Scott Gage

PO Box 3425
Fayetteville, AR 72702



November/December Issue 2009 - Volume 28   Number 6

Be Not Conformed But Be Transformed

Not 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 12:1-2 (NLT)

There 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.

Paul 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.

There 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.

Perhaps 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.


Do 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 result.

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.

...Ron Collins

Sepulveda, California

“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 Corinthians 15:51-52


Be Ye Transformed


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?

 We’re admonished 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).

Danny Johnson

West Monroe, Louisiana

Volume 28  -  Number 6  -  Nov/Dec 2009     BC is published every other month. Send all inquiries, address changes and subscriptions to the editor:  Scott Gage, PO Box 3425, Fayetteville, AR  72702-3425 Voice & Fax 479-521-6809  Email: Lsgage129@cs.com