When one reads the bible it seems as if the writers of old had looked into the future and tailored their message for our generation. It seems as if they saw our time and its perversions, its excesses and its wickedness. But from the Bible, we learn that the first century world was one that was just as engrossed in all sorts of perversions (1 Cor 6:9-11), consumed with the same lustful excesses (1 Jhn 2:15-17), and gripped by the same wickedness (Jms 1:21) as our world is today.
At the heart of this sin craved first century world was Rome. Rome served as the ancient world’s Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles all in one. It was to the brave band of Christian sojourners there that Paul wrote:
“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 the 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.” (Rom 12:1-2)
In the midst of the extreme sins of Rome, Paul was urging those saints to be different than the world around them; he wanted them to be nonconformist. Instead of going along with the world to get along with the world, he wanted them to live by the phrase When In Rome… be a CHRISTIAN. Paul’s words echo down through the centuries and he cries out to us today, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” He says to us, wherever you live… be a Christian.
What’s involved in not conforming to the world around us? The usual answer is that as Christians do not act like the world around us. Meaning Christians are not to drink, dance, dress immodestly, gamble, cheat, or any other sinful thing the world would do. Is this what Paul meant when he said “Do not be conformed to the world”? Did he merely mean that all we had to do was change our external actions so as to not conform to the world and we would be right before God?
Paul wants us to not just be conformed to the world in the way we act (by simply refraining from sinful behavior) but he also wants to not be conformed in thought by transforming our minds and the way we think. The two cannot be separated. To not be conformed to the world by our actions, first requires us to transform what we think about sin and the world. If we are ever going to change our actions, and not be conformed to this world, then we must first change our thinking so that we reflect God’s view of sin and wickedness. Jesus affirmed that thoughts lead to actions when he said, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mat 12:34b). We know that God hates sin and since God hates sin we as Christians are to hate sin as well (Rom 12:9; Psa 97:10). When we hate sin, then and only then, will our actions change.
I’m afraid that we as Christian today have not transformed our minds and we don’t hate sin the way we should. It’s quite evident is it not? When Christian women dress in clothing that barely covers their breast and thighs are they exhibiting a hatred for the sin of immodesty and lust? When Christians, both young and old, engage in sex with someone they are not married to can it be said that they hate the sin of fornication and/or adultery? When Christians by lottery tickets or go to Vegas to gamble do they really hate the sin of covetousness? When Christians are entertained by all sorts of sins on TV, movies, and in music do they truly hate sin? When Christians use foul language, take the Lord’s name in vain, or converse on vulgar topics do they really hate the sins of the tongue? Instead of taking part in these sins, let us expose them for what they are; the unfruitful works of darkness, produced by a world bound for destruction. Come out from them among them brethren and be separate, do not be conformed to the ways of this dying world.
Friends, it’s time that we renew and transform our minds and bring them into alignment with God’s perspective of sin. Instead of the hypocrisy of affirming one thing with our speech and practicing another with our actions, let our minds be transformed by God’s word and then not conforming to this world around us will naturally flow from a heart that is attuned to God’s perfect and acceptable will. It would be the least we could do for a merciful God who has saved us and forgiven us of our sins.
Look for this article and many others articles on Worldliness in the April issue of Biblical Insights.