Conforming to the pattern of this world…

How should Christians respond to and behave in today’s world? Should we try our best do fit in, to act and dress like everybody else? Should we listen to music that sounds like the worlds music? Or, should we be totally alienated from the world? Paul addresses these questions in his letter to the Romans.

He writes: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

What does it mean for us not to conform to the pattern of this world? For starters, it means we shouldn’t behave like everyone else in the world just for the sake of “fitting in” or being liked or accepted. Instead, Scripture says that we as Christians are to be transformed or changed by renewing our minds. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor. 5:17).

To renew our minds, we simply have to be careful what we are “feeding” our minds. There is an expression, “garbage in–garbage out.” If we give our minds ungodly things to think about, then our behavior is very likely to match those nasty kinds of thoughts sooner or later. But if we fill our minds with good things, then it becomes so very much easier to act in ways which makes God and us happy.

Since the Holy Spirit is always with and in the believer (essentially right next to us wherever we go) then this ought to influence the movies/ TV we watch, the books we read and the music we listen to. If it does not, then we must ask if we are truly renewing our minds to that of Christ’s.

We should also be very careful of the friends we spend our time with. What do we fill our minds with when we are with them? Are they helping us to put good things in our minds or are they unknowingly hurting us by filling our minds and time with bad ideas and things?

This may sound old fashioned but we must also be mindful of our appearance and the clothes we wear. Dressing modestly, especially for women must be considered in the public “arena” if we are to not cause others to stumble. If you doubt this, simply ask any man what their number one struggle is every day!

Here’s the application: Renewing your mind includes things like daily Bible reading, prayer, weekly worship, spending time with friends who also love God and want to please Him and finally, more prayer!

This is often not easy as there remains an endless supply of “worldly” stimuli that contends earnestly for our attention and thoughts. The Bible views man’s mind as a battlefield where Satan and his evil spirits contend against the truth and hence against the believer. Paul says that the goal of the warfare is to take the thoughts captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Thoughts from our mind give birth to sin therefore it makes perfect sense to guard those thoughts at all costs! We must decide to stand firm in the faith and be willing to be held accountable to our Christian brothers and sisters around us. Scripture says that a cord of many strands is not easily broken!

Lastly, our children especially must be taught that they (and we) do not need to adapt to the world’s ungodly affairs and changing trends to somehow be able to “relate” to the world better. In 1 Corinthians chapter 9 Paul sought to win people to Jesus Christ by being sensitive to their needs and identifying with them but always within the constraints and teachings of Christ’s law (He was not suggesting that he engaged in or tolerated their sin to share Christ).  Paul says that we are nothing less than a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Pet. 2:9). If Christians behave just like the world does, then they will wonder what the value of knowing Christ is!

May the world see us through His light.

As always, I’d be more than interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions.

Jim Richardson

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2 Responses

  1. Jim, thanks for this post. This is a question I’ve been dealing with all my adult life, so that means for at least 55 years. Yes, I’m 76.

    The answer to me has been to be “in” the world, but not “of” the world. At least as much as I can. In the last few years I’ve been fortunate enough to have been placed in the position of having a hand in the success of a well-known annual secular public event. I participate, contribute and provide leadership and planning, but still live in the midst of unbelievers the lifestyle of a believer. One benefit I’ve learned from doing this it that it frequently gives courage to fellow believers who may be in less prominent roles, and emboldens their own public “walks” while encouraging them to grow their own spiritual lives.

    It also has a benefit to the secular organizations, too. It softens their sometimes harsh “cultures” which have often unknowlingly promulagated less godfearing lifestyles. In the last three years my group has morphed into one that no longer provides hard liquor support. Something that has been a tradition for over a half century. It wasn’t my doing, but it occurred with my support while I was ‘at the helm’.

    Thanks again for your site, and God bless you.

  2. Great post, Jim. Striking the right balance between “in the world” but not “of the world” is very difficult, really. Ironically, my last Sunday’s sermon was on precisely this issue, taken from Genesis 47. Here is the link:
    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2006/11/12/in-egypt-but-not-of-egypt/
    Thanks for linking to my blog. I will return the favor.

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