The World

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” (v. 2)  

- Romans 12:2

Plans can help us further our spiritual growth, for God often works through our strategies to mature us in the faith. But despite the plans we make, there will certainly be many obstructions to prevent us from growing to spiritual adulthood. Innumerable obstacles can stand in our way in the Christian life, and for centuries theologians have grouped them into three major categories: the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Today, we will look at the world and the way it can get in the way of our obedience to our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

The sciences of anthropology and sociology demonstrate how every culture and society in the world is structured by its own taboos, customs, and restraints. Generally speaking, the person who lives within a particular culture behaves according to its accepted rules. Usually he will avoid what his society forbids and do what it praises. Customs and restraints are almost always determinative of the behavior of most people in any given society.

This is especially clear when it comes to teenagers. It is easy to see how the behavior acceptable to a teenager’s peer group often defines his worldview. Adulthood does not change things all that much, for our peers still have strong impact upon what we do, at least unconsciously. Societal customs, more often than not, determine our thoughts and behaviors even when we are full grown.

For the Christian this should not be. Humankind has been at constant enmity with God since the fall into sin (Gen. 8:21; Eph. 4:17–19), and when large numbers of unregenerate people join together, they produce fallen cultures that endeavor to exalt themselves above God. Only our Father’s restraining providence stands in the way of their success (for example, see Gen. 11:1–9).

Consequently, Paul warns us not to be conformed to this world; rather, our minds and hearts are to be bound by the will of God as revealed by Jesus Christ and recorded in Scripture (Rom. 12:2; 2 Tim. 3:16–17). Though we will always have to fight the influence of the world, as we prayerfully study God’s Word and ask the Spirit to apply its message to us, our lives will become transformed and reflective of the image of our Creator in Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Cor. 2:14–16). 

Coram Deo

God calls believers not to escape the world but to live according to His will within the world (John 17) as a witness to fallen cultures and societies, manifesting that He is Lord of all. Consider this day some of the messages our culture sends us: the idea that sexual relationships can be consequence-free, the good of living beyond one’s means, the notion that youth is superior to old age. How have these or other assumptions affected your thoughts and deeds?

Passages for Further Study

Isaiah 13:11
Matthew 16:26

We Recommend

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343