“Do Not Be Conformed”

Do Not Be Conformed

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 12:2).

Paul warned the saints in Rome that they were not to be conformed to the world. Why was such a warning necessary? What is it that makes conformity to the world such a temptation for Christians? And why does the world want Christians to conform? We will consider these questions in this article.

Why Conformity Is a Temptation

Conformity to the world is a temptation because it generally leads to acceptance. Jesus told His apostles, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:19). The same is true for us today – if we were like the world, then those in the world would love us. Humans are social beings. Before creating Eve for Adam, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). While the direct application of this statement is about marriage (Genesis 2:22-24), the principle extends beyond that. The fact that we are social beings is the reason why encouragement from brethren is so important (cf. Hebrews 3:13). But too many Christians want to be accepted by the world; therefore, they are tempted to conform to the world.

Conformity to the world is also a temptation because it removes the responsibility for one to think for himself. Rather than making a decision based upon the fixed standard of truth, many make decisions based upon the fickle standard of the majority. But this does not excuse us of evil. The Israelites were warned: “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil” (Exodus 23:2; cf. Matthew 7:13-14). We are each accountable to God (Ezekiel 18:20). Joshua understood this. He told the people: “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Even before others had decided, Joshua’s mind was settled. For us to do this requires a knowledge of the truth and the courage to stand alone if necessary. Many are not willing to make this stand, so they ignore the truth and follow the crowd.

Why the World Wants Us to Conform

It is easy to understand why Satan wants us to conform to the world – that is his domain (Colossians 1:13; John 14:30). But why do the people of the world want Christians to conform to them?

First, there is strength in numbers. The wise man emphasized this point: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). This is why it is important for Christians to stick together (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is also why the world wants us to join them. Notice what the wise man told his son: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us ambush the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, even whole, as those who go down to the pit; we will find all kinds of precious wealth, we will fill our houses with spoil; throw in your lot with us, we shall all have one purse’” (Proverbs 1:10-14). The more people who would join with these wicked individuals, the more help and encouragement they had in carrying out their wicked plans.

Second, nonconformity is seen by the world as being “judgmental.” This is seen too often with matters of opinion. If you homeschool your children, some will assume that you believe that other parents are wrong for sending their children to public schools. However, when it comes to matters of sin, there is a sense in which nonconformity is judgmental. Notice what the men of Sodom said to Lot when he refused to conform to their thinking: “This man came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge” (Genesis 19:9). Noah, through his obedience in building the ark, “condemned the world” (Hebrews 11:7). The world does not like this type of condemnation. Therefore, they would prefer that Christians conform to them rather than condemn their sin through their obedience to God.

Why We Are Not to Conform

As Christians, we are to be different. Paul wrote, “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 12:2). God has called us to be “a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9, KJV). The New American Standard version translates this phrase, “a people for God’s own possession.” As “a people for His own possession,” we are to be “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). This means we must not conform to “ungodliness and worldly desires” and “every lawless deed” that is typical of the world (Titus 2:12, 14). We cannot conform to the world and be part of God’s special people.

Furthermore, James warned that those who are friends of the world are enemies of God: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). God does not want us as “enemies,” but to be “reconciled” to Him (Romans 5:10). This was the reason why Jesus came to the earth – to reconcile all men, both Jews and Gentiles, to God. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). Jesus gave His life so that He might “reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:16). God wants us to be in heaven with Him (Revelation 21:3), but not if we conform to the world: “And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into [heaven], but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).

Instead of Conforming to the World…

Let us conform to Christ. “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:21-22). We must strive to live our lives in such a way that we can make the claim that Paul made: “I have been crucified with Christ; and 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 up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Let us conform to the body of Christ. “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Of course, this does not mean that we ignore the sins of our brethren and conform to them unconditionally. Though the church in Sardis was “dead” (Revelation 3:1), there were some who did not conform to the spiritually lifeless majority: “But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4). Also, conformity within the body of Christ does not mean that we bind the opinions of others: “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions” (Romans 14:1). We have liberty of opinion on matters of indifference to God. However, we are to conform to the body of Christ in the way that Paul affirmed in his letter to Philippi: “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 3:17).

Let us also conform to the word of God. “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). The Scriptures equip us for “every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, we must conform our lives to the word of God if we are to please Him in what we do.

Conclusion

As Christians, we are not to be like the world; we are to be like Christ. If you have conformed yourself to the world, now is the time to repent (Revelation 2:4-5). If you are not a Christian and are still in the world, now is the time to obey the gospel and become a disciple of Christ (Matthew 28:19).


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Comments

  1. Wayne D. Teel says

    Such good teaching and so refreshing to the spirit! Thanks for another very well written article. I pray that all men would want to be transformed from this evil world and made into the likeness of Christ.

  2. Thanks, Wayne. I appreciate your regular encouragement.