The watch word for our culture is “in”. Are these clothes in, is that phrase in, am I in? It may sound like a middle school cliche, but look at the people around you. Look at yourself and your own life choices. We are constantly trying to do what everyone else is doing, what’s acceptable, essentially, what’s “cool”. Even when people want to stand out, it’s usually just for doing the “in” things better than everyone else.
Sadly, that’s even true of Christians. I can’t count how many times I have been absorbed by thoughts of what others would think if I did this or that. We are “blood bought children of God,” as a pastor I know says, but we still try so hard to look good according to the world’s standards.
The Bible has a LOT to say on this subject. One of its most piercingly clear verses is Romans 12:2, which says, “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.” Such powerful, inspiring words! Transform. Renewal. And that picture of being able to discern the will of God. We read that and it at least feels like that’s our true desire.
But what does it look like on the street in our own shoes, where it gets harder to be transformed, and easier to just conform?
Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
“It is no longer I who live.” Think about the implications of that! Our desires and our plans come second. God’s will and God’s plan come first, always. He lives through me.
If you don’t think a life truly lived that way would be radical, then you obviously don’t fully understand. Here is a second picture.
Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
That idea of a sacrifice is from the Old Testament. Sacrifices were made of a sheep’s lifeblood; everything that sheep was would be given up for the greater purpose of demonstrating God’s plan. The sheep could hold no part of himself back.
That same intense, all-encompassing sacrifice is demanded of us. We are told to completely give up ourselves to a God with a much bigger, much better plan. Everything we are is given to God.
And we should be willing, even excited, to give all to Christ! He is God, and we are not. We should be overwhelmed with trust in Him, and with distrust in our own sinful selves. We should be overwhelmed with love and gratitude for a God who would send His Son to die for us, and we should be overwhelmed with a desire to be a part of what God is doing, no matter what the cost.
But a mindset like that isn’t easy to maintain. On our beautiful mountaintops of faith we feel that way, but down in the valleys we are constantly bombarded with distractions and a completely different standard of what a good life looks like. The war between doing what God commands us in His Word and not wanting to alienate the people we know is constant, and draining. To combat it, we need to remember Psalm 119:9. It asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” then answers, “By guarding it according to your word.”
The only way to keep our thoughts pure is to be in God’s Word. We have to be constantly looking for and replacing the world’s view with God’s view by poring through His Word daily, and depending wholly on Him. Just like anything else, it is impossible for us to do alone.
This all still sounds a bit highfaluting, so to bring it down further from the clouds, let me say this. Jesus, while here on Earth, prayed this prayer which was recorded in John 17: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” God sent us into the world as witnesses, as emissaries, as examples. We are supposed to be in and among people, living life with them, but at the same time, we are supposed to remain “unspotted from the world” as it says in James 1:27. To do that, we have to be on our guard. We must compare every action and every motive to the Bible, and keep our minds locked on God. Frankly, if we are doing that while living in a world that runs on its own track, we are going to look weird. It’s unavoidable. Jesus certainly did while He was on Earth.
In other words, we have to always ask ourselves which is more important: to honor God and to live as a witness for Him or to please people?
And really, how sad is it that that is even a question.