Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 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.
The solution to self is to present ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice unto God. God no longer desires burnt sacrifices and He certainly doesn't want only the part of us that we are willing to give Him. No, He desires everything that we are and everything that we have. We do this by denying self and pursuing Christ and righteousness through further sanctification into Christ-likeness.
In the 2nd verse of Romans chapter 12, we find two commands. The first is to "not be conformed to this world." This means that we are to in no way be identified with, or have the outward shape of, or have any external conformity to this world. This would exclude the expressions and patterns of this world and it would include anything that would keep us from fully identifying with Christ. This world that we are told to not be conformed to is not the literal planet we call home. No, it speaks of the present age or cycle of time to which we find ourselves in. It means that we are not to conform outwardly to the present age in which we live. Why? Well, because it is a world system dominated by the influence of sin and Satan himself. So, anything that Satan promotes, anything that this sinful world system promotes, should not be what we promote or involve ourselves in.
Now, I do not take and actually reject the hyper-separatist movement you find typically in fundamentalist circles. We are to be in the world, we are to influence the world for Christ, but be separate from the world. The hyper-separatist takes this too far. They want separate to the point that they have almost zero contact with anyone or any group that does not hold to their beliefs. They see any involvement with the world on any level as a compromise of what this verse commands when it says, "do not be conformed to this world" (Rom. 12:2). However, this is not the case. You can be in the world, you can work in this world, you can have friends who are "of" this world, you can even engage in and enjoy some of the things that the world promotes as long as it is not sinful or in contradiction to God's Word. Where you draw that line will determine if you cross over into legalism and a Pharisaical mindset. The key is to be a part of the world and influence it rather than allowing it to conform us to its values or lack thereof.
The 2nd command we are given is a positive one. We are commanded to "be transformed," which means we are to undergo an actual transformation. The key connector between the two commands is the external component. We are told to not be conformed to the world which means we are not to externally conform and act like the world, so also with the transformation we are to be undergoing, we are to have our external behaviors and actions conform and reflect the spiritual transformation that has already taken place in our hearts.
The key to this transformation Paul is writing about is getting our outward form changed to be consistent with our inward reality. That inner reality is that our hearts have been regenerated, we have been born again by our faith, and we now possess the righteousness of Christ and eternal life.
The only way we can truly carry out the Great Commission is by having a message that is consistent with who are already are. People can see a hypocrite a mile away. If we are out there preaching salvation by a God that commands us to be holy as He is holy, and then we are out there in the world living no differently than the world then how is someone supposed to believe that we actually believe what we say to be true?
Both of these commands, "do not be conformed" and "be ye transformed" are imperatives in the original, meaning that they are commands. By his apostolic authority and on the basis of the authority of Jesus Christ who is the head of the church, Paul is commanding us to not be conformed to this world but be transformed into Christ-likeness. Even though our spirit and soul is as holy as it ever will be, we reside in sinful humanness which must be put to death daily so that we can live for Christ. This takes ongoing sanctification and transformation which is why both commands are also in the present tense which means ongoing, continuous action on the part of the one doing it.
If you conform to this world, you are essentially putting on an act if you are a Christian because it is not truly who you are. So, in that case, yes, you are being a hypocrite. Someone who is not saved or regenerate acting like the world is consistent with whom their master is. However, a Christian has no business acting like the world does. We have a new master, a new Lord. We have been made righteous in Christ Jesus. We are to be growing up into all aspects in Christ to a mature Christian.
This present age in which we find ourselves displays and promotes actions, motives, desires, convictions (or lack thereof) that are diametrically opposed to that of someone who has been regenerated and born again by the Holy Spirit of God. For us to even consider acting like or patterning ourselves after this world system that is dominated by sin and Satan should drive us to our knees in asking God for forgiveness and helping us to further pursue Him in all things.
It is a common thing for non-Christians to act or masquerade like Christians for various and nefarious reasons. Everything from infiltration attempts to want to join in on the benefits of fellowship, to thinking that someone external righteousness may save them, people from all ages have attempted to "be" Christian without actually being Christian.
I submit that Paul's main point and the key to solving the issue of self both in life but also in the church in the use of our spiritual gifts is to rather being conformed to this age, we are to be transformed into the likeness of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
The next question to be asked is: How is this transformation accomplished? Note what verse 2 says again.
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.
It states that this transformation is by "the renewing of your mind." The mind is the center of reasoning, understanding, it is our intellect. This renewing that the verse talks about is a renovation project. Anyone who has ever done renovation work on a house understands what is involved. Everything from demolition to building to painting, etc. Any and everything that is needed to transform the house from what it is to what you want it to be will be done.
The same is true of the renovation project the Holy Spirit is doing in our life. As we study God's Word and apply it to our lives, as we seek God in prayer, as we obey Christ's commands, as we lift up our brethren in agape love, we are continually being transformed from our old, sinful self into greater Christ-likeness which will be completed when Christ returns and out transformation will be completed.
Why is the Word of God so vital to this renovation project? Take a look at Colossians 3:16.
Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
The Word of God is to dwell in us richly. This cannot happen without the consistent and thorough study of it which should lead to application in our life. The bulk of the 3rd chapter of Colossians speaks to this new life in which we find ourselves as Christians. It also speaks to how we are to be different and we are to lay aside the old things and put on the new things. In a lot of ways, Paul details out in Colossians 3 what he said very briefly in Romans chapter 12, which is to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
The reason churches have trouble, the reason so many churches struggle with self and not using their spiritual gifts is that we don't have members of the body pursuing transformation through the power of the Word of God which comes by the renewing of the mind. Without the Word of God, there can be no transformation of the mind.
How often do you read your Bible? How often do you spend time studying some of the original words and language using one of the available tools that we have like www.biblehub.com or some other resource? How often do you spend reading a conservative commentary on a particular book of the Bible? How often do you spend prayerfully reading over a passage time and time again in order to learn and possibly memorize that passage so that you can fully apply it to your life?
If you are not studying the Word of God and spending quality time in prayer over what you are studying, then you can't expect to see the transformation come to your life that we are commanded to have in the first 2 verses of Romans chapter 12.
If you want to see the removal of self in your life and how you operate in the church concerning the use of spiritual gifts and your particular ministry in the church, then you must be in the Word of God daily seeking to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit of God.