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From Infancy to Maturity

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 12:2

If we want to make a difference in the world, we must be different from the world. And that is possible only by being transformed by God’s Word.


I have read about the transformation of a silkworm into a moth. The silkworm hatches from a tiny egg and begins eating mulberry leaves almost constantly for the first six weeks of its life. It grows to around three inches long before finding a little limb from which it begins a three-day process of spinning itself into a beautiful silk cocoon. 

Once unwound, the silk thread of one cocoon can be over a thousand yards long. Before the moth hatches, the cocoons are harvested and dropped into boiling water, where the silk thread unwinds. 

According to Chinese legend, the first silk thread was made when a Chinese empress was sitting under a mulberry tree, and a cocoon fell into her hot tea.  She watched as the strong, silky threads of the cocoon began to uncoil. 

The process of raising silkworms and developing the use of silk in weaving began in China 2,000 years before the birth of Christ. The Chinese would eventually raise silkworms and trade their beautiful silk fabric to the rest of the known world.

Now the greatest danger to the silk business is if the moth inside breaks free before the cocoon is harvested. It would leave a trail of broken thread, unusable to the industry. To keep the moths from fully maturing in their process of metamorphosis, the silk farmers steam the cocoons with warm air. For whatever reason, the comfort and warmth provided by the steam actually stunts the growth process and the silkworm never fully matures into an adult moth. It finishes weaving the cocoon, but it never breaks free.[1]

I cannot help but think of the metamorphosis of the believer. I wonder, how many Christians never grow to maturity, never break free of the cocoon as a mature adult in Christ.

How do you break free of the cocoon? Well, the apostle Paul is actually going to use the word metamorphosis as he gives us the answer.

We are now in Romans 12:2, where Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” In this brief, inspired answer, Paul gives us a negative command, a positive command, and a plan of action.

Here is the negative command: “Do not be conformed to this world.” The original language here with this passive present imperative, could be literally translated, “Stop letting the world conform you.” We would say it this way: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold!” Apparently, some of the believers here in Rome were being squeezed into the mold of the Roman Empire.

The word Paul uses for “world” (aiōn) can be translated “age” or “this contemporary generation.” So, Paul is telling us to not be pressured to think and talk and dress and act like our present generation—the world around us.

The message for us is to think for ourselves and to resist the world’s pattern of living and thinking. Of course, that is easier said than done. We are by nature followers, imitators who just want to fit in. As far back as first grade, you wanted the shoes your friends wore and the lunch box they carried. And that temptation does not stop in first grade.

So, the negative command here in Paul’s answer is, “Do not be conformed to this age.” Now here is the positive command: “But be transformed.”

“Transformed” is the Greek word metamorphoō, which means to change from one form to another. It gives us our word, metamorphosis, which we use to refer to that process by which the silkworm transforms into an adult moth. It is the process of moving from infancy to maturity.

The apostle Paul commands us to be transformed. But he uses the passive voice. That means, he is not commanding the believer to transform himself but to “be transformed.” It is going to take something else to actually transform us.

So, we do not just decide to be transformed by trying harder; there is actually an agent at work in our lives that transforms us. And what is that agent that is at work in us? Paul answers in his letter to Timothy: 

[Be] trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness. (1 Timothy 4:6-7)

The transforming agent is the Word of God. So, we are not trying to be transformed; we are training to be transformed.[2]

We are not trying to be godly; we are training for godliness. In fact, the Greek word Paul uses here for “train” is gumnazō, which gives us our word gymnasium.

Paul is effectively saying to Timothy, “If you want to be in shape spiritually, go into the gymnasium of the Word of God and work out. You want to be godly? Your training coach is the Word of God. Put yourself in his hands—the result will be godly character.”

So, how do we break free of the cocoon and transform into a mature adult? First, here is what we are not to do—be squeezed into the mold of the world’s thinking and acting. And here is what we are to do—allow the Word of God to work in us a godly character.
And with that, Paul gives us the plan of action. How are we to be transformed? “By the renewal of your mind.”

To renew your mind, one author wrote “is like deleting old files from a computer, completely erasing their presence and uploading new files from Scripture, through which the Holy Spirit refashions our minds.”[3]

The active role you play is becoming a student of the Word. God is not going to open your Bible for you. He is not going to study and memorize the Word for you. That is your part. And when you do your part, God uses the information of the Word to do the work of transformation in your mind and heart.

Let me put it this way: you will not be transformed unless you are being informed by the Word of God.

So, as you are being informed by the Word of God, resist the curriculum of the world’s thinking patterns; resist the peer pressure of the world around you. You see, when you are guided by the Word, you will be guarded from the world.

I remember reading of a high school student who understood that peer pressure can work both ways. He was on a Caribbean cruise. One night his friends tried to entice him into the ship’s bar, but Chad, whose mother was an alcoholic, had determined to never drink. He was a believer and had reinforced his mind with Scripture by memorizing verses from Proverbs about alcohol abuse. He explained to his friends that addiction ran in his family and said, “I have learned from the Bible that ‘wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise’” (Proverbs 20:1).

They replied, “Come on, Chad, just one drink won’t hurt anybody.”

He replied again with Scripture, “‘Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent’” (Proverbs 23:31-32).

Well, his friends became angry and accused him of rejecting their company. He quietly said, primarily to himself, another proverb, “‘If sinners entice you, do not consent’” (Proverbs 1:10).

What an example to all of us! This is a young man who is in the process of being transformed by saying no to the world and yes to the Word. He is growing up. He is beginning to stretch his wings in spiritual freedom and godly conviction. He is moving from infancy to maturity.

[1] “Silkworm,” Enchanted Learning,

[2] John Ortberg, “True (and False) Transformation,” Leadership (Summer 2002), 104.

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