Every now and then, I enjoy some lay it down, in your face, tell it like it is preaching that convicts me even if I don’t think I even did anything to be convicted about. Recently, a friend sent me a message by T.D. Jakes entitled “The Blessed Test” based on Psalm 1. It’s a great message full of laughter, hard points, and of course, in your face teaching (you can find it on YouTube). Yet, it was the verse from Romans he used to solidify one of his points that, well, convicted me. It’s a verse that I’ve heard so many times. I’ve taught on it. I’ve seen metaphors, analogies, and even skits using this verse, but there it was hitting me in the face.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (NRSV)
The power of God’s word is that is it living and it speaks to us over and over in new ways and that morning as I sat on my couch with my blanket and coffee watching a YouTube sermon this verse became new again. T.D. Jakes focused on the words conformed and transformed and the difference between the two.
He said conforming to something means to comply with a behavior, be socially acceptable, and be similar in form or type. We mold ourselves to fit into a desired behavior, group, or area. We see this in everything from plastic surgery to clothing.
The High School students I work with walk in this every day, the desire for acceptance through conforming. Yet, for me the question was, in what ways was I (are you) conforming to this world? Jesus did not conform to his world, yet over and over again I see ways that as Christians we conform. We want to fit in, belong, have acceptance – but did Jesus?
When we transform, on the other hand, we are completely changed. A chameleon conforms, a butterfly is transformed. I know this; you know this. What hit my heart was; am I conforming?
John Wesley said “it is impossible for us to conceal our faith in Jesus Christ. Our holiness makes us conspicuous.”
Does our holiness, our transformation, make us stand out? Maybe a harder question is: do I want to stand out? Now, the extraverts who enjoy the focus being different brings probably say of course! But, I don’t mean to just be different – I mean to be conspicuous. Does my desire to be holy outweigh the desire to conform?
Beyond my own heart, what about ministry? We often focus on the transformation angle when we lead our students. We want them to discover the transformational power of Jesus….in our conforming ministries. Yikes – that’s what hit me. Am I living conformed to this world while teaching and leading others to be transformational? I’m not talking about doing The Wobble to begin the night or using secular movie clips to make a point. I mean, do I conform to fit in and belong and in that way sacrifice what it means to be holy? Do you?
This past summer, our young adult ministry brought in a guest speaker named Natalie who had spent the last two years serving in South Africa and other African countries. She grew up in our ministry and as a twenty year old, she was now teaching us. As she talked to us about her struggle to live here with the mindset she learned there, she said, “Jesus is irresistible and if we really lived like we believed that, everyone would notice and want what we have”. In other words, our holiness would make us conspicuous in such a way that others would desire Jesus.
From T.D. Jakes to Natalie, God was reminding me that we should not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Does your life resemble a chameleon or a butterfly? Your ministry?
Do you live like Jesus is irresistible?
May we remember that Jesus is irresistible and living for him brings a holiness that is conspicuous and transforming. May we never be afraid to challenge ourselves and our students to be the butterflies rather than chameleons.