by Steve DuPlessie | August 7, 2017
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world…” The New Living Translation says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world …” John, the disciple Jesus loved, wrote, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 Jn 2:15, 16) And that separation from the world, pretty hard, me included, because like the late Diego the fish in his bowl of water, our culture surrounds us.
And we consciously but mostly unconsciously adopt and adapt to the culture around us. That mid-70s wedding picture you saw a few moments ago? Did you notice the bell-bottom tuxedo with the frilled shirt cuffs and gigantic puffy bow tie? Deb’s delicate flower-child hair piece? Solid 70s. And we all tend, to one degree of another, to adapt and adopt, some quickly, some more slowly: who doesn’t have a TV or a car? I didn’t see any horse and wagon rigs in the parking lot this morning.
But more than fashion or technology we adopt the zeitgeist, a popular 70s word, the spirit of the age; the dominant set of ideals and beliefs that motivate the values and actions in a culture for a time. Malcolm Gladwell argued in his books Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, that entrepreneurs who succeed are effective at anticipating and embracing the next new thing, understanding the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age.
And followers of Jesus are not exempt. Right now we are being influenced by the spirit of our age, such as current the social pressure of inclusion and pluralism. So the old cultural value of freedom of speech is now taking second place to correct speech, and the recent value of toleration has more recently morphed into mandatory approval.
So a Pew Research poll earlier this year showed that 47% of Gen-X/Millennial evangelicals (those born after 1964) favor gay marriage, compared with 26% of Baby Boomer and older evangelicals (those born between 1928 and 1964). The teaching of the bible about marriage – one man and one woman – hasn’t changed. What changed? It’s the constant social pressure of the spirit of the age – aided by pervasive messages in media, the not-so-subtle influences of entertainment, and prevailing humanistic-centered education philosophies of our schools and colleges – that is slowly, insidiously, but effectively changing minds, even the minds of those who claim that the bible is truth and following God is important to them. So what can we do to resist conforming to the current social values?
Paul says the answer lies in nothing less than total transformation. Verse 2 again: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but (instead) 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.” Many have noticed that the Greek word for transformation, met-am-or-fo’-o, is the word from which we get the English cognate, metamorphosis, as in the dramatic transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly.
The pattern we need to reject is a grotesquely twisted version of God’s original creation, which He repeatedly called “good.” If we are to behave differently from the fallen, broken world system—into which we were born and of which we are made—we must change. Unfortunately we cannot change ourselves, so like a caterpillar we must be transformed. And the good news is the God who made you can change you. Turn to the person next to you and tell them, “The God who made you can change you.” So Paul explains here that this is huge change project is accomplished by changing your mind, how you think.
And God’s primary tool for transforming you, changing your mind, changing the way you think is … His word. It’s no surprise that the spirit of our age is changing the way we think when you consider how much time we spend on social media, phones glued to our thumbs. Be honest, media influences you, changes how you think about yourself and your world. I challenge you to spend half of your aggregated daily social media time in God’s word – Psalms, Proverbs, James, Philippians, Ephesians – and let God use His word to transform the way you think.
And that calls for willing, humble submission: willingness to submit our time, submit our personalities (you know, you outgoing social types who need to know – and comment on – everything that everyone is doing and … saying up to the moment), and submit our firmly held beliefs and values to the enduring truths and values of God’s word. I guarantee, if you invest as much time soaking in God’s word as you do in social media and video games, news feeds and blogs, movies and sports, your mind will be transformed! Guaranteed!