People are created to be social beings. In the beginning, God created Adam and said, “It is not good that man should be alone…” (Gen. 2:18). God then created Eve to be a companion and a mate for Adam. Inherent in this statement made by God is the understanding that people are dependent on the social interaction of others. There is a desire for acceptance by those with whom we associate. This desire for social interaction and acceptance tends to culminate in a willingness to do those things that will make us socially acceptable to those we want to accept us. The tendency of people to conform to the expectations of their peers to be socially accepted is often referred to as “peer pressure.” This also is present at the beginning of mankind as Eve succumbed to the pressure by the serpent to eat of the forbidden fruit, and Adam, in turn, yielded to the influence of Eve to join her in this sin (Gen. 3:1-6).
Not much has changed concerning the desire of people to give in to the pressure to conform to the expectations of their peers. People still need companionship and are quite often willing to conform to the pressures put on them from others to be socially acceptable or to fulfill particular desires they have within themselves. However, God has commanded that His people are to be holy. God is holy, and to have fellowship with Him, the children of God must be holy. Habakkuk 1:13 says of God that He is of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on iniquity. Isaiah 59:2 reveals that sin separates a person from God and hides His face from that person. Thus, it is required of God’s people to live in holiness. Christians must “be holy and without blame” before God (Eph. 1:4).
The apostle Peter states: “As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:14-16). Note in this passage that there is a danger for the Christian of conforming to the former lusts from which they have been saved. God is holy and commands His children to be holy. He has said, “…Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17). God calls His children to come out from among those of the world and not be partaker of their sins. This command to “come out from among them” is followed by the following admonition: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).
It is made manifest in these passages that the child of God must not participate in the world’s sins. Christians must be cleansed from sinfulness and must bring to maturity holiness that results from a fear (intense respect) of God. There is no room in the heart of God’s child for both sinfulness and holiness. These two cannot coexist! One will either conform to the world or be transformed by Christ. No man can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24).
The choice that lies before us is this: we will either be conformed to the world or be transformed into the holy person God would have us to be. Paul illustrates this choice very clearly in the following verses: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2).
The urgency of the matter is conveyed by Paul’s statement, “I beseech you.” God is merciful. He has extended His grace to us to wash us from our sins and impute to us holiness that we could never obtain, except through the blood of Jesus Christ. Our response to God’s mercy is to present ourselves as living sacrifices to Him. God has always required His sacrifices to be pure and without defect or blemish (Lev. 22:19-22). He expects the absolute best that we have to offer. He required of the animal sacrifices of the Mosaic Law that “it must be perfect to be accepted” (Lev. 22:19). Man is not capable of perfection on his own, but through the blood of Jesus, he can be presented to God as holy and without blemish (1 John 1:7). This can only happen if one is walking faithfully in the light of God’s word (1 John 1:7; Ps. 119:105). Are you giving God your absolute best as a living sacrifice to Him? One cannot expect God to accept them as a sacrifice to Him if they are blemished by conforming to the world’s sinfulness. It is an either/or proposition!
Paul warns against the dominion of sin over us if we obey the lust of sin (Rom. 6:12-14). In this passage, the child of God is warned to not present themselves to God as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but rather as being alive from the dead and righteous before God. Again, we are reminded that God will not receive our sacrifice to Him if we are blemished with sin. We must not remain as one dead in sin, but rather alive unto God.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). You do not have to give in to the pressure to conform. You can choose the renewing of your mind through God’s mercy and the sacrificial blood of Jesus. This does not mean that you must be perfect and never sin, but that you choose a life of holiness over a life of sin. When you bring your sins to God, you are renewed through forgiveness and the transforming power of God’s word, which is “the power of God to salvation” (Rom. 1:16).
In 2 Samuel 11, we read of David, the king of Israel, and how he lusted after Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. He sent for her and committed adultery with her. He then conspired to have her husband murdered. This man was guilty of adultery and murder, yet he was told that the Lord had put away his sin (2 Sam. 12:13). How could a man guilty of such sins be restored in a right relationship with God? He was transformed by the renewing of his mind!
David wrote Psalm 51 as a prayer to God, confessing his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and Uriah’s murder. He pleads to God for forgiveness. Note the plea for forgiveness and renewal in this psalm: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:7-10).
After this confession of his sins, followed by a plea for forgiveness and renewal, David acknowledged that God would not accept just any sacrifice. He knew that God required him to be a sacrifice with a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Because of this, David was remembered not as the man who had sinned against God, but rather as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). David chose to be transformed from a man broken from sin to a living sacrifice for God. He chose to prove the “good and acceptable, and perfect will of God” in his life (Rom. 12:2).
Dear reader, regardless of whence you have come or what you have done, you can choose to be holy and acceptable to God. Jesus bore your sins on a cross and became your sacrifice. His blood washes your sins away if you are baptized with Him and live faithfully. Do not be conformed to this world, but choose to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Become a living sacrifice to God!
Michael is on the board of directors of the Carolina Messenger and is the pulpit minister at the Boiling Springs congregation in Boiling Springs, SC.