“Do not conform 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” (Rom. 12:2, NIV).
How can you tell that someone is a Christian? Think about it. What attributes, word usage, actions, desires, and dreams identify a Christian without him ever saying that he follows Jesus? On Sunday, we “assume” everyone in the church is a Christian, but can you tell a difference between those same individuals and everyone else in the world during the rest of the week?
Israel was in a unique position. They were God’s chosen people, and God went before them and gave them the land He promised Abraham. God defeated all the enemies that they faced during the process. God used prophets and leaders to accomplish the work, but God was their King.
Let’s take a look at 1 Samuel 8. The elders of Israel gathered before Samuel and said to him, “’You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have’” (v. 5, NIV). The Israelites were not happy being the only nation to not have a human king. They wanted to look like everyone else; they took for granted the unique position they were in by having God directly lead them.
God responded to Samuel and told them that “’they have rejected me as their king’” (v. 7). It was not only a desire to look like other nations, but it was a direct rejection of God. God tells Samuel to let the people know the consequences of having a king. In verses 9-17, Samuel tells them that installing a king will make the people go to war, to give of their land, and to give of their best crops and animals. Finally, in verse 18, Samuel finishes by saying, “When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’”
Even after all those warnings, the people refused to listen and said, “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” The people did not care about what Moses said in Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV): “’For the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.’”
In Judges 4:14 (NIV), Deborah told Barak, “’This is the day the Lord will give you victory over Sisera, for the Lord is marching ahead of you.’” The issue here is not that the Lord abandoned the Israelites and they needed a human king to protect them; they wanted an option that allowed them to look like everyone else.
We know from reading the next few books the consequences of what having kings did for the Israelites. For every David, there seemed to be multiple evil kings like Ahab who neglected God and turned the people into idolatry. For every Josiah, there were kings who led the nation into captivity from their enemies because the protection of God was not on them due to their lack of obedience. God did not fully neglect His people, but He did allow them to conform to the ways of the nations that surrounded them and reap the results of those actions.
What are some examples of ways Christians conform to society today?
Here are just a few:
– Not being able to tell a difference between a Christian and non-Christian at work in terms of gossip or profanity that is being used.
– Christians that consume any and all forms of entertainment media despite the blatant sexuality or occult themes on display.
– Christians who do not volunteer of their time or money to help those in need, to support the local church, or support local organizations.
– Christians who refuse to love their neighbors because they “don’t get along” or “it seems awkward.”
– Christians who let anger control them to the point that, if you cut them off in traffic, they will give you a very ungodly response.
Now, there are many more examples, and some of these vices may be things you are struggling with. My goal is not to condemn you but to get you to think about your sanctification process. “Sanctify” originates from the Greek word hagiazo, which means “to be separate” or “to be set apart.” In the Bible, sanctification generally relates to a sovereign act of God where He “sets apart” a person, place, or thing in order that His purposes may be accomplished. Our sanctification process may be a lifelong journey that starts at salvation, but we need to be aware of where we are in the journey, ensuring that we are moving forward, not backward.
We need to listen to that conviction inside of us from the Holy Spirit, growing in holiness. We will never be perfect. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (NIV). Our goal is to be transformed, to be set apart, to look different than the world that is overrun by sin. Romans 12:2 is a foundational verse for Discerning Dad because of how important I feel it is for the Christian. We need to renew our minds daily, to not lose our witness to others.
1 Peter 1:14 tells us “do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (NIV). Our sin nature does not magically go away when we accept Christ. We must allow ourselves grace as we grow but also not get complacent with where are. It is a battle we might fight until we are called home!
St. Francis of Assisi is attributed as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.”
I leave you with this example:
Athanasius, early bishop of Alexandria, stoutly opposed the teachings of Arius, who declared that Christ was not the eternal Son of God, but a subordinate being. Hounded through five exiles, he was finally summoned before emperor Theodosius, who demanded he cease his opposition to Arius. The emperor reproved him and asked, “Do you not realize that all the world is against you?” Athanasius quickly answered, “Then I am against all the world.”1
Discerning Reflection: In what areas of my life am I conforming to the world? Will others know I am a Christian by my actions; why or why not? What specific things do I need to ask for forgiveness about?
Prayer: Lord, help me to be a witness for You in my words and actions. Forgive me for the sin that I try to justify so that I can conform to the world. Help me learn daily how to be transformed to be holier before You. Amen.
1- Reference retrieved from http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/c/conformity.htm
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on discerning-dad.com
Featured Image by Alex Iby