"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 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." Romans 12:1-3
"Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits'." 1 Corinthians 15:33
It was so wonderful when we dedicated our lives to Christ, wasn't it? It was exciting when we began to have different beliefs fall in place: baptism, gender rolls, modesty, like-minded friends, Bible believing church... we were enthusiastic and ready to 'do it'.
If only we could have held on to that enthusiasm and energy forever! Instead we suddenly wake up one day to realize that we have compromised little by little until we have no idea how to get back on track short of starting completely over again (which, let's be honest, is not going to happen).
So what should we do when we find that we are most definitely being conformed to this world, and we doubt that the transformation we have undergone has had anything to do with the renewing of our mind?
Well, the obvious answer is to change and to get back to living the way that God wants us to. But the next question is not quite so easy to answer. How? How do we get from the state that we have discovered ourselves to be in to living like Jesus wants us to? Here are a few ideas...
1. Pray about it. I probably have said this in just about every post on this blog, but that doesn't make it any less true. Prayer is an amazing thing, it is the way God has given us to talk to Him!
2. Read your Bible. Sit down and look at your schedule and try to find ten minutes that you can set aside just to read your Bible. If you honestly can't think of when to have it, put a Bible in your bathroom and read as much as you can in the time you spend in there in the morning and evening. (There, *cough cough* was that practical enough?) Start in Genesis (or Matthew if you prefer), and just read through. But don't just do that 'open to a random spot and read a verse' thing... that's only allowed once in a while. ;-)
3. Look at your friends and who you are spending the most time with. Are they a godly influence in your life? Do they encourage you to follow Jesus with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength? Friends have a huge influence on our lives, but it's not always that obvious. I believe that you should not have any close non-Christian friends (or close Christian friends who are living in sin). That does NOT mean that you should suddenly cut them completely out of your life or that you should tell them that you can't be friends anymore because as of right now they're going to hell. What this does mean is that if you find yourself becoming too close to a non-Christian, you should begin to extract yourself little by little until you are more like friendly acquaintances than best friends. Now every circumstance is different, but here are a few ideas to get you started.
a. If they are internet friends, stop replying to their e-mails every day. Just back off a bit and only e-mail them once a week. If they ask you what's up, tell them that you are busy and are trying not to spend so much time on the computer (or whatever is true for you). Do NOT tell them that you don't want to be best friends anymore. That is not kind and is unnecessary. (One trouble with many people these days is that they think that if you don't tell the entire truth you are lying. While I am not suggesting that you lie, I am suggesting that you be tactful and kind. If you saw a friend and instantly noticed that they were wearing a shirt that clashed with their pants, you do not have to tell them, right?)
b. If they are friends that you see in person, stop spending so much free time with them. Simply find something else to do most of the time (maybe read your Bible). ;-)
c. Be nice to them, but don't invest yourself in them. Instead do your best to find solid Christian friends to invest your time in. (And they don't have to be perfect, no one is, but they should be doing their best to live in line with God's word.)
4. Find a good church. You can always find one if you look hard enough. And you don't necessarily have to agree with everything they preach. As long as they don't teach things that are against the Bible. (For instance, even if you believed in paedobaptism, you could go some where that taught believers baptism -that's called Christian liberty-, but you wouldn't go somewhere that preached that abortion is right.) However, it is important that they teach the Bible.
5. Set godly and realistic goals such as reading a chapter of the Bible every day, going to church once a week, not entertaining impure thoughts or crushes, or whatever God has convicted you about.
6. Find someone to be accountable to. Now this could be your Mom, or it could be a Christian friend. Explain to them the goals that you would like to be accountable for, and ask them to check with you on a regular basis, at least once a week, to see how you are doing.
7. If you realize that you are spending a lot of your time somewhere (workplace, school, sports) with people who are ungodly, and God shows you that you are only going to continue falling further away from Him if you stay in that place, than you need to leave. Now I understand that would be incredibly difficult, and that is something that only God could tell you if it is necessary, but if He does tell you to quit, that is exactly what you need to do. As long as you are following His will, He will take care of you.
8. Choose your hill to die on. Don't make every little thing a matter of life or death. And don't try to change everything at once, that will only leave you discouraged.
9. Be a witness by living your life the way you should. Do not take your conviction and try to force it on all of your friends (Christian or not). Do pray for them. And don't mistake picking on them for being a good witness (if your friend has tattoos, it won't do either of you any good if you start going on about what the Bible says about it. That will only make it so that they are less likely to listen to you).
Before I close, I would like to respond specifically to the anonymous comment I received a few days ago (remember, if you want me to respond to you personally, I do need your blog or e-mail address)...
I feel stuck and I would love your help!
I am a 19-year-old daughter of wonderful parents, but they have supported me to follow the world's cookie cutout for life; public school, and now I find myself at a huge secular university. I believe God wants me here now, and I have tried to live out my faith here, but tonight I was convicted of subtle compromises I have made without even realizing it. I find myself the somewhat close friend of a gay man, crushing on men when I shouldn't be, and surrounded by so much worldliness that I forget about God. I am not joining these people but not standing against/reaching out to them either. I want God to reign more in my life, but it feels like swimming upstream at a secular university (to be expected) and I don't know where to start. Specifically, how do I behave with non-christian friends (who I have inevitably made here)? Or even friends who are christian but have compromised like I have? How do I tell them I want to change, that I need to take God more seriously in everything that I do? I mean, if I were at home, it would be so much easier to live my faith, serving my parents and family; it is my comfort zone. But here, God's law is turned upside down. I have been praying about it, and I would love your thoughts!"
I hope that the ideas that I have given here have been helpful to you. If you still have questions, please feel free to ask. I know that you are trying to do something that is extremely difficult, and only God can tell you what specifically you should do in your situation. I will be praying for you, that God would give you wisdom and courage to do His will, that He would show you what is and is not important, and that you would be encouraged and find Christian friends who will encourage you do to His will.
May God bless you!