Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but 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. –Romans 12:2
Recently I confronted a friend of mine who, I felt, was conforming her faith to the world. I thought that her friends had swayed her too greatly, that she was not no longer seeking holiness, but rather a lifestyle in which she could call herself a Christian, meanwhile living according to culture’s accepted standards. She agreed with me to some extent, but argued that her faith looks different to me because I live in the “Bible belt” where I am still sheltered. She, on the other hand, lives in a place where Christianity looks completely different. There was a nuance of resignation as she explained, “…but the more I get to know people, they’re just more concerned with their heart than they are their actions. Which doesn’t excuse them, it’s just that they totally think that messing up, screwing up, sinning, whatever you want to call it, is just part of life…” And so, my friend adapted to this line of thinking.
My first reaction to her response was sheer frustration. She had said her friends were more focused on their hearts than their actions, but Scripture tells us that our actions are an overflow of the heart. If your actions are falling short of God’s standard, they’re merely a reflection of the extent to which God has control over your heart.
And that is what I wanted to tell her—but I couldn’t. Every time I sat down to write her back, I couldn’t think of anything to say. I had many an eloquent thought concerning holiness, and grace, and passion, but every time I attempted to put it down, I looked inward and asked, “Does my life lend credibility to this argument?” The answer was of course “no.” I couldn’t tell her to shed her luke-warm Christianity and start living a life sold out for Christ, because I had not done so myself…
Ephesians tells us to avoid coarse joking, but I constantly employ sarcasm. The parable of the widow’s mite tells us to give sacrificially, but I still have enough money to drive an SUV and pay for the gas it wastes. Jesus tells us to forgive seventy times seven times, but how often I have held a grudge because I “deserved to be treated better.” And let’s not even get started on my road rage. The sins of greed, jealousy, pride, and gossip are all listed next to murder and God-haters, yet we only see the last two as being truly bad. The first four are much more acceptable by society’s standards. Yet is this what God desires of us?
Most of Paul’s letters were written to churches battling the prevailing moral standards of their time. The church of Corinth had been influenced by sexual immorality, the church in Ephesus was influenced by pagan religions, and the church of Galatia had been corrupted by false prophets. No church was immune to its culture’s practices, which is why Paul teaches the Romans, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Paul is teaching us to be set apart. We will have zero credibility in today’s moral debates if the rest of our lives look exactly like the world’s. We have turned into buffet style Christians, picking and choosing from Scripture that suits our already comfortable lives. Yet the Bible is not a self-help book; it is a God glorifying, Lord magnifying, Christ exalting, “me” minimizing, divine work of supernatural revelation. The way we pick and choose from the Bible merely reflects our true sentiments on its authority. Yes, it is about the heart, but a heart wildly on fire for the Lord cannot be hidden. It should stand out!
So where does your heart stand? Is God truly the Ruler of your life, or just parts of it? In a world where we are combating moral relativism, we cannot afford to be relativists ourselves. But more importantly, we will never win hearts to Christ if Christ has not conquered ours. Is your life proof of this faith you profess?