Not Conforming to the Pattern of this World
Do not conform 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).
After much struggle, prayer, and fasting, have you ever made a bold, godly decision, only to face persecution, rejection or being despised by others? Or have you forsaken godly instruction, only to end up regretting and suffering for your choices? The Lord Jesus Christ promises many blessings for following His ways as found in the Bible. Therefore, it is wise to keep trying our best to learn His ways that we may do what He requires and show Him our love as well as enjoy life in Him both here on earth and eternally (John 14:15; Deuteronomy 12:28). The Biblical warnings against following the world’s ways are not confined to the New Testament. In the Old Testament, we are told that the ways of Sodom and Gomorrah were perverted and depraved and consequently, these wicked nations were destroyed (Genesis 19:1-13; Ezekiel 16:49-50; Jude 7). Only Lot and his family, who had not adopted the immoral ways of these wicked cities, were spared (Genesis 19:14-20; 2 Peter 2:7).
Before entering the Promised Land, the Lord warned the Israelites again and again not to conform to the ways of the world. He warned them not to follow the idolatrous ways and practices of their past neighbors in Egypt, or their future neighbors in Canaan (Leviticus 18:3). He also commanded them to neither learn nor worship the Lord in the same detestable ways as those nations (Deuteronomy 12:30-31). He admonished Israel not learn to intermarry with the nations there or imitate their detestable ways (Deuteronomy 7:3; 18:9). Later on, we learn that the Israelites blatantly disobeyed these warnings and some of them intermarried and worshiped the idols of these nations, and subsequently suffered tragic consequences (Exodus 32:25-28, 31-35; Deuteronomy 9:16; Judges 3:5-12). This trend of disobedience continued through the times of the Judges, until the children of Israel wanted to be like their neighbors and demanded a king, in spite of the Lord’s warnings (1 Samuel 8:4-22).
Like the Israelites who were delivered from their bondage and slavery in Egypt, likewise when we repent of our sins and choose to follow the Lord Jesus Christ as born again Christians, the Lord God expects us to leave our former ways of life, which are worldly, self-serving, and full of curses, and diligently learn and follow Him and His ways which are holy, selfless, and full of blessings!
When we Christians choose not to conform to the world, we obey God and when we learn and put to practice His teachings and commands, we will be blessed. The Lord in His wisdom did not leave us alone and without a helper but as we shared in Worthless Religion article, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are lead into all truth and can obey God’s commands (John 14:15-18; 16:13; Ezekiel 36:27).
The prophet Isaiah warned about the moral depravity in the world, and sounded a warning to those “who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:20-21 NKJV).
The Word of God further warns us that “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Matthew 7:13 ESV). On the other hand, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14 ESV). The way of the world and evil men may seem appealing, pleasant, and seem to be leading to a favorable end; however, it is an evil way regardless, and will not end well but corrupt you and lead to death – the righteous and God-fearing should avoid it altogether! (Proverbs 1:10; 4:14; 1 Corinthians 15:33).
Conforming to the World’s Ways
Every day, Christians are under pressure to conform in all aspects of life, not only in terms of physical appearance, but also in spiritual and moral aspects of life. Lately, we are seeing society redefining and undermining institutions that the Lord established (Genesis 2:24; Leviticus 20:13; Malachi 2:16; Matthew 19:6). Taking the name of the Lord in vain and dishonoring Him (Exodus 20:7) has become common and part of the swearing vocabulary, and those who profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are sometimes deemed as “backward” or “not progressive” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
One of the main ways Christians conform to the ways of this world is not allowing God to renew our minds by making time daily to read and study the Word with prayer in order to gain the fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom along discernment, and guidance in God’s ways (Matthew 4:4; Proverbs 1:1-7; 2:4-9). In our experience, making Bible reading a normal habit has been a super amazing way to hear from the Lord God on a daily basis. It is great to read and study parts of the Bible but many Christians have never read the whole Bible (Genesis to Revelation). Because of this, many are unknowingly sinning against God and suffering the consequences here on earth while giving room to the enemy to potentially deceive them (Revelation 12:17). Let’s therefore make every effort to walk through the narrow road by keeping our ears and eyes on the Lord daily (Proverbs 7:1-5). Each day He knows what each and every person is going through and those who read His Word have the honor to get encouragement, guidance, correction, and hence enjoy an intimate relationship with God! Here are a few other ways that Christians conform to the ways of the world:
- Depending on people, ungodly beliefs/teachings, or the government, instead of leaning on God by faith (Hebrews 11:6). Some people deem depending on God as being “weak” and “irrational” (2 Kings 18:32).
