Do not be conformed to this world

“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.” (Romans 12:2)

The other day Anne and I went to Curry’s buy a new vacuum cleaner (If you’re not in the UK, Curry’s is one of the major electrical retailers over here.) Yes, we WENT to Curry’s – we didn’t www it! But when we had made the purchase, the bullying began. “We just need your name and an email address for the invoice, please….”

“No,” said Anne.

The assistant was shocked. This is a normal procedure. People don’t say no.

“Madam, I can’t give you an invoice unless I have your name. It’s for the guarantee…”

“No.” (This is an abbreviated version of quite a few sentences, explaining that Curry’s were not, under any circumstances, going to have out personal details; and that their invoice wasn’t necessary because we can register directly with the manufacturer.)

I won’t spin this out: Curry’s didn’t get our details; we did register for the guarantee as soon as we got home: there was a huge QR code on the inside of the box lid. As we left the shop, Anne said this: “Conform, conform, conform. We’re bullied into conforming with their procedures, just so they can get our personal details on their records. How many other people today have refused to give their details? This week even? This month?”

The episode made me think of Paul’s word to the Romans, and to us: “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.” The word “conformed” – syschematizo – is only used in one other place in the New Testament, and it’s  by Peter: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance” (1 Peter 1:13-14) It means to fashion oneself according to another person’s pattern. The word “schema” comes from it. Paul and Peter are both telling us the same thing: we need to free our minds from the schemas of the world and the flesh, so that we can say “No!” to their bullying and “Yes” to the Kingdom of God and to the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Peter tells us to “gird up the loins” of our minds. The image refers to tucking one’s long robe into a girdle in preparation for action, free of the restrictions of the garment. The key to not “conforming” – whether to the world, or to the flesh – is to act as “obedient children,” free to walk in “the wisdom that is from above.” (James 3:17) I was praying for someone recently and the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the memory card that I had just taken out of my camera. We need to let Him take out our memory cards that are full of all the mental habits that we have accumulated since childhood, and let Him put in a new one where the memory files consist of what He has promised, what He has done, and what He has told us to do. Most digital cameras today have SD cards, but some newer ones have more powerful XQD cards. SD stands for Sin and Death. We are new creations: we need new, powerful XQD cards.  XQD begins with a cross.

So which pattern are we conforming to? I have just been reading the story of Esther. I love the glimpse that account gives us into the sovereignty and providence of God as He acts for those whose lives are submitted to Him. Haman was the chief minister under Xerxes, King of Persia. He hated Mordecai because he would not bow down to him, so Haman vowed to destroy all the Jews in the Kingdom of Persia where they were exiled. It is interesting to note the meanings of the names here. Haman was the son of Hammedatha the Agagite. Agag was the king of the Amalekites, the nation that God had commanded Saul to completely destroy and a biblical type of the demonic. Fittingly, the name means “I will overtop.”  Haman means “magnificent,” and Hammedatha means “double.” Mordecai means “little man.”

Who is the magnificent one who was “the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” (Ezekeil; 28:12), whose desire was to “overtop” the very throne of God, and who, once cast out of Heaven, set himself up as the double of the true ruler of this world? The prime minister of Persia in the story of Esther stands for none other than the devil himself, whom Jesus called the prince of this world. The little man refused to bow down to him, and ultimately Haman was destroyed, having been made to lead Mordecai round the city in one of the King’s own robes.

We too are “little men.” Our enemy is a bully and a manipulator. He starts to build his thinking into us from the day we are born, teaching us independence rather than interdependence; self-preservation rather than trust in God; retaliation rather than gentleness; greed rather than generosity; pride rather than humility, and many other demonic “doubles” of godly values. We need to learn that we can, and must, say “No!” to his schemas; to “set the Lord before us at all times” (Psalm 16:8) just like obedient children looking to their parents for direction; and to let the Holy Spirit renew our minds by replacing our thinking with His.

In today’s world, especially in the West, this still may seem a little optional; extreme even. But even now the scene is changing, and we may already be heading into a very different world. Under the guise of health protection as virus infections threaten, “track and trace” can be used as a tool for persecution. As identity theft and financial crime proliferate, and as the debt burden of printed money increasingly threatens our fragile financial systems, a new, one-world blockchain digital currency (like bitcoins) would protect the interests of world trade and keep individuals safe from scammers. Excellent, for the world system. But for a persecuted Church it will call for endurance, as it would also mean that the authorities could follow the movements of every penny that is spent or given away, and it would have Christians finally staring down the barrel of the mark of the beast as the new financial system requires their unique bank details to be microchipped under the skin of their hand or their forehead.

However, as we know, it is the King of Kings who has the last word, not the prince of the world, who ‘has nothing on him.’ (See John 14:30) He has given us His royal robe, and our names are in the Book of Life: we do not have to put them anywhere else, whatever the pressure.

“For you are the fountain of life,
the light by which we see.
Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you;
give justice to those with honest hearts.
Don’t let the proud trample me
or the wicked push me around.
Look! Those who do evil have fallen!
They are thrown down, never to rise again.”
(Ps 36:9-12 New Living Translation)

This is “that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

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