Changed, not Conformed

Mount Moran over String Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Mount Moran over String Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The Bible says, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).  The more I live in this world, the more pressure I see from the world to be conformed to its image.  Dress like this, eat like that, do this other thing, be just like so-and-so.  If you don’t do this stuff, the world says, then you’re un-relevant, un-cool, and you won’t be accepted.

Hikers around the Grand Prismatic Spring from the Fairy Falls Trail, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Hikers around the Grand Prismatic Spring from the Fairy Falls Trail, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

But that’s not what God says about the Kingdom of God.  He says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  He’s all about transformation – replacing the old with the new – rather than just polishing up the old so that it looks like new.

Sunlight over a burned forest near Atoko Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Sunlight over a burned forest near Atoko Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Sometimes we forget that we’ve been made new because the old patterns of our sin nature come back and try to convince us that we’re not as transformed as we should be.  As much as we are being transformed into the image of God “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18), we have been made new: “The old is gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Waterfall in Orderville Canyon, Zion National Park, Utah
Waterfall in Orderville Canyon, Zion National Park, Utah

When I go into the wilderness, it does not require me – as the world would like to require of me – to conform myself to it and its patterns.  It lets me alone.  But over time, it will slowly but surely change me, shape me, into a different, better overall, person.  I may start out angry, but it will slowly heal the anger with its peace.  I may start out stressed, but again, that peace can come in and calm the raging sea into rest.

Morning views at Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument, California
Morning views at Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument, California

God works in much the same way.  He has made us new, but we don’t necessarily look brand new from the moment we say the sinner’s prayer.  And so He accepts us as we are, with all of our failings and blemishes and weakness.  He’s not standing over us telling us to “conform or else you’ll never belong with one of us!”

Wildflowers below Dundee Falls, Wyoming
Wildflowers below Dundee Falls, Wyoming

God accepts us, but he loves us too much to let us stay right where we are.  As a couple of poets put it,

For oh! He loves thee far too well
To leave thee in thy self-made hell
A Savior is our Lord.

Badland castles above the Door Trail, Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Badland castles above the Door Trail, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Slowly or all at once, over time and sometimes in a moment, with full acceptance and settling for nothing less than perfection, He changes us – from glory to glory – to become more like Himself.

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