One Foot In The World
by Stephanie Olson, Co-founder Set Me Free Ministries
Romans 12:2 “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.”
Bear with me as you read on. This may sound harsh, but believe me, it’s nothing I haven’t walked personally. This is what I continue to learn on a daily basis. So, here we go.
As a young Christian I struggled with the above scripture. My struggle wasn’t in trying to understand what the scripture meant; my struggle was in living out the scripture. When I was early in my Christian walk, I really thought that the difference between Christians and the world indicated the fun had ended. I thought Christians were a frumpy, stuffy, boring group of people who had lives full of suffering. What I realized, however, is that according to John 10:10, Jesus wants us to live our lives to the full. A life to the full isn’t a life of boredom—quite the contrary.
So then, what does it mean to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,” and why shouldn’t we? I love the way the New Living Translation interprets Romans 12:2: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
When I look back at my drinking days, one of my biggest regrets is that I actually witnessed to someone who didn’t believe in God while I was drunk. I cringe just writing that sentence. Today I understand the damage I may have done. Why on earth would someone want what I was offering? According to their perspective, I was just a sloppy, drunken, slurring person talking about Jesus. Yuck.
As Christians, we must remember that this world isn’t really our home. It’s just a pit stop on the way to our true home with Christ. Because we are in this world but not of this world, we don’t want to behave like the world does. We are called to bring those around us to Him. Our job in this world is to share the Good News, which is Jesus Christ. We have to keep in mind that non-Christians are watching us at all times. If they know we are Christians, regardless of our intentions, we are witnessing. They want to see if we are who we say we are. They want to see if we are hypocrites. Hopefully, what we show them is Christ-like.
What happens when we look and sound exactly like the world? No one will want what we have to offer, because, let’s face it, they think we’re offering them the world they already have. What happens when we swear just like the world? What happens when we gossip just like the world? What happens when we drink just like the world? Well … we look just like the world. Not only can’t people see Jesus, but if they do happen to see Jesus, they may not want Him. Think about that. What a responsibility.
So, how do we copy the behavior of Christ instead of the world? The rest of the scripture says we do that by the renewing of our minds. What we put into our minds makes a difference—what we read, what we watch, what we listen to, what we think about. By putting things that glorify God into our minds, God can begin changing who we are. Yet, it is truly only with God’s help that this can happen.
Look at what Ezekiel says, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations” (Ez. 36:26–27). Our natural inclination is to want to sin. Yet when we allow God to do a work in us, we will naturally become more like Him. The more we become like Him, the more we find ourselves uncomfortable doing the things the world loves.
God is a Holy God. God’s Holiness and sin do not mix. And just as we strive to be holy, we cannot mix with sin. I recently went to a concert that was definitely not glorifying God. The language was profane, the music was questionable, and the drinking (and no doubt drugs) was out of control. Immediately I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there. I was so uncomfortable that I had to leave. That is what God does when you draw close to Him. He makes you hate what He hates and love what He loves. He makes you uncomfortable around things that are not of Him. The more you draw near to Him, the more you are changed. The things of the world that didn’t bother you a year ago start to eat away at your very soul.
So, if you’re swearing on Facebook and with your friends, drinking as much as the next person at the family get together, or saying nasty things about the gal sitting a few pews away from you, think about how this might look to the person who doesn’t know Christ. Think about whether you’re drawing people to Him or keeping people from Him.
When people look at us, we want them to see a difference. We want them to look at us and say, “There is something different about you, and I want what you have.” We don’t want them to see a negative, boring, or uptight difference, but a difference full of love, mercy, and His amazing grace. Are we loving and forgiving? Are we slow to anger? Do we encourage and uplift each other? Do we have fun without looking like the world? This is the challenge for us, but it’s something we can do with Christ on our side. He asks a lot of us, true. But our loving God gives us even more.