For part one of this topic click here.
Conformed or Transformed
Romans 12:2 instructs “Do not be conformed to the World.” Jesus makes clear to us that we are in the world but not of the World (John 17:11-18). That is, we are living in the midst of this wicked World system, but we are not to be conformed into its image. We are not to accept its values as our own, but are to resist the pressure of the godless society around us. Instead of submitting to this World’s mold, we are supposed to be transformed into the image of Christ by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 8:29 & 12:2).
In order to live in victory over sin we must be aware that there is a corrupting influence permeating the society around us. We must learn to recognize the values of the World and deny them access to our hearts. The earth is covered in darkness. Only by walking in the light of Jesus Christ can we begin to see how thoroughly the darkness has influenced every aspect of human society.
The values of Satan have been spread far and wide. Everything in society proclaims the demonic gospel of the World. Watching our neighbors amass wealth challenges us to spend our life and energy doing the same. The beautiful woman glancing at us from the billboard declares the importance of physical appearance and at the same time the little value that should be placed on the character of the heart. Every sit-com that fails to acknowledge God’s place in the lives of its characters reinforces the humanistic philosophy propagated in the universities. Every church that uses numbers and financial prosperity to define success declares that popularity and worldly wealth are more desirable than Christ-likeness and contentment. Even if we follow the example of the monks of the Middle Ages and escape to the monastery, we will find the worldly message of spiritual pride preached though the false humility of harsh bodily treatment. Wherever we go on God’s green earth we will face the influence of Satan’s kingdom. So we must not run from it, but defeat it with the light of God’s Word! The dark force of the World must be exposed and overthrown, not hidden from. We must overcome the power of the World by being transformed into the image of Christ, the heavenly Man.
The Weapons of God’s Warfare
In John 17:17 Jesus prayed that we would be transformed. He said it was the truth that had the power to do this. He goes on to declare that God’s Word is the truth. This is the bright light that exposes every scheme of the Devil. When the truth of God’s Word comes, every lie of the Father of lies is exposed for what it is. The power and stench of pride is cast down by the exaltation of sweet humility. The peace of contentment casts out the consuming power of greed. The beauty of holiness reveals all the spots and blemishes that cover immorality. God’s truth defeats the Devil’s lies!
The lies of the World are exposed by the truth of God that is found in His Word. If we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2), we must have a regular transfusion of God’s Word to replace the corruption of the worldly values we were raised on, and which still face on a daily basis. This transforming Word is to be imparted to our lives through the Holy Spirit. And God’s Spirit imparts the truth of God through the Body of Christ, the Church (John 15:26-27 & Eph. 4:4-16).
If we want to live in victory and not fall to the omnipresent temptations of the World we must have regular fellowship with the Body of Christ that is centered on the God’s transforming Word. Through the Spirit-imparted gifts of Christ’s Church we will be brought to the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure and stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13). In this way we will no longer be tossed to and fro by the waves of worldly values (Eph. 4:13). This is why the Scripture declares that the Church is the pillar and support of truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Fellowship in a local church that teaches the truth of the Bible is an absolute necessity if we want to avoid falling under the influence of the World. By regularly participating in such fellowship we are reinforcing kingdom values in order to stave off the continual and invasive pressure of the World system. The local church which preaches the Word of God is a kingdom community that exposes and opposes worldly influence.
Many Christians understand the need to be connected to the Body of Christ. They read Christian books, listen to the Christian radio station, attend seminars about biblical topics and go regularly to a Sunday morning worship service at a nearby church. They understand that they cannot be genuinely connected to Christ without relating with his Body, the Church. But what many fail to realize is that the only way to truly connect with the Church of Jesus Christ as a whole is by fellowshipping with, submitting to and serving in a particular local church. Many insist on associating with every church and in so doing fail to truly connect with any church.
In John 13 Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and then calls them to follow his example by regularly serving one another in a similar manner. Jesus chose foot washing as a way to illustrate the intimate fellowship he calls his Body to partake in.
When washing someone’s feet we must get close enough to touch them. And we cannot really expect someone to wash our feet from ten feet away. The fellowship that Christ calls us to participate in requires that we get close to people and allow them to get close to us. Many attend a Sunday morning service in the same way they go to a movie at the cinema; walking in and walking out without any real personal interaction. If this is our practice, it is true that we are attending a church, but we are not fellowshipping with the Church. We are attending an event, but we are not relating with believers.
Why is it that we hesitate to get close to people in our local church? There are certainly many reasons that we could give. But the illustration Jesus gave us in John 13 reveals the most common one, dirt! Whether we are taking someone’s dirty feet into our hands or humbling ourselves by putting our stinky feet in theirs, it is an uncomfortable practice.
True fellowship obliges us to make other people’s difficulties and trials our own. We often feel we have enough troubles to deal with in our own lives, and so our selfish hearts resist taking up the responsibility of helping our brothers and sisters with theirs. On the other hand, when we are called to open up the dirt and dysfunction of our own lives to others our prideful independence loudly objects. In order to accept the practice of true Christian fellowship we must be willing to love others and bear their burdens, as well as humble ourselves and admit our weakness. This is not the broad and easy way of the World. The very practice of intimate fellowship itself helps to break off the influence of the World. Pride and selfishness are cast out as we submit to the discipline of godly fellowship.
Jesus told Peter, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean” (John 13:10). In Jesus’ day men often wore sandals and walked on dirt roads. If a person took a bath he was clean from head to toe, but as soon as he went for a walk his feet would be covered in dust and dirt. By the blood of Jesus we have been cleansed from the guilt of our sin. But as we walk out our faith in this corrupt age the filth of the World can cling to us. In order to keep from being thoroughly corrupted by the ways of the World we must allow ourselves to be washed by the truth of God’s Word that is distributed by the Church of God. It is through regular and intimate fellowship with a local congregation that we are able to come in contact with this cleansing work.
Let Your Light Shine
Jesus told us that we are not of this World, but he also made it clear that we are still in this World. We are not called to separate ourselves from society as the monks of the middle ages attempted to do. Instead we are called to receive a regular dose of God’s truth through fellowship in a local church. It is through this kingdom influence that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). By accepting God’s light, we become children of light (Eph. 5:8). For this reason Jesus said we are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). He went on to explain that the purpose of any light is to give light to those that are in darkness (Matt. 5:15-16).
We were called out of the World to be cleansed and transformed by the Word of Christ (John 17:6 & 17). But that was not the end of God’s plan for us. Instead Christ has sent us back into the World (i.e. human society) so that the lost might see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven (John 17:18; Matt. 516). We have been called into fellowship with God in order to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). And we have been sent into society to expose darkness and be agents of transformation (Eph. 5:7-14).
Moses was saved out of the Nile River by Pharaoh’s daughter. For this reason he was given the name, Moses (meaning, “drawn out”). Later in his life God called him out of Egypt to the land of Midian where he was transformed into a shepherd. This transformation was not only for Moses’ personal benefit, but was also meant to bless those Hebrews who were still bound in slavery. God didn’t just call Moses out of Egypt to deliver him, but He also sent him back into Egypt as a deliverer.
The word “church” in Greek means, “the called out ones.” We too, like Moses, have been called out of slavery to serve God in the freedom of holiness. We have come to know the truth and the truth has set us free (John 8:32)! And we too, like Moses, have been sent back into society to preach the saving truth of the Gospel (Matt. 28:18-20)!