The Bible mentions the word conformed twice. Once seemingly in a positive way, and one negative, but they are both leading to the same principle:
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom 8:29)
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. (Rom 12:2)
This is a pivotal topic; it is life changing, but it has never been easily appreciated or accepted- especially now in our generation. I could have added this as an earlier Principle, but it has never been meant for just a single individual, although it typically has come through one.
The Ten Commandments
Let’s start at the beginning. When we read about Moses leading the people of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt, we often forget the condition they took up when they entered the country. Joseph had, on the interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dreams alone, saved the nation and those beyond the land from a deep famine. Pharaoh had set him up as the number two man in the whole country, and because of God’s hand on Joseph, Pharaoh was also becoming very wealthy.
When Jacob and the rest of Joseph’s family joined him, the total number of Israel, counting Joseph and his children, was just 70 people. The message to Jacob when he was called, was not to bring anything with him because all the best of Egypt was at his disposal. Pharaoh gave him the best land, food, etc; the best of all there was were to be his. To the younger ones, this would have been very exciting. From famine to feast. From stark lands to a land full of cities, gold, colorful clothing, and much more.
The Scripture says that while they were growing in numbers and wealth, the Egyptians, having run out of money, sold all of their livestock and then all of lands to Pharaoh in exchange for food. They were moved off of their land into the cities and then worked the land they had once owned and gained from- this must have been quite humiliating.
Even before Jacob and Joseph (and his brothers) had died, the people of Israel would have become very comfortable, and conformed to the Egyptian way of life- including the customs and traditions of the Egyptian gods. They would have bought and sold to the Egyptians, and in so doing, become very much like them. In fact, the Scripture says that Joseph had Jacob’s body embalmed by the Egyptians (as was their custom) before burying him, so the adoption of culture was accepted early in their experience.
When God first encounters Moses, He tells him exactly who He is, “Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” (Exodus 3:6).
Yet, in verse 13 Moses asks, “And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” With so many gods and goddesses in Egypt, Moses asks, how will they know You from among so many others.
When God sends Moses back into Egypt, the Scripture says that He hardened the new Pharaoh’s heart-purposely. God did many mighty works to show everyone that He is the one True God; and finally He parts the sea for the multitude to escape capture, and kills Pharaoh and his men in it, thereby cutting off the past.
But, with all of the miracles God performed in Egypt, the minds of the people of Israel were not transformed. With everything that they had plundered; gold, silver, livestock, etc, which God meant for them to take into the Promised Land, they were still conformed to the old ways. The “old man” in them wouldn’t give in; they had all the things of the world, and, just another god. And so, God’s first written words, in His own hand, the 10 Commandments were meant to transform them by the renewing of their mind. All of the things that they had conformed to while in Egypt, that were an abomination to God are in there. Read the commandments again with fresh eyes knowing that it didn’t work on the generation that remembered Egypt.
The Greatest Commandment
The first Principle, the greatest commandment, was meant as a way to transform the mind of what has now become, the Nation of Israel as they prepared to enter the land of milk and honey. Leave the dry desert life behind because you are entering into the Promised Land. Keep this commandment in your heart, talk about it in your homes, while taking walks, teach it to your children- LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, SOUL AND MIGHT. What a wonderful refreshing mindset to take into a new land; one perfectly made for a people entering a land flowing with milk and honey.
And yet, by the time Jesus arrived, not only had they not kept this one beautiful commandment, but they had conformed to the world once again, with a twist. They have created a religion with it’s own sects and rulers, perverted the Ten Commandments, and blended itself into the world.
From the Scofield Bible on the period between Malachi to Matthew (pg 986):
(1)…The problem was to keep alive this exalted ideal in the midst of outward persecutions and sordid and disgraceful divisions within.
(2) The organic means to this end was the synagogue, an institution which formed no part of the biblical order of the national life. Its origin is obscure.
(3) But during this period, also, was created that mass of tradition, comment, and interpretation…so superposed upon the Law that obedience was transferred from the Law itself to the traditional interpretation.
