

Assimilation is prohibited for us.  In the OT, God told the Israelites right before they entered the Promised Land, “When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there.”  

In Romans, Paul says, do not assimilate into the pattern of this world.  We have to understand that this is a command, not a suggestions.  We are under obligation to obey this order and so intentionally rebel against the ways of the world and refuse to conform to its pattern. 

Why?  Because if we conform to the pattern of this world we will be perpetuating the very things that have brought about the judgment of God in the first place.  We will be recreating in our own lives the very things that God hates in this world and will judge.  Think about it:  this world is in “darkness” (John 1:5; Eph 6:12) and “did not recognize” Christ (5, 10).  Should we act like that?  The world is the whole system of this current age that in attitude, posture, spirit, is against God.  

Turn to 1 John 2:15-18 with me….  This is why James told us “friendship with the world means hatred against God.” (4:4), because the world we live in is characterized by a hatred of God, and loving this world will produce a hatred for God.  You cannot love the world and God.  Choose.  

The reason is because of who this world is ruled by:  Satan.  He is called the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4); “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph 2:2); and the “prince of this world” (John 16:11).  “The whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).  So anyone who conforms to the pattern of this world is conforming to the pattern of Satan, who controls this world.  That’s why Ephesians 2 says, “You WERE dead in your sins and transgressions, in which you USED to live when you FOLLOWED the WAYS of THIS WORLD….”  In other words, when you didn’t know God, and you were under God’s condemnation, you kept on conforming to the pattern of this corrupt world that is under God’s condemnation.  

But now you are no longer supposed to let yourself be conformed to the pattern of this corrupt, darkened, rebellious world, because if you do that is what you will become:  darkened, corrupted, and rebellious.  Like the Israelites in the OT who were to consider certain things detestable and unclean, we who are clean in Christ should detest the things of this world as we stand with Christ and keep ourselves separate from all that defiles in this world.  

  • In 1 Peter 1:14 the same word for “conform” is used as in Romans 12, and these are the only 2 instances in the NT of the word.  He says, “Do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”  
  • First John 3:13 gives us a heads up and says, “Don’t be surprised if the world hates you.”  First Peter 4 says you are blessed if the world hates you for Christ.  God have mercy on any Christian who the world loves.  
  • First Corinthians 3:3 tells us that jealousy and quarreling are also worldly.   
  • Rebelling against this world means rejecting “worldly passions” (Titus 2:12)
  • making sure, as Colossians 2:8 says, “that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human traditions and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ”

Simon Greenleaf, a legal genius who was one of the principal founders of Harvard Law School, and an expert in rules of courtroom evidence, was a skeptic of the Scriptures.  Then one day he decided to see if the Gospels could even be considered reliable witnesses of the historical Jesus of Nazareth.  He decided to put the Gospels to the test and see if they would be allowed as evidence in a courtroom under the same rules of evidence he established at Harvard.  The result was not only that he concluded they more than met his criteria, but he ended up putting his faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior.  You can read his review of the Gospels in a document called The Testimony Of The Four Evangelists.  It’s powerful.  Among the many things he says that are so insightful, one comment he made pertained to the truth that man is a worshipping being.  He said, “Man is everywhere a worshipper.”  No matter where you go in the world wherever you find man you find him with the impulse to worship.  But then Dr Greenleaf said this about the effect worship has on a man, “Whatever a man worships he begins to take on the qualities of the object of his worship.”  In other words, a person becomes like the thing he worships.  Worship causes imitation.  

Perhaps this is something underlying Paul’s command in Romans 12 when he tells us not to imitate the world.  Because it proves we’re no longer worshipping God, but rather we’ve begun to worship the world.  You imitate that which you worship.  You conform to the pattern of the thing you worship.   

Which brings us to our sermon title and the point of our passage:  true worship.  True worship means we no longer conform to the world, but are now conforming ourselves in every way to our righteous God.

APPLICATION:  If you want to give God true worship, then rebel against the world.


Along with rebelling against the world we should renew our minds.  Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  

Here we see a contrast:  rather than conforming to the pattern of this world we should be conforming our minds to be like Christ.  This is renewing.  

The opposite was seen in chapter 1 verse 28, “just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.”  Notice the mind:  first they rejected the knowledge of God in their minds, then God gave their minds over to a deeper depravity, and then from there they started doing bad things.  This is transformation in the opposite direction:  towards ever-increasing corruption.  Paul says in 12:2, “be transformed by the renewing of your minds” meaning be transformed towards ever-increasing righteousness. 

This is a cause and effect.  Look for cause and effects also when you study the Bible:  what is causing what?  Here, a renewed mind is the cause of righteous transformation. 

APPLICATION:  Actively dedicate your mind to the word of God.  You cannot transform your life to ever increasing righteousness if your mind is not in it.  It starts with your mind.  Transformation starts with a renewed mind.  That starts with loving the Lord with all your mind, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind.” (Mk 12:30).  

A renewed mind also means taking captive every thought and makes it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).  A renewed mind means treasuring the words of God and trusting every one of them because in your mind they are the most precious possession you have.  A renewed mind is not taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies (Col 2:8).  A renewed mind is not anxious because it prays (Php 4:6-7).  A renewed mind only thinks about such things that are noble, pure, right, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. (Php 4:8).  A renewed mind is a forgiving mind, putting out of mind the offenses of others.  A renewed mind is not set on earthly things (Php 3:19; Col 3:1-3).  A renewed mind does not “delight in false humility and the worship of angels” as Colossians 2:18 says, “or go into great detail about what it has seen, puffed up with all kinds of idle notions by their unspiritual mind.”  All their subtle bragging about their so-called visions and out of body experiences, and hearing from Jesus, and encounters with Jesus and with angels – its all a bunch of unspiritual nonsense.  A renewed mind is not like that.

