Romans 12:1 was the focus of the previous post, examining the positive act of presenting one's body to God in a reasonable sacrifice of worship. Verse two begins with an opposing statement - the negative act that ought not to be done. A Christian is not to be conformed to this world. He is not to allow the influences of this world to be so strong that they control the way he looks, acts, and thinks.
This is a tremendous challenge in the world today. I suppose the greatest reason for struggle in this area is the deceptive invasiveness of the world's system. Christians are so overwhelming inundated with the world's philosophies that it is easy to live with the status quo. I think of oppressed countries in which the citizens are brainwashed to believe their society is normal and right. Until they see an example or experience a taste of freedom, they don't realize they are oppressed or that there is a better alternative. These citizens don't realize they are living in communism or socialism; they believe they are simply living. Similarly, too many Christians fail to recognize worldliness, godlessness, and humanism; instead, they simply see life. Therefore, the influences that surround them are not alarming.
When the world's influence is noticed, too often it is not taken seriously. The evaluation is often "It's not that bad" or "It won't influence me." The Christian thus allows worldly influences into his life, believing godless philosophies to be either acceptable or non-threatening. Neither is true. Far from being benign, the world can quickly and subtly infiltrate a believer's life; sadly, that believer becomes a pathetic example of what a Christian should be and actually portrays a better example of what would be expected in a person without God.
I hate to give specific examples, so I won't. It is clear however that there are ways of dressing and grooming that are influenced by the world's heroes - ungodly movie stars, musicians, athletes, and other celebrities that in many cases are actively fighting against God and His values. Their dress, hairstyle, and so on are designed to bring attention to self and to promote sensuality, neither of which are godly objectives. Yet people, including Christians, want to look like those people. Why would a Christian want to make those associations and use that kind of person as a role model?
Another major area of conformity is in music and entertainment, with movies and television being particularly troublesome. Much of the world's output of entertainment is filled with sexual innuendo, indecency, crude speech, profanity, and ungodly themes. Television programs actively promote such practices as dishonesty, immorality, infidelity, and homosexuality; at the very least these sins are presented as acceptable, if not worse. Even so-called good programming is guilty of embracing many of these elements. Yet there are Christians who not only watch these programs, but claim them as their favorite shows. Why would a Christian want to fill his mind with that type of input, usually in larger quantities than his spiritual input?
God wants His children to have pure bodies, pure minds, pure tongues, and pure eyes, but much of what the world has to offer is designed to produce just the opposite - and to make it seem okay. A Christian must be alert and on guard to discern the damaging aspects of the world's influence. Once he is aware of a danger, he must separate himself from it. It is one thing to be naive and ignorant of the dangers. It is another thing altogether to recognize the world's damaging influence and to choose that input or lifestyle.
A Christian who desires to press on to higher ground in his walk with God says, "It matters enough to me to grow in Christ-likeness that I will actively avoid and remove the world's influence from my life." This Christian will spend time in God's Word to learn what pleases and what displeases God. As he knows God better, he will become more circumspect about the world around him and more cautious in the input he allows. Instead of allowing himself to be conformed to the world, he will begin to look more and more like Christ.
"Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27 (NASB)