Random Blog Clay Feet: January 10, 2008
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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Conformed vs. Transformed

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

(Romans 12:2)

With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity. (Romans 12:1, 2 J.B. Phillips)

Paul has spent a great deal of time thus far in this book exposing the faulty thinking that counterfeits God's desires for us and plan to restore us. In this verse I find the summary of the counterfeit system in one word – conformed. Satan's alternative plan of government from the very beginning when he introduced it in heaven and deceived one third of the angels was a focus on external conformity instead of living in submissive, loving relationships and keeping internal motivations and qualities as higher priority than external appearances.

Without what some call “an internal locus of control”, it becomes necessary to impose external forces to pressure people into conformity to maintain any semblance of order and organization in society. This emerged in the early development of human civilization as the whole system of thinking legally, of imposing rules and dictates for others to conform to or be arbitrarily punished. What most people don't realize is that the system of law on this earth grew out of the emerging system of economics, not morality, which introduced the idea of ownership and artificial value placed on things and people. To enforce the selfish restrictions and artificial definitions of economics, laws were imposed for the benefit of the wealthy to protect their property from being taken by others.

Subsequently the third counterfeit part of this false trinity soon took shape which is sometimes called kingship. I like to refer to it as hierarchy, where the value system of economics becomes strongly paralleled in social life and everyone is classified into roles and categories based on their social position or accomplishments. As can be seen by the thoughtful observer, all of these are based on artificial economics as the basis of reality and all relationships. The system of law is the artificial means of force to hold the system altogether with the glue of fear. This is the great counterfeit government that Satan has invented and that we have assumed is the way reality always works.

When this understanding becomes more clear it can be seen why conformity is such an accurate description of this counterfeit system that is now so deeply entrenched. Religion has incorporated these false principles of relationship into almost all of the world's thinking and so when we try to understand God's plans and ways we become very confused. Our confusion largely stems from not realizing that there are two very different ways of governance in this universe and that the two cannot be mixed or compromised with each other. But because the false system is a counterfeit of the true, it often has the appearance of being right, correct and even authentic. It is extremely deceptive in looking like it is the right way to live. Of course it is, otherwise how do you think Lucifer was able to convince a third of the highly intelligent angels to side with his conclusions?

Satan has always maintained that obedience has to be forced and must have external rules with artificial punishments for it to succeed. It is the great antithesis of love – the internal bond that makes the true nature of God's system of governance successful. This contrast between conformity and transformation that Paul highlights in this verse lies at the heart of the whole Great Controversy in the universe. Satan says that beings have to be conformed by external pressure, threat and fear. God maintains that love is enough and that anything else involving force and fear is alien to His ways and His people. This is the great choice that each of us have to face. Which form of society will we choose to live in?

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers... (1 Timothy 1:8-9)

Conformist-based religion, which Paul has described previously in the case of the Jews of his day, purported to be the will of God, to be the epitome of what is right and good, it was the pursuit of perfection by external (conforming) obedience and a life of intense effort to manage appearances. That kind of thinking is certainly not the exclusive domain of Jewish thinking; it is inherent in human nature and reveals itself in every false religion seen on the earth. It is the outgrowth of false ideas about God that permeates the “sinful fleshly heart” of every fallen human on this planet. It is a focus on externals in priority over receiving the heart-level healing that God wants to accomplish in each one of us. Conformance is the counterfeit of transformation (metamorphosis).

On the other hand, Paul invites us to enter into the real experience of embracing God's plan to save us through internal renewal and subsequent transfiguration. When Jesus was transfigured before the disciples on the mountain He was not just trying to show off and impress them with power and glory. That is not the nature of God, that is the counterfeit way of thinking. What Jesus was displaying for them was what God's desire was for them, what He intends to accomplish in the life of every believer who will accept the redemption and restoration plan that God can work from the inside out. Jesus was showing us in a very limited view what every saved person will someday look like when the final judgment (day of revelation) takes place and both systems have fully matured.

Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3 NRSV)

When a person chooses to allow God to renew their mind and they begin to experience the natural process of transformation, it will be seen more clearly in their life what the real will of God is, what is truly good and acceptable. And it will become more clear that the kind of perfection that God desires in us is not external perfectionism, a forced conformity to a list of rules, but is a natural life of maturity, the real meaning of the word “perfect”.

Maturity is what God desires for His children. Maturity happens from the inside and can only be developed in community with others and in an atmosphere of freedom to make mistakes while learning how to live. We generally understand this concept when raising our children, at least in the very early years, but we fail to see its importance in spiritual life. We would call it abuse if someone scolded and punished a baby every time it fell down while trying to learn to walk. But we think nothing of it when we treat each other that way while someone is trying to experiment with life and grow in spiritual maturity.

"But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." (Jeremiah 31:33)

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19 NIV)

And I will put clean water on you so that you may be clean: from all your unclean ways and from all your images I will make you clean. And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you: I will take away the heart of stone from your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit in you, causing you to be guided by my rules, and you will keep my orders and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27 BBE)

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1, 2 The Message)

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