(By Nakkolackal V. L. Eapen, Austin Parish)
The will of God the Father is that believers faithfully follow in the footprints of His Son, as true disciples, to inherit the Heavenly Kingdom prepared for them even before the foundation of the world. The odds are in the believers’ favor so long as they sanely exercise their freedom of choice, and vice versa. The Pauline methodology outlined in Rom.12:2 is a sine qua non for success in spiritual warfare, and for living abundantly in victory. There are, however, three main hurdles to be overcome. They are – the world (kosmos), the flesh (sarx), and the devil (diabolos). Overcoming of the world and its temptations is by the love of the Father. Triumph over the flesh is through the Holy Spirit. Dominion over the devil is in the Son of God, Who came to “destroy the works of the devil.” (1 Jn. 3:8).
The above three barriers to obeying the will of God need further elucidation.
(i) The World (kosmos): By ‘world’ is meant the organized secular system under the devil’s control which leaves out God, the Holy Trinity. We read in 1 Jn. 5:19 that “the whole world is in the power of the evil one.” The word ‘worldly’, which is the adjective of world, has a negative connotation, in Theology, of going after the world and its fleeting pleasures, and living in vainglory in conformity with its secular code of conduct, culture, and practices.
(ii) The Flesh (sarx): In expressions like “flesh and blood” in Eph. 6:12, flesh is used in its literal sense. However, the flesh does also represent a negative corrupting trait ingrained in human nature. Struggle with the depraved cravings of the flesh is an ongoing battle in real life till the very end. The works of the flesh are exemplified and enumerated in Gal. 5:19-21. Apostle Paul’s admonition is to, “Walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16).
(iii) The Devil (diabolos): The names, ‘Devil’ and ‘Satan’, are interchangeably used in the Bible to refer to “the deceiver of the whole world.” (Rev. 12:9). The meaning of devil is ‘slanderer or accuser’, and that of Satan is ‘adversary’. Christians’ defense against the devil is putting on “the whole armor of God.” (Eph. 6:11).
The suggested 3-step methodology in Rom. 12:2 is concise and clear. The first step is: “Do not be conformed to this world.” Though negatively prescriptive in tone and tenor, it behooves believers to live in a sinful world without being stained by its corrupting ways and degrading influences. They are to be like the Lotus that grows in water, but is not wet with water. The initiative rests with the believers. Theirs is the choice to make; to act upon it; and live accordingly with determination of purpose. Divine love, mercy, and grace will, then, sustain them through their journey of life to forge ahead without faltering and wavering.
The next step is: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” When believers cease to cling to the world, they are on the path to recovery and regeneration. Their focus having shifted from self-indulgence to pleasing God the Almighty, the devil retreats. The impulses and drives of the flesh stay in check; not suppressed, but sublimated to realize higher spiritual goals. The process of transformation begins from within. And it is discernible in how they think, speak, and act. In due course, they become new creatures in the Lord.
The last step is: “That you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The proof is in the new life in Christ the believers live in accordance with the will of God the Father. They are in themselves the epitome of what is good, acceptable, and perfect in God’s sight. Satan, then, dreads them, and flees from their presence.
Precious as we are in God’s sight, He patiently awaits our turning a new leaf, and starting afresh to be His and His alone by putting into practice the Pauline methodology in our day-to-day life.