The Christian is engaged in a spiritual warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil. “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:2-3). These three are in concert with one another to form an Axis of Evil.
The word for world is used in a variety of ways in Scripture. First, the term world is used for this planet. It is simply a geographical location. Second, the term world is used to refer to the fallen sphere of this planet which manifests a spirit of being anti-God. Jesus made this distinction in his Great High Priestly Prayer. John 17:12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
In every generation there is a desire to escape from the world and disassociate ourselves from it. Historically, this desire to be removed from the world is reflected in those hermits who went to live in the desert, by monasticism, by communal villages reflected in Harmony, PA, by the Amish, and by theological constructs such as the Rapture. All this is in contrast to the prayer of Jesus that the Father not take people out of the world. It is not the will of the Lord for His people to remain in isolation. In the gospel of Luke, the Pharisees adopted a Doctrine of Spirituality by Separation. They became angry with Jesus because the Lord associated with publicans and sinners. Jesus did not start a new work of Essenes who withdrew from society to keep themselves pure for the Messiah. The Messiah came and they missed Him. Jesus asked for the Father to preserve Christians while they were living out their faith in the world.
The apostle Paul taught the same as Jesus concerning being in the world, but not of it. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:1).
The words “conformed” and “transformed” are important words to Paul. The same root is found in both words, “form”, which refers to structure, or system. The difference is the prefix. The prefix, “con”, means, “with”. The Christian is not to be “with” the world, or pressed into its mold with its current structures, but to be “trans”formed, or “beyond” the world system by the renewing of the mind. Many Christians long to be “popular” with the world in order to feel sophisticated and informed in a social gathering. Individuals learn this as a child, and it never really leaves.
However, there is a price for popularity, and the price is conformity. Parent’s try to teach children to say “No”, rather than “Yes” to peer pressures. However, it is a lesson not easily learned. The heart’s desire is to be judged in the area of one’s peers, not in the nebulous world of the divine.
It is said the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. The game for popularity does not change, illustrated in the phrase, “Keeping up with the Jones’”, but the price of keeping up does escalate. The seductive power of this world is to conform to it.
The Germans have a word for this effort to conform, and it is call “zeitgeist”. The word “geist”, spirit, and “zeit”, time, means literally, “the spirit of the times”, or “the spirit of the age.” It refers to what is “in” now. Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a severe critic of his generation. He claimed that people lived by the dictates of herd mentality. Nietzsche said that people were like sheep. They followed without critical thought or questioning the spirit of the age. He called for the “Uberman”, the “Superman” to lead the people. As a student of Nietzsche, Adolf Hitler determined to be such a Superman. For Nietzsche, the Superman would be the ultimate nonconformist.
The question is asked, “How can I, as a Christian, not be conformed to the world?” The answer is by utilizing the means of grace.
Develop a renewed will. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).
Have an informed mind concerning the will of the Lord. “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).
Rely on the indwelling Holy Spirit. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13).
Memorize Bible doctrine. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).
Become personally accountable. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
Confess all known sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Care must be taken at this point. Christians are not necessarily to be known primarily for their nonconformity, or what they are against, such as smoking, drunkenness, gambling, prostitution, and modest dress. Christians are to be known for having been transformed by the grace of God.The question is asked, “How can I, as a Christian, be transformed?” The biblical answer is, “By the renewing of the mind a soul is transformed.”
Be someone whose word can be trusted.
Be someone who is faithful to family and friends.
Be someone who will do what is right, even if it costs them money.
Be someone who loves the Lord.
Be someone who is different in language.
Be someone who goes over and beyond the structures of the present world.
Be someone who outworks and out loves all others.
Be someone who values a call for excellence, not what is legal, or can be informed by society. Be someone whom others will say, “This person has been with Jesus.”