(4) During this period also rose the two great sects know to the Gospel narratives as Pharisees and Sadducees. The Herodians were a party rather than a sect.
Amongst such a people, governed, under the suzerainty of Rome, by an Idumean usurper, rent by bitter and unspiritual religious controversies, and maintaining an elaborate religious ritual, appeared Jesus, the Son and Christ of God.
Here is some history from, The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzalez:
Alexander the Great introduced Hellenism before Jesus’ time. Some were elements of Greek and some from other places. Some Jews adopted those, “Since part of the Hellenistic ideology consisted of equating and mixing the Gods of different nations.” pg 8
From one, there became many sects, among them was the Pharisees- party of the populace. They did not enjoy the benefits of Roman rule. They were faithful to the Law. They studied and debated how the Law should be applied in every conceivable situation. This led to the charge that they were legalistic. they held some doctrines such as the final resurrection and the existence of angels. pg 10
More conservative were the Sadducees- mostly aristocrats, conservative in policies and religion, they rejected the doctrine of the Pharisees.
The Jews were scattered among the Roman Empire. Those in the East spoke Aramaic, and those in the west spoke Greek.
Philo of Alexandria (a Hellenistic JEWISH philosopher) sought to show that the best of Pagan philosophy agreed with the Hebrew scriptures. He also tried to prove that the God of the scriptures was the same as the One of the philosophers. pg 13
The Roman Empire encouraged as much conformity as possible without unnecessary violence as possible. While it favored the spread of Christianity, “In order to achieve greater unity, the imperial policy sought religious uniformity by following two routes: religious synchronism- the indiscriminate mixing of elements from various religions, and Emperor worship.” Syncrronism (the amalgamation, or attempt of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought) was the fashion of the time. In that atmosphere, Jews and Christians were seen as unbending fanatics who insisted on the sole worship of their One God- an alien cyst that must be removed for the good of society. In this, Socrates and Plato introduced the belief of the Immortality of the Soul. pg 14
All this, many Christians found attractive and useful in their attempts to respond to charges that they were ignorant and unbelieving. Although at first these philosophical traditions were used for interpreting the faith of outsiders, eventually they began influencing the manner in which Christians understood their faith. pg 16-17
In Acts 6:1 there were already divisions (Grecians (Hellenists) entering into the faith, and the Word had not yet been preached to the Gentiles). So here, there was a conflict between the Jews; those who kept the customs, and those who were open to Hellenistic teaching.
“By its ninth chapter, Acts becomes more increasingly interested in Paul, and we hear less and less of the church in Jerusalem. What was happening is that the “Hellenistic” Jewish Christians were serving as a bridge to the Gentiles, and they were joining in such numbers that they overshadowed the Jewish Christian Community.” pg 20
Stop and read the Gospels and Book of Acts again now with fresh eyes.
Hopefully you have reread the Gospels and Book of Acts. Read the last two paragraphs above again now. We’re already seeing an attempt to blend philosophical and other religious thought into the doctrine of Jesus and the Apostles. There’s a “Hellenistic” sect and a sect (shrinking in numbers) who kept to the truth. In Acts chapter 28, Paul addresses Jews in Rome who still see this as another sect. But, look at how the Apostle Peter addresses those holding to the doctrine of Jesus; “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;” (1 Peter 2:9). He tells them, you are a transformed, peculiar people, a holy nation; not a sect, holden and blended with the world, but, called out of darkness, “into his marvelous light”.
See how James addresses the idea of “religion” and “world” early in his Epistle:
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:19-27, emphasis mine).
Pure religion, UNDEFILED before God and the Father, is to visit the fatherless and widows (husbandless) in their affliction (absence of Love and support) and to stay unspotted from the world.
