Have you ever seen the GEIKO commercial where Cynthia advises her new neighbors to conform to the strict guidelines of the Homeowner’s Association (HOA) in their neighborhood? It starts with a middle-aged couple talking about how the neighborhood is great, the school district is fantastic, and how the HOA is very involved.
In the next scene, you see Cynthia and her helper telling them their shrubs are not board-approved. Then she opens their recycle bin and says, “You need to break down your cardboard.” In one of the last scenes, Cynthia takes out a chainsaw and cuts their mailbox down because it’s two inches over regulation.
This is a farce display of how the HOA members in the community treat their neighbors, but there is definitely some truth to how strict some homeowner’s associations are. When my wife and I moved to Florida, we joined an HOA and someone literally took a picture of our car and sent it to the board because we had our business logo showing. They really wanted us to conform to the rules and comply or else be fined for the violation.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, conform means, “to act in accordance with prevailing standards or customs.” It can also express agreement or harmony with the prevailing rules or compliant with one’s wishes.
Conformity is all around us. There are proper types of conformity such as obeying traffic laws, paying taxes, registering to vote, and many other rules that are necessary for society to function properly. There are other types of conformity that are oppressive and violate one’s freedom of expression. For example, some societies do not allow free speech or the right to act in accordance with their religious convictions.
As humans created in the image of God, we must use reason and wisdom when navigating around the notion of healthy conformity. For instance, it’s good to conform to the speed limit or else you put others and yourself in danger. On the other hand, it’s not good to conform to rules within a society that oppress people or quenches freedom of expression. Since our lives are mixed with both good and bad conformity, what does the Bible teach us to do?
The apostle Paul writes about conformity in the book of Romans. Keep in mind this verse is not indicating disobedience to governmental authorities. Why is this the case? In the next chapter he informs new believers to obey the government rulers. He even states that those who are against the government are against something God has commanded. The type of conformity Paul is expressing here deals with living a life of holiness vs a life of sin. Let’s read Romans 12:2.
“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 approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2
What is God’s will for our lives? To conform to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the image of the invisible God and exact representation of His character. Therefore, God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will is for us to repent of sin, live a holy and obedient life like Christ, cultivate the fruits of the spirit, and share the good news that God saves sinners.
What are we not to do? Conform to the pattern of this world. How is this world patterned? According to Ephesians 4:17, this world is full of darkness. The world embraces sensuality, greed, impurity, and fleshly desires that are contrary to God’s word. Galatians 5:19-21 talks more specifically about the type of world we are not to conform to.
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” -Gal. 5:19-21
This is a stark warning. If we conform to this type of lifestyle, the Bible says we will not inherit the kingdom of God. In other verses, the Lord warns us not to be deceived. Many on that day will call Jesus Lord but on the day of judgment will hear these frightful words: “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you (Matt. 7:23).”
Workers of iniquity are those who disobey God’s righteous decrees. Workers of iniquity practice lawlessness. From the list in Galatians, notice that the works of the flesh breed corruption and a haughty spirit that defies God’s holiness. James 4:4 further elaborates when he states:
“You adulterous people. Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
As Christians, we are called to conform to God’s standards. When we are born again and redeemed by the atoning sacrifice of Christ, we are brought into union with the Father. This union consecrates us from the world. Our relationship, therefore, must conform to the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of this world.
How then do we conform to the will of God? It’s really quite simple. Repent of sin, obey his law, grow in holiness, fellowship with like-minded believers, pray, share the good news with others, and enjoy worshipping God on a daily basis.
Even though these steps are quite simple, they are hard to master. Our flesh continues to fight against the spirit, as the apostle Paul articulates in Romans 7. He cries to the Lord, “Who will deliver me from this body of sin and death?” The answer, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.
So while there is this inward battle going on between our carnal desire and the Holy Spirit, we must put off the old self by renewing our mind. This renewal is accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.
However, do not treat worshipping God as a task or a to do list. Imagine if you did this with your spouse. Okay, today I need to talk to my wife, tell her she is loved, and then make her dinner. After I cross off these tasks, I am finished for the day. Even though you did the right things, how do you think this will make your spouse feel?
Do not be task-oriented. Rather, be relationship-oriented. In the example above, what if I said the following: Today, I look forward to speaking with my wife. I can’t wait to express how much I love her. In fact, I want to demonstrate how much I love her by making dinner for her. The accomplishments were still the same, but the attitude was completely divergent.
Our same attitude goes for God. He wants us to enjoy fellowship. He desires that we obey Him, not in order to escape punishment but simply because it’s the right thing to do. He wants us to honor Him, not so that we can go to heaven but because our desire is to respect and adore His goodness and love. This type of conformity is relationship-oriented, not task-oriented.
In conclusion, there are various types of conformity in this world. Conforming to rules and regulations that protect humanity are right and good, but conforming to standards that are contrary to God’s word are to be rejected. Additionally, the Bible tells us to conform to Jesus, not this fallen world. God wants our sinful minds to be renewed so we can accomplish God’s perfect will in our lives. Finally, the Father desires that our fellowship with Him is not task-oriented but relationship-oriented. I hope this devotional was a blessing to you!