Called to Conform


By Denise M. Kohlmeyer

Called to Conform
An in-depth series on the practical outworkings of Christ-like Conformity

A Messianic Mindset
A Heart Like Jesus
The Obedience of Christ
A Life Poured Out
Conflict and Suffering
Final Thoughts

A Wounded Wanna-be

In high school, I was a wanna-be. I wanted to be a cheerleader. I wanted to be popular. I wanted the boys to notice me. Basically, I wanted to be everything that I wasn't. What I was in reality was ugly and awkward, and that made me an outcast in the social hierarchy of high school. I sported a mouth full of bright silver brackets and wires (this was the 80s, before Invisalign). I had a face full of pimples (yes, I got called "pizza-face") and wore large, translucent-pink glasses which dominated my narrow face. I was super short for my age (nicknamed "Shrimpy" and "Shortstop" in grade school), and was way-too skinny (more like gangly). And that is just the physical aspect. I was also very socially awkward.

And all these strikes against me left me with some very deep wounds of insecurity.

I had nothing that would recommend me for any of those things that I so desperately wanted to be and to have. I just wanted to be accepted, to belong. And, to be honest, at that time in my fragile pubescent life I would have done anything — absolutely anything! — to make it a reality. I would've conformed to whatever rules the in-crowd followed, written and unwritten. I would've done whatever it took just to fit in. I was that desperate!

But I never got that chance, and now in hind-sight, in God's gracious sovereignty, I'm glad I didn't.

Social Conformity

As God's wonderfully-created beings, we all have an intrinsic human need to want to belong, to fit in, to be accepted. No one likes to be an outcast, a nobody. At one time in our lives, whether in high school or college, in the workplace or in our neighborhoods, we've all felt compelled to conform to the "rules" in order to fit in. We feared rejection and being ostracized — and most of us would do anything to avoid that kind of social suicide.

Conformity, in the simplest of terms, means "yielding to group pressures." Certain influences — or pressures — within a group can cause a member to change, or yield, their beliefs, behavior, attitudes, even their opinions in order to secure a foothold within that group. And then continue to conform in order keep it.

This can be good or bad depending on the group.

Micro instances of conformity happen every day, and we don't even realize it. One such example is taking an elevator. Did you know that there are four unwritten rules to riding in an elevator?
1) Facing forward
2) Talking softly
3) Asking a fellow rider, "What floor?" then pressing the button for them
4) Men allowing women to exit first
You probably didn't know that you've conformed to this positive social norm, did you? Other positive social norms include shaking the hand of someone you've just met, a man opening a door for a woman, and saying "please" when asking for something.

But conforming to other social norms isn't as positive. In fact, sometimes conformity can be down-right dangerous, emotionally, mentally, physically, even spiritually. Think about gangs, secret societies, terrorist groups, cults. And even within certain cliques — again, whether it's in high school or college, the neighborhood or the workplace, even in the church — there can be subtle codes of conformity that can erode away a person's true identity, nature and character.

Christ-like Conformity

For committed Christ-followers, however, conformity takes on a totally different meaning, direction and focus. While we still have that inner desire and need to belong and be accepted, we no long look to our peers or our culture to find it. We look to the One to whom we now belong, to the One who accepts us unconditionally as those who are broken, bruised, and badly in need of salvation and sanctification!

You see, when we answer the call to come to Christ, we simultaneously answer the call to become like Christ. Conformity to Christ is part of our salvation calling. Just as we are called to salvation, we are also called to sanctification (another term for conformity). Hence, we are called to conform.

The concept of conformity being a calling comes from Romans 8:29: "For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers."

To get a more accurate understanding, I think it helps to dissect this verse word by word in the original Greek:
Foreknew (proginosko) = To know beforehand
Progino = "to know, to foresee, to ordain"
Osko = "beforehand"

Predestined ( praedestinare) = To determine beforehand
Prae + destinare = "to determine, decree, appoint or settle beforehand"

Conformed (summorphos) = To adjust the shape or nature of
Sum = "union with, together"
Morphe = "to adjust to, as in shape or nature; to shape together"

Image (eikon) = To resemble
Eko = "to be like, resemble, likeness"

Firstborn (prototokos) = preeminent one
Protos = "first"
Tikto = "to bear, bring forth, preeminent"
Using these five definitions, we get some clarification:
Before time began, God determined that those whom He called to Himself would have their natures adjusted so as to resemble the preeminent One
To put it more simply, "God's purpose for us," says evangelist and author Billy Graham, "is nothing less than Christlikeness."

And just what is Christlikeness? Just as the word implies: to be like Christ. Toward that end then, if we — as adopted siblings — are to resemble and reflect our Big Brother, it stands to reason that we should intentionally and seriously study Him: His ways, His life, His character, His relationships, His attitudes, His thinking, His ministries, and, yes, His sufferings and death. In studying HIM, we find our model for holy living and godly character, our mentor for meaningful relationships and ministries, and our method for righteous suffering and dying.

Over the next seven weeks, we're going to discover just how our resemblance (conformity) to Jesus Christ should look biblically and practically, and how we can "adjust" ourselves accordingly, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

And I sincerely pray that this series (adapted from a Bible Study I wrote in 2009) awakens in each one of you a renewed passion to be conformed to the image of our most precious Savior, Lord and preeminent Brother, Jesus Christ.

Image Credit: skeeze; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth Christian-Life

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Published on 4-4-17