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Monday, August 25, 2014

BE NOT CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD OR CULTURE

Do Not Conform



In 50's I recollect the PTA of our pubic school debating the allowing of what they called “Slack Friday.”  It was a discussion over allowing the girls to wear slacks, not jeans, on Friday.  It was a discussion that was not a religious or spiritual discourse.  It was a public debate and not a church debate.  

It was sent on to the school administration that eventually agreed and it became policy.  I remember how the male students had to keep their hair cut and to button up their shirts.  The female students had to cover their bosom and wear lengthened skirts.  

The world in every generation provides a pattern for that generation of what is fashionable.  When the Bible talks about not conforming to THIS world it is referring to the current culture.  Fads come and fads go, but modest dress is still modest dress.  Promiscuity is still promiscuity.  Adultery is still adultery. Stealing is still thievery. To allow the current culture to invade our local churches is disobeying the Bible's command to not be conformed to "THIS" world.

1. Looking Back I Can See God's Hand On Those Who Fought The Culture Of Their Day.   Looking back at the 60's, 70's, and 80's I find myself thanking God for men like Jack Hyles, Evangelist Lester Roloff, John Rice, Lee Roberson, Tom Malone, G. B. Vick and others who stood against the culture of their day.  They fought the liberalism of their day.  

The culture of their day was not the issue to them.  Their issue was what does the Bible say how God's people should live regardless of the current culture.   People are far too much like sheep and move on body heat or a crowd mentality.  It never entered their minds to conform to their present day world.

Those great men were a breath of fresh air to those struggling with the onslaught of the styles of Paris, the movies of Hollywood, the formalistic ritualistic church services, the bad doctrine of the SBC, and the pop music of the day.  Those men fought the culture and attracted great crowds.  

God's hand was obviously on these men.  Thousands came to Christ through their ministries.   Their churches were aflame with evangelism.  They were in Rome, but did not do as the Romans did!  They understood God's people are IN the world, but should not be OF the world.

2. Public Schools Today Are Tightening Dress Standards While Some Churches Are Loosening Theirs.  This is interesting to me.  Dress codes are in.  Low riding pants are out.  Immodest dress is out.  Many public schools in our day have stricter rules and standards than some churches and Christian schools of our day.  They have found that dress standards and discipline have much to do with learning.  

Our public school academics are sad.  The test scores reveal a drop in our ranking among the world powers. All one has to do is to look at the pictures of public sporting events in 50's and 60's and you can easily see the difference. Is there a connection between dress and behavior?  Is there a connection between dress and academics?  Apparently some public schools think so!

In 1963 Mrs. Gray and I graduated, with 61 others, from Galesburg-Augusta High School of a small Southwestern Michigan town named Galesburg.  Our school was a consolidated school system of Augusta and Galesburg, MI. This was a typical public school with typical public school activities.  Actually our schools in those days were a strong reflection of a Judea-Christian influence that had existed for decades.   The impact of the Bible was felt in our classroom as well as our morals. 
  
3. The Latest Moral Decline Started In The Late 60's.   Mrs. Gray and I married June 25, 1965, and began our family.   God blessed us with four wonderful children.  I became concerned as the late 60's ushered in with the "God is dead" theology.  Prayer would soon be kicked out of our public schools.  New versions of the Bible were just beginning to come on the scene. Churches and church choirs began to reflect the world.  Our young men began to let their hair grow as the Beatle effect took foothold.  The young ladies began to shorten their skirts.  It was a cultural invasion.  It seemed everyone I knew was conforming to the culture.

4. Great Churches Were Still Built During Those Days.   It would be seven years after our 1965 marriage when I heard Dr. Jack Hyles and Dr. John R. Rice at a SWORD OF THE LORD CONFERENCE for the very first time.  At that conference I went through every emotion possible.  My mind was opened to a world of Christianity that I knew nothing about called fundamentalism.  The building was full. There was a spirit there I had never seen before.  

I met Brother Hyles and Brother Rice for the first time.  The sermons were uplifting and challenging.  I made a decision the first night to go into full time service.   I knew God wanted me to be in the ministry.  It was not a call to preach, but a call to leadership.

We decided to visit some of these great churches listed in the SWORD paper.  We as a family visited every one of these great churches.  I was amazed at the spirit filled services.  The song services were exciting and altars were full.  Dozens of people baptized in each one of those churches.  I had never seen anything like it.  The largest number I had ever seen until now in church was 100.  I saw as many people on their platforms of these great churches as we had in our little church.  

All of those men were different.  Their physical attributes were different, but the main thing that intrigued me was the souls saved and baptized.   They were all different, but they all preached powerful sermons.  People walked the aisles trusting Christ.  Many were baptized and the Lord was obviously working.   It thrilled me.

5. Those Men Of God Had To Fight To Build Their Churches.   Dr. Rice, at one point in time,  lost thousands of SWORD subscriptions because of his various stands.  Dr. Hyles helped to rebuild the SWORD subscriptions.  His church was on the rise when Dr. Rice was on the decline. All of these men fought battles through out the years.  Most of those struggles were two fold.  One was with the culture of their day and the second was the denominationalism of their day.  

