Conformity to the World

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 18

“And you shall know that I am the LORD; for you have not walked in My statutes nor executed My judgments, but have done according to the customs of the Gentiles which are all around you” (Ez. 11:12).

James, the half-brother of Christ, equates world-conformity to hatred of God, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4).

imagesThe Apostle Paul admonishes God’s people against world-conformity, “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” (Rom. 12:2). This admonishment follows his teaching on justification and sanctification. The relationship offered by God through the saving and sanctifying work of Christ demands a new way of thinking that results in a new way of living. Paul’s instruction, however, isn’t a new teaching.

God’s relationship with Israel was based on the Abrahamic covenant. God had promised to make Abraham and his descendants a great nation so that they would, in turn, be a blessing to the nations around them. Through Moses God gave the children of Israel the sacrificial system to teach them the serious nature of sin, that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). He gave them rules and regulations that would guide their behavior toward one another and toward God. The sacrificial system and the “code of ethics” would distinguish them from the nations around them. Such a radical relationship with the Living God would re-define everything about who they were as a people.

This core truth constantly eluded Israel. Because they continually embraced the cultures and religious practices of those around them, they acted just like the nations around them. Their leaders did not seek the LORD, “These are the men who devise iniquity and give wicked counsel in this city” (Ez. 11:2). Leaders can’t take people to where they’ve never been, only to where they are. Therefore, everyone in Jerusalem conforms to the standards of the nations around them, and the glory of God departs from their midst. God promises a day when He will give His people “one heart, and . . . will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh” (11:19). Meanwhile, Judah’s abomination provokes God’s wrath, and He promises to move against them in judgment, “‘But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads,’ says the Lord GOD” (11:21).

Several truths emerge from this time in Israel’s history:

  • Conformity to the world is a byproduct of departure from the Lord.

  • Those who embrace the ways of the world make God their enemy.

  • The world has nothing to offer those who know whose they are and why they are here. They submit to God and resist conformity to the world.

  • God will not allow His glory to rest on those who are abominable in heart and practice.

  • Where God’s glory is absent, judgment is present, and destruction is imminent.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Ez. 10:1-13:23):
The LORD calls Ezekiel to prepare his belongings, dig a hole through the wall of his house, and crawl through it in the sight of all the people as a sign to them. What does this sign teach those in exile about God?
What characterizes false prophets? What is their ultimate goal?