THE BIBLE DOCTRINE OF NONCONFORMITY
By Harold S. Martin (in blue)
The word “nonconformity” is coined from the words found in Romans 12:2, where we read, “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”. To “conform” means “to be in harmony with” or “to pattern after”—and therefore the admonition to be not conformed simply means “do not pattern after” or “do not be in harmony with” this world-system. The child of God is to be separated from the world system.
The Bible teaches separation from the world—separation from the whole political, commercial, and ecclesiastical system that is trying to make itself happy without God. The average person works for this life only; he prepares for this life only; he lives for this life only. The aims and ambitions of most unsaved people center around the brief time they spend here in this life. The typical citizen desires to acquire some property, to make a name for himself, and to satisfy his physical appetites. A scientist, when asked the question, “Do you believe in a future life beyond the grave?” said, “To tell the truth, I’ve been so occupied with making myself happy in this life that I have not even had time to think about a future life.” That is the philosophy of the world-system from which the disciple of Jesus Christ is to separate.
The Scriptures are clear on this teaching. The whole tenor of the Bible from beginning to end, indicates that the people of God are to be separate from the pride, vanity, and extravagance of this world-system. And we are not only to be separated from the world, but at the same time we are to be dedicated, consecrated, and devoted to the service of God. This is the very definition of holiness. To be set-apart from one thing, in order to be consecrated to another (Strong’s H6918).
We want to consider the Bible background for the subject of nonconformity, and then we will discuss some of the more practical details. Notice the following Bible passages:
Leviticus 20:24 “I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from other people.”
Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
1 John 2:15-17 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
James 4:4 “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5 “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves . . . having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away.”
The words in James 4 are very clear. They are God’s words. Talk about a worldly Christian; there is no such thing. A person might be worldly, but then he is not a Christian. One may as well talk about a heavenly devil as to talk about a worldly Christian. “Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” The words in 2 Timothy 3:5 are also very clear. Paul could have advised Timothy to be “a good mixer” and “to play ball” with the apostates of his day, but instead, he said, “From such turn away.” People today seem to have the idea that we must mingle with and become like the world in order to win them, and yet when a man falls into a deep pit, no one ever dreams of jumping down into the well (alongside him) in order to get him out. Instead, he stays way up at the top, and from there he lets down a ladder or rope and lifts him up.
Each of us believes in God’s physical laws of separation. When a quart of milk begins to sour, what do you do? Mix it with a quart of sweet milk so that both will be good? No. You set it aside until it becomes altogether sour. You separate the bad from the good. Or if a man has a sore leg and gangrene sets in, what do the medical experts do? Cut it off. They separate the bad from the good. God has always been a God of separation. He separated light from darkness, good from evil, the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the wise from the foolish, and He expects the Christian to be separated from the world-system. In addition to all the Bible portions quoted earlier, 2 Corinthians 6:17 serves as a kind of summary statement: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
We want to note now some practical applications of the Bible doctrine of nonconformity. Worldliness is related to what we say, how we dress, how we spend money, how we are entertained, how we drive on the highway, our attitude toward work, our reaction to tragedy and death, etc. It is related to outlook, motives, manner of life, aims, and ideals. However, in this particular message, we want to discuss the much neglected aspects of nonconformity as they relate to our lifestyle, such as dress, entertainment/amusement, and worldly practices.
Should Christians send their children to public schools? What does the Bible say? With the state institutionalizing education, governing its policy, and using a progressive/humanistic curriculum, this question is more important than ever before. Because of the many ills of the public education system, it's imperative to take a closer look at the Christian approach to education. READ MORE
There is a teaching in many so-called Christian circles today which implies that the Christian life is a jolly affair, and that to follow Jesus is barrels of fun. Many a modern church ought to blow the steeple off its roof and hang up a night-club sign. They have more suppers, parties, and fun-nights—than prayer meetings and Bible studies.
The Bible principle on worldly amusements is found in Hebrews 11:24-26, “By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” The Christian faith involves “suffering affliction” and bearing “the reproach of Christ.” If you have a popular brand of Christianity, you have the wrong kind! Our Lord talked about the cost of discipleship; too many of us talk about how much fun it is.
Within the soul of every person there is an inner longing and a deep quest for peace of mind. The world tries to satisfy this quest which is common to all men by offering the movies, the dance, television, drugs, smoking, drinking, etc. The child of God does not need the momentary, short-lived satisfaction that this world pretends to offer, for the Bible says of our Lord God, “He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:9). READ MORE
Many people assume that music is neutral. That it’s neither good nor bad. But as we may soon discover this assumption is flawed. The Scriptures teach that all music is spiritual with underlying principles of good and evil. We can be certain of this fact by studying the history of Lucifer. As one of the highest ranking angels prior to his “fall”, Lucifer was created with the ability to produce music. We cannot find this description in connection to any of the other angels. READ MORE
THE CHRISTIAN AND “RECREATIONAL” HABITS
One third of America’s smokers are women. The heart of the infant fetus being carried by an expectant mother beats five times faster each minute while the mother is smoking than it does under normal conditions. The University of Virginia says that the nicotine intake of the normal smoker is almost one pound per year. They fed an equivalent amount of nicotine to eight thousand cats, and it killed them all. Smoking is a dirty, nauseating habit. I would just as soon have another person spit in my tea or hot chocolate or coffee as to have him blow smoke in my face. The smoke goes through the nasal system and the mucous lining of the mouth and throat, and then it is blown into the faces of others. The most tragic result of smoking however, is the effect tobacco has on the smoker’s own body. As a Christian, your body is intended to be a temple (a dwelling place) of God, and the Lord says that to defile the temple of God is to ask for destruction (1 Corinthians 3:17).