And yet, what we call Modern Christianity today is polluted, perverted, and spotted with other philosophers, religious thoughts, and worldly gain. Remember that Jesus told his followers that they were IN the world, but not OF it. They were to be, as Paul tells the Romans, no longer conformed to the world, but rather transformed by the renewing of their mind. Rome would have been full of gods and goddesses, riches plundered from the then known world, worldly government- many distractions. Here are some examples of what Modern Christianity looks like (note: I am not trying to offend anyone, although iI expect it to happen. I am pointing out the processes that separate modern Christians, from people seeking to follow Jesus. If you believe you might become offended, it’s best that you stop here).
- Probably the first is to continue with the thought of religion and sects. We have seen above the definition of religion from the point of the Apostle James. But, today, “Christianity” is only one of many religions with several denominations (sects); and we can cast those who claim that they are non-denominational or evangelical as really just other denominations if we define them according to the idea of sects. Rome, in fact, is still the seat of the largest, and wealthiest, and powerful denomination (although it’s hard to consider it “christian.” Designed to keep us separated, Modern Christianity could not identify itself with Peter’s definition.
- Let’s look at modern Christian music (note again: I like some modern Christian music and there are many talented spirit-filled people. I’m looking at the “process” whereby it is worldly spotted and not the musicians). Heaped with praise, offered record contracts, some become “artists”, need managers, go on concert tours with promoters, singing to adoring Christian fans, selling merchandise, and potentially winning Grammy’s for new Christian artist or best Christian single or album. Sitting in ceremonies with Rap, Pop, Rock and other “artists” who’s music glorifies all things Christians are meant to be against- spotted with the world, while there’s a world needing to hear the praises of God, Satan keeps them in check. Believing that they are doing wonderful things for God, he is fine as long as they stay in their place leaving him to wander the Earth seeking whom he would destroy. One of the most powerful and wonderful ways to light the darkened world, starving for the truth, love, and hope; locked up, satisfied to entertain it’s own. One of my favorite modern songs, Simple Gospel, by United Pursuit, Will Reagan shares the lines, “I want to know you Lord, Like I know a friend,” “I’m laying down all my religion, I’m laying down. I want to know you Lord.”- how beautiful. And a few minutes in, Brock Human changes tone, “Lord, I’ve been told to be ashamed. Lord, I’ve been told I don’t measure up. Lord, I’ve been told I’m not good enough. But You’re here with me.” For one, I can personally relate to that, even by the one person I hold most dear. And every time I learn about a young person committing suicide, I think, “If they could have only heard these words.” The SIMPLE GOSPEL. A beautiful album among many that people “outside” need to hear. Go on, all of you, step outside and light the earth with praise.
- In addition to the ritualistic denominational institutions that Jesus would rail against, there are modern day Pharisees and Sadducees, who give themselves and each other unearned titles like Apostle, Prophet, and Evangelist, and heap praises upon each other, selling books, CD’s, DVD’s and other merchandise in the name of God in order to dress in fine clothing and expensive jewelry, live in mansions, drive flash cars and fly in “church owned” corporate jets. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. The Bible mentions the word transform in three places. Once in a positive way, and twice in a negative way. In Romans, it is meant to transform the mind of followers of Jesus into righteousness, and twice as a warning in Corinthians: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2Co 11:13-15). Not INTO ministers, but in the LIKENESS of ministers of righteousness.
