Be Not Conformed
Bowling Green, Kentucky
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 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. 12:12).
In every age, the Christian is tempted to be conformed to the world in which he lives. By the word "world," Paul refers to that mass of thoughts, pursuits, interests, styles, goals, etc., which characterize men at any particular period of time. There is the ever present danger that the Christian will allow the world's standards to become his own.
Our world is characterized by significant dangers. A number of Christian beliefs are openly attacked by the worldly philosophies of this present age. Humanism, with its rejection of God, denies the moral standards of the Bible. Many who have no direct attachment to atheistic humanism have accepted the ethical codes of that movement. The ethical standard of atheism says that man should not withhold from himself any temporal pleasure in the hope of obtaining some future reward beyond the grave; atheism denies any afterlife and therefore has nothing to offer beyond the grave. Consequently, if fornication gives a man and woman pleasure, they should indulge themselves; if drinking a six-pack of beer with friends is enjoyable, get together and enjoy yourselves; if watching a sex movie turns you on, you should be free to watch that movie.
Our generation has accepted these moral standards which have been formally stated in the Humanist Manifestos I and II, and have been popularized in the pornographic magazines, such as Playboy. The general attitude of the young men in our age is that if a person has the opportunity to commit fornication and does not take advantage of it, he is a fool.
Bible Morality Must Be Preached
As the world around us has accepted more liberal moral standards, some of us preachers have been so reserved in our preaching that we do not like to deal specifically with the issues confronting our young people. While none of us wants a sermon which is so explicit in its depiction of fornication and immodesty that it is pornographic itself, we cannot leave any doubt about what forms of sin we are fighting.
The Bible has somewhat to say about fornication and adultery (1 Cor. 6:12-20; Gal. 5:19; 1 Thess. 4:3-7). If there was ever a generation which needed to hear what the Bible says about these subjects, it is this generation.
The Bible has somewhat to say about the evils of strong drink. Drunkenness, revelry, and social drinking are specifically forbidden (Gal. 5: 19-21; 1 Pet. 4:3). Godly people are warned about the dangers of intoxicating beverages (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-35). Our beer-drinking, social-drinking society needs to hear what the Bible says about this subject. We dare not leave the fight against drunkenness to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
The Bible has somewhat to say about the dangers of "looking on a woman to lust after her" (Mt. 5:28; Prov. 6:23; Job 31:1). Salacious literature is available in most minute markets in the local neighborhood; R- and X-rated movies are piped into many homes by network and cable television; the beaches are filled with men and women in near nudity. Our pornography plagued and lascivious society needs to hear what God has spoken on this subject.
The Bible has somewhat to say about "lascivious" behavior (Gal. 5:19). The word "lascivious," from aselgia means "unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence . . . wanton (acts or) manners, as filthy words, indecent bodily movement, unchaste handling of males and females" (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 79-80). The word covers a whole multitude of sins generally accepted in our society. "Unbridled lust" is depicted in the bedroom scenes on television and in the movies repeatedly. "Filthy words" are the tools of trade of almost every comedian and are part of the standard vocabulary of most Americans old enough to be able to speak. Better words to describe the modern dance could not be imagined than "indecent bodily movements." "Shamelessness." is certainly the characteristic of a society which has lost its ability to blush (Jer. 6:15; 8:12). It is manifested in our society by television talk show hosts who discuss any private matter before millions of people, by men and women who go to public beaches with nearly nothing on, by those who openly say, "I'm gay," and any other number of brazen admissions of immorality. The Bible has somewhat to say about lasciviousness, and we preachers need to be proclaiming what it has to say.
What the Bible has to say on these subjects needs to be preached openly and without apology. These are not subjects to be withheld from the general public and taught in the privacy of some classroom in a local congregation! They need to be preached in the pulpits on Sunday morning, on the radio and television, in bulletins and magazines, and in any other forum we have opportunity to use.
How Are We Doing In This Fight?
Only God knows for sure. However, there are some signs which point to the fact that far too many of us are being "conformed to this world" rather than having our minds "renewed" by the teaching of the Bible.
Christians go to the neighborhood swimming pool and beaches in the same kind of attire as the rest of the world. I hear stories of elders having pool parties in their homes where members of the church are invited over and mixed swimming occurs. I hear of Christians allowing their Christian children to attend modern dances, such as the prom. Unfortunately, involvement in these activities is not limited to weak, recently concerted members; weak Christians who have been appointed as elders and deacons are now involved. There is no way to know how many Christians are involved in watching the pornography of R- and X-rated movies coming into the home through cable television. Christians justify social drinking and beer parties on the basis that "my boss expects it of me."
The impact of worldliness on the church is not limited to the occasion when one of the pretty young girls in the congregation comes forward confessing, "I have not been living as a Christian should," gets married within a few days, and has a baby six months after her wedding. The worldliness was there when she attended the dance, spent long hours petting while parked at the drive-in theater or isolated road, went to the public pool in her skimpy swimsuit and watched the bed-romping scenes on television or at the movies. This worldliness has spread like a gangrene among us and it is past time that we should be alarmed by it.
The fornication has got to stop! The drinking has got to stop! Dressing immodestly has got to stop I Reading and/or watching pornography has got to stop I Going to the public beaches and mixed swimming has got to stop! Attending the prom and other dances has got to stop! A Christian cannot expect to go to heaven while continuing his practice of these things.
If we truly love those involved in these kinds of sin, we will do what we can to call them to repentance. Their soul stands in jeopardy before God so long as they continue in these sins. Unfortunately, some of us have become so desensitized to immorality that we are not very much alarmed when we see it. We are numbed to it. Or, could we say, as Paul said, we are being "conformed to this world"?
Brethren, let us not forget that sin has not changed. The dancing which was wrong when we were children is still wrong. The dance has not been "cleaned up" so that it is no longer lascivious. The mixed swimming which was wrong twenty years ago is still wrong. The attire which is worn at the modem beach is not more modest today than it was then. The drinking which was wrong when we were children is still wrong. Drinking is not less sinful or less of a problem in modern society than it was twenty years ago. These things are still sinful and those involved in them must be called to repentance. Our love and faithfulness to God demand that we preach the moral standards revealed in the Bible.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 13, pp. 386, 406