Don’t Conform to This Age
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
It is difficult to offer our bodies a living sacrifice. One of the hardest aspects of it is the matter Paul will deal with here. This is a great threat to spirituality. The world is always luring us, wooing us. Everyone feels the pressure to conform. This is a huge threat to spirituality, but it is a temptation we must resist.
Romans 12:2a Do not be conformed…
The picture drawn here is of a piece of sculpture whose outward form is being molded into a particular shape. This was Paul’s way of 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 we are all imitators. Human beings are social creatures and 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 are often tempted to forego pleasing God.
The believer’s lifestyle must not be determined by the laughable curiosities. There is no virtue in being ostentatious. However, conformity must cease when it comes to the point of compromise.
Be not conformed to this age. We are instead to be conformed to the image of God’s son (Romans 8:29). This is always the primary consideration. “Would Jesus do this? Is it right or wrong, according to principles enunciated in the Bible?” 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.
Be not conformed to this age. Do not take our marching orders from the culture around us. 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 allow their “colors” to be dictated by the world.
Believers are often more afraid of the world’s laugh than they are 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” (MT 10:28).
May we find courage. Be a Daniel. Stand firm, and Shadrach’s, Meshack’s, and Abednego’s will follow. Satan says “Conform.” Jesus says, “Don’t conform.” Remember which one loved you enough to die on a cross for you.
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 was the average Roman. Christianity has spread much perfume over the world’s stench. But for all this, the world is still the world, and the Bible says some rough things about it. This world is evil (GL 1:4), controlled by Satan, who is described as the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4).
Unfortunately, the Devil has polished his act. On the surface the world looks as though it is getting better, but not so. The violence of the gladiator games has been replaced by abortions, martyrs’ crosses have been 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 the most dreaded disease since polio, AIDS.
Wine gluttons no longer drink as worship to Dionysius, the god of wine. Now socialites hold their martinis properly, even to the point of extending their little finger gracefully. But alcohol is still the same, and by night’s end will eventually produce the same results as it did centuries before.
The world has learned how to dress up and be very attractive, but it still stinks underneath. It is more cultured and refined, but inwardly people are 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, that is what makes it terribly dangerous. The more appealing it is, the more it tempts us. Satan specializes in taking evil things and making them 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. The world’s pleasures appeal to the senses, but its purpose is to blot out reality from the mind. Pleasures so dominate our culture that they crowd out thoughts of accountability to God.
No matter how 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 chances. Many things are not sins, but many things 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 that way.
I lean sharply to the cautious side. My views are probably 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 when 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. Be not conformed to this age. God grant us grace to obey.