The cultures of the world have a powerful influence over people. Food, clothing, music, personal hygiene, buying and selling, styles, politics, religion, matters of respect and honor and much more, are elements of the culture that motivate us to change our behavior to conform to the present norms. There is immense peer pressure to fit the recognized standard in regard to some style about anything from fake eyelashes to tattoos to the music we listen to or the food we eat. The age we are now in is an “anything goes” culture that promotes anything that is bazaar or radically different. To make things worse, the god of this world finds ways to promote his personality and demonic propaganda into this maze of cultural changes.
The question then arises what does Paul means when he says “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what will of God is” (Rom. 12:12)? This is a simple, straight forward statement that is written as a serious declaration by the apostle. To conform is to fashion one’s behavior to suit a pattern someone else has set. In other words, instead of hearing from God and seeking to behave as He desires, we allow ourselves to be shaped by patterns arising in the world system controlled by Satan.
Paul was warning against such conformity. Followers of Christ are to fashion themselves after Christ, not the world system. Often, when I venture into this subject, I am accused of being legalistic. “How dare you judge me concerning how I behave,” someone might replay, “it is legalism to judge others by their behavior!” Legalism is taking certain external standards and using them to try to manipulate others. It is placing yourself in the position of God as judge and jury of a person’s actions. For example, if you see someone with tattoos and judge the morals of the person that is legalism. You used a cultural standard to judge someone’s heart.
Paul is not being legalistic when he warns us about fashioning ourselves after the world instead of seeking to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. This is a matter of the heart, not of outward behavior. Our actions will follow the condition of our heart. This is only possible as we are able to understand and follow the apostle’s command in verse one of this passage: “I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God” (12:1). A follower of Christ gives himself to God as a holy sacrifice motivated by love and grace, not law. This is a voluntary presentation of ourselves to God knowing that it is accepted by Him. This will result in changed hearts that reflect the glory of God.
We live in an age that says we get to choose our path — to do as we please. “My body, my choice” the abortion rights protesters cry out. Cancel culture is canceling the free speech of those who do not fit the mold of the ones doing the choosing. The Great Decider of the universe, God, is pushed aside and ignored because He speaks things that don’t agree with the decisions made with the six inches of brain matter between their ears. I have a word from the Lord for such people: regardless of what the world says or what your limited understanding decides, you do not get to do whatever you want! God is the Decider and His choices are the ones that matter! His word on every subject is final so we need to learn to hear His voice and pay attention.
But, I’m sorry to say that many of us and many of our churches have allowed themselves to take on the appearance and attitude of the world. They make their own decisions based on what is popular or expedient. In many cases we are fashioning ourselves like the world. The music in many of our churches sounds like the atmosphere in a rock concert where Christ is merely a remote sideline to the raucous concert antics. One well-known preacher describes our church services as events with big screens, smoke machines and skinny jeans. We have adapted well to the rock concert atmosphere the world offers.
Some of our young ladies think nothing of showing cleavage because it is the popular thing to do. Some of our young men are using language that the world permits but grieves the Holy Spirit. We are slowly influenced by a culture planted and cultivated by Satan. Peter warns his readers that they are called to “become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:4). The transformation Paul speaks of in 12:2 is encouraging us, as Peter says, toward “becoming partakers of the nature” of God. We escaped the world’s corruption for the purpose of pursuing Christ and His divine nature. This corruption feeds on our lusts (desires) that lead to gradual compromise of the truths of God.
Are we enticed by a desire to be like Christ or are we seduced by the music, clothing, styles, politics and carnal desires of the world system? Remember, this world system is ruled by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). He has an agenda and it is to defile anything that points toward a genuine, transformed life in Christ. The outward expressions of tattoos, music, videos, hairstyles, clothing, politics and technology are mere demonic substitutes for the real supernatural transformation that Christ desires to bring to our lives through His Holy Spirit. This will reveal the uniqueness that is ours because of His calling on our lives. If we are conforming ourselves to the world, we are merely being duped by the propaganda techniques of the enemy. Don’t make it about these outward things but about your heart and its commitment to Christ.
Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit who would guide us into all truth (John 16:13) and the Holy Spirit “. . . will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). In other words, He will let every person know about sin and what righteousness and judgment are all about. The conviction of the Holy Spirit affirms the sinful condition of the human heart. No person who has lived will be able to plead ignorance of sin because the Spirit will convict our hearts and let us know the heart of God. The response is up to us.
I know this is a hard message but in our days of compromise and conforming it needs to be spoken. It may not get many “clicks” but it speaks the heart of God for His people. The question is, are we listening?