Wednesday, April 26, 2017

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Separation, Conformation and Transformation

We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.”
-- John Scott

Hot off of our very first Ben David Youth Group Retreat (Baruch HaShem!), we discussed an important issue for our Teens; maintaining godly character despite our surroundings and influences. There are three orthogonal responses to this challenge: separation, conformation, and transformation.

Separation:The first is to take the route of many Pharisees in the time of Yeshua: separation (i.e., we don’t interact with our culture or the people in it). Yeshua wasn’t too thrilled with this option, as He hung out so often with the “bad” people of his day he was labeled as a friend to sinners (Matthew 11:19). Thus separation is antithetical to the Gospel; how can one make disciples of all nations if you run off into an underground bunker to escape people?

Conformation: A second option is to conform to the culture around us. To conform means to “to be similar or identical.” The English word is a combination of two Latin words: con (‘together’) with formare (‘to form’). Liquids tend to conform to the shape of the container in which they are confined. To conform means to adopt the prevailing standards or customs. Conformity is not always a bad thing. But the problem with conformity in faith is that once the standards or the containers change, so do you. This is why so many Teens leave the faith once they enter college; they conform to the lifestyle of the college campus rather than the one they saw at home. Mere faith conformity does not take root in hearts and minds. Too often we conform to things not in Scripture. We conform to the morals of society. We conform to theology that is “trendy” and tickles our ears. We conform to rabbinic customs that invalidate Scripture. Conformity is fickle, cannot produce lasting fruit, and strains our walk with God (James 4:4).

Transformation: The third and only viable option is gospel-focused transformation (Romans 12:2). To transform means to “change in composition or structure.” In this case the Latin prefix transmeans ‘across’ or ‘beyond.’ Transform is not the same as conform. A star transforms into a black hole. A caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. Note that transformation is not to despise culture. Rather, cultural shifts (good or bad) cannot rattle us or remove our focus from Yeshua because our reference is God (who does not change).

Messiah called us to live transformed lives, not just in outward appearance but in the composition of our very lives. Being transformed means we don’t have to separate and become Pharisees and we don’t have to conform and become worldly. Transformation is the best guarantee we have to effectively live and communicate the gospel in whatever culture we find ourselves.

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