I’m going to add this too:  obedience also renews your mind.  When you act according to what you know is right in your mind, it strengthens your mind in righteousness.  Your conscience is strengthened because there is harmony between what you know to be right and what you’re living like.  The follow through of a renewed mind is a transformed life.  

I’ll add this practical tip too:  if you falter in obedience, then the way to renew your mind is by confessing your disobedience.  We preached an in depth sermon on confessing before and I would urge you to review that.  But for now I will say that confession of your sin is also essential to a renewed mind.  Think about it:  confession literally means to align your perspective with God and admit about sin what God says about sin.  If a renewed mind is increasingly thinking like God then when we think about our sin the same way God does and confess it then that is a picture perfect instance of renewing your mind.  Confession relieves the conscience, it cleanses the spirit, and it restores you and God.  Guilt is not to be “worked off” – it is to be washed off by confession.  

A renewed mind is increasingly aligned with God’s mind; a renewed mind thinks and perceives things from a biblical, godly, Christ-like way.  This is true worship.

APPLICATION:  Renew your mind.


Finally, true worship means approving God’s will.  Verse 2 again says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  

True worship means “testing and approving God’s will.”  We’re going to unpack this but in a nutshell it means you have an ability to know God’s will about a matter, an attitude of revering God’s will, and you actually live out God’s will.  You prove God’s will by knowing it, thinking highly of it, and obeying it.

The will of God should be the preoccupation of every believer.  “Do not be foolish,” Ephesians 5:17 says, “know what the Lord’s will is.”  A couple verses earlier Ephesins 5:10 said, “and find out what pleases the Lord.”  Paul told the believers in Colossians 1:9, “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding…”  This is what Philippians 1:10 is getting at too when it wants us to “be able to discern what is best…”  God’s will is best.  So essentially, Romans 12:2 is saying that by renewing our minds we will be able to test and approve God’s will.

Now the idea of “test and approve” is a Greek word that means to scrutinize something, to examine it, so that you can see whether it is genuine or not, to see if it is worthy or not.  To look something over and put it to use to show the true quality of something.  

The word is used in Luke 14:19 when the guy said, “Hey, I just bought some oxen and I’m heading over to TRY them out.”  He’s going over to examine them, to look them over, all so he can tell if they are the quality he was told they were.  When it comes to God’s will it is referring to our ability to properly assess in our situation what God’s will is.  It’s our moral discernment.  It’s our skill at correctly deciding what God’s will is.   

But “testing and approving” also has the idea of approving something, or agreeing that it is right and correct.  So for instance, in Romans 1:28 it says, “Just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God…”  The phrase “think it worthwhile” is the same Greek word that Romans 12:2 says, “test and approve.”  In Romans 1 it is talking about people who don’t think the knowledge of God and His will is worth anything, it certainly isn’t worth obeying, valuing and submitting to.  So we see it’s more than just us being able to put our finger on what God’s will is, it is our attitude towards it, our estimation of it, our putting the highest possible premium on it.  Romans 2:18 uses the same word when it says, “If you know God’s will and APPROVE of what is superior because you are instructed by the law…”  APPROVE means to have judged God’s will to be right and superior.  So in contrast to the fools of Romans 1 we DO think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God.

A great example of this is the author of Psalm 119.  In verse 24 he says, “Your statutes are my delight, they are my counselors.”  God’s word counsels him to know God’s will AND he finds great joy in knowing God’s will.  But not only in knowing it, but in doing it.  In verse 14 he says, “I rejoice in following your teachings.”  That’s a mind being renewed by God’s word.  That is a mind that is preoccupied with God’s will.  That is a mind that is truly worshipping.  

APPLICATION:  Make God’s Word the habitat for your mind.  Just like the Psalmist. 

APPLICATION:  Along with God’s word, make prayer your habit.  Colossians 1:9 said, “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding…”

APPLICATION:  Along with prayer and the Word, make obedience your habit.  The will of God leads us away from sin and into obedience.  First Peter 4:2 says, “As a result, the believer does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”  So we are not just “knowers” of God’s will, we are “Do-ers” of God’s will.  A disobedient person, a stubborn, self-willed, prideful person will not have any sensitivity to God’s will.  They won’t be able to assess properly what God’s will is because their actions will darken their mind and their understanding.  They won’t delight in God’s will because they are delighting in their fleshly appetites.  Prayer, the Word, and obedience all combine to make a believer most able to test and approve God’s will.  

APPLICATION to the APPLICATION:  On this point of obedience, is where we see the connection with the Great Commission:  “teach them to obey my commandments.”  The commandments are God’s will for how we should live and think, and we are to know them.  We come to know them through the process of discipleship, which is the Great Commission, “Go therefore into all nations and make disciples….”  So not conforming to the pattern of this world and renewing our minds leads to transformation which leads to our ability to detect, love and obey God’s will 

APPLICATION:  Make God’s will your delight.  Like the Psalmist, rejoice in knowing and doing God’s will in your life.  

APPLICATION to the APPLICATION:  If you delight in God’s will, then you won’t care about pleasing the world.  If the world reproaches you for standing on God’s will you won’t care because you are approved by God.  

APPLICATION:  When it comes to God’s will, we must test and approve it.  Testing and approving means we will be able to recognize what God’s will is, AND we appraise it as perfect, good, and right. 

We not only pray to know God’s will better, but knowing God’s will helps us to pray better.  First John 5:14 says, “if we ask according to His will, he hears us.”


Are you offering true worship?

  1. Do you see true worship is important?
  2. Is your worship motivated by God’s mercy?
  3. Is your body under control and dedicated to holiness?
  4. Are you rebelling against the world?
  5. Are you renewing your mind?
  6. Are you proving God’s will in your life?

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