In a nutshell, the Apostle Romans 12:1-2 Paul is encouraging his audience to become a new being, not be conformed to that particular age, but also to submit themselves to the total will of God. How would one manifest these verses in this particular age/time that we are living in?
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2, NIV)
Does making the right choices and actions define God’s will for our lives? His good, pleasing, and perfect will encompasses the intellect, emotion, and will (volition). Agathos, translated good, means good in the sense of right, pure, or genuine. If someone described food as agathos, it would convey the idea that the food is genuine, unadulterated, or edible. Kalos, which means good or beautiful, describes food as tasting good. Pleasing translates euarestos. What agathos is to the intellect, euarestos is to the emotion. It means pleasing, acceptable, or satisfying. Perfect translates the word teleios, which means having attained the end or purpose, complete, perfect, or mature. Thus, it addresses the will, which plans and seeks to accomplish.
God’s will for our lives involves everything we are. Jesus told the woman at the well that the time was coming when true worshipers would no longer worship God in a physical location for sacrifices, but they would worship God in spirit and truth. The word the New International Version (NIV) translates as spiritual in Romans 12:1 is logikos. Some translations use rational or reasonable. Perhaps translating it as mental would convey the aspect of internalized worship without confusing this word with pneumatikos, (spiritual). God desires for our lives to completely belong to Him. Christ’s sacrificial death abolished the old form of sacrifice and fulfilled what those sacrifices symbolized. That sacrifice purchased our lives. Now our act of worship is to live out our lives as God’s possession.
God’s will includes everything we are and do externally, but more important it comprises everything that we are internally. God’s will is foreign to the interests of the secular world. It also conflicts with our unrestrained natural desires. It requires a change in our thinking, desires, attitudes, and opinions. It requires a change in who we are. The Bible gives us the cognitive information we need. When we receive Christ’s sacrifice and give our lives to Him, we receive God’s Spirit. His Spirit counters our former attitudes and desires.
Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 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 12:1-2.
- The first word 'therefore' or for this reason..."for what reason?" must be asked. I think it refers to the first 11 chapters. Because of all of the information and resources you should now understand...
- Present your bodies as a living sacrifice - what does that look like "God, whatever you want me to do I'll do, where ever you want me to go I'll go, and for your glory and not my own.
- do not be conformed to this world: Every man had the tendency to create their own definition of right and wrong vs agree with God. (Judges 21:25, and Romans 10:3)
- be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Believe what is true about reality: comes from having a deep knowledge and understanding of God's word.
- so that you can prove what the will of God is...this is a result. When one reads the Bible they can see where God is moving throughout Biblical history and know where we are invited to participate. basically evangelism and discipleship wherever one goes, dependent upon the spirit of God motivated by His glory.
You say in your introduction “Paul is encouraging his audience to become a new being,”, but this isn’t quite correct. To understand these two verses requires understanding ‘being reborn’.
2 COR 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
First, the Greek structure clearly indicates this ‘new creation’ is something that occurs at ‘rebirth’, that is, right from when you believe. It is not something you become over time. So in Romans 12 Paul isn’t encouraging his audience to become a new being, he is encouraging them to learn that they have already become a new being.
So, let’s look back at 2 Corinthians 5 - What was ‘made new’? Your body?, mind? These are still the same ..
So first, your body ....
ROMANS 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.*
Your body is now a ‘vessel’ that God can use. God [spirit] can now work through you.
Your mind ...
ROMANS 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Your mind needs to be transformed. And the only was to do this is via the Word. As you ‘read/hear’ the word, your mind can ‘learn’ about who you now are, who you have become. It was your spirit that has been ‘made new’, and your mind now needs to start learning from this new source, this new source of understanding. And, the Holy Spirit will ‘teach’ you [your spirit], but your ‘mind/thinking’ needs to be changed to accept this - because your natural reasoning/thinking won’t.
Essentially, after you [your spirit] has been ‘saved’ (become a believer/reborn), your ‘soul’ (mind/will) still needs ‘saving’. And, as your mind (soul) is transforming, your ‘body’ (what you ‘do’ - that is your ‘works’) will begin to fall in line with Gods intent - his ‘will’ for you.
How [are we] transformed by the renewing of [our minds]?
Answer: Through our understanding and faithfulness to the Gospel.
To answer this question, we must understand what it means to be "born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:5). There is an answer to this, but it is not the same as that which occurred on Pentecost in the first century.
The Holy Spirit is illuminated by immersing ourselves in the words of Scripture. While the Bible was written by men, it has been infallibly delivered to us by the Spirit:
John 3:5: "[Truly], I say to you, unless one is born of water and [born of] the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
That is, we should recognize that "the Spirit" in this passage is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the Word. Few would deny that the Holy Spirit is the guiding Force of the Bible. It then follows that we must immerse ourselves in Him (the Word). As we do this, we are internalizing the Mind of God as it replaces our old, worldly perspective with that of Christ; it becomes part of our psyche -- a renewal of our minds. As per the passage noted in the OP:
Romans 12:2: “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” (emphasis added).
When we read God's Word, as we must, and we arrive at a crossroad where one path leads to sin and the other to righteousness, we know how to proceed in order to avoid “grieving the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 4:30) by choosing the path of righteousness. This is something that we heretofore may never have understood. This is the result of possessing part of God’s Mind through our immersion in the Spirit.
Many will claim that they “feel” the Spirit within them, and that is fine. We should probably never begrudge anyone of their peace and happiness in Christ. But if we do not obey the simple commandments spoken by Christ, we have not transformed ourselves by renewing our fleshly minds.
If we choose to neglect the vital aspects of salvation, we are no better off than those who prophesied or cast out demons or performed miracles in the name of Christ and were subsequently rejected by Him in Matthew's Gospel:
Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’"
God is only impressed with our obedience to the Gospel:
John 14:15: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
To love Christ is to obey Him. This verse might otherwise be rendered: “If you do not keep My commandments you do not love me.” This is because we have never altered our behavior or renewed our minds according to the words of Scripture.
Obedience to Christ's commandments through the Gospel is "transforming our minds."