Matt and I [and Krista (my wife) and several other couples in our “life group” just finished serving on a Tres Dias Weekend. I started three-day Renewal retreat weekends when I was 15 years old attending Rock and Teens Encounter Christ weekends, and I am still regularly involved nearly 35 years later. For the better part of the last 10 years, I have functioned as the Head Spiritual Director (shepherd) to our community in Northern Illinois and Southeastern Wisconsin. I have made the statement several times and I will likely take it to eternity with me, that our investment in this ministry is likely the shining Jewels of the crowns of our lives. The life transformation we have seen through others for the kingdom of Christ is simply immeasurable.
These weekends go by several different names as I have suggested. Via de Cristo is a Spanish phrase meaning Way of Christ that is the Lutheran version of the weekend. The United Methodist Church also has their version of the weekend called Walk to Emmaus, and sometimes takes on other names such as Chrysalis, Journey to the table, the Upper Room, the Great Banquet or Discovery Weekends. There are several other weekends that are described as “Cursillo” weekends (the name of the original Catholic Origin of the movement); but we have been involved with the non-denominational version of it (mostly) called Tres Dias. All of these weekends are based around the same key concept which is described as a 72-hour encounter with Christ or a short course on Christianity. They are framed around a series of foundational talks and testimony on Christianity given over the course of the weekend by both pastors and lay people.
A Tres Dias weekend is described as taking a step in your relationship with the Lord by giving Him three days. “Regardless of where you are in your faith walk, growing closer to God requires some action on your part. Stopping to pray. Reading your Bible. Going to church. These are only some of the tools the Lord uses to answer the whispers of your heart. Tres Dias is another of those tools. It’s a commitment to take a short break from the business of life to spend three days seeking God and listening to His voice in your heart. Tres Dias is a gift you give yourself….your own personal appointment with your Lord and Savior. And for thousands who’ve gone before you, it’s made a life-altering difference in the quality and depth of their spiritual walk.” -tresdias.org
Every weekend I have ever been on was simply and truly amazing. Lives were transformed. If you are considering whether attending the weekend is a good decision for you or someone you know, I would encourage you to not over think it. The answer in faithfulness to the Lord in your life is simply, YES.
This last weekend was a bit different for my wife and I, it took on a “new” perspective for us in many ways. First, I had the honor of shepherding Matt as he led his first weekend as the lead Spiritual Director. Second, many of our life group friends “worked” together on this weekend, and lastly, several others from our group attended the weekend as candidates for their first time. One of the couples has been one of our closest friends in ministry and we have been inviting them on a weekend for nearly 15 years. This might be the first year we didn’t actually invite them, but the Holy Spirit prodded their hearts to invite themselves! I guess the timing was finally “right.”
The theme for this weekend was Romans 12:2 and it was ironically weekend 44. The theme was to be transformed and made new in Christ. When the author of Romans (I would presumably say Paul indirectly) penned this verse, it was shrouded in a bit of mystery (some might even say vagueness) that I have come to love particularly in the rest of the Pauline Epistles. In other words, it can be interpreted several different ways and you might really need to study the context to get the best or most accurate interpretation. Or maybe not. Maybe the point was that it was supposed to simply be “that dynamic.”
But in my usual “EXPEDITION 44” manor, let’s connect some mysterious dots and go for a ride!
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 NASB
Conformed – Paul’s term, syschematizesthe, get’s right to it. It is a statement that very clearly says don’t be like the world. It takes on the Paul and Timothy mindset of Ambassadors or Aliens who do not belong in a foreign Kingdom and are mere representatives of another king of another nation. I often refer to this as a Christoformity mindset. Don’t get entangled in a world that isn’t yours. The Greek verb used here, syschematizo, is the word we get “schematic” form. It is a sort of blueprint or mold that is meant to be followed to arrive at the intentional dynamic of the designer. It is a bit of a contronym world play here. In other words, don’t let the world “con” form you, but be (re)formed by your creator (please don’t get this confused with the idea of reformed theology!) More simply don’t take on a pattern of the world but of Christ. To the audience intended, this meant don’t become Roman, (or any other systems of the world) stay in God’s kingdom not theirs.