Brother Rice was fearless and had tunnel vision when it came to the cause of Christ.  When he took a stand he could not understand why people got upset.  All of these men had their own unique battles.  Most of them came from the Southern Baptist Convention and fought for their independence.

I was introduced to the Holy Spirit and His work through Jack Hyles and John Rice.  I was introduced to personal soul winning, holiness, Sunday school and the baptizing of converts immediately.  Our church had no  catechism phase for church membership.   We did have graded Sunday schools as our discipleship program and it worked.  Personal separation from the world made sense to me.  

My spirit certainly bore witness with the Holy Spirit working through these men. My mind was transformed.  At the same time it brought its own battles into my ministry.  My mentors were not men who were conforming to the world around them, but transforming the world around them.  The result battles.

6. Fads Come And Go.   The size of ties come and go.  I wish I had kept some of those narrow ties I use to have.   I think I will hold on to my wide ties for it will not be long until they are back in style.  Funny how things come and go and come back again.  

My experience has been to not jump on current styles and look like a trend follower.  When bell bottoms were in vogue Brother Hyles taught us to stay where we were.  Guess what happened they went out of style.  When you chase fads you become the follower and fads the leader.

If you jump too quick it does not set a good example for those following.  As a leader nothing builds trust like stability does.   Security always follows those who are slow to change.  There is nothing wrong with being well dressed.  Brother Hyles was voted the best dressed man in Hammond, IN, one time.  However, he was not a trend follower.  He was a trend setter in many ways in every thing he did.  The appetite of being hip will come back to bite you spiritually.

7. The Great Men Of The Past Were Transformed Not Conformed. The Scripture says “be ye NOT conformed” rather “BE transformed.” The secret is the mind and in the renewing of the mind by being transformed and not conformed to this world. The book of Romans is divided up in to two sections, chapters 1-11 and chapters 12-16. 

The pivotal verses are found in Romans 12:1-2. In the first eleven chapters of Romans we have doctrine. In chapters 12-16 we have practical living or application of the doctrine to a real world.  Romans 12:2, And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” 

Paul is saying the redeemed ought to live this way because of the wonderful doctrines in the first eleven chapters. An example would be the doctrine of “justification.” Paul is saying, “I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God” or because you are justified by faith that you “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.”   

God is saying because you are justified be not CONFORMED to this world, but TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind. Paul goes on to tell us in the rest of the book of Romans what it means and what kind of a life we are supposed to live because of transformation as God’s children.

Now, we are required in some ways to interact with a godless Christ-less world. May I point your attention to whom this passage was given? The passage of, “be ye not conformed to his world but be transformed” is a passage written to the Christians in Rome. 

The Romans were corrupt, pagan, skeptical, and a perverted people. The entire environment was not only un-Christian but also anti-Christian. The Bible says this book was written to the saints in Caesar’s household.

No Christians in Rome had a Christian school to attend. They had no Christian grade school, junior high school, high school, or college to attend. Yet, God said to these people in the middle of godless anti-Christian Rome it is possible for you not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

8. It Is Just As Possible Today To Be Transformed And Not Conformed.   Paul is saying it is possible to live in the midst of a Roman moral quagmire without lowering your flag of purity. That means that it is possible today also to do the same. It is possible today to live in a society controlled by TV, Hollywood, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, and the Internet and still live for God via the renewing of the mind. 

It is possible to live in this sex crazed, Hollywood infested world, HBO world, Cinemax world, Showtime world, and hip-hop music, and be not conformed to this world. If it is possible for the saints at Rome then it is possible for the saints of today!

Great soul winning churches can be built again if we are transformed.   As long as we are being conformed to this world we will be mediocre at best.  The great churches of the past were led by courageous men of God who stood.  It is not easy to go against the grain, but it is necessary.  There is no reason to look back at what was greatness without it causing us to be transformed through the same Bible.  Otherwise it is just an historical fact to be admired.

It was possible to walk in its septic streets without soiling the white garments of saint-hood. Paul tells them not to be creatures of circumstances or happenstance, but to take a stance for God. Stand up at work for Jesus while others curse him. Stand up for Jesus at school while others mock him. 

Paul is saying to these saints in Rome do not do when in Rome as Romans do, but when in Rome do as Jesus would do. He is saying to them be not the slave, but the master of your environment. He preaches not the doctrines of conforming, but the doctrine of transformation.

It bothers God when his daughters are quick to take up the hairstyles of modern day Romans. It bothers God when his sons start looking like the world they live in.  It bothers God when any of his children are quick to pick up the modern appearances and so desperately want to be accepted by the modern day Romans. 

It probably occurs because God’s people spend more time reading “Glamour Magazine” than the Bible. Young Christian ladies spend more time in “Sixteen Magazine” than in their own Bibles. It bothers God when his sons are so quick to get a tattoo or pierce their ears simply because of the modern day Romans.

God is telling his children they are not to copy THIS pagan world. There is a difference between dressing appropriately and going gaga over the latest styles.  To embrace them simply because we want the Romans to love us is not wise. We are not to pattern ourselves after this modern world. 

