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What the Bible says about Conformity
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 32:2

Groups of people create a spirit that tends to pull its members along with it. "Birds of a feather flock together." It is a form of mob psychology. A milder form of this process motivates people to conform to certain current fashions, music, foods, dress, or whatever. A modern cliché speaks of "going with the flow," which urges the individual not to resist the power or the direction of the spirit of an event but choose to yield to it. "Don't resist it. Go right along with it."

The person's choice should depend on its direction, but far too many yield to what is popular or what feels good at the moment rather than what is right. Sometimes, we have to resist the spirit, the flow, or the power of an event. Adolf Hitler used large crowds, martial music, aggressive speaking, and dramatic lighting to create a spirit, which enabled him to win the hearts of so many Germans that virtually the entire nation walked in lock-step with that spirit.

In a simpler and less serious fashion, advertising follows the same course, but advertisers try to create an aura about the product. They create a spirit to energize people to purchase their product. Restauranteurs create ambience—from the music to the décor to the lighting to the attire of the waitresses—to produce the kind of spirit that puts diners into a mood to spend their money on often overpriced food and enjoy the experience. This is how the Bible often uses the word "spirit."

I Corinthians 2 explains that the human mind has a spiritual dimension that imparts or empowers individuals with the understanding of the physical and material, which is woefully insufficient in dealing with the things of the spirit realm. This happens largely because humanity has been deceived. Revelation 12:9 says, "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world." We most often think Satan deceives the world through "misinformation." He does, but there is also a spiritual dimension to it that makes it nearly impossible for people to resist.

Humans are intelligent enough to sort out fact from fiction. But what if they are given truth but do not have the mind that inclines, compels, or motivates them to accept it? They will not accept it. Does not God have to lead those He calls to repentance before they will accept His Word (Romans 2:4)? Does this not suggest that He works in a way to make their minds willing to accept truth? Absolutely.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part Two)

Isaiah 14:13-14

How people feel about ambition is plain in the way they say, "I'm a go-getter" in a tone of pride and self-satisfaction. Many people greatly admire this expression of self-will. However, people often frustrate themselves when they try to accomplish and acquire things through their own will. In seeking security and prestige, self-will frequently develops into conformity to a social status, a peer group, or an organization. In reality, it is slavery to sin.

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 4): Self-Will

Matthew 10:34-39

Evaluate yourself against these pressures:

Peer Pressure

Teens tend to be idealistic, and this is good. They often resolve to be serious, "hit the books" and spurn the drugs, sex, smoking, drinking and "hanging out" that they have seen others doing. But if the "right" fellow or girl appears, or if the teen is recognized by the "right" clique, his desire to be accepted by them pressures him to adjust his ideals to conform to them. His ideals or convictions are merely preferences.

A minister may search the Bible for truth and find something interesting that he believes and resolves to do and teach. When he tells his fellow ministers about what he has found, they may say to him, "I don't say you're wrong in this, but don't you think you should tone it down a bit? Make it less offensive, and then maybe we can cooperate with you and work on some of your objectives."

At first he may strongly defend his belief, but little by little, as he sees the reaction of his peers, he may begin to bend. He believes it and resolves to do it, but if he changes, his belief is a preference.

If the Word of God tells us to change something, we must change it! But we must be very careful about things previously proved from God's Word, believed, put into practice and then changed when some form of pressure is brought to bear!

Family Pressure

This is perhaps the strongest pressure. When Jesus advises His disciples about counting the cost of commitment to Him, every person He mentions is a family member. "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26).

Usually no one can motivate you like a deeply loved mate. A husband may resolve to commit himself to a strong belief, but on telling his wife, she replies, "Please don't, honey. Do you realize what this will do to us and our family?" His resolve begins to melt because he knows he will feel responsible if, because of his belief, he inflicts discomfort or pain on an innocent bystander.

Fear of Lawsuits

Living in perhaps the most litigious society ever on the face of the earth, we are aware of the expense and hassle of going to court, even for the innocent. We may say, "I'm all for this, but I'm not going to get sued over it! You can't ask me to be sued—that's going too far! The news media will make me out to be a villain. They'll publicly hang me! At the very least I'll lose my hard-earned reputation, maybe my job and all my property because of attorney and court costs." This daunting pressure causes many to change their beliefs.

Jail

You may have never really been in a jail, but they are not pleasant places. Most prisoners want to get out as quickly as they can. In fact, some will risk life and limb to escape, knowing they will probably be unsuccessful. If they do make it out, they will most likely be apprehended and returned to "serve" even longer sentences. Jail is very damaging to a person's liberty and reputation.

Most people who go to jails never get past the visitor's area. I have been into the deepest bowels of several maximum security prisons to visit violent inmates on death row. They are horrible places.

In contemplating what it would be like to be in prison, remember that virtually every move an inmate makes is programmed by his captors. You would be isolated from your dearest family members and friends. You are told when to get up, when to eat, when to exercise, when you can read, watch TV, bathe or shower, and occasionally even when you can talk, go to the bathroom or sleep.

Additionally, the people around you have made a living of not playing by the rules. You would be stuck on their turf. Some are quite violent. It is a crazy, frightening environment for one accustomed to the comforts and control of home.

Would you really be willing to go to jail for your faith? Even when no one seems to understand why you would do such a thing? Would the pressure of facing jail make you change your beliefs? If so, your beliefs are preferences.

Maybe some of you men are saying to yourself, "Yes, I'd go to jail." But would you be willing to stand by and watch your wife go to jail? Some have faced that. Would you then pressure her to change her mind?

Do your beliefs mean so much to you that both you and your wife would go to jail, knowing your children would be taken by the state and raised by foster parents you do not even know?

The Pressure of Death

This final test is obvious, yet some have learned through experience that there is a fate worse than death. When a person's resolve over a belief fails, his guilt can be crushing. Luke 22:34, 59-62 shows Peter in such a circumstance.

Do you see the common factor in these? What does your belief mean to YOU? What are you willing to sacrifice in exercising your belief? If you feel you should do something but have the right not to do it, it is merely a preference.

A belief that is God-ordered is a conviction. It is not merely a matter of resolve or dedication, but a matter of believing with all our heart that God requires it of us. If we hold our beliefs as God-ordered, we will withstand all the above tests.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Are Your Beliefs Preferences or Convictions?


 




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