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Romans 12:2 says,
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
God has been speaking to me from Romans 12:2 recently. He has been showing me that some of the ways that the world tries to conform us to its standards are very subtle. There are times that various "fads" will hit your church. And sometimes those fads are the world sneaking in and trying to conform us to some standard other than the standard God is trying to transform us to. We can think we are going with the flow of what God is doing in our church and actually end up missing the mark altogether.
Let me give you a very recent example from my own life.
My church considers itself as a healing/recovery type of church. There is nothing wrong with being a recovery church; it is a good thing. One of our mottos is: "We accept/love people where they are at, without judging them. But we don't let them stay there." We offer all sorts of self-help and inner-healing ministries, most of which are psychology-based. We had a season (about a year) where theophostic ministry was very popular and a bunch of us trained and certified in it. But it fell out of popularity before we really got much of a chance to minister in it. Then the life-model became popular, which is basically a relational/developmental model.
I had studied theophostic ministry along with everyone else and I also started to study this new model along with everyone else. There is, in fact, some social pressure to be involved in this. But about the third week that I faithfully studied it, God spoke to me. He asked me what I was doing. So I told Him that I was studying this inner-healing and growth technique. He asked me something that really surprised me. "Teresa, why are you doing that?"
I told Him it was because I was trying to stay current on ministry techniques and to have a variety of ministry techniques in my "tool belt." God did not say more at the time, but I could tell He was not satisfied with my answer. I began to really struggle with what I was studying; I was not sure I bought into or related to this particular model. Then, why was I studying it? I came to the conclusion that it was mostly because of social pressure. My friends at church were strongly into this model. I realized that I felt social pressure to learn this model and apply it to my own life.
Six days later, God spoke to me again. He started by asking me a second time why I was studying this model. That time I told Him that I was not sure why. I had originally thought it was to learn to minister it, but now I wasn't so sure.
Then He asked me, "Why do you want to minister it? I have gifted you prophetically and with My authority, so why are you trying to learn/use all of these non-prophetic ministry techniques?"
Now, here is the really ironic part. The life-model emphasizes being who God really created us to be and acting as our "true selves" despite whatever emotional state we are in. But this technique and social pressure at church was trying to force me to be something other than who God created me to be. He called and gifted me to minister in His power and authority, in the prophetic and in physical healing and taking authority over demons. And I was trying to study/learn things that would ask me to lay aside the very gifts God gave me when I ministered.
I spent the next 24 hours struggling with this. I ran into some friends who I had expressed my doubts to about the model two days earlier. Both of them loved this model and advocated it very strongly. They seemed noticeably less friendly and suspect that I offended them by questioning their favorite model. So I brought it to God and asked Him about it. He did not talk to me about why my friends were less friendly, but He did take me to Romans 12:2. He began to show me that social pressure and "fads" at church can be things that try to conform me into something other than what God wants me to be.
I am not the only one who faces that -- we all do. It can be subtle; so subtle that we don't realize it is happening. We can assume that since the church is pursuing God's will, if we do what everyone else is doing then we will be in God's will. So we "go with the flow" at church. But social pressures and popular fads at church won't necessarily move us the direction that God wants us to go. In fact, it can sometimes try to force us into a totally different mold than the one God cut us from.
So what do we do about this? We need to look to God and invite Him to speak to us about our day-to-day lives. Then He will show us when we are moving in the wrong direction. We also need to realize that He called and gifted different people for different things. We don't want to try to move in someone else's gifting, we want to discover and move in our own. And learning to do that is usually a matter of drawing close to God, seeking His direction and listening to what He says to us. We need to intentionally invite Him to direct our steps. Then we need to follow Him when He shows us clearly.
Sometimes following God will move us in a different direction than our friends are moving. That is not necessarily an indication that our friends are going in the wrong direction -- maybe what God has for them is different from what He has for us. But as God shows us something clearly, we need to start following Him and obey what He speaks to us. If we don't understand how to do that, we can ask Him for direction/strategy, and He will show us.
Our goal is to be transformed by the Holy Spirit -- not by peer pressure or by what is popular in Christian circles at the moment. There will be times when God is doing the same thing in us that He is doing in the mainstream. I am not "advocating bucking the flow" to simply buck the flow. What I am advocating is to present ourselves to God and allow Him to be the One to define us. Let Him select the path He wants us to walk in and let Him direct us in it.
But when we follow God, we need to be aware that God has times and seasons for things. We don't want to hear something once and stubbornly stay moving in that direction no matter what. We want to listen to Him and allow Him to fine-tune and redirect us any time He wants to. Look at Abraham and Isaac. God's first direction to Abraham was to sacrifice his son. What if Abraham got so caught up in that first direction that He refused to listen to God's redirection to let the boy live? Their genealogies would have been a lot different, wouldn't they?
We need to stay current with God and listen to Him for fresh direction each day. If God says, "You are on course," then we continue with what our last clear direction was. But we watch and listen to Him so that we can flow with Him any time He wants to change direction.
The goal of our transformation process is to remain flexible in God's hand, to watch and listen to Him constantly, to obey what He tells us and to cooperate with Him in whatever He is doing in our lives. At times that will move us the same direction as everyone else and at other times it will move us in a different direction. But no matter what direction God moves us in, our goal is to be Spirit-led and to follow Him.