If the world lies on a beach in their underwear then God’s people ought to do the opposite. If the women of this world wear their shorts and man’s apparel then the Christian ladies ought to do the opposite. We are in the world but not of the world!  We cannot win the world by imitating the world.  

9. We Are More Than A Product Of Our Culture.   Paul is saying to the saints in Rome you are to be more than a product of your culture. He tells the redeemed in Rome you are to be more than a product of your environment.  You are to be more than a result of geography.  You are to be more than a piece of merchandise molded, made by surroundings, more than a manufacturers object of weather and meteorology. You are not to be conformed to this world, but be ye transformed that ye may prove what is that good an acceptable perfect will of God.

It thrills God to see his children around town reflecting Scriptural culture rather than societies culture. When he sees the boys with decent haircuts and without their pants hanging down to their ankles with their underwear showing. God loves it when he sees his young ladies dressed in modest clothing without a vampire look. I thank God I belong to a church where members are taught to dress right and people around town know just by looking they belong to Longview Baptist Temple.

10. There Can Be No Conforming Until There Is Transforming.   Paul is saying it may be difficult to not be conformed to this world, but difficult is not spelled “I M P O S S I B L E.”  He says do not drift, but steer! He says do not float but swim! He says do not descend but ascend. He says do not blend but transcend. He says do not condescend, but apprehend. He says do not be a slave to dust be its master. He says swim the tide.

The key is the mind.  To allow the mind of Christ to flow through our minds will transform our minds.  This will give us spiritual power to not be conformed.  Transforming must come first in order to battle conforming.  It matters not who you are and what you are you, can live for God wherever and whenever. Factory workers can live for God. 

If they could do it in Rome and Paul expected them to do it in Rome then so can any of us! The Holy Spirit that inspired the Bible expected them to live for God in Rome, which means we can also live for God in our Rome.

God is saying to his children in Rome be like the lily in the mud which transforms sordidness into beauty and stagnates into fragrance. He is saying to them do not bow your knee to the god of fashion, the Baal of conformity, the deity of compromise, the altar of timidity to the prince and power of this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 

Conquer this world’s gravity! Be a lily in the mud, a daisy in the gutter, a flower in the wilderness, a stream in the desert, and a rose amidst needles and thorns. If you have to flee to the catacombs flee singing! If you are appetizer for the lions then die praising God. Throw your shoulders back and chest out, lift up your head, and hold your banner high to let everyone know you are a child of God!

Emerson said, “Whoso would be a man must be a non conformist!” If the Bible is true, if God be real, and you desire to be a man then do not conform to this world and see what happens? Show me a famous Christian who was a conformist? Show me one in history?

11. The Hall Of Fame Is Filled With Non-Conformist.  The Hall of fame list includes John Bunyan who spent twelve years in the Bedford Jail. Why, because he would not stop preaching the Gospel on the street corners! He had a blind daughter who would come to the Bedford Jail and say, “I’ve some good news daddy. They will let you out of jail if you promise to quit preaching the Gospel on the streets.” He was a non-conformist!

John Wesley was a non-conformist! Read his diary sometime and you will read, “Kicked out of church after church after church…” We garnish his tombstone and crucify the people who are like him today!

·      John Bunyan a non-conformist
·      John Wesley a non-conformist
·      Peter a non-conformist
·      Paul a non-conformist
·      John the Baptist a non-conformist
·      James a non-conformist
·      Savonarola a non-conformist
·      Martin Luther a non-conformist
·      Cromwell a non-conformist
·      John R. Rice a non-conformist
·      Lester Roloff a non-conformist
·      Tom Malone a non-conformist
·      Lee Roberson a non-conformist
·      Shadrach a non-conformist
·      Meshach a non-conformist
·      Abednego a non-conformist
·      Daniel a non-conformist
·      J. Frank Norris a non-conformist
·      G. B. Vick a non-conformist
·      Curtis Hutson a non-conformist
·      Jack Hyles a non-conformist
·      Charles Spurgeon a non-conformist

These were not all Baptist people, but they were God's children and learned how to bring about an impact on a world without using the world.  Today, there is resurgence of using the world to reach the world and it will fail just as it has always failed in history.   I John 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”   II Corinthians 6:17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing…”

12. History Is Repeating Itself.   In looking back I see a time when we were conformed to this world.  Then I see a transformation from religious Egypt to the Promised Land.  Now, I see some in this generation turning to being conformed instead of being transformed.  This old wicked world will not be won by the power of the flesh, but by the power of the Holy Ghost.  

This power is not found in a bargain basement sale, but in long nights of begging God.  I much prefer being transformed than being conformed.  The great men and the great churches they pastored were not built like some are attempting to do today.  Be careful, history is repeating itself and you will have to be a non-conformist to be used of the Holy Ghost.

Thank the Lord America had some great men who fought the invasion and onslaught of a social moral decline. They were the Watchmen on the walls protecting their people.  All we need are a few good men who will be willing to sacrifice popularity with their peers and with the post modern populous movement in order to gain Heaven’s attention.  

The common denominator of our mentors was not the standards they held as much as it was the passion in their hearts they held for those headed for hell.  No purpose simply means no passion!  Do not conform, but be transformed. 

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