The world as it is, evil in the sense of being alienated against God, is against you and me. Let me explain. How do we see ourselves in the world? Usually we see ourselves as the world sees us and judges us; our looks, academic performance, power, wealth, sexual appeal and more. It’s a hard place to live when we feel the need to ‘measure up’.
And then there is the issue of faith. We are reluctant to follow Christ, believe in Christ, put our confidence in Christ because the world puts us down for being not intellectual, or for being too naïve or gullible or they mock us for the evil in the world or for the evil that believers have done over the years. No, it’s not easy living faithfully in this world among people who are living for themselves or for the material gods they have fashioned for themselves. So what to do? How to cope?
Let me suggest that Paul might have been on to something in Romans 12:1-2 where he gives advise to the earliest believers back in the first century where they were under severe pressure to conform to the Roman society, Roman gods and way of life.
This is how he puts it:
12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, [a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world, [c] 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.(ESV)d
If you would like a modern paraphrase of this passage take a look at the MESSAGE
12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
If we choose the CULTURE as our worldview in life we are going to be beat up badly, squeezed into a way of life that may seem satisfying but will sap our energy from trying so hard to fit it. And it’s a deadly dead-end road that leads to nowhere, no purpose, and no life with God. Instead Paul invites, encourages, urges us to let ourselves be transformed by God, to start thinking differently aided of course the God’s Holy Spirit. Thinking in terms of what it means to belong to God, that Jesus is our Lord and friend and Savior. To understand what it means to be truly loved and to live out our lives in that love and not under judgment. And greatest of all when we give ourselves to God we begin to discern with our spirits and our minds what God’s will is. Sometimes we don’t even need to ask. It’s just ‘there’, right in front of us.
Now here’s the thing. The church can sometimes act like the world, all flesh and no heart, trying to squeeze us into this doctrine and that idea. I get real nervous going into a group of people who I think are sometimes judging me by the name of the church I attend or how I pray or even what I look like. I have more than a few quizzical stares at some of my tattoos or that cigar hanging out of my mouth.
Don’t let anyone SQUEEZE you into THEIR mold, the way of doing things. Sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself. But rather keep thinking on God, his goodness towards you and me. Think about what he did through his son Jesus …let your mind be soaked by that goodness and be very attracted to kind Christians who accept you and love you. When you are in such a situation you begin to see the will of God more clearly in your life because you are FREE to commune with God, not by the rules of anyone else.
The Bible talks a lot about freedom. Jesus said that the truth would set us free. The truth is the life of Jesus interacting with our life through the Holy Spirit. The truth on certain days allows us to look in the mirror and say, ‘why you most loved wretch, what is wrong with you?’ And you know the God who loves you forgives and loves you so much. Other days you may look in that same mirror and say, ‘my, aren’t I a good person.’ Then perhaps you need to blink your eyes and consider that the Christ who stands next to you is your measuring rod.
But here’s the thing. Fix your attention on God. Look at God’s through his holy word. Read the Psalms and the Gospels. Get it fixed in your mind whose you are, to whom you really belong. If God be for us who can be against us? That was not written to prepare for a military battle. It was written for us to know that no evil in this world has any real power over us. Oh they may take our lives but they will never take away our relationship with Christ.
When we get that firmly fixed in our minds then we can think about every person, every situation, every injustice in this world and we will have the good God sense to know how to live.
The world has no power to pressure you. And for the most part God won’t pressure. He will invited, he will nudge and once in a while a good kick in the rear from our loving God will get our minds right.
The world just doesn’t ‘get it’, never has but here’s the secret. The kingdom of God has landed in this world and you and I are blessed to see it. That’s what the whole born again thing means. We are given eyes to see what God is up to in us and in this world and then we join God. The world will put you down. Worldly Christians will do that too.
Look and long for Christian brothers and sisters who will build you up, who will stand against the ways of the world even those ways found within our own families. Seek fellowship that is challenging, and pray often with your Bible and heart wide open to what the spirit is saying to all of us. Amen