Drugs and Drinking
Many in our day have experimented with drugs like marijuana, heroin, LSD, and other mind-altering narcotics. These give the temporary feeling of being superior, while at the same time making the drug-user a slave of addiction and tearing him down mentally and physically. It is no surprise that unsaved people get involved with drugs. Having no faith in God and no respect for God’s Word, they are easy prey for the devil. The use of drugs is only one of the tricks Satan uses to enslave people. But because the body of the Christian is the temple of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20), we should not allow it to become enslaved by wicked and degrading habits. That rules out all habit-forming and mind-altering drugs for the Christian. It also rules out alcohol as a beverage because that too is addictive.
Note: While I agree with the writer on the aspect of drunkenness in relation to alcohol, I do not believe the Scriptures prohibit all use of alcohol, especially as a health tonic or digestive aid (1 Tim. 5:23). Still, one is required to heed the Holy Spirit in this matter so that we are not given into temptation stronger than our self-restraint.
Are you looking for real satisfaction? Turn your life over to Jesus Christ and start living for Him. You will find, as Peter did, “. . . joy unspeakable and full of glory.” (1 Peter 1:8). Dig into your Bible and it will expand your mind. But it will not endanger your mental or physical health. There was a time when I was afraid to live and I was afraid to die. But one day I was invited to accept the peace that Jesus offers. Jesus Christ says, “Come unto me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). I accepted—and since then, the things of this world have grown strangely dim. There has been a peace in my heart and a joy in my soul such as the things of the world could never supply. Jesus knocks on the door of your heart too. The Bible says, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).
Several years ago, I was passing by a local video rental when one poster in particular caught my attention. It featured a new release titled, “The Devil Wears Prada”. The name, however, was far more suggestive than may be realized. I began to ponder on it and several thoughts came to mind. It's interesting that the world proudly identifies the kingpin of the fashion industry as Satan. Prada, like many other clothing outfitters, thrives on name brand recognition and makes its millions simply by appealing to the latest trends in fashion.
But why is fashion such a popular hit? And why does it seem so appealing? Is it because something in all of us craves prestige and glamour? After all, it is said that “with style comes status” and perhaps that's true. Throughout history, clothing has been used to determine class and rank in society. Depending on your attire, you will make an impression about who you are or what you aspire to be. Your choice of clothing is a powerful tool that can be used to provoke the admiration and respect of others. Yet there’s no mistaking the spiritual influences permeating such practice or that the Bible strictly condemns it:
"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 Jn. 2:16).
"...for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God" (Lke 16:15).
The above verses clearly demonstrate that the world is driven by lust and pride. Ordinarily, the carnal man is pleasure seeking and attracted to such things as exotic cars, fancy clothing, nice homes, vacations, cruises, and choice properties. This carnal attraction is what the Bible calls "lust". But lust is a compacted word that denotes covetousness, greed, and idolatry. No doubt all three of these empower and propel the fashion craze. Then there's sexual lust, which can easily consume us. The fact that much of our modern apparel is tailored to complement the body in a sexy manner should provoke a healthy degree of concern among Christians. There is simply no denying the sensual and provocative forms of dress promoted everywhere as the new norm. And the apparent aim of those controlling the fashion industry is to arouse our sexual appetite through the use of skimpy clothing. The obvious appeal to the “lust of the flesh”, the “lust of the eyes”, and the “pride of life” is reason enough to draw a line in the “sand” when it comes to dress. And if it's pride that motivates us to distinguish ourselves so prominently in the area of style that too needs to be properly considered. READ MORE
HEADCOVERING OR WOMEN’S VEILING
For years the question has circulated through various denominations: should women cover their heads? If so, when? How? With what? The best way to answer any question about the Bible is to look at the Bible itself. Usually, the Bible uses very plain language when giving a command. The difficulty comes when we try to wriggle through loopholes and find that we need to enlarge them a bit, or when someone else comes along and pulls the perceived loophole tight just as we are slipping through. So let's look at the passage where God commands that women wear a head covering. READ MORE
The world would have us believe that children are a nuisance, a burden, and an unnecessary financial drain. The voices of secular culture encourage men and women to pursue successful careers and a carefree lifestyle, and not be hampered by the responsibilities that come with having children. As a result, birth control and contraception are promoted as the solution to maintaining this ideal. And when unwanted pregnancies occur anyway, abortion clinics are always available to handle the "problem".
But these voices are in direct opposition to God's established design and His purpose for creating marriage and sexual intercourse. God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and He did so again with Noah (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). His purpose for creating marriage is clearly expressed in Malachi 2:14-15... READ MORE
Many of you will no doubt balk at some of the “restrictive” principles advocated in this article. You may think of me as prudish for taking such a hard line position. Or you might even call me a legalist. But please take some time to consider the direction the world is taking. Consider the negative consequences of the secular lifestyle. Consider the higher than ever incidence of immorality in the Church today due to a preoccupation with fads, status, and cultural norms. Shouldn’t the Church be different? Shouldn’t we embellish our lifestyle with wholesome values and virtues? Isn’t this, more than anything else, what the world needs to see? I hope and pray that you will view these matters through the eyes of Scripture, and not with the tainted vision of the world.