What is the goal of the transformation of mind and actions? Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” We are looking into a mirror and we see ourselves transforming into Christ. As we look, more of our old man, our old life, fades away and the image of Jesus reflected back to us becomes clearer. We are becoming more like Jesus so that when we see ourselves, we truly see Jesus in thought and action in our lives.
In the next chapter, 2 Corinthians 4:11, Paul continued this thought: “For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” Paul clearly stated this goal: the life of Jesus must be manifested in our lives. Earlier, he compares it to treasure, like gold or jewels, in earthen pottery because “the power may be of God and not of us.” We are constantly trying to live like Jesus but we realize that we will not have complete perfection on this earth.
Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” We crucify the old man of sin, bury him at baptism (Romans 6:4-6) and are raised to live a new life—Christ living in us. It is a life of faith, founded on the word of God (Romans 10:17). This demands that we study what Christ did and emulate Him.
The New Testament does not give many specific “do” and “don’ts” as in the Old Testament. There are many specific commands, but we must make the majority of our decisions using principles established in the word of God. We do not have a specific command: “Thou shalt not cheat on your federal income tax form.” Nevertheless, we do have the principles of honesty, fairness, and “paying taxes to whom taxes are due” in the scriptures. The Bible does not outline specifics on our apparel (how long, how tight or loose, etc.) but does command us to be modest, able to blush, not to incite others to lust, and wear clothing that reflects godliness, not worldliness. Through an honest application of these principles, we can determine what is proper attire.
Some will say, “But the Bible doesn’t say not to” when trying to defend something that may have no specific restriction but is against the very principles of Christianity. Does the defendant believe in a loophole that will allow his behavior to pass on the Day of Judgment? There are things that might be good that are forbidden in certain circumstances such as eating meat in 1 Corinthians 8:13. Eating meat offered to an idol is not wrong unless it would cause my brother to stumble.
As Christians, we must grow to maturity so we can use the word of God to make decisions in our lives. We must pursue or avoid some things based on general principles of godliness and holiness. The Bible does not tell us what specific movies to watch, books to read, music to listen to, or TV programs to watch. We are given principles that must guide our thoughts: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things,” Philippians 4:8.
Some may be frustrated since there are not many “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not’s” in the New Testament (note: The Old Testament had guiding principles as well: Matthew 22:34-40). However, God is trying to make us better people, not just individuals who can read a checklist and do what is commanded. God did not create us to check off a list of commands but to transform us into Christ-like creatures that want to be godly, holy, and useful for every good work. We must guide our mind by principles in addition to following specific commands.
You will find no particular book of the New Testament that lists all of these principles. The principles are spread throughout the Bible, are seen in the life of Christ, and are the very fabric from which the Christian life is made. By daily study and practice, we can learn the principles and the thought processes that must guide our daily decisions.
“Miserable comforters are you all,” said Job to his friends, and sometimes we are too. When visiting the sick we must guard our tongues. Many patients have had to endure well meaning visitors describing horrible tragedies of people who have had the same procedure as the patient, died after undergoing the same treatment, or died through neglect of the hospital. We should not compare medical war stories. We may make a patient fearful and even impede their recovery by our “comforting words.”
When we visit the sick we should make our visits brief and speak softly. We should not overwhelm the patient with many visitors at once, but wait if there are several others already in the room. If there are other sick people in the room, we should be considerate of them. We should listen to the patient and offer words of comfort. We must not depress them.
One doctor noted that we “should not reveal negative emotional reactions through voice, countenance or manner. The patient may want to show his wound or a bottle of gallstones. Sometimes the patient may be in a pitiful condition, or the odor in the room may be so disagreeable as to make the visit an unpleasant task. Remember that the patient, if conscious, is humiliated about his own condition and aware of the burden he is placing on others” (from Wayne Emmons).