It amazes me how unaware we are of the degree to which our surrounding world consistently impacts our lives and those we love. Perhaps our lack of awareness is due to the fact that we humans relatively quickly adapt ourselves to gradual changes in our surroundings; and, like sheep, we often unthinkingly follow the lifestyles of those around us, even when caution may be in order.
While not all cultural patterns are negative, many societal trends in recent decades are clearly contrary to explicit or implicit biblical teachings. Yet, because culture consistently bombards us with its messages, it is so easy to gradually allow them access to our lives like the air we breathe.
As just one example, consider our culture’s obsession with comfort. While few people would ever say it this bluntly, I suggest the typical American in our day implicitly feels this way: “I am entitled to a comfortable, pain-free existence, where virtually all my needs (and wants!)—physical, emotional, psychological, medical, sexual, recreational—are consistently met.”
It doesn’t take a Bible scholar to appreciate that this self-centered attitude is far from the selflessness Christ’s followers are to have. Jesus came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). In Philippians 2, Paul encourages us to mirror Christ’s humble, obedient, self-sacrificing attitude.
But here’s the rub: Even as we piously point out the sinfulness of our culture’s obsession with comfort, if we are honest, we will find in our own hearts and lives the same belief that, indeed, “I deserve to be comfortable!” While we did not intentionally choose to embrace the world’s subtle message, truth be known, the seeds have nonetheless borne fruit in us.
How do we avoid being influenced by the world’s lies? Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform 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.”
The Greek word here for “conform” is syschematizo, which means to fashion one’s mind and character to another’s pattern; to copy someone else’s way of life. Instead of doing this, God wants us to be “transformed”—the Greek here is metamorphoo, which means to turn into a different form (we get our word metamorphosis from it), like the caterpillar to the butterfly—by the renewing of our minds.
But how, practically, do we do this? Obviously we need to saturate our minds with the Word of God on a daily basis.
Beyond that, we need to be skeptical of virtually everything the world communicates to us, not only in written form, but in drama, in media, and generally as we observe the way people in our world order their lives.
We need to be in tune with the Spirit of God, who will lovingly prompt and caution us at times. We may be surprised when the Spirit speaks to our hearts about something we have previously assumed was totally acceptable.
But when He speaks, we need to learn to scour our Bibles and determine what it is He is trying to tell us. Then we should share with others what the Spirit and the Word are teaching us.
I personally sense God leading me, in the coming weeks, to write more about areas where the world is impacting the American church, particularly in ways that are not obvious on the surface.
Remember, just because a thing is hard to see does not mean its ultimate impact is negligible. On the contrary, we know that even unintentional sin inevitably causes enslavement and spiritual death, standing as a barrier to the spiritual awakening we long for and are praying for.
I welcome your prayers as I consider which areas to focus on. Pray also that many hearts, beginning with mine, will be deeply touched so that we will all turn from our wicked ways and find the healing we so desperately need.