PO Box 3425
November/December Issue 2009 - Volume 28 Number 6
Be Not Conformed But Be Transformed
Conformed But Be Transformed
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God,
which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what
is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I please with you to
give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a
living and holy sacrifice---the kind he will find acceptable. This is
truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of
this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the
way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is
good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans
is not a whole lot of talk today about sacrifice. We hear a lot about how
God is going to bless people with all kinds of material blessings, if they
will first give an offering to some televangelist’s ministry. However,
the idea of a sacrifice may be the key to understanding how we can be
transformed through the renewing of our minds instead of being conformed
to this world.
is not promising that it will be easy; in fact, he is saying that we must
have a mind to make a sacrifice. Paul is saying that when we come to God
with this attitude that God can transform us. It isn’t by some magical
incantation, nor is it done without our cooperation and consent. It is
accomplished as we submit to God’s word and his will for our lives. God
begins to work in us a transformation of life that is totally different to
that of the world.
are a lot of illustrations in the scripture about individuals who allowed
themselves to be conformed to the world, at least to be pressured into
doing things contrary to the truth. King Saul may have felt some pressure
to bring back King Agag alive, along with the best of the cattle and
sheep, or he may have just been trying to make an excuse. It is certain
that he didn’t offer the kind of sacrifice that God wanted. God wanted a
sacrifice of obedience; Saul brought him a defeated king and an assortment
of choice cattle and sheep. Are we offering God the kind of sacrifice he
wants or are we trying to make our own substitutions? King Solomon very
likely felt a lot of pressure to accommodate the religions of the various
wives he had chosen for himself; however, God was not pleased with his
many temples and all of the sacrifices offered there. Often when we talk
about “not being conformed to the world” we are talking about the
difference in God’s will and our own selfish wills.
Moses offers us a great Biblical illustration of a transformed life.
Hebrews tells us that he refused the pleasures and privilege of Egyptian
life and, instead, cast his lot with the oppressed and mistreated people
of God (Heb. 11:24-29). That may all sound rather cut and dried from the
passage in Hebrews, but remember Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness
preparing for the work God had for him to do in leading his people. He was
transformed. He left all the privileges of Pharaoh’s house to chase his
father-in-law’s sheep around a barren wilderness.
When he finally began leading God’s people out of bondage, he
found that there were daily struggles and trials to bear. Maybe sometimes
we don’t want that kind of transformation! It might be more fun to be at
ease in Egypt instead of trekking through the bush of the wilderness.
Not Be Conformed To This World
An amazing characteristic most have is the ability to adjust
to our surrounding circumstances. When
we walk into an extremely dark room we will first grope in the darkness.
After a short time our eyes adapt and we are better able to see.
We get used to the darkness and it no longer seems foreboding or
ominous. Physically this is a
wonderful feature to possess and makes life much easier.
We see a little of how fearfully and wonderfully we are made
(Psalms 139:14). Spiritually
it can be disastrous to adapt and eventually conform to our worldly
surroundings. As the world
continues in darkness we often conform to the society where we live.
We are warned in Romans 12:2 not to conform to this world.
God knows that the world has nothing to offer us.
Its gleam and allure only lead to sadness and despair.
In 1 John 2:15 we are instructed not to love the world nor the
things that are in the world. Worldly
pleasures, desires and pride only lead us away from God.
Sadly we often conform without even knowing it is happening.
We may think we are being friendly, supportive and a team player
only to discover we have become like the world.
Our thoughts, our language, our moral standards easily conform to
those about us. No surprise
that Paul warned the Corinthians not to be deceived about their
companionships. He knew those
with whom we associate can corrupt us (1 Cor. 15:33).
This was one of the reasons he wanted an immoral man removed from
the congregation until he changed (1 Cor. 5).
God introduced the church into this world as He wanted it.
Man began to slowly make changes.
He began to change its government, use of the Lord’s Supper, and
baptism to name a few. It does
not seem that any of these changes were made to spurn God’s way.
Most were viewed as progress and improvement, much like the
Israelites in 1 Samuel 8:5 when they wanted a king.
They saw all of the other nations with a king and just knew this
was a better direction to go. God
said that they had rejected Him and His rule over them.
It is unlikely that any of the Israelites thought this was a
rebellion. They simply wanted
a king to be more in step with the times and those about them.
How many today think they are serving God as he wants when in fact
they have chosen their own method of service and not God’s.
When King Saul had disobeyed God’s commandment and met Samuel in
1 Samuel 15:13 he had a surprising greeting to Samuel.
The first words out of his mouth were, “Blessed be thou of the
Lord: I have performed the
commandment of the Lord.” Did
Saul knowingly lie? Was he
trying to deceive Samuel? It
appears that Saul had convinced himself that he had done God’s will.
He only modified God’s command to better honor God.
