Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Rational worship requires two actions—one negative and one positive. Negatively, do not be conformed to this world. Positively, be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
The word “conformed” (suschematizo) literally means, “‘form oneself after another, be formed like’ (LSJ, BGD).” (Dunn)
When Mackin was a little boy, he wanted to be like his Pastor. His Pastor always wore a long sleeve shirt with necktie.
One Sunday, I was amused to see him wear a long sleeve shirt with necktie. Then I heard that he wants to be a Pastor. Mackin was conformed to his Pastor’s clothes. He clothed himself like the clothes of his Pastor.
That is the meaning of the word “conform”—“to be made like.” (Friberg)
Paul uses the middle voice, in which the subject acts upon oneself. Thus, the command is “Do not conform yourself to this world.” The verb “conformed” is in the present tense. “Do not keep on being conformed yourself to this world.” It is a continuing process—on a daily basis. Every day, I must not conform myself to this world.
What does Paul mean by this “world?” The word world (aion) is not the material universe, but “this present (evil) age, before the” second coming of Christ (Matt. 12:32; 13:22; 2 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 1:4). (Gingrich) It refers to “the system of practices and standards associated with secular society (that is, without reference to any demands or requirements of God).” (Louw-Nida) It is the world system controlled by Satan, the god of this world, that rejects the ways of God (Gal. 1:4). “Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age [aion, world] or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away” (1 Cor. 2:6). Hence, do not conform yourself to the wisdom of this world. Do not conform yourself to the values of this world. Do not pattern your thoughts, values, and behavior according to the thoughts, values, and behavior of this world that rejects God.
Somebody said, “Do not smoke, drink, dance, and chew, and go with girls who do.” When I was a new believer, I thought that worldliness referred to watching movies, dancing, smoking, and going to disco bars. I also thought that worldliness is going to worldly sinful places. But the world is more than just vices.
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:15-16, ESV 2007)
The KJV, NKJV, and NIV have the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” The “lust of the flesh” refers to evil desires arising from our sinful nature. Fulfilling the evil desire of our sinful nature, as the world does, is worldliness. The “lust of the eyes” refers to evil desires arising from looking things outwardly but not inwardly as God looks at things. That is worldliness. The “pride of life” refers to “pride in possessions” (ESV), “pride in our achievements and possessions” (NLT), or “the arrogance produced by material possessions” (NET) (cf. 1 John 3:17, where the same word for “life” [Gk. bios] is translated “goods” or “possessions.” The latter fits the context of 1 John 2:15 and 3:17.) The pride in possessions refers to being proud and haughty of your material success, status, and supplies. That, too, is worldliness.
More, if the Bible calls it evil, it is evil. But the world will call it good. Worldliness is calling evil good and good evil. In sum, worldliness is loving the values of this world rather than the values of God.
This world wants to conform you to itself. The world exerts its power upon you by social groups, by culture and tradition, and by schools, churches, and social structures. To be conformed is to let the world conform you to itself.
God’s Word is clear—do not conform yourself to the values, thoughts, and behavior of this world.