How to Resist Sins of Conformity

We’ve all been there. You’re cruising on the interstate and you take a casual glance at your speedometer. Whoa—you were NOT prepared for that!

How did this happen?

You were in the flow of traffic, going along with the crowd. Your speeding probably won’t lead to a ticket, but any police officer who stopped you would be justified. You were flat-out guilty.

What is a Sin of Conformity?

Many sins in our lives follow this pattern. We get swept along in the tide and can’t believe what we’ve done. We’re always responsible for our actions, but sometimes social pressure tempts us in powerful ways.

Sins of conformity happen when, because of the pressure to fit in, you adopt the sinful action or inaction of a group. Active sins in this category include gossip, coarse language, and spending above your means. (This is just a sample.) Sins of omission show up too—prayerlessness, failing to care for the poor, and failing to evangelize can be epidemic in churches.

An Incremental Slide

With good intentions, how can we end up with such rotten behavior?

The answer, as always, is our hearts. Though a Christian’s heart is being transformed by God, the old man lurks. He tempts us with empty promises and false treasures.

Most people crave the approval and acceptance of their peers. To secure this love, we adopt the practices, preferences, and values of our social group.

This happens by increments. Few people wake up one morning determined to gossip about a coworker. But after weeks of indulging office chatter, we slide from tolerating to agreeing with to participating in the sin.

Waking Up

In his mercy, God alerts us to sins of conformity in one of three ways.

Sometimes, God convicts us supernaturally. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the damage we’re doing to ourselves and others.

Other times we see a righteous example. A “slow” car in our lane obeys the speed limit, or an officemate speaks up for the slandered.

Finally, we might be confronted with our sin. A godly friend rebukes us for inappropriate joking or an audit uncovers dishonest use of money at work. Though it might seem severe, God can use the consequences of our sin to bring us to repentance.

Gospel Power

Even when you’re convicted about a sin of conformity, it