After all, those animals were brought back to sacrifice to God.
When pressed on the matter he reveals the source of the idea.
It was the people who spared the best of the flock.
Saul gave into the pressure of the people just as Adam blamed his
wife, Eve, in the beginning of the world for his sin.
Both are accurate but neither is accepted by God as an excuse.
Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden and Saul was
removed from being king. God
expected both Saul and Adam to step up, be the leader as he made them.
Instead, they both caved into the pressure of those about them.
Aaron made the same observation in Exodus 32:22 that the people
were set on mischief. Indeed
they were which is why Aaron needed to be an example.
Instead he gave into their pressure and made the golden calf.
In Matthew 5 Jesus wants us to be a light to the world.
We cannot be that light if we merely conform to the world.
As Christians we must shine brightly with good moral lives.
Throughout man’s existence the world has taught us to follow our
own desires. The lust of the
flesh leaves a path strewn with broken homes, domestic violence, disease
and death. It may all start
with a simple attraction to another but if it is not a pure relationship
it will only end in disaster. How
about our speech? Is it pure
and wholesome, seasoned with salt? Do
we use God’s name in vain or lower our standards as we conform to the
world’s speech? How about
modesty? The world will set a
standard but is it in keeping with God’s direction?
Those who dress in a revealing manner only fuel the fires of
immorality. A young lady may
have never intended to cause any problems.
She only wanted to look pretty and the world told her how to do it.
King David was not looking for immorality the night he saw
Bathsheba, but when he saw more of her than he should it led to a course
of events no one would have imagined.
A revealing outfit the world sees as okay may start a course of
events never intended. How
about honesty and integrity? The
world lies so much it is an accepted practice.
According to the world, everyone lies and at times it is necessary.
We may almost unknowingly conform to this standard.
God has never permitted lying.
He condemns it and tells us that all liars will end up in a lake
that burns with fire and brimstone (Rev. 21:8).
Conforming to the world in any area will never produce a positive
Some people in their effort to avoid conformity to the world
try to take themselves out of it. The
reality is we really cannot do that too effectively.
In fact, God has told us to go into the world to preach and be a
positive influence. He
provides us what we need to be safe while in the world. He
has instructed us to assemble, be together and have fellowship.
He provides His scripture, prayer and the Lord’s Supper to guide
and strengthen us. He assures
us that He won’t let anything happen to us we can’t handle (1 Cor.
10:13). We do need to be aware
of the dangers we face daily. Paul
teaches in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to examine ourselves.
We can know if we have conformed to the world.
After God spoke to Adam he knew he had broken God’s command.
King Saul had his eyes opened by Samuel and David had his opened by
Nathan. We need to have our
eyes open and be on guard. We
are so very thankful that God will forgive us when we do conform to the
world. However, it should
never be our intent to stay in that condition.
As Paul writes in Romans 6:1-2, “Shall we continue in sin that
grace may abound? God
forbid.” Not only is it
displeasing to God to conform to the world, but it will never bring peace
and happiness to anyone. God’s
direction is only given to provide blessings for us.
Not conforming to the world will be a great blessing to all who
take on the challenge.
I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be
changed—-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and
we shall be changed.” 1
It seems our culture is obsessed with the idea of
transformation, however superficial it may be.
“Trick my Truck,” “Extreme Home Makeover” and “The
Biggest Looser” are but a few of Hollywood’s current offerings.
From rebuilding a truck to reshaping the human body, and everything
in between, we love to watch something old and dilapidated transformed
into something new and immaculate and, in most cases, within a matter of
minutes! However, before T.V.
came along we read such classic fairy tales as “The Ugly Duckling,”
“Beauty and the Beast” or “Cinderella,” all of which taught the
timeless lessons of personal transformation.
No doubt the authors of these literary works, whether they knew it
or not, took their cues right out of the Bible, the theme of which is
human redemption, the very essence of our transformation.
It is, without question, the noblest of man’s pursuits, as well
as the desire of our Creator God, to somehow remake our sinful, grotesque
self into something resplendent and new.
And should it be attained, the beauty of our transformation is not
so much our own as it is our polished up self merely reflecting the
magnificence and perfection of our Maker as we serve Jesus Christ.
Recently our grandson Jaden handed me his toy car and
demanded, “Change it Granddad!”
“It” was a “Transformer,” aptly named for its ability to be
transformed into something completely different; in this case, from a
sleek little sports car to a scary looking robot and then back again.
Like the toy itself, we have all been engineered to change.
From infancy to adolescence then on to adulthood, we adjust
gradually to each stage of maturity because we’ve been made that way.
If, however, we reach adulthood and revert to childish behavior
something is definitely wrong. Spiritually,
such was the case with Israel and their new found freedom.