- And the worst side of Christianity, is Christmas and Easter. The two most important events in history, the birth and death of Jesus, turned into honoring pagan gods, twisted into man-made traditions “adopted” by a Christian culture that has nothing to do with Jesus. Let’s look at them individually. Christmas– according to Wikipedia (among many other sources), “The rival “History of Religions” hypothesis suggests that the Church selected December 25 date to appropriate festivities held by the Romans in honor of the Sun god Sol Invictus. This cult was established by Aurelian in 274. An explicit expression of this theory appears in an annotation of uncertain date added to a manuscript of a work by 12th-century Syrian bishop Jacob Bar-Salibi. The scribe who added it wrote: It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries, the Christians also took part. Accordingly, when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day.” But, does the Bible say anything that can identify with Christmas other than Jesus’ birth? Yes it does. From the Prophet Jeremiah, “Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” (Jer 10:1-4) The word that the Lord speaketh unto you…Learn NOT the way of the heathen. And, as infallible as God’s word is, do you think that if He wanted Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus, He would have given us the date (as He does His HOLY days) and made sure it wasn’t on the day identified with the celebration of a pagan god? I heard a “church” pastor once say as he took the stage, “I had a member come up to me before service and ask me about celebrating Jesus’ birthday on a pagan holiday. I told him that God doesn’t give a fig about when we do it as long as we do.”, to which the whole congregation gave a loud roar of approval. Well, as a follower of Jesus I can tell you that the Scripture says that, God so gave a fig about the world, that He sent His only begotten Son so that anyone who believed on him would be saved. He gives a fig ABOUT EVERYTHING! Modern Christians believe on the religious Jesus and follow along Satan designed principles and NOT the Living Jesus, God’s only begotten Son. Easter, again starting with Wikipedia (among other sources), “The modern English term Easter, cognate with modern Dutch ooster and German Ostern, developed from an Old English word that usually appears in the form Ēastrun, -on, or -an; but also as Ēastru, -o; and Ēastre or Ēostre. Bede provides the only documentary source for the etymology of the word, in his eighth-century The Reckoning of Time. He wrote that Ēosturmōnaþ (Old English ‘Month of Ēostre’, translated in Bede’s time as “Paschal month”) was an English month, corresponding to April, which he says “was once called after a goddess of theirs named Ēostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month” It also says, “Easter customs vary across the Christian world, and include sunrise services, midnight vigils, exclamations and exchanges of Paschal greetings, clipping the church(England), decoration and the communal breaking of Easter eggs (a symbol of the empty tomb). The Easter lily, a symbol of the resurrection in Western Christianity, traditionally decorates the chancel area of churches on this day and for the rest of Eastertide. Additional customs that have become associated with Easter and are observed by both Christians and some non-Christians include Easter parades, communal dancing (Eastern Europe), the Easter Bunny and egg hunting.” I’ll leave you to look up the goddess Ēostre. But, does the Bible mention Easter? Actually it does. Acts 12:4, “And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” The he who did the apprehending was Herod the King the he put in prison was Peter. Herod had just killed James, the brother of John (v2), and saw that it pleased the Jews and so took Peter. And so, here we have the word Easter, and verse 3 mentions the days of Unleavened Bread, but Herod was neither a Jew or a Christian, and so, what is this Easter. It couldn’t be the goddess mentioned above because she is associated with an “English month.” More than likely, this Easter is related to (and many sources point to) the goddess Ishtar- here again to save space and keep on focus, you can look into this further. Once again, on another occasion in another “church”, not long ago, I was asked by the Pastor’s wife, a Bible college graduate herself, about my beliefs; just a few weeks before the Easter celebration. When I broached the subject of my devotion to Jesus and not celebrating the pagan holidays, to my amazement, she said that, “we adopted them.” No denial, no argument, other than, “we adopted them.” How utterly sad. Devastating. Do you really believe that the Living Jesus would be okay with us “adopting” pagan gods and goddesses in His name? One that’s become synonymous with retail shopping and the other with bunnies and chocolate eggs.
Smith Wigglesworth said of Modern Christians, “The reason the world is not seeing Jesus is that Christian people are not filled with Jesus. They are satisfied with attending meetings weekly, reading the Bible occasionally, and praying sometimes. It is an awful thing for me to see people who profess to be Christians lifeless, powerless, and in a place where their lives are so parallel to unbelievers’ lives that it is difficult to tell which place they are in, whether in the flesh or in the Spirit.”
Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) after which he followed quickly with, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”(v 22-23). Here, the Living Jesus replies to many Modern “religious” Christians.
Please don’t let yourself be counted among them. Come out of there NOW. Come let us fall in LOVE with the LORD our God together.
In the words of Don Potter, “It’s time to get RIGHT with God, it’s time to get REAL about Jesus.”- I love you.