XL. CONFORMITY TO THE WORLD
`I beseech you, brethren, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.' -- Rom. 12:1,2
Be not conformed to this world. But what is conformity to the world? The opposite of conformity to Jesus: for Jesus and the world stand directly opposed to each other. The world crucified Him. He and His disciples are not of the world. The spirit of this world cannot receive the Spirit of God, for it sees Him not and knows Him not. (John 14:17; 17:14,16; 1 Cor. 2:6,8)
And what is the spirit of this world? The spirit of this world is the disposition that animates mankind in their natural condition, where the Spirit of God has not yet renewed them. The spirit of this world comes from the Evil One, who is the prince of this world, and has dominion over all that are not renewed by the Spirit of God. (John 14:30; 16:11; 1 Cor. 2:12)
And in what does the spirit of this world, or conformity to it, manifest itself? The word of God gives the answer: `All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.' The craving for pleasure or the desire to enjoy the world; the craving for property, or the desire to possess the world; the craving for glory, or the desire to be honoured in the world: these are the three chief forms of the spirit of the world. (1 John 2:15,16)
And these three are one in root and essence. The spirit of this world is, that man makes himself his own end: he makes himself the central point of the world: all creation, so far as he has power over it, must serve him; he seeks his life in the visible. This is the spirit of the world: to seek one's self and the visible. (John 5:44) And the Spirit of Jesus: to live not for one's self and not for the visible, but for God and the things that are invisible. (2 Cor. 4:18; 5:7,15)
It is a very terrible and serious thought that once can carry on a busy fashionable life, free from manifest sin or unrighteousness, and yet remain in the friendship of the world, and thereby in enmity against God. (Jas. 4:4)
Where the care for the earthly, for what we eat and what we should drink, for what we possess or may still get into possession, for what we can have brought forth in the earth and made to increase, is the chief element in our life, there we are conformed to this world. It is a terrible and a very serious thought that one can maintain to all appearance a Christian life and think that one is trusting in Christ, while yet one is living with the world for self and the visible. (Matt. 6:32,33) For this reason the command comes to all Christians with great emphasis: Be conformed, not to this world, but to Jesus.
And how can I, for this end, come to be not conformed to the world? Read our text over again with consideration: we read there two things. Observe what goes before. It is those that have presented their bodies to God as a sacrifice on the altar that have it said to them: Be not conformed to the world. Offer yourself to God -- that is conformity to Jesus; live every day as one that is offered up to God, crucified in Christ to the world: then you shall not be conformed to the world. (Gal. 6:14)
Observe also what follows: Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the perfect will of God. There must be a continuous growing renewal of our mind. This takes place by the Holy Spirit, when we let ourselves be led by Him. Then we learn to judge spiritually of what is according to the will of God and what is according to the spirit of the world. A Christian who strives after the progressive renewal of his whole mind shall not be conformed to the world: the Spirit of God makes him conformed to Jesus. (2 Cor. 6:14,16; Eph. 5:17; Heb. 5:14)
Christians, pray, do believe that Jesus has obtained for you the power to overcome the world, with its deep hidden seductions to living for ourselves. Believe this: believe in Him as Victor: and you also have the victory. (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4,5)
Precious Lord, we have presented ourselves to Thee as living sacrifices. We have offered up ourselves to God. We are not of the world, even as Thou art not of the world. Lord, let our mind be enlightened by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, that we may rightly see what the spirit of this world is. And let it be seen in us that we are not of this world, but are conformed to Jesus. Amen.
1. Worldly pleasures. Is dancing sin? What harm is there in playing billiards? Why may a Christian not go to the play? One has sometimes wished that there were in the Scriptures a distinct law to forbid such things. God has intentionally not given this. If there were such a law, it would make men only externally pious. God would put each one upon trial whether his inner disposition is worldly or heavenly. Pray, learn Rom. 12:1,2 by heart, and ask the Spirit of God to make it living in you. The Christian who offers himself up to God, and becomes transformed by the renewing of the mind to prove the perfect will of God, will speedily learn whether he may dance or play billiards. The Christian who is afraid only of hell, but not of conformity to the world, cannot see what the Spirit of God gives His children to see.
2. It is remarkable that the trinity of the god of this world, in John's Epistle, is seen as well in the temptation in Paradise as in that of the Lord Jesus.
The lust of the flesh:
The woman saw that the tree was good for food.
Command that those stones become bread.
The lust of the eyes:
And that it was a delight to the eyes.
The devil showeth Him all the kingdoms of the world.
And the vainglory of life.
And that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.
Cast Thyself down.
3. Consider what I say to you: It is only conformity to Jesus that will keep out conformity to the world. Let conformity to Jesus be the study, the endeavour of your soul.