Christians can feel pressured to conform to those around them in order to be accepted. Sometimes, new converts feel compelled to be like their mentor to prove their spiritual growth. Some mentors enjoy having protege’s expecting them to imitate their life to show evidence of spiritual growth. However, when we look at the scriptures, we find that God is not looking for cookie cutter Christianity, and He certainly does not want people to be followers of each other.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29-30
The Lord desires for every believer to have a living and growing relationship with Him. The only conformity that God is looking for is for every believer to become conformed to the image of His son! This has been God’s plan from the beginning. Jesus told His disciples it was better for Him to go, so the Holy Spirit can come (See John 16:5-11). The Holy Spirit is our teacher and helper, so we can be changed in Jesus’ image. He is the the one who convicts people of sin and leads them to navigate through life successfully.
When you study the Greek word for conformity in the Bible, you find two types of conformity in the New Testament; a carnal conformity (G4964) and a good form of conformity (G4832). In the last two devotionals, I shared about the carnal conformity and how Apostles Peter and Paul told the believers to refrain from worldly lusts and from conforming to the world’s system. This kind of conformity causes people to be led by their natural desires and the strength of their will in an attempt to fit in their environment. People may sound right, look right, and be impressive, but they choose to blend in with their environment to be accepted or to maintain their status/position.
In the above passage, the scripture uses the word conformity (G4832), which is a good form of conformity. This type of conformity is about a changed nature and becoming conformed to the image of Jesus. The only way we can have this kind of change is the through work of the Holy Spirit using the circumstances of our lives to bring about transformation one step at a time. The Lord determines the extent and the timeframe for this conformity. We only surrender ourselves to the process rather than trying to make it happen.
Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples, and to teach them to obey everything that He commanded them to do (See Matthew 28:18-20). They were to reproduce themselves by repeating the work that Jesus had done with them. The disciples had the same mission, but they were still unique people with different abilities, personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. This is particularly evident in the writings of the apostles who the wrote various books of the New Testament. The writings are different in focus, style, and content, but all of them were led by the spirit of God and His heart for humanity. All the writers had the common vision and focus on what mattered to the Kingdom of God.
We are all going to have the flavor of the Kingdom if we are walking with God but still look and sound different. It takes courage to obey God, but it also takes courage not to conform to man to solicit their acceptance and acknowledgement of us. If we are leaders, we should refrain from expecting conformity from other believers. Furthermore, we should not make our personal revelations and/or preferences a Biblical issue.
As believers, we must keep the authenticity of our faith by being secure in who we are in Christ and not try to fit-in with the rest of the crowd regardless of whether the crowd is a group of believers or unbelievers. This may lead to some rejection or feeling overlooked, but it is better to suffer for doing right than to displease the Lord and become carnal in our walk with God.