We Christians like to think that we are rugged individualists – a cross between Patrick Henry, Davy Crockett, and a Texas Ranger. The onslaughts of the world bring others into conformity, but not us. We stand tall.
But to be honest, we burn up a lot of energy trying to be like the world around us! That is because we carry around a lot of fears: being different, dreading rejection, and being labeled a fanatic or a fool. Because we are so concerned about being ridiculed or ostracized, more often than not, we conform to the world.
Yet God puts us into this world to affect it (Mat 5:13-16), to bring about change. We are not here to be stealthy Christians, but to challenge the world’s values in life and eternity. A business person can climb to the top of a profession and by God’s grace maintain a walk with Jesus. A Christian can go through four years on a secular campus and cultivate a victorious walk.
In Romans 12:1-2 it is as though Paul puts his arm around us and says, “Apart from God, you won’t be able to overcome the world. But if you want to redefine yourself so the world won’t, then listen to the urgency in my words: The victory requires sacrifice.”
Making your body a living sacrifice to God is a personal offering. It touches two realms – the inner and outer realms. The inner person is touched by the verb “present.” That is a decision down inside. Your body is the outer, physical person. In other words, you make a deep-down, gut-level decision to present your body as a living sacrifice to the Lord.
The sacrifice is also personal. It is not once-a-week kind of formality, but a constant, deep commitment. It means presenting yourself to God at lunchtime, during a date, before a trip, or in the middle of a vacation. It means giving yourself to God by saying, “Lord, in this body there are drives, desires, and interests that may not be from you. So, I give you my ears, eyes, thoughts, speech–everything–as an act of worship to you.”
Finally, this sacrifice requires a practical decision not to be conformed and a radical decision to be transformed. As J.B Phillips said, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould.”
What does it mean to be conformed? It simply means to assume an outward expression that does not come from within. When I conform to something, I masquerade. I assume an outward expression that is not true inside. Christ lives in me. When the outside of me does something that is not Christ-like, I am conforming.
Transforming is the opposite. It means an outward expression that comes from within. When a tadpole becomes a frog, there has been a transformation. When a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, there has been a transformation. When Christ in me is expressed outwardly, there has been a radical transformation that all can see.
Paul did not leave us in the dark. He said, “Do this by the renewing of your mind.” That is where the battle is. Renewing ourselves may require radical changes but, if we really are rugged nonconformists, then the sacrifice of standing alone is worth it. Especially, when we hear someone say, “That person is different…I want to be like that!” <Rickie Jenkins>