Previously they had witnessed God’s awesome power through
incredible plagues and then as they escaped they saw the Red Sea parted
and their enemies drowned. God
then gave them bread from heaven and water from a rock.
Add it all up and you would expect these events to be transforming
in nature; however, any positive change that was wrought by this whole
experience was soon distorted. By
the time Moses returned with law in hand, their glory had morphed into
something completely different. “They
made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped the molded image.
Thus they changed their glory into the image of an ox that
eats grass” (Psa. 106:19, 20).
Transformed indeed, but into what?
to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” So, where do we
begin? If we are to renew our
mind, what exactly must we do? What
will God do? The Psalmist
wrote: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my pathway”
(Psa.119:105). What thinking
person embarks on a makeover project, be it a pimply complexion, a drab
living room or a rusty old Edsel out back, and then proceeds to do so in
total darkness? Obviously, no
one does. So it is in our
pursuit of a transformed mind. Therefore,
what greater source of illumination is there than the truth of God’s
Word? “The entrance of Your
words gives light” (Psa.119:130).
And what greater transformation can be known than rebirth?
“Having been born again…through the Word of God which lives and
abides forever” (1Pet.1:23).
Unfortunately, much of the transforming going on today is not
exactly what God wants because the only “light” some folks see is that
of relativism, the idea that truth is relative and therefore no absolute
truth exists. Relativism puts
forth the notion that what is true for one person may not be true for
another. The same idea holds
for right and wrong, i.e. what seems evil to you is considered socially
acceptable to others and that’s OK according to its proponents.
Fornication, adultery and homosexuality have, for sure, transformed
our social landscape into a huge gray area and, all the while, relativists
lecture the rest of us about “judging” their “lifestyle choices”
rather than calling sin what it is. However,
if unchecked, how long until polygamy, bestiality and the like, emerge to
further transform our world?
Pilate was a relativist, not that he necessarily lived in
immorality but that he was a skeptic.
“What is truth?”(Jn.18:38)
he asked rhetorically, not expecting an answer but rather to
express his doubt on the subject. Why
would a governor with the authority to set Christ free pronounce “I find
no fault in Him,” then wash
his hands of the whole matter and turn Jesus over to be crucified?
If He’s innocent, set him free.
But for Pilate, the truth of Christ’s innocence proves to be an
inconvenient truth. He did
what he did because, politically, the truth was problematic.
Bottom line, Pilate was thinking only of himself, which
fundamentally is the nature of relativism.
It is a self-serving ideology that eventually transforms the
misguided and naïve into servants of the devil.
Add a pinch of religious discourse and a dash of political
correctness then presto, change-o, you have a new cult, specially designed
for the fickle church go-er and the weak of conscience.
In a twist of irony, Jesus answered Pilate’s famous
“truth” question before he ever asked it.
A few hours earlier, while praying in the garden and gazing
heavenward, he said to his Father, “Your word is truth”
(Jn.17:1, 17). Bear in
mind that Christ was God transformed (Jn. 1:1, 14- Phil.2:5-8) and that he
merely reflected to the world His Fathers nature by deeds and words
(Jn.5:19; 17:8, 14), words which carried forward in time the bedrock
truths from ages past; words like, “Thy word is true from
the beginning” (Psa.119:160, KJ) and “Thy law is the truth”(Psa.119:42).
But the question remains, how is our transformation connected
to the truth? After all, the
truth is not always palatable or convenient or soothing.
As an example, consider the sermon of the apostle Peter found in
Acts 2. Of all the true
statements he made, one stands out as a gleaming dagger poised to strike
at the very heart of the enemy; an offensive weapon, unbound by time, by
gender, by race or tongue. Twice,
while speaking, Peter brandishes this heart rending truth before a captive
audience, “you have crucified and put to death…this Jesus (who is)
both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:23, 36).
With arrow splitting accuracy, the Holy Spirit guides this double
edged truth into the very soul of Peter’s hearers and as their hearts
bleed, they cry out to be saved (v.37, 38).
Indeed, the truth can be painful, disturbing or just plain
shocking, but despite the hurt inflicted, and the mourning which follows,
praise God, the truth still sets us free!(Jn.8:32)
It is here, praise God, that our lives are forever altered as we
are liberated from our captors. It
is here we find the blessed refreshment of a clear conscience “through
the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit”(Tit.3:5).
It is imperative we become transformed into spiritual beings.
Otherwise we will miss out on a more spectacular transformation
that is yet to be. “Behold I
tell you a mystery: We shall
not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised
incorruptible, and we shall be changed”(1 Cor. 15:51,52).
West Monroe, Louisiana
- Number 6
- Nov/Dec 2009
BC is published every other month. Send all inquiries, address
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Scott Gage, PO Box 3425, Fayetteville, AR
72702-3425 Voice & Fax 479-521-6809