Well, now that we have hit the major thrust of the passage let’s step back again. There is a connector word that I want to urge you to consider. In Greek it is the word kai and simply used thousands of times to mean “and” in English. But it is important because it is going to tie things together spiritually. It should make you step back and figure out what it is trying to connect before you can assume or step forward. In this case, it connects the precious line of “Present your body a living sacrifice.” This is priestly language. This is the call and commission of every believer to accept Jesus’ (not the world’s) definition of being a disciple and be transformed to bear the very image of Christ as a mediator to the world. To represent God to the people and the people to God. But it also takes on the Levitical mindset that your complete life should be wholly given (Nephesh language) to live “all in.” It is going to (in a few words) reteach another story that Peter Reminds us of in I Peter 2:9. I love how they are all connect in unity here. In Hebrew writing form this was a way of connecting words to remind someone of a message they would be familiar with (often Torah teaching) so that they didn’t need to preach another sermon but could build on the mindset of the teaching into their new one. 1 Peter was written after Romans, so he is building on what Paul gives us.
Kai means if you want to experience the transformation of Christ’s blueprint in your life you must live as an “all in” priestly sacrifice for Him. Sacrifice for the kingdom of Jesus came before renewal. Order is important. Sacrifice comes first. This is a God’s dynamic of the first sacrifice starting with the first “communion” in Leviticus 7. We give a sacrifice completely to the Lord, then we partake.
Going back to the term conform, you have been corrupted. You are sick, you have a virus, you have been contaminated. Get out. Run, take a bath, get purification. This is a result of being too much of the world and not enough in Jesus. We are on a journey of sanctification and the world doesn’t like us anymore (if we are progressing to Christ) and Jesus says we are caught in the middle as well. We are stuck in the middle and Jesus urges us to be sanctified. Cody Jinks was wrong, you don’t want to be in the middle if you’re in the kingdom of God. Thats the problem. (don’t be lukewarm.)
RENEW – The heart of the message comes next. Our weekend theme was the root of the verb “renew,” in Greek, which is kainós. Paul doesn’t use the word néos as I previously mentioned, and this is important. He uses the less known word kainós. Whenever a Biblical author uses a word different than what would have been the more common word of the day, you need to stop and ask why. It would be like me saying, I want everyone to take on a “reclaimed” mindset. Who says that? Wouldn’t you just say “new?”
When God creates the original spiritual beings by His very hand, they are referred to as a non gender term that meant “sons or daughter of God” by definition. They are the original “holy ones.” As the earth is given over to these beings that fall (in a Deuteronomy 32 worldview), humanity (God’s treasured possessions) become lost to them in a sense. The people follow the fallen ones rather than God and are handed over to their sinful desires. Watch our video on wrath for a better explanation. God’s plan through a royal nation of priesthood calling in Israel was to reclaim what was lost. Israel failed and through Jesus each person that accepts the calling and commissioning of the New Covenant is now uncharged to pick up where Israel dropped the ball. Go reclaim the world for and with Jesus! As you accept Jesus in allegiance and make a profession of obedience to Him you begin the process of sanctification to be made “better” than new in Christ.
Paul thinks in Hebrew and in Hebrew words connect. When he uses the term kainós we get a whole bunch of teachings along with the term. We think of the regeneration that comes in water and spirit baptism, we think of the Spirit that strengthens us and continues to do a work in and through us, we think of Moses and God saying “I AM WITH YOU.” We consider the term Nenikeka that Jesus used in John 16:33 which meant “to be victorious over.” That Jesus will simply do this as He is IN us. In Greek this reads like a silent understood subject, Jesus is WITH AND FOR YOU. The power is in the Lord, we are just the vessel.
To be made new or reclaimed means that we take on a “new nature”.
Paul is asking that our complete person, (remember he is thinking like a Hebrew and the mind is a Nephesh reference to the whole person), be transformed into a new paradigm. ALL JESUS ALL THE TIME. Swim in Jesus. Be completely consumed. Be surrounded. Jesus over everything.
Paul is calling for a complete transformation, centered in a major paradigm shift that should change everything about you and around you.
I love the connection on the weekend made to working out.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling Philippians 2:12
Work Out – This is a reference to the Hebrew Kata which in Genesis meant toil. Work in the garden was to walk or commune with God. At the fall it turns to toil associated with childbirth and work in the fields. This becomes a word play in scripture. This is so beautiful.
