. . . offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. 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.

(Romans 12: 1-2)

The desire to conform to the pattern of this world comes naturally. The desire to conform to God’s pattern comes supernaturally; it comes from the desire to be in relationship with God, and with the help and power of His Holy Spirit.

Using the world’s pattern leaves us covered in filthy rags, Isaiah says. If we want to transform our minds, we have to decide to make a radical change in our wardrobe.

Paul tells us to “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Rom. 13:14)

Meanwhile, our culture urges us to think of little else but self-gratification. We’re encouraged to have an appetite for indulgence: from spas, sports, and spiffy cars to getting high on substances. The goal is to feel good, to pamper ourselves. Ads tell us to invest well so we can have a retirement filled with sailboats, golf, luxurious accommodations and exotic vacations. They never feature caring for our aging parents or grandchildren, covering the costs of our own chronic illness or of nursing homes.

The world’s pattern is a breeding ground for disappointment, despair, and destructive behaviors, because it clothes us in the illusion that life is about getting instead of giving, about control instead of character, about grasping instead of growth. The sequinned satin eventually deteriorates into filthy rags.

God’s pattern lays the truth out for us. He never sugarcoats anything; He tells it like it is. Life is good and life is hard, and some times it’s good and hard. Sin is a reality that has to be faced and dealt with – both our own sin and the consequences of the sin of others. Heaven is real, and so is Hell; we have a choice to make, and not making it leaves Hell as the default setting.

To be transformed, we’ve got to take off the clothes of the world before we can put Christ on. Putting Christ on over our old clothes doesn’t work. When things get hot, we’ll end up stripping off Jesus first. Not wanting to appear naked, we’ll revert our old clothes.

Putting on Christ means accepting Him as Savior and making Him Lord. It means learning from His Word, weaving it through every part of our thinking and doing. It means trusting Him, no matter what. He’s told us that “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Clothing ourselves with Jesus means that we know Him “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3) As we clothe ourselves with Christ, we cover ourselves with His love, His protection, His guidance, His salvation. Our minds are transformed because they are filled with His Word, which is the truth and nothing but the truth.

We look with new eyes at what we have previously accepted without question. We measure everything against God’s standards. We become rich in love, in compassion, in service. We have a new and daily goal: to become more and more like Jesus.

Clothed with Christ, we have all the treasures we will ever need. We have the fulfillment that can only come in relationship with the One who created us. We’re not surprised by hardship, but strengthened by and through it. We don’t wonder about our purpose, but wonder that God has made His purpose ours.

His pattern fits, because it’s what we were cut out for. We’ve traded our rags for His riches.