The other night my ten year old son was asking me about certain cultural realities that bothered him. He was trying to understand why sinful lifestyles seemed to be so promoted in media and it sparked an interesting conversation. I also wanted to gauge the strength of his conviction so I played the “devil’s advocate” and I peppered him with lots of questions challenging his faith and the foundation of what he believed. He was bullied into silence as I spoke and it gave me a revelation of the further equipping that needed to take place for him to withstand the pressure to conform to the culture we live in. Romans 12:2 instructs us concerning conformity saying, 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 Cost of Conformity
Allow me to expound on this idea of conformity. I believe our current Christian culture sometimes disguises conformity by claiming it is expressing compassion. I believe strongly in the compassion of the Father. God is love. Love is the supreme new testament commandment by which all men will know that we are disciples of Christ. Love is a non-negotioable for the Christ follower, however, there is an insidious deception that is trying to take root in the Christian heart where compromise and conformity are being masked with compassion. In other words, there is no true compassion taking place when in reality what is happening is a watered down version of the Gospel that allows for total compromise where God’s will is concerned. Why must we be transformed rather than conformed? It is to actually have the ability to TEST what God’s will is. Where we lack in mind renewal and transformation, we are completely vulnerable to conformity to the “pattern of this world.” Put simply, when we don’t know God’s nature, God’s character, and God’s ways by knowing what His word says about all of those things, and when we don’t then change the way WE think to line up with HIM – we will without question allow everything else in our current culture to define the way we think, believe and act. We will have no ability to TEST cultural thought with God’s will and God’s ways. This is what I see happening today – many claims of “the Christian” that God is absolutley on board with current trends in cultural thought that promote self-rule, “my truth” and “my choice.” The cost of conformity to the pattern of this world is a people who remain in bondage yet are absolutley convinced that they are free.
A Culture of Followers
In today’s world of social media fame, the rise of “influencers”, and addiction to the consumption of Internet content, the simple message of the cross has become convoluted and “complicated.” Without the solid foundation of knowing God through His word, many claim to be followers of Christ when in fact and in truth they are followers of the content creators that line their social media feeds. If the time spent consuming social media content were to be stacked against the time spent consuming the words of Jesus we would get a great revelation of what is truly forming the heart of many believers today. The true question then is whether those who claim Christ as their Lord have truly yielded their lives to His Lordship. How can we follow Christ and become His disciples (taught ones) if we never bother to find out where He is going, where He is supposed to be leading us; if we never learn what He actually taught? These seem like simple and straightforward questions, but when we desire self-rule and “our truth”, THE truth gets “complicated.”
The Cost of Discipleship
I believe one of the core truths we have lost in this pseudo-Chrisitanity is the understanding that discipleship costs us something. Sadly, for many people the cost is one they are not willing to incur. “If I can’t choose to live however I want to live, love whomever I wish to love, say whatever I feel like saying, then I am not willing to follow.” Can we please just be honest with ourselves? Can we speak the truth in love today? The truth is that every follower of Christ will come head to head with the choice of “my will be done,” or “His will be done.” Every follower of Christ will lose something of his or her own life to truly gain the life of God. Every follower of Christ will have to throw themselves at the feet of Jesus and throw themselves upon the grace of God in order to live as kingdom people in a world that is constantly telling them that God’s ways are outdated and need adjusting. Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world. In fact, everything about the ways of the kingdom are in constant conflict with the ways of the world! There is no room for compromise or conformity. If we are to truly be a compassionate people then we must live with GREAT courage and strength as sons and daughters of a God that is very different from the current cultural climate of the world. We must be willing to stand out, not with arrogance – not with judgment or shame or condemnation – but we must be willing to endure persecution and hardship when we hold fast to our convictions WHILE loving the people who are persecuting us. That requires courage. That requires grace. If the life you are living in Christ is not making you desperate for the grace, and strength, and courage of God; if you are not praying for boldness and greater measures of love and forgiveness to help you reach the very people that tear you down, then you probably have entertained some measure of compromise in your discipleship journey.
The Future of God’s People
Many are leaving the church in the wake of the world events marking the last few years. I believe this is in part due to the arrogance, lack of love, judgment, and shaming that has resulted in the dehumanizing of “the other” in some supposed state of “righteous anger” where the Christian is called into the battle of “God against the world.” This redefinition of what it means to be a Christ follower has turned many away from the church. I have heard from the mouths of young people, “If that’s what being Christian is I don’t want any part of it.” How about if that isn’t what it means to be a Christ follower? What if we actually followed the way of the Master who said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (NKJV, John 18:36) We don’t fight with a war of words on Facebook feeds, neither do we compromise THE truth by calling the acceptance of ANY truth compassion. Our kingdom is not from here. We must live like it – with courageous faith and boldness to speak the truth in love, willing to accept the cost of being a true disciple of Jesus. The future of the church demands that we hold the tension between truth and love in the nitty gritty of every day life as we constantly feel the presssure to conform to a way that is against God’s way. We must live completely dependent on God to empower us to rise to the challenge until we see His kingdom come to earth.