The Christian life is filled with delightful "coincidences"–confluences of life events with Scripture that give an unmistakable impression of the active oversight of God.
Conformity to the world is as deeply and extensively damaging as transformation by the renewing of our minds is deeply and extensively beneficial and God-honouring.
This past week I had an email interchange with my pastor. He was preaching on Romans 12:2 which declares, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approved what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will." The question was whether conformity to the world is merely an outward shallow act and transformation is inward. That’s what a few of the older commentaries say.
We discovered through the conversation and the resources we looked at together that "Paul is not merely concerned that believers will outwardly conform to this age. He is worried that their adaptation to this world will shape them in every dimension of their lives." (T. Schreiner, Romans [Baker], p. 646f.) Conformity to the world is as deeply and extensively damaging as transformation by the renewing of our minds is deeply and extensively beneficial and God-honouring.
This really strikes at the lie we too frequently tell ourselves that we are only "shadowing" the world’s tastes and behaviours and that it won’t affect us "deep down" because we’re Christians and that’s not "where we really live." So, the distinction is a false one and we’re only getting ourselves into profound spiritual trouble by entertaining the negative when we should be rejecting it in favour of the alternative embrace of "transformation."
As circumstance would have it, I learned first hand that being squeezed into a mold is not just external or superficial.
That same week, my daughter asked me to model for her for a major art show she is preparing. It consisted in adopting a pose and staying still while she applied plaster of paris to me to create a full body mold. The event was memorable! I donned track shorts and an old t-shirt and she put me into a prone position on the tile floor. By the way, she asked, had I gone to the bathroom? Once the plaster was applied, I wouldn’t be able to move for as long as an hour or so.
Being squeezed into a mold is definitely not superficial. As I lay on tile floor and the plaster was applied, I began to feel the increasing weight and pressure on every place that was covered. Soon, as the plaster began to harden, it was not the weight alone but an increasing constriction of movement that began to intrude. I was entombed!
My daughter warned me that as the plaster began to harden it would heat up a bit. A bit! Not only did it heat up, but my daughter began to move around my encased and gradually hardening cocoon applying further heat with a hair dryer to hasten the hardening!
As the mold hardened around me, I became completely constricted. Muscles and joints don’t do very well when completely immobilized. I started to cramp.
I was immensely relieved to be removed out of the mold after the required hardening time. What an ordeal! Weight, heat, constriction, immobility … and pain!
Pastor, I can now tell you from a very personal experience, being pressed into a mold does go deep deep down. It’s far from a superficial thing. I’ll choose transformation!