- Couples fornicating or living together before marriage instead of giving a chance at love God’s way and getting married. The results of this for the families involved has been devastating as many children grow to make the same mistakes generation after generation.
- Churches marketing themselves instead of sharing the true Gospel. Many times, we receive invitations along the lines of “Come to our church. We have a great children’s ministry” or “Every Saturday/Sunday we serve lunch at Church”. If you read their pamphlets, there is often no mention of the Lord Jesus Christ and the good news of His saving power and grace. Therefore, they invite you to church, not to Jesus the Messiah. It is not the pastor’s sole responsibility to share the gospel, but we as individual members of the body of Christ have a calling and responsibility to be witnesses (Mark 16:15).
- Sending children off to church as the only means for them to learn the Word of God, instead of teaching them at home first. Even when they are taught at home, the world’s way is to just teach children using children Bible stories and videos. Although it is helpful to break down stories to their level, we have to beware that many of the children’s Bible story books and videos have added or taken away from the pure Word of God (Proverbs 30:5-6). Therefore, let the children come to the Lord that they by allowing them to hear and read and the pure Word of God (Joshua 8:35). The kingdom of God belongs to children and as we, parents, teach them God’s Word, we are equipping them to be able to stand firm in God’s ways (Mark 10:14).
- Giving into to peer pressure to hang out with the wrong crowd or watch worldly entertainment.
- Being ashamed of the gospel of Christ when in public, and seeking to “fit in the crowd” because the Bible doesn’t appeal to the “intelligent” people of the world.
- Going to church only to be seen and heard (to show off and be acknowledged), instead of truly being born again as a part of the body of Christ.
- Suing and counter-suing brethren in the worldly courts or bearing grudges against one another (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).
- Relying solely on doctors, medicine or “faith healers”, and not trusting God or using our faith for healing (2 Chronicles 16:12).
Brethren, we should not be loving the evil and darkness of the world (John 3:19-20; 1 John 2:15-17), but rather abhorring what is evil (Romans 12:9), being filled with the Spirit and exposing the fruitless works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11; 18).
Why We Should Not Conform to the World
The Bible does acknowledge that we are in the world, but reiterates that we are not of the world (John 17:14-16). Our purpose is to “spread the aroma” of the knowledge of Christ everywhere and to everyone (2 Corinthians 2:14-16), not to partake and enjoy the false allures and counterfeit fragrances of the world. If you choose to follow and live in Christ, you will be hated and persecution will surely follow (John 15:18-21), but the Lord encourages us not be downhearted, but to be cheerful, because He has already overcome (John 16:33).
From the Bible, we learn that it takes one to have solid faith in the Lord in order not to conform to dictates of society that are counter to Biblical Truth. We see examples of children of God who utterly refused to be sucked into the ways of the world, and were prepared to pay the price for obeying God, even when facing death (Revelation 2:10).
- Noah did not conform to the rampant wickedness and evil inclinations of the antediluvian world (Genesis 6: 5-8). He remained “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9).
- Even though Joseph was hated by his brothers, he did not compromise and conform to their wishes, neither did he conform to the immoral ways of Egypt (Genesis 37:8, 10, 19; 39:6-11).
- Even through the Israelites were oppressed for being numerous, they kept being fruitful and multiplying (Exodus 1:12).
- The Hebrew midwives feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live, and were rewarded by the Lord (Exodus 1:17-21).
- Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, instead of obeying Pharaoh’s edict for the child to be put to death (Exodus 1:22; 2:1-3; Hebrews 11:23).
- Daniel and his three friends did not conform to the ways of Babylon, including their diet, idols, and corrupt practices, but were steadfast in their commitment to God (Daniel 1:8; 3:16-18; 6:1-9).
