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Striving for Conformity to Christ

(Philippians 3:7-21)

Lesson 3 -- third quarter 2000
June 18, 2000

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2000, Christian Light Publications

Individuality versus conformity.
What motivates you?

The term conformity jars many people even worse than bad words do. They hear that word and they get uncomfortable, defensive or perhaps even angry. Say the word to some folks and they seem to hear the ker-chunk, ker-chunk of a cookie cutter or the whir-clank-zing of a robot. Utter it to other individuals and their memories darken with negative memories of stringent rules and authoritarianism (real or imagined, makes no difference). And I suppose there are even people who upon hearing conformity just as well launch into Patrick Henry's call to arms, "Give me liberty or give me death!"

Why do so many people react to the term and concept of conformity? One of the main reasons is the threat to individuality and independence. If you conform yourself to anything, you deliberately give up all other options in that area. You also surrender the opportunity to be distinguishable from others who are similarly conformed. Our egos writhe and protest at the very notion.

I ask you, though, "Does conformity to Christ threaten our individuality and independence?" If you believe the Scriptures give a positive answer, would you still strive for conformity to Christ? That is a hard question because it asks if we are willing to pay a very high price in order to follow and be conformed to the Lord Jesus.

I believe that in a very clear and definite sense, conformity to Christ doesn't just threaten personal individuality and independence, it kills them both dead. Quite dead, in fact. Listen again to what Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it" (Luke 9:23,24). Do you see any life left for individuality and independence there? Me neither. Now think about what Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." There you have conformity to Christ, my friend!

At this stage we need to remind ourselves that conformity to Christ does not mean the end of our unique personhood nor of our freedom. The fact is, conformity to Jesus purifies and enriches both our personhood and our freedom. Amazing, isn't it?! I challenge you to find those verses and passages which clearly teach this truth.

Review what you did (or at least endeavored to do) this past week. Me? Well, I did major things (some writing, some working on family problems, some translating), some ordinary things (brushed my teeth, charged the car battery several times, bought groceries), and some rather insignificant things (locked the doors, shook hands here and there, took a few naps). Did I distract you from your own review, or are you done now?

Why do we do what we do; what motivates us?

I do not mean to even imply that absolutely everything we do must be driven by the noble purposes elevated in today's lesson. But I will say this clearly: I think most of us suffer from an acute superficiality of purpose in far too many areas of our lives. And that is not being conformed to Christ.

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