Holy Spirit

Transformed vs. Conformed

The Bible does not teach us to be conformers – even within our Church culture. Conforming has never changed my character or heart because it is an outward act. The Bible teaches me I am to be transformed through the work of the Holy Spirit.

There is a stark difference between conformity and transformation.

Conformity: More concerned with your relationship to standards. You are pressed from the outside to change. You outwardly take the shape or form of whatever has exerted pressure on you. Like dough placed in a muffin pan, it can only grow as much as the container it is in. Greek word: sychematizo. To be molded according to a schematic pattern.

Transformation:  Changes occur from the inside out. Flows first out of a deep experience of God’s love. Changes the condition, function, nature, or character of something. Greek word: Metamorphoo – to be changed from one thing to another.

Anyone can conform to church standards or rules and behave like everyone else. But only through the work of the Holy Spirit can a person be transformed. Like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly – each is in two distinct states. In our lives, we are spiritually dead and then become alive in Christ through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Our very nature has changed.

 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

What I notice about this verse is that it doesn’t say we are to conform to the pattern of the church culture as the solution to not fitting into this world. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

How does our mind get renewed?

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

We renew our minds by turning our attention to the Lord’s glory. We marvel at the work of Christ. We get astonished at the grace of Jesus to impart his righteousness to us because we can’t get there by our good works. If we mainly focus on what we have to change, how bad we are, or how much we don’t measure up, we will conform, not transform. When our focus is more on looking to each other for advice, rewards, and punishments in our Christian life, conforming trumps transformation.

I love the church I have been attending this past year. They have taught me so much about living by the Holy Spirit. Our Wednesday night prayer nights are not about what we must change as a church, practical lessons on how to live the Christian life and where we are failing, or how we need to obey God. Wednesday nights are solely for praise, reading the Word, worshiping God, and praying together.

During our prayer night, we do what  2 Corinthians 3:18 says: with unveiled faces, we contemplate the Lord’s Glory. We are transformed as we focus on the beauty of Jesus and the grace of God. I genuinely believe this is why my church is growing. You can feel the power of the Holy Spirit when we are together.

The best environment for transformation in a Christian’s life is where the pastors and members do not judge each other in the areas we struggle to be like Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, but often, we think it is our job to fix and correct each other. More often than not, we should be quiet, pray for someone, and let the Spirit do His work in their lives.

If we genuinely believe our brothers and sisters have the Spirit of God, we will not interfere as much with giving them all of our opinions and advice on what we think they should do.

The best question I have gotten this past year from a friend in my church is, “What does the Holy Spirit tell you about this situation?” The answer may not come immediately, but the fact that my heart and mind look to the Holy Spirit that dwells in me to give me the answer is so empowering.

Salvation is always about what God does and is doing. Not so much what we are doing. The Holy Spirit wipes away the fear of not measuring up.

Below are ten ways the Holy Spirit transforms me into the image of God:

  1. The indwelling Spirit comes to my soul, dead in sin, and creates new life. Ephesians 2:4-5
  2. The indwelling Spirit confirms to me that I belong to the Lord. Romans 8:15-16
  3. The indwelling Spirit installs me as a member of Christ’s universal church. 1 Corinthians 12:13
  4. The indwelling Spirit gives spiritual gifts to me to edify the church and serve the Lord effectively for his glory. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
  5. The indwelling Spirit helps me understand and apply the Scriptures daily. 1 Corinthians 2:10-14
  6. The indwelling Spirit enriches my prayer life and intercedes for me in prayer. Romans 8:26-27
  7. The indwelling Holy Spirit empowers me to live for Christ and do his will. Romans 8:14
  8. The indwelling Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit in my life. Galatians 5:22-23
  9. The indwelling Spirit is grieved when I sin and convicts me to confess my sin to the Lord. Ephesians 4:30
  10. The indwelling Spirit seals me unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 1:13-14

None of the ten ways the Holy Spirit works in our lives has anything to do with following rules or conforming to a pattern of behavior. When we expect Christians to live a near sinless life and squeeze them into a pattern or mold of how they should behave as Christians, transformation cannot take place. Transformation requires freedom in Christ – freedom to make mistakes and freedom from judgment.

So this is what I learned about transformation – it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, all I’ll ever do is conform to the culture of the people around me, and I’ll live a life of legalistic struggle and be a people pleaser.  

I choose transformation over conforming to the pattern of this world and even to church culture. I do this by focusing on the Lord’s grace, love, and beauty and understanding every moment of the day how the Holy Spirit helps me transform into the image of God.

14 thoughts on “Transformed vs. Conformed”

  1. GREAT insights Diane! Trusting God, and his spirit and not taking on their role gives us freedom to love and support people, not fix them. I just finished reading the book “Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr. I think you would love his work. Love you! Susan

  2. Thank you Diane. I pray the simplicity in which you delivered this concept will help many. It gave me the freedom in Christ I needed. Asking myself and others “What does the Spirit bring up for you when you pray about it?” Does two things.
    1. Assumes a posture of prayer and submission to God.
    2. Puts us in a posture of anticipation of God and we release control.
    You are right conforming could not produce such a freeing result. Praise God for this realization.

    1. Thank you for putting into words “posture of anticipation” that is perfect. I have frequently smiled and told God “I wonder what you are up to here” or laughed at how I prayed for something and then he put me in situations to stretch those areas of my life in dramatic ways. “Posture of anticipation” is the perfect way to express it.

  3. Conformity is so easy to believe when you’re young- “Tell me the rules, and I’ll obey.” But growing in maturity means we finally realize that we are either incapable of obedience or we’ve noticed, like the critic of Ecclesiastes, that things don’t always work out. Instead, flow with Holy Spirit, author of wisdom, perfect counselor in individual circumstances, and gracious trade-up from Jesus! He is the deposit of our inheritance bought with the precious blood of Christ.

      1. Diane, you are growing like a bamboo plant- nothing for 5 years and then 90′ in one year. Wahoo! High five, sister.

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