Do not be conformed to this world

by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) 

One of the markers of genuineness in a Christian is separation from the World. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in a continual upgrade unto Christlikeness. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love.

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:18-19 (NASB) 

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17 (NASB) 

If professing believers love the very thing that hates the truth of God’s sovereignty, His genuine character–not the one they have made up, and all genuine Christians who proclaim these truths then they prove either that they are very immature Christians or the love of the Father is not in them. The word love used here, in the Greek, means “affection and devotion.” John is telling us that genuine Christians will not habitually have affection and devotion for the world or the things in the world.

I know many professing Christians who believe that death is a tremendous tragedy. They love their life here more than anything else. They pursue entertainment in everything they do seeking to be fulfilled in sports, or movies, or recognition for working hard in church. On the other hand, John tells us in the passage from 1 John that if we habitually love the world like that then we are in the process of revealing that we are disingenuous Christians.

Why does God hate love for the world and the things in the world? God, not the world, must have first place in His children’s hearts. (Matthew 10:37; Philipians 3:20) We must remember that what God is against here is not planet Earth, but the invisible, spiritual system of evil dominated by Satan. This world system keeps people in bondage, blinds their hearts, and opposes God and all that belong to Him.

These evil forces bring to bear the three motivations for people to sin. These are seen in v16. It says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” The ESV uses the word “desires” in this passage, while the NASB, KJV, and NKJV use the word “lust.” While they essentially have the same meaning, the word “lust” carries with it a connotation of desiring that which is wrong to have. The first lust or desire is “of the flesh.” Immature Christians are suckers for this. They have not learned that we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Christ as a way of life. Instead they battle with their sin nature’s number one target for self-gratification – the flesh. This lust is best understood as that which creates a “passion” for whatever it is that is wrong to have. The second lust is “of the eyes.” This speaks of a desire to possess something or someone that is not theirs. This is akin to covetousness. It seems that our path to Christian maturity starts with dealing with these two lusts. We must conquer our passions and desires to posses the things of this world. If we don’t then we are revealing our love for these things and that means we don’t have the love of the Father in us. This is frightening! Have you examined yourself in this area? The third motivation to sin is boastful pride of life (NASB), pride in possessions (ESV) or pride of life (KJV, NKJV). This speaks of having power. The rich are powerful are they not? Don’t power brokers in this world also possess the things in this world that most of wish we had? If I am in the habit of showing off my Citizen Eco Drive solar powered watch to everyone or my wife is always showing off her diamond ring aren’t we being prideful as we attempt to show others how powerful we are?

If we are in love with the world and things in the world as John speaks of in this passage then we will also be dominated by these three motivations to sin. On the other hand, if we are being sanctified, working out our salvation with fear and trembling, all three of these things will come under attack. God will not allow His children to be idol worshippers. Their idols must come down. They must be cast into the fire.

As we grow in grace, these battles will continue, but victories will grow more and more frequent. Some of us will battle this, and lose, to the end. However, I deeply desire victory over my besetting sins of seeking passion, possessions, and power. How can we do this. I probably sound like a recording that repeats over and over again, but here it is: We must cooperate with God in our sanctification. We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We must seek purity. We must love God more than life itself. We must put our love for Him above all things and everyone else. We must love Him with our entire being. Why?

1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 (NASB) 

Beloved, we must take this to heart. This purity speaks of being cleansed from the contamination of this world. If we are pure here it is because we are not conformed to this world, but have become transformed by the renewing of our minds. In so doing, we have drawn near to God, He has drawn near to us, and we have learned to discern His will and we obey Him in all we do, by His grace.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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