- The disciples of Jesus Christ were told not to preach in the name of Jesus but they chose to obey God rather than man (Acts 4:18-20). These kinds of restrictions are being adopted in many companies, schools, parks, etc. but we are to be faithful in obedience to God and share the good news about Jesus Christ when we have opportunities!
From the examples above, we see that those who refuse to love or cling to the world will face hostility and resentment. The Lord Jesus Christ clearly warned us that believers will not be embraced by the world, but will be hated and persecuted, to the point that the persecutors will be deceptively thinking they are doing godly acts (John 16:2-3; 17:14-18). While those who embrace the world may seem to be “enjoying life”, true and lasting peace and hope, even in the midst of hardship and tribulation, can only be found in Christ (John 16:33). What the world enjoys is “the passing pleasures of sin”, which leads to death (Hebrews 11:25; Romans 6:23). Furthermore, the Bible encourages us not to go back to our old ways, but to put on the “new man” (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24). Those in the world may be “surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:4-5).
About five years ago, I (Janet) decided to leave my full-time, corporate job, in order to become a full-time Mom and focus on raising and training our young children. I had received a deep conviction in my heart that this was the right thing to do, but my family was not in support, citing that all my education would be wasted, among other reasons. Admittedly, even my husband was not 100% supportive. He thought we needed my job so that we could buy some things we needed. In reality, his faith was in my career, not in the Lord and His ability to provide. After several months of prayer and discussions, as well as encouragement by the Lord to have faith, we decided in agreement to put our house in order. I joyfully resigned from my corporate job, to the consternation of my extended family, co-workers, and friends. While many of my friends and relatives looked up to me before and coveted my position in the world, soon they began to say demeaning things about my new role and question whether I had made a wise decision. Some people even offered to take care of my children so I could “go back to work”. In their minds, taking care of my own children was a “lowly job” – they were willing to work for me so that I could go back to work and help them instead. However, I did not relent but kept pressing forward, and I am now happily fulfilling my calling and serving the Lord. The Lord has also been very faithful to provide and we are grateful! Nowadays, many people want to acquire more and more material wealth, and raising children becomes a secondary responsibility that is outsourced to someone else. This is the way of the world. Remember the Bible says that we (parents not babysitters) should train up children in the way they should go so that even when they are old they will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6). Although it is okay to get help when needed, will the parents have to give account of their responsibility to raise their children? Most definitely! Even though in this world it may be considered lowly to raise one’s own children, the Bible encourages women that is it considered a “good deed” to raise children (1 Timothy 5:10).
Also, as we shared in the article Do Not Be Anxious, we sought the Lord about our children’s education, and after much prayer, the Lord gave us peace about homeschooling them. As expected, some people began to persecute us and say negative things about our decision. However, we have maintained courage and excitement in this journey. Whenever a child of God makes a godly decision by faith, the enemy is usually there to discourage and cast doubt (Nehemiah 4:1-3; Mark 3:20-21). We encourage you to keep on overcoming all hindrances because the Lord promises to give you the crown of life if you love Him (John 14:15; James 1:12).
Take a Stand
The Bible warns us to “be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15 NIV). Being lukewarm or sitting on the fence is unacceptable to the Lord, and we should choose whether to be “hot” and fully obey the Lord or be “cold” and disobedient (Joshua 24:15; Revelation 3:16).
For those of you who choose to trust and obey the Lord, keep focusing your gaze not on the world, but on the Lord Jesus Christ; do not grow weary and lose heart – courageously continue to pursue your heavenly citizenship with endurance and perseverance! (Philippians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Hebrews 12:1-3). The Lord Jesus is coming soon – He will turn your mourning into dancing and clothe you with great joy! (Psalm 30:11; John 14:1-4; Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20).
If you would like to stop conforming to the ways and temporary pleasures of the world, and start following the Lord Jesus Christ, who is able to transform you through His Word and prayer, we invite you to start by praying this Prayer of Salvation. For any questions or comments about this article please contact us.
Humbly in Christ, our Blessed Hope,
Abes and Janet