Transformed by the renewing of our mind
By Frauke Gyuroka
It’s not easy to write about Christian or Adventist behavior and lifestyle. In Western society we put so much emphasis on our individuality and privacy that we think no one has the right to write or say anything about our individual lifestyle.
In some churches the subject of lifestyle is reduced to a discussion about clothing—leading almost always to tensions within the congregation. Well-meaning older women sometimes take younger (often not even baptized) women aside, telling them that their skirts are too short or their heels are too high. At best, those who are spoken to politely ignore their counselors; in the worst case, feelings of hostility may eventually lead some to stay away from church. There are others, however, who vehemently defend the opinion that our appearance does not matter to God, and therefore it does not matter how we dress for worship or during the week.
Food and drink is another area that can cause problems among Adventists, at times leading to polarization within churches. “Liberals” and “conservatives” find the lifestyle of the other group completely unacceptable, while they feel assured of their own perspectives. Consequently, we often lose sight of the real focus of our faith, the atmosphere in church is tainted, and the mission of the church is diminished or completely paralyzed. Yet it should not be so!
The Biblical Lifestyle Principle
What makes our lifestyle Christian? How can others see that we are Adventists, and should they even see it? Is a Christian lifestyle synonymous with an old-fashioned and boring life, one in which everything that is fun is forbidden? Who can orientate us?
I have greatly benefited from Paul’s counsel in his letter to the Romans: “I beseech you therefore, brethren [and sisters!], by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1, 2).
God wants us to live an exceptional life, following a standard that distinguishes us from the world surrounding us. The standard is the Bible; Jesus Himself is our example. It’s all about a transformation in our thinking. Only this transformation will help us realize what God wants—then we will be happy to do it.
We are called to be a godly people who think, feel, and act in harmony with the principles of heaven. For the Spirit to recreate in us the character of our Lord we involve ourselves only in those things which will produce Christlike purity, health, and joy in our lives. This means that our amusement and entertainment should meet the highest standards of Christian taste and beauty. While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit. It also means that because our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, we are to care for them intelligently. Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible and abstain from the unclean foods identified in the Scriptures. Since alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and the irresponsible use of drugs and narcotics are harmful to our bodies, we are to abstain from them as well. Instead, we are to engage in whatever brings our thoughts and bodies into the discipline of Christ, who desires our wholesomeness, joy, and goodness. (Rom. 12:1, 2; 1 John 2:6; Eph. 5:1-21; Phil. 4:8; 2 Cor. 10:5; 6:14-7:1; 1 Peter 3:1-4; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20; 10:31; Lev. 11:1-47; 3 John 2.)
Is this boring or old-fashioned? For a person not interested in Christ—maybe. For an avowed follower of Jesus, however, this is an exciting challenge. If we are convicted that we are truly dealing with the Word of God, we have to live according to His principles. Yet our main challenge is not theological. Our main challenge is finding the time and space to let His Word transform us. If our lives are dominated by media, work, entertainment, or any other demand our environment places on us, chances are high that we adopt more and more (even unconsciously) the lifestyle and rhythm of our environment. We have to counteract this tendency consciously.
The New Testament tells many stories of people whose lives were changed when they came into contact with Jesus. Remember the change in the life of the demon-possessed man in the country of the Gerasenes (see Mark 5:1-20)? That radical encounter with Jesus changed everything—even the way he dressed (verse 15) and how he spent his time (verse 20).
Jesus’ disciples provide other examples of how we are transformed through communion with Jesus. Selfish, ambitious men who sought their own advantage, essentially the same others living in Judea at that time, were changed into selfless, service-minded men who were prepared to use all their resources (money, time, health, skills, etc.) for Jesus. They were willing to make personal sacrifices for Jesus—and were even grateful for the opportunity (see Acts 5:41).
Here is their secret (and it can be ours, too!): in order to develop a Christian lifestyle, it’s imperative to read Scripture and be guided by the influence of the Holy Spirit (Jesus’ representative) as personally and as practically as possible. And yes, this has to happen on a daily basis. John the Baptist’s simple lifestyle (see Matt. 3:4) reminds me of the importance of simplicity in my life. When I read that Jesus and His disciples often did not have enough time to eat (see Mark 3:20; 6:31) and that He frequently had no place to rest (see Matt. 8:20), I realize that I often place too high a value on eating, drinking, and living a consumer-driven life. Perhaps God wants me to use my time and money in better ways.
In fact, Jesus is the perfect example of God’s balance. For although He sometimes had little time to eat, we never get the impression that He was stressed out. He always had time for things that were important. He was not worried by what others said and did, but focused upon His mission (see John 17:4). He wanted to glorify God and save humanity—everything else was subject to this grand objective. Ultimately, Jesus even forgot Himself and gave His life so that we can truly live again.
Those who encounter this Jesus in His Word are changed by the influence of the Holy Spirit from within. “That means that self no longer has the supremacy,” writes Ellen White. “The Spirit has taken of the things of Christ, and revealed them to [the believer] in such an attractive light as to have a transforming effect on his habits and practices. . . . His enjoyment is the same as that of Christ—in seeing souls saved.”*
Our health, our appearance, our possessions, our leisure activities—all of these are no longer an end in themselves, but are subject to the higher goal of glorifying God and winning souls for Jesus. This is not old-fashioned and certainly not boring, but gives a joy and fulfillment that will last into eternity.
* Ellen G. White, “Missionary Work,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Oct. 6, 1891.
Frauke Gyuroka serves as the German language translator of Adventist World and lives with her family in Graz, Austria.