“Be different.” That slogan is everywhere. No one wants to look just like the next guy, right?
As much as we tell ourselves we are all unique, the Bible tells us that we all live according to a pattern the world has set for us. It’s an ingrained pattern that Paul explains in a letter he writes to the Ephesians.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3 NIV)
The Bad News About Ourselves
Bad news: We are all the same. We follow the ways of the world, and this verse describes us as dead, lifeless, and unfree by nature. Seriously?
So, what are the “ways of the world”? Paul describes how the world tells us to think in Romans 1:
- “Suppress the truth” about God: Tell yourself that he doesn’t exist and you can do whatever you want (1:18).
- Turn the lights out on any ideas about God’s demands on your life or any sense of responsibility to him (1:21).
- Don’t live for the love of God and neighbor, but find what you love in this world and live for that (1:25).
What happens when we take the advice of the world? Answer: “Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie…God gave them over to a depraved mind” (1:21-22, 1:25, 1:28 NIV). Yikes.
The world wants us to be godless, unaccountable, and self-directed. When we submit to this mold, we become foolish, senseless, deceived, and depraved. We die spiritually and start a path to our own destruction.
The Good News About God
Now the good news:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:4, 9 NIV)
No amount of effort we exert can save us from our enslavement to the patterns of the world. So God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He rescued us at a cost only to himself.
God hasn’t destroyed us for ignoring him and choosing other things over him, when he has every right to as our Creator. Instead, he has shown us mercy. He shouted over our ignorance by sending Jesus Christ to earth to die on the cross for the sins of anyone who will believe in him as Lord and Savior.
And when Jesus rose from the dead, he conquered the power of the world, our hearts, and the devil. Jesus frees us from enslavement to the patterns of the world when we put our trust in him. He freely gives new life: life as a free citizen of heaven who is able to resist the world’s agenda and live for God.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
We all worship; we all live for something. The Bible says we were made to live for God—body, mind, and soul. Jesus Christ came so that we might be made alive. Life with Jesus is a life upstream, and it’s described as a sacrifice—giving over our will and body to God for his purposes.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1 NIV)
How to Be Different
So don’t conform! Don’t let the world squish you into its thinking! How can we resist? “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2 ESV). When we allow God to renew our mind we become wise, able to discern and approve God’s direction in our lives, which is good, pleasing, and perfect.
Let God change your thoughts. He does this in two ways. First, he gives the Holy Spirit to those who believe in his Son Jesus. God himself comes to live in us, changing us from the inside out. His Spirit living in us resists the world and enables us to obey God.
The second way God renews our minds is through teaching us how he thinks. He has recorded his thoughts for us in the Bible. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” says 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV). God’s Word is God’s thoughts, and we’ve got it right in front of us.
Soak it up, and shimmy out of the press of the world. If you’re bound to its press, plead to God for rescue. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13 NIV).
God has higher plans for you. He wants you to look like his perfect Son. Will you ask him to start the process of making you into the mold he wants for you? Don’t conform. Be different.