One of the greatest struggles the church has to face is that of being in the world and not of the world. Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this 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.” The word translated “conformed” in this passage is defined as “to conform one’s self (i.e. one’s mind and character) to another’s pattern, (fashion one’s self according to)” (Thayer’s Dictionary). If one presses their hand in “Silly Putty” or a soft piece of clay, or dough as in bread – the clay conforms to the imprint of the hand. Paul teaches that our minds could become the passive clay on which the world makes its impression.
The church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) had become “lukewarm,” which is defined as “that which fluctuates between fervor and laziness or sloth.” The church in Laodicea would one minute be on fire for the Lord; the next, languish in laziness and carelessness for him and his word. Does this describe any churches we know today?
The lukewarm can be faithful in attendance, affirm their belief in Jesus and abstain from the works of the flesh, yet still believe in the “real world” that the church is irrelevant and inconsequential to their daily lives. Yet what is real – is it this world, or the eternal? Could it be that this world has so distorted our understanding that we cannot see the “real world;” the eternal world of which God wants us to be a part?
Because we live in the world, it is hard not to judge things without the slant of the world – but the world’s way of doing things is not the Lord’s way of doing things.
Hence, Paul warns us that unless our minds are constantly and continually renewed with the truth, we will be conformed to the world, shaped and fashioned in form of the world. J.B. Phillips translation states “we have allowed the world to squeeze us into its mold.”
What is the “world” that God warns Christians about? It is that mindset that directs us away from God and toward our self and self-interests. It is that mindset that excludes what God wants and substitutes it for what we want – so we make a world after our image, not after the image and likeness of God. David Wells describes the world as “the collective expression of every societies refusal to bow before God, to receive his truth, to obey his commandments, or to believe in His Christ.” For Christians it is so easy to follow the world’s course because it is presented as normal, natural, popular and acceptable. The world’s view affects every aspect of our culture, and in the end, affects the intellectual, moral and religious environment around us!
Once the world invades our hearts God can no longer live there! His distance in our lives is a direct result of this. Has the world turned us into “practical atheists” who, while never denying God’s existence, live each day as if God was not really there? Is it any wonder why the church is not making the difference in our world that she once did? We are not the holy, special people, God has called us to be. We have become “friends of the world” and thus, at “enmity with God.” (James 4:4).
Either the church influences the world, or the world influences the church. If the world influences the church the church has lost her reason for being. All that is left is that we “go to church” to ensure that we don’t go to hell – is this all the church really means? Brethren, let us recognize the soul-destroying reality that the world really is, let us separate ourselves from it, and keep ourselves unspotted by it.
2 Corinthians 6:17-18 “Therefore, Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
Adapted from Tom Steed 4/16/1998
Beloved, the church is to be like Jesus! It sounds so simple, but it is so hard to live out sometimes. Let us not be discouraged but strive daily to be like Jesus in our thoughts, actions, and speech. Jesus is the only hope of this world. I hope we all believe that with all of our being.
SOME QUICK THOUGHTS TO PONDER
“The Bible needs less defense and more practice.”
“Many people are wallowing in the poverty of their own limited thoughts.”
“Life does not offer us its best on easy terms.”