Transform vs. Conform 

The world wants you to conform; the Father offers real change 


At the time of this writing, my family is hosting a caterpillar named Larry. Larry lives in a critter box that I’ve made to house unfortunate creatures who were unable to escape my son’s grasp. Larry has been imprisoned longer than the average captive because my children are desperately hoping that he will soon develop a chrysalis and, before our very eyes, metamorphose into a beautiful butterfly. We’ve done our research and have gone to lengths to ensure he has the right environs to succeed. We’ve fed him, we’ve watered him, and we’ve given him a place to transform. 

The message of Romans 12:2 is that our desire for Larry is not much different than God’s desire for us. Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (ESV). At the heart of this verse, Paul issues two commands—a negative and then a positive one. “Do not be conformed,” he says, but instead, “be transformed.” 

Conformity is in many ways a cultural expectation. Whatever our stations in life, we mold our behavior to match the expectation of others around us. Conformity is not always bad. When it involves stopping our vehicle at red lights because a red light is the universally agreed upon signal to stop, conformity is okay. But when our conformity is according to “the pattern of this world,” we run into problems. This is because the world’s patterns diametrically oppose God’s patterns.  

This world shapes our way of thinking. You’ve seen its patterns. For instance, it has set a pattern that says that above all things, we must do “what’s best for us” or “what makes us happy,” regardless of what that means for others. The world has set a pattern that has defined love, not as self-sacrifice, but as any pleasure that makes us happy for the moment. The world has set a pattern that wealth, pleasure, fame, or power are the true gauges of success, and people must find the path that makes them truly happy. The world’s patterns aren’t new. They’re well-worn, like ruts in a dirt road, and we are placed on that path from birth. Not only that, but we actively seek to stay in these ruts because we believe that in themwe find our happiness. Don’t let the world conform you to its patterns, nor should you conform yourselves to its patterns, says Paul. 

Instead, we are to be transformed. The word used in this verse is the word from which we get the word metamorphose. It isn’t merely becoming a better version of one’s self, or cleaning one’s self up to be more presentable. To be transformed means to morph into something of an entirely different kind—to become something brand new—just like with our house guest, Larry. The problem is we can’t do it, it must be done for us. Scripturally speaking, the only way we can be transformed is if God speaks His Word into our dead, world-conformed hearts, and grants true faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. When He does this, we become something new. We become something different—as different as a caterpillar is from a butterfly. We have new gifts. We have new desires. We have a new-found peace with God, and a new understanding of His will. 

Having served on our campus in the past, and now returning to serve as dean, I’ve had the privilege of seeing our Bible college and seminary function as a kind of “chrysalis” for our students. It’s a place of transformation, and it’s exciting to see. Many things change. Leadership changes. Names change. But God’s Word doesn’t change. At FLBC, by God’s grace, we desire and strive to be an environment where world-conformed hearts hear and are transformed by God’s unchanging Word. This is His good, acceptable, and pleasing will for the world He loves. 

Pastor Adam Osier [FLBC dean] is a member of Grace Free Lutheran, Maple Grove, Minn. 

This article first appeared in Kinship Magazine, Fall 2019 Edition.

Kinship is a magazine of the FLBCS. Stay up to date on the latest news, student stories, classroom highlights, and fun tidbits about life on the FLBC and FLS campus.

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