All things change.
Sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly. But inevitably, all things change.
Transformation can be quick, like gas into heat and light when you turn on the cooker. Transformation can be gradual as a baby grows into an adult. Transformation can be very, very slow, as rocks are ground into sand and plants are compressed into diamond.
Transformation can happen to individuals, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly; or transformation can happen to populations, like Darwin’s finches, or like peppered moth populations during the industrial revolution. Transformation can happen to the smallest of creatures as bacteria absorb new DNA and gain resistance to antibiotics or it can happen to the biggest of things as the Himalayas are pushed skywards by shifting tectonic plates.
I suppose, therefore, there is nothing special about the power to transform. It happens all the time. Nothing is ever static in our world. And for me, that’s probably the point. If everything is changing, transforming and transient, then I will never see the end. Whether I live until I’m 100 or die tomorrow, whether I lose a couple of stone or put on weight, whether I am rich or poor, whether I am happy or miserable; in the end the world will keep on spinning – a series of burning gas balls and frozen rocks providing temporary home to a species which may only be transient and whose members will all be forgotten. The world will spin on like it has always done when my body is busy transforming into dust. The outlook is bleak. Nothing stays the same, and because of that, I too am a slave of time and change.
It seems odd then that Paul, in Romans (12:2), urges us to change: ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Yet more changes! But perhaps part of the change that Paul is talking about is the stepping outside of the bleakness I have painted above. Perhaps the only really significant change that can be made, the only one with consequence, is the transformation that Paul suggests – the renewing of my mind.
You see, in context, Paul has just praised God’s wisdom, his knowledge, and his glory and in Romans 11:36 he says that all things are from God, through God and for God. God is the centre of gravity all things revolve around. Nothing happens in isolation from him. We may not understand or even agree, but God is mysteriously involved in all changes which take place, and all things exist for God’s glory, whether we acknowledge it or not.
It is against this background that Paul says we should present ourselves as living sacrifices, set apart for God; not conformed to this world but transformed with new minds so we can discern better what God’s wants and then serve him. And of course, these renewed minds aren’t simply academic challenges like GCSEs or some sort of worldview that we must make ourselves adopt at all costs and with as little questioning as possible. This transformation is from God. He is the one who renews our minds; and yet, he doesn’t do it against our will. We must choose not to resist God’s renewing and transforming of us.
This choice, this transformation, is perhaps the only decision we can make which matters eternally and cosmically. All else will eventually fade into dust or be swallowed by the sun. Without God’s transformation, the world looks bleak and meaningless – a system of pretty spirals on an ever expanding universal map. “Life… is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (MacBeth).
But with God’s transformation, life has meaning, purpose and direction. Life is from God – it is no accident, and each one of us is divinely intended. Life is through God – God sustains us, and every single breath is a gift from our creator. God protects and provides for his creation and therefore we need not live in fear of what we see around us. Finally, life is for God – we live for God. We don’t live just to make money, to have family, to carry on the human race, to enjoy ourselves for a few moments in the sun. We live for God. All else changes and all else fails, so to live for God is to live for the only constant there is.
With God, life has eternal meaning, direction and purpose. There is hope – everything does not just fade at the end, and therefore life is more vivid. Flowers are no longer just the reproductive desperation of a species, but they are beautiful. Mountains aren’t just the sum of tectonics plus glaciation and weathering, but are a picture of the rock of creation reaching to worship its creator. And we are not just a slightly more intelligent species of ape, but we are the crown of creation known individually by name by our creator.
It is this vivid technicolour landscape that we live in by offering ourselves to God and allowing him to renew our minds. Time and tide wait for no one; so let us not delay the only change that has eternal consequence. Let us give ourselves to be transformed and made fit for God’s eternal Kingdom.
Revd Steve Proudlove – February 2016