Forces and Influences

Once we were conformed to the world, but now we seek to be conformed to Christ.

“This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people:  ‘Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear….'” (Isaiah 8:11‭-‬12 NIV)

“When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19 NIV)

These verses from Isaiah hit home with me today. Some people might call me a believer. I am a believer, but I’m also a skeptic. I am skeptical of the world and the various pressures and ways in which it “gets in my face” and “urges” me to conform.

Of course, I am being inappropriately anthropomorphic. The world doesn’t do these things. Or does it? Paul says,

“[W]e do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

If there are forces pressing upon us to conform, they aren’t always human forces. Being anthropomorphic isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s the best we can do, perhaps. We are the unwitting pawns in the battle. Some of us play our parts with gusto.

Jesus said,

“For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” (Matthew 7:13)

Many people are influenced by many forces. I’m not saying I am above being influenced, but I have long been uncomfortable with going along with the crowd, whichever way the crowd happens to be going at the moment. Sometimes it goes this way, and sometimes it goes that way.

“All a man’s ways seem right to him….” (Proverbs 21:2)

And the world demands conformance. Jesus spoke of his generation, comparing them to children in the marketplaces calling out to others, demanding that they conform (Matthew 11:17):

“‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not mourn.’” 

It wasn’t that Jesus was an absolute non-conformant, not conforming for the sake of non-conformance. Jesus conformed to a different standard. Jesus came to fulfill a higher purpose. He conformed himself to God’s ultimate purpose and end.

Our generation isn’t any different than His generation. We too, if we are followers of Jesus, children of God, born of the Spirit, are influenced by other things that the world at large doesn’t know or understand.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

Just as otherworldly forces bear upon us – the spirit of the age – God’s Holy spirit blows, and those who are sensitive to God feel its effect.

Many of us fit the description given us by Paul, who knew it well, of those who “once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience….” (Ephesians 2:1) Now, we are new creations in Christ. Once we were conformed to the world, but now we seek to be conformed to Christ.

When people today speak of conspiracy theories, we don’t buy into them. We don’t fear what others fear. Sure, fears press in upon us, like the fear of the death, the fear of not fitting in and a myriad of fears pressure us like anyone else, but those fears are tempered by the assurances of God who loves us and who has delivered to us His Spirit as a first fruit of the hope He has promised.

The Spirit of God whispers to us to rest in God, to place our assurance in Him and His promises, to not be influenced by the forces that bear down on us in this world. While we may be pressed on every side, we have a refuge in God in which we can stand firm against the winds that blow this way and that.

As forces in the world urge and influence us to chase after this and that, “to consult mediums and spiritists” and anything that promises us control over the things that we fear, we listen for the voice of the One who made us. Why would we chase after lesser things? Why would we want to listen to anyone or find our comfort in anyone or anything other than our God?

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