. . . 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.  (Romans 12: 1-2)

If the foundation of our worship is full commitment of every part of our lives to a vital relationship with God, Paul says, building on that relationship will transform us.

When my son was little he was caught up in the Transformers toy craze. With a few flicks of the hand, these vehicles, devices and animals were changed into robot action figures, and then back again.

But just as real worship isn’t a part-time commitment, transformation isn’t a back-and-forth phenomenon. As our faith grows, it can seem like we keep taking one step forward and two back. That’s not unusual. No baby becomes an adult overnight. It takes time to learn, time to stumble and get on your feet again, time to build on experience. As we grow up in our faith, what needs to be constant is our desire to be transformed, despite the obstacles and setbacks. That desire will keep us persevering, keep us focusing on God, keep us anchored despite Satan’s attempts to set us adrift.

There’s a fundamental life decision here: to be conformed or to be transformed. We can conform either by choice or by default. Transformation is always a choice; it never happens by default.

The Book of Genesis reveals that God created us to be in a relationship of love with and absolute trust in Him. He provided everything we need for a fulfilling life. He marked out a clear boundary to prevent enduring harm to His children.

But we (we can’t really blame it on our forebears; we have the same nature) chose to do things our own way. We didn’t want to be the kids who still had so much to learn; we wanted to take the fast track and be the ones in charge. So we took the pattern God gave us and redrew it along our own lines. We didn’t want to fit ourselves into God’s pattern; we wanted God’s pattern altered to fit us.

So the pattern of this world has been set according to human ideas, and the world expects us to tailor our lives to fit it. Like a sewing pattern, it offers options for some different looks and comes in various sizes, but the basic elements are standard. Some sections are cut after God’s pattern, but others are own own creation.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” says the writer of Hebrews (13:8). “I the Lord do not change,” God affirms in Malachi 3:6. He has one pattern, and one size fits all. The world has patterns with several options, and the patterns change – often radically — along with the fashions of the day. If our desire is to be transformed, we need to recognize the difference between what the world thinks is good and what God knows is good; what is trendy and what is true.

We also have to rely on different material. A tailor learns to use the right fabric when cutting out a garment. The pattern recommends fabrics that are suitable and those that are not. The right pattern and the right material are necessary for a successful outcome.

The world chooses the material of self for its pattern. It’s available in a variety of weights and weaves: from self-giving to self-absorbed, self-denying to self-indulgent, self-conscious to self-righteous. Whatever the fabric, self is woven through it. The pattern states clearly that this self-fabric is guaranteed for life and whatever comes after. It will cover us if we keep to the pattern; we can be the tailors of our own lives. We can make ourselves good, with or without God (who, according to the world’s pattern, is optional and takes many forms.)

Isaiah has a different description of our attempts to use our own raw material to follow this pattern: “. . . all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”(64:6). He also tells us where to get what we need: “. . . God . . . has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness. . . “ (61:10).

We live in this world, so conforming comes naturally. Our minds are trained to conform to what is around us. If we want to be transformed, Paul says, our minds have to be reformed.