Don’t Conform to This Age
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
It can be difficult to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. One hard aspect of it is the matter Paul will deal with here. This danger is a great threat to spirituality.
The world is always luring us, wooing us, seeking to seduce us. Every believer feels pressure to conform. This threat is a temptation we must resist.
Romans 12:2a Do not be conformed…
The picture drawn here is a sculpture whose outward form is being molded into a particular shape. Paul was telling us our outward lives, our lifestyles, must not be patterned after the manners, customs, opinions, attitudes, beliefs, philosophies, styles, habits, and impulses that predominate the culture we live in.
Paul had no illusions. He knew, though we are citizens of Heaven, we still have to live in this evil world. The strong pull of its enticements is ever with us.
The Christian’s situation is complicated further by the fact that by nature human beings are imitators. We are social creatures who tend to copy one another.
In its proper place this instinct is good. It provides social stability and order. However, this tendency can easily become a stumbling block for Christians. In our desire to please those around us, we can often be tempted to forego pleasing God.
A believer’s lifestyle must not be determined by the fashions of his or her day. We do not have to be freaks or laughable curiosities—being ostentatious is no virtue—but conformity must cease when it comes to the point of compromise.
“Do not be conformed to this age.” Instead, be conformed to the image of God’s son (Romans 8:29). This must always be our primary consideration.
“Would Jesus do this? Is it right or wrong, based on what the Bible says?” Only later do we ask, “What are others doing? What will my friends think?”
It is okay to have “good taste” as long as it does not conflict with Christ’s desires for us. We can dress like the world as long as the styles are modest. We can listen to secular music as long as it contains no profanity or immoral suggestions.
The Christian can be fashionable and in style to a point. But the believer who is obsessed with fashion and style will never be spiritually strong.
“Do not be conformed to this age.” Do not take our marching orders from the culture around us. Beware the chameleon effect. The chameleon is an amazing lizard, able to camouflage itself by changing its color to match its surroundings. Unfortunately, chameleons live not only in the jungle, but also in the church. Many Christians let their “colors” be dictated by the world.
Believers are often more afraid of the world’s laugh than of God’s frown. Be wise. “Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Ask God to grant us courage. Be a Daniel. If we stand firm, Shadrach’s, Meshach’s, and Abednego’s will follow. Satan says “Conform”. Jesus says, “Don’t conform”. Remember which one loved us enough to die on a cross for us.
Romans 12:2b …to this age…
Paul’s world was grim and heathen; ours has been christened, attends church, and dresses like a gentleman. The average American seems to be better than the average Roman was. Christianity has spread much perfume over the world’s bad smell. Nevertheless, despite all this, the world is still the world, and the Bible says rough things about it. This world is evil (Galatians 1:4). It is controlled by Satan, who is described as the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).
No doubt, the Devil has polished his act. On the surface the world often looks as if it is getting better, but not so. Violence of the gladiator games has been replaced by abortions, martyrs’ crosses are replaced by witness-killing comfort and laziness. There are no longer large sex orgies to a disgraceful deity, but the sexual revolution of our generation spawned rapid widespread proliferation of STDs.
Wine gluttons no longer drink as worship to Dionysius, the god of wine. Now socialites hold their martinis properly, but alcohol is still the same, and by night’s end can produce the same results it did centuries before.
The world has learned how to dress up and be attractive, but it still smells bad underneath. Society is more cultured and refined, but people are inwardly the same as always. Their hearts are wicked. If Jesus had come to our society, we would have crucified Him. Never doubt it.
The fact the world is more beautiful does not mean it is better. In fact, this attraction makes it terribly dangerous. The more appealing it appears, the more it tempts us. Satan specializes in making evil things look respectable.
Do not be deceived by our culture’s gloss and polished exterior. Underneath the mask, it is still a society rejecting God. Beware its insidious nature. The world’s art is beautiful, but much of it has no reference to God. Its music is harmonious, but rarely is God mentioned. “Music for music’s sake” is the theme.
The world’s philosophy is tantalizing, but has no place for God. Science is ever advancing, but leaves no room for the supernatural. The world’s governments believe people can solve all their problems without God’s help. Worldly pleasures appeal to our senses, but their purpose is to blot reality from the mind. Pleasures so dominate our culture that they often crowd out thoughts of accountability to God.
However beautiful the world is, it is wrong for God’s people to imitate its standards. When the world and the church crawl in bed together, the affair is always adulterous. It is still true that “friendship with the world is hostility toward God” (James 4:4).
Do not trust in the world. Maintain a constant spirit of inquiry and watchfulness. Do not be gullible. Always examine and analyze with a critical eye.
These thoughts lead to an important concept in dealing with the world. Be careful. If the world is enamored with something, let the church beware! The world would not like it if it were not in some way spiced to their taste. Also, never forget that sin and the world are very palatable to our old nature.
We are too weak to take risky chances. Many things we confront are not sins, but they are dangerous and therefore need to be avoided.
I fear many of us are trying to see how near we can get to the world without being contaminated. It is dangerous business, like children trying to see how far they can stretch out a window without falling to the ground. Someday we might miscalculate a little bit.
If we are determined to go as far as we can go, we will never be safe. Eventually we will underestimate, and slide past the line. Many Christians are like the mules in the Alps who walk on trails so narrow that only half of a hoof is on the trail; the other half hangs over the abyss. Some Christians also love to walk a tightrope. Stay away from the edge. We are safer this way.
I lean sharply to the cautious side. My views may be stricter than they have to be, but would God’s people want a Pastor that was anything other than this?
How can Pastors send out a clarion call for holiness if they are flirting with spiritual danger in their lifestyles? It is hard to be an example for godliness when one is barely a whit different from the world. God has called us all to be different from the world. “Do not be conformed to this age.” God grant us grace to obey.