In our desire to make Christ known and to increase the influence of the church, we are prone to think that Christians and the church can be made popular with the unbelieving world.
This is a grave mistake. Christ crucified is anathema to Satan, and the message of the Gospel is still a stumbling block and foolishness to the world. Our Lord warned His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). The Apostle John writes, “Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).
When the Christian or the church becomes popular with the unbelieving world, something is seriously wrong with the Christian or the church. Because Christ runs counter to evil and because we are Christ-owned, we must also stand against evil.
Christians may be shown grudging respect at times, but if we are faithful to Him, we will surely incur the wrath of the world. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution,” says the Scripture (2 Timothy 3:12).
The Scripture teaches that popularity with the world means death.
Satan’s most effective tool is conformity and compromise. He is aware that one man standing in the midst of a pagan people, declaring, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16), can move more people in the direction of God than thousands of insipid professors of religion.
We often ask ourselves, “How could the early disciples turn the world upside down?”
The answer is simple: They didn’t conform their faith to match the world. They had the truth, and they refused to water it down. They held faith that they would not compromise.
Because they dared to buck the tide of public opinion and be different; because they dared to believe when other people doubted; because they were willing to risk their lives for what they stood for; because they chose death rather than to live an empty life, the world took notice of what motivated these men and women. In due time, the philosophical and religious world was turned upside down.
The words of the Apostle Paul, “Do not be conformed to this world,” have tremendous significance for us today. They cut like a sharp sword across our way of life. They are not comfortable words; they have the tone of the battle call in them, and they separate the weak from the strong. But they are words of inspiration, and we need to hear them today.
First, be not conformed to this world mentally.
The world, by its advertisements, its conversation, and its philosophy, is engaged in a gigantic brainwashing effort. Not always consciously but sometimes unconsciously, the Christian is beset by secular and worldly propaganda.
Much entertainment is slanted to those who feed on violence, sex and lawlessness. It seems that some diabolic mastermind is running the affairs of this world and that his chief objective is to brainwash Christians and to get them to conform to this world.
The world’s sewage system threatens to contaminate the stream of Christian thought. Satan will contest every hour you spend in Bible reading or prayer.
However, above the din, we can hear the voice of Scripture, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5) and, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
We Christians are not even to be conformed to the world’s anxieties. Many Christians are wringing their hands and saying, “What’s the world coming to?”
The Bible has already told us that “the world and the lust thereof” are going to pass away. We have already been told in Scripture that the world is coming to a cataclysmic judgment.
We Christians are to be lights in the midst of darkness, and our lives should exemplify relaxation, peace and joy in the midst of frustration, confusion and despair.
Second, we must not be conformed to the world physically.
These bodies of ours are intended to be temples of the Spirit of God. We are not to prostrate them before the temples of Baal. We are to present them wholly to God as a “living sacrifice.” Our dress, our posture, our actions, should all be for the honor and glory of Christ.
God’s purpose for us is that we be conformed to the image of His Son. The world may exert its pressure to deform us, but we are told, “Be ye transformed … that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Third, we must not conform to the world socially.
The world attempts to absorb us into its secular society and to conform us to its earthly image, but Christ urges us not to conform. He says of those who believe in Him, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16).
The Gulf Stream is in the ocean, yet it is not a part of it. Believers are in the world, but they must not be absorbed by it. The Gulf Stream maintains its warm temperatures even in the icy water of the North Atlantic. If Christians are to fulfill their purposes in the world, they must not be chilled by the indifferent, godless society in which they live.
Much of our talk as Christians is secular, not spiritual. It is easy to fall into the conversational conformity of the world and spend an evening discussing politics, new cars and the latest entertainment. We often forget that we are to edify one another with holy conversation, and that our conversation should be on heavenly, and not exclusively on earthly, things.
It is true that Jesus dined with publicans and sinners, but He did not allow the social group to conform Him to its ways. He seized every opportunity to present spiritual truth and to lead a soul from death to life. Our social contacts should not only be pleasant, they should be made opportunities to share our faith with those who do not yet know Christ.
Fourth, we must not be conformed to the world spiritually.
We are not to be conformed to the world’s definition of what it means to be religious, but we are to make sure that we have met God’s requirements for discipleship.
No nation was ever more religious than Israel in Isaiah’s day. The temple was filled. The altar ran red with the blood of sacrifice. And the religious festivals were strictly observed, and the voice of prayer was heard in the house of God. But there was a lack of true devotion in Israel’s worship. The nation was deteriorating morally, even though crowds were attending the temple. Speaking as God commanded, Isaiah said, “Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting” (Isaiah 1:13).
These people had been reared according to the formalities of their religious laws, but during the week they were not living a righteous life, and Isaiah warned of the judgment of God.
Then he told them how they could be cleansed from their sin. He said, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil. … ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:16, 18).
Many people do not give themselves to Jesus Christ because they have conformed to the world.
They are afraid of being called fanatic, pious, puritanical or religious. But a true Christian is a non-conformist.
I’m asking Christians everywhere to become committed followers of Jesus Christ, not conformed to the world, but being daily conformed to the image of the Person of Jesus Christ.
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