Have you ever tried to be so much like somebody else it was almost kind of comical to watch this transformation? During the era of Jimmy Dean's fame, boys were dressing with white t-shirts and blue jeans, trying to look like the "tough guy". Women were trying to dress and act like Marilyn Monroe. Later on, rock stars like Michael Jackson were on the scene, sporting a new kind of "hip" or "cool" - while young and impressionable kids attempted to master his "moon walk" and got the cool glove! Now, no one wants to see me moon walk, so I won't even try! I didn't then and I won't now. Yet, down through the ages, regardless of the generation in which we lived, people found "models" of behavior or style they wanted to emulate. To be honest with you, I tried to preach like one of my Bible College professors! You might ask how that worked out for me and I'd have to be honest - I was a flop! Why? I was not made to teach in quite the same way he was - although we teach the truth, we have a different style all our own. Nothing was more liberating that to learn I did not need to follow his "pattern", but could allow God to pattern his in me!
Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him. (Romans 12:2 CEV)
Now, if we are patterning our lives after another brother or sister in Christ, the end result is probably not as bad as when we attempt to pattern our behavior after some of the more "secular" examples we have in society today. Yet, even the best "Christian" example is still flawed - so to really understand how we are to act / behave, we need to go to the true source - Christ himself. I think this is why God the Father allowed Jesus to take on human form - so we'd have a way to "pattern" our lives. We see and do much better than we hear and do, don't we? So, by giving us an example (a God with a Bod, to quote my pastor), we can associate with what our behavior should look like in our everyday dealings.
Clearly, our passage warns us strongly against emulating the examples we set before us in this world today. Considering these words were written over 2000 years ago, I think it is kind of mind boggling to know they were concerned with examples back then, especially since those examples had just seen Jesus walking on this earth in person! In every generation, we have chosen wrong examples by which we pattern our lives. In every circumstance, we have more than one choice of how to respond. In choosing wisely, we come closer to the example Christ emulated for us while here on this earth.
So, in order to understand "how" we are to avoid being like an example which is not a good one for us to follow, we need to understand the "right example" a little better. If we behold the right stuff, we eventually reveal the right stuff. What we focus on determines our course of action - the direction we take when we finally do step out. According to our passage, our actions are determined by our mind - thought patterns put together until they produce some sort of action. Thinking on this a little, you might just conclude if you could just think on the "right stuff", you'd consistently "act" the right way. I think this is over-simplifying it a little.
The mind is a complex thing - not fully understood by us and definitely not even used to the capacity or potential it has. In fact, if you study humans long enough, you will find the theory put forth stating man uses only 10% of his brain. Albert Einstein and psychologist William James were both cited as starting this myth about human brain use. Most of the scientific community will tell you that although we may not fully use every brain cell we have, the brain is complex and even the slightest "infarct" or "break" in conduction of nerve activity can cripple a person's intellect, speech, vision, etc. The truth remains evident, though, in the activities of human beings - we don't use our brains quite to the capacity God intended for their use! Sometimes we get pretty far off from what he intended for us!
The key to living right is the right use of our minds - in maintaining the right focus, taking in the right input, and processing the right matter. In other words, what goes in will eventually come out, so put the good stuff in! We have to let God change any way we think which is imperfect, self-determined, or just downright foolish. If we are committed to having his mind become ours, we will be more successful in consistently revealing a positive example of his love and grace in our own lives. This is the purpose of our passage today - not to tell us to "NOT" conform, but to conform to the "right stuff". When we begin to adapt our thinking to his, by changing our focus, we soon begin to see our behavior adapt to the way he desires for his kids to behave. Just sayin!