“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, ESV)
When I drive my four-wheel drive truck on the beach, I must do two things. I must avoid obstacles. However most importantly, I must engage the four-wheel drive. A failure to do either of these can result in a big mess by getting bottomed out on the sand. If this happens, you need to dig down under the carriage and get towed out.
We have been speaking of developing the mind of Christ. Jesus has made us a spiritual person by the ministry of the Holy Spirit when we believed. Yet, He has just started the work in us. From then on, we are undergoing a spiritual transformation. Paul presents the practical responses that believers must manifest to experience this spiritual transformation. For this, there are two major things that we must allow to happen in our lives. They are avoidance and engagement. Believers are to continuously avoid one thing and engage with another.
Believers are to avoid being conformed to the standards of the world system. Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world.” When I was a teenager, I had a neighborhood friend. He was quite the neighborhood renegade. I was not. At least not until I became his friend. He did not do extremely bad things, but got into mischief in the neighborhood. He was just that guy who irritated all the neighbors. I guess his parents thought that I might have a positive influence on him and I guess in some ways I did. However, he also had a negative influence on me. I began getting involved in some of the mischief that he enjoyed and yet I tempered to some extent the mischief that he planned. The point I bring up here is that there are influences all around us that can affect us in negative ways. This world system has a way of doing just that.
John wrote this exhortation regarding the influence of the world system.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17, ESV)
The world system is that program instituted by Satan, which is diametrically opposed to the purposes and ways of God. It includes the lusts of the flesh, cravings for things that will control our lives if we are not careful. It includes the lusts of the eyes, the desire to bring pleasures into our minds by what we see. Many of the things we see can influence our hearts desire and take us away from the purposes and plans of God.
The largest one to me seems to be the pride of life. Pride is a killer. It may be the one overriding problem of humanity. It started in the Garden of Eden as the devil tempted Eve to be like God through partaking from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Today, it is something with which even the most righteous person struggles. The person who says they do not struggle with pride is by his or her own admission helplessly bound by it.
We must avoid being conformed to this system. The word “conformed” is a present tense imperative, referring to a continuous command. The believers are to continuously avoid the power of the world system that works to conform them to Satan’s evil ways. The problem is that the influences are all around us and can subconsciously conform us by what we see, hear, and experience.
One of the primary ways we are being conformed today is through the various forms of media. I recently read a statistic that by the time children graduate from high school, they will have spent 50% more time watching television than in the classroom. Moreover, what is coming across the airwaves to all of us is filled with worldly philosophies. While in college pursuing a degree in engineering, I took a class in communications. At that time, studies further show that two-thirds of the television elite believed that television should promote social reform. In the course textbook, I discovered this statement by Dr. Rose K. Goldsen, Professor of Sociology at Cornell University. “TV is more than just a little fun and entertainment. It’s a whole environment, and what it does bears an unpleasant resemblance to behavior modification on a mass scale.” Basically, the media has an ability to modify behavior without one noticing it. This is paramount to brainwashing. Sadly, this push to change the social views today has not changed.
What is the solution? Well, we are not going to eliminate the world system. It is not in our power to do so. Someday, we know that God will do this. Today, we must work to guard ourselves from it. We can regulate what we see, read, and hear. Everyone has a on and off button on their television remote. We can spend more time as a family talking to each other and in particular things pertaining to the faith. This leads us to the next thing Paul wrote in this context. (More on that tomorrow.)