In Matthew 18 we get this amazing word play picture. Matthew 18 talks about working out differences amongst believers. We often want to think of Sin as huge atrocities against people and they certainly can mean that. But in Matthew 18 we get the most common or generic form of sin. There are over a dozen Greek words for sin and this one is the one used the most and simply means to go off course, to wander or waver, to be mistaken. In other words, its sounds pretty soft. (Trust me, I am not watering down sin here, quite the opposite actually). If you see something differently than “work it out.” (And if you don’t you are actually in sin.) It starts out with “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18:19 NASB We see the word symphonesosin, used which is where we get the word symphoneo for symphony. Then at the end he comes back and uses the word for being in harmony together, which is also connected with order in Genesis. If your following, the idea to return to the design or order of God’s original intention in Eden in connecting working out.
Walking with God is the original work of the garden and implies joyful order. (Remember that was Adam and Eves original work, to help bring order and later reign and rule over creation.) But after the fall, work is transformed into or becomes, (takes on the mindset) of toil and pain in childbirth. But now Paul is connecting the return or regaining of the nations as priests. Jesus is bringing new life both here and now and, in the future, eschatologically. We will move away from the toil of the world and regain the joy of walking with Jesus as we partner with him in a new priestly calling.
The pain of childbirth returns to the joy of making children. Yes, there is a Biblical sexual reference here to plowing the field and it is so beautiful. Sex is often considered the most intimate relationship we have on earth. You might say it is a glimpse of heaven on earth. It is a prize of marriage and a picture of the relationship between Jesus and the church. This is a “picture” or “mosaic” of the deep intimate relationship that we can’t even imagine to its deepest fullest potential that God wants with us. (You have to think holier though! He uses a sexual inuendo to get our attention or meet us on earth, but want to deliver us to a higher thought form of intimacy that goes much further or deeper than its sexual worldly example.) When you plowed a field well in ancient thinking, you got a great feeling of completion. You were so exhausted that your muscles tremored, and you wanted to just rollover and smile in sheer ecstasy. Sound familiar? When we read the phrases “work out” your differences or “work out” your salvation, the idea is that it’s going to be a bit hard, it is going to feel like toil at first but when devoted wholly to the lord the result is complete joy. The connotation is in kingdom work. All that you do. The toil tied to the world might be exhausting as you wade through it to get to Jesus’ kingdom, but in completion, leads to joy in Jesus.
When we reign and rule, keep and cultivate, our vocation to represent Jesus as the light, takes on the picture of rigorous work and sometimes tribulation and toil; but the result is founded in a relationship that is so imitate that we tremor in sheer joy when the work is completed both now and to come. Heaven comes to earth. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Whether we are working out our indifferences with a believer, coming to terms with our theology, or running the race of life we are to be completely given to the relationship. And in doing so we fulfill the great calling and commission to be a disciple and make disciples.
There is also a reference to “fear” which brings us to the awe and reverence of the Lord. Don’t let your modern-day English translation of “fear” ruin your relationship here. Sometimes we forget the seriousness or intensity that Jesus asks for in discipleship.
This is the mindset that Paul takes on by connecting Hebrew words in Romans 12:2. It means transparency in Christ and among believers to be made new in and completely transformed in Christ. We get a sense of urgency.
Paul’s choice of the Greek term anakaínōsis connects the Hebrew term, ḥādāš in the Septuigint. ḥādāš is about renewal, not something brand new. It means to be reclaimed but takes on a strange idea that this rebuilt version is actually better than new. It isn’t a mind transplant such as a brain surgery, it is a mind mod. Your new mind is super charged, better than what the original or new version was!
Finally at the end, “perfect” in Paul continues the same thought pattern completing the sentence and means wholly given, complete, or all in. (Not Platonic perfection.) Here is a video on that idea.
In Christ the old is completely gone. Don’t look back. It doesn’t even resemble the old anymore because it radiates. Remember how Jesus wasn’t even recognized after He rose again? He took on the persona of the gardener. What a beautiful metaphor of healing and the return to be the great priestly cultivators of the new earth. Will you join Jesus to keep and cultivate? To be the priesthood that reclaims what is lost and bring the world back to walking with Jesus. Be immersed. Jesus in and around you. Be consumed in and by living water. That everything in and around you might speak Jesus.
Will you be completely transformed and bring transformation?
DeColores! (bang bang!)