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What the Bible says about Conforming to the World
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 24:12

This is a warning to us—that the iniquity that is in the world will cause a loss of love in the church. If we understand the progression of events in Matthew 24, then verse 12 speaks of the time of the Tribulation. We are leading up to that, living in a period in which the stresses against the church—from the world—are increasing. As they increase, it can have the psychological effect—because we begin to get weary of dealing with it—of becoming apathetic, that is, without feeling for what we formerly loved so dearly.

So the iniquity is in the world, but resisting it is a constant stress because it exerts tremendous pressure through an appealing façade—to give in and go along with it. As we live with it and everybody else is doing it, the world's behavior gradually becomes acceptable to us, thus giving evidence that apathy is taking over.

We need to look at every aspect, even in areas we may consider "minor things." How do they dress? What kind of music do they listen to? What are the world's movies like? What are their attitudes in dealing with each other—in stores, on the street, in communities? In many places, we can hardly get anybody on the street to greet us! There are many little behaviors like this. The iniquity is in the world, but it pressures us into doing things as it does—and then it becomes our behavior.

This is just hypothetical, but what if we evaluated ourselves against the world ten years ago and judged that we were 50% more righteous than the world. Then today, we did exactly the same thing, and figured that we are at least 50% more righteous than the world. However, if the world had become more unrighteous during that same period, then, even though we may be 50% more righteous than the world now, we have actually gone backwards in those ten years—right along with the world!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today

Ephesians 5:1-4

Do we see a similarity between this passage and Romans 12:1-2: "Present your bodies a living sacrifice. . . . And do not be conformed to this world"? Paul is saying the same thing here, also mentioning the shunning of fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, and other things, that is, sinful behaviors, how the world does things. The point is that we fulfill the showing forth of God's praises through being a godly example to the world. Showing forth God's praises involves our witness of how God lives.

But to do so requires sacrifice—putting human nature to death and overcoming indwelling sin. It is not easy. It requires disciplining ourselves, controlling ourselves, saying, "No!" to ourselves. On the other hand, it also requires us to say, "Yes, I need to do this good thing"—in service, in kindness, in mercy, in love. Either way—positively or negatively—we will have to sacrifice as a sacrifice is involved in almost any act of love.

If we conform to the ways of the world, how can we possibly show forth the praises of God? We would be just like the people of this world. Peter means that, in showing forth the praises of God, we must live contrary to the carnal ways of the world. The principle also includes the preaching of the gospel to the world, giving it a verbal representation of the praises of God through explaining His purpose.

Now, making acceptable sacrifices through Jesus Christ involves doing activities more frequently thought of as being "priestly." Such sacrifices include things like prayer (which we do privately) and study (which we also do on our own). When there is nothing else to distract us, we carve out private time with God's Word—come right before Him, into His presence. Making acceptable sacrifices also includes meditation, whenever and wherever. God tells Joshua in Joshua 1:8, "You shall meditate in [the Book of the Law] day and night." In Psalm 119:97, the psalmist says, "[The law] is my meditation all the day."

It includes praying about the multitude of subjects God reveals in His Word. It means praying for leaders in the church, both the faithful ones and those who have gone astray, at least for a time. It also includes the activities that Paul mentions in Hebrews 13:15-16: offering "the sacrifice of praise to God" and doing good works and sharing our blessings. Jesus advises in Matthew 6:3 that in doing such things, we should not let our right hand know what our left hand is doing. Most of these deeds are things that we are to do privately.

John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part One)


 




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