Let’s start this topic by going directly to the Word of God and see what the apostle Paul has to say about conforming.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.“ Romans 12:2 (NIV)
There is a great deal of information and direction in this small paragraph. It is clear, we are not to conform to this world but what are some of the reasons that make a individual or a group conform?
.The desire to fit in
.The fear of rejection
.The fear of criticism
. The need to be liked
.Wanting to please people
. One is not sure how they feel regarding a particular issue, therefore they conform with the majority
To put this in a nutshell it all comes down to fear of man.
There are many great men in the Bible who conformed to another’s way of thinking but I will list two.
In their old age Abraham and Sarah were promised a child. This blessed event wasn’t moving fast enough for Sarah so she took matters into her own hands. Sarah gave her servant girl Hagar to Abraham to have a child. Instead of waiting on the Lord, Abraham conformed to Sarah’s wishes. This caused quite a mess. You can read the story in Genesis.
Solomon’s weakness was women. The Lord told him not to marry the foreign women but he did it anyway. His wives worshiped other gods and Solomon conformed by worshipping them as well. Solomon’s heart turned away from the Lord. This account is in 1st Kings.
The good news is God can take our mistakes and make something good out of it but most of the time not without consequences. Abraham and Sarah had their promised child Isaac but the child Ishmael, that Abraham had with Hagar, caused many problems within the family. Abraham loved Ishmael but because of Sarah’s jealously, both Hagar and Ishmael were forced to leave their home. Hmmm, looks like Abraham conformed again. Solomon is the author of Ecclesiastics. For the most part it sounds like doom and gloom. I assume because of Solomon’s sin, he suffered great depression. Though this is a controversial topic, I believe Solomon repented at the end and got right with the Lord. It states in the last chapter of Ecclesiastics, 12: 13-14 “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (NIV)
When it comes to nonconforming, Daniel is the man. He is the most remarkable nonconformist of all times. Here was a man that put God first in his life and was ready to serve Him, no matter what it looked like. It looked atrocious as King Nebuchadnezzar took him captive at the prime of his life. The king was looking for young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. Daniel fit this bill to a T and was everything a young man could hope to be. I think it is safe to say, this was not the life Daniel signed up for but he accepted his position in life. We see Daniel and his friends nonconforming many times . The first time we find that Daniel was not going to defile himself by eating the kings food. So he asked to be given a diet of vegetables and water for ten days. His request was granted. At the end of ten days not only did he and his friends look healthier the Bible says they were fatter than the other men. Next we have King Nebuchadnezzar wanting everyone to worship a statue he had made. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused. So they are told to either comply or die in the fiery furnace. They would not conform to the kings wishes, they chose death but are saved. They come out of that fiery furnace without even a eyebrow singed. Later, due to the jealously of the satraps, King Darius was tricked by them. The satraps had the King make a decree that if anyone prays to another god other than the king, they will be thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel refuses to conform. He prays to the Lord with the windows wide open like always and the King is obligated to throw him in the lion’s den. The Lord shuts the lions mouths, Daniel is saved and his accusers and their families are thrown in the lion’s den and killed instantly. Clearly as there were consequences to Abraham and Solomon’s conforming , there were rewards for Daniels nonconforming. The Kings Daniel served grew to love Daniel and showed him much favor. What a witness, Daniel was for the Lord, as a result of nonconforming, the kings saw the power of the Lord and praised God for it. I also find it interesting that in reading Daniel, he grew to love the Kings also but he would never to conform to their commands if it went against the Lord. I would suggest studying The Book of Daniel. It is an amazing book and is superb at demonstrating how to trust God, and what nonconforming is all about.
There are times when conforming is a good thing. Take the set of circumstances of the apostle Paul’s life. We first meet him in the Bible as Saul of Tarsus. He was a Pharisee and was a great persecutor of the Christian Church. He was thrilled when Stephen was martyred. Starting with Acts 9, Saul has an encounter with God. The Lord speaks to him, strikes him blind but the Lord sends a disciple name Ananias to pray for him and he regains his sight. This merciless persecutor of the church, now named Paul is conformed to the teachings of Jesus Christ and became the greatest apostle that ever live. He was beaten, thrown in jail and faced many other trials and persecution but did not conformed to his old ways and stayed true to Christ to the end.
I was in my car the other day, scanning the radio stations when I heard a very upbeat song. It was titled, “Shake it Off.” Grant you, I know this is a long way off from a Christian song but there is a powerful message in it. In the song, Taylor Swift sings about the factors in her life, where people are putting her down. The words spoken about her are critical, could cause rejection, and downright mean. She continues to sing about how players are going to play and haters are going to hate. What does Taylor do? She just shakes it off! People are always going to talk, sadly even Christians will persecute other Christians. What do we do when we are talked about or put down? Like the song says, We shake it off, shake it off! I realize there are times when correction needs to be brought but the bible has an answer to this matter also. “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love. Matthew 18:15-17 The Message Presuming we are not in the above situation, it is essential to develop a thicker skin, lose our fear of man, know what we believe and stand firm no matter what. When it is all said and done the only person we need to care about what they think of us is Jesus. If we do this, EVERYTHING else will fall into place. If we are pleasing the Lord we are in the center of His will. If we in the center of His will then we are doing the things that Jesus is asking of us. If this is the case who gives a rip what other people say and think? If we fail, take comfort in Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV) Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. We serve a God who is slow to anger and forgives us, therefore repent and ask the Lord to help you do better and He will. God isn’t finished with any of us yet.
Though this topic is on “Conformity” I don’t want to end it without talking about renewing our minds since it is part of Romans 12:2. So how do we renew our minds? By means of going to church, praying, which is talking to God and studying the Word. Studying the Word is extremely important. If we don’t make the Bible a part of our lives it would be impossible to renew our minds. The Word teaches us about our heavenly Father, His love for us, Jesus, Holy Spirit and how to live our lives and so much more. There are many topics in the Bible that can be debated BUT when it comes to how we are to live, it is crystal clear. If we know the Word, there will be no question regarding a particular issue. Even with that being said there is a verse in the Bible stating, ALL of us were born with an instinct of what is right and what is wrong. “When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman. The Message from God that I proclaim through Jesus Christ takes into account all these differences.”
Romans 2:14-16 in The Message
One thing I learned to do is pay attention to what we call “red flags.” The red flags could be the Holy Spirit talking to us or warning us. It could be anything from walking away from gossip or watching a TV program or the decisions of life such as should I take this job, should I sell my house? Hence, listen for that still small voice for direction.
Don’t despair if you have conformed to issues in the past. As I said in previous blogs, this Christian life is a journey. Take one day at a time an enjoy the ride. This journey is a process and as the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and neither is our Christian walk. In my years as a Christian, I have conformed more times than I like to admit. Spending time with the Lord everyday has helped me develop a thick skin but it wasn’t over night. Are things said about me? Yes! Do I care anymore? Nope! I just shake it off, shake it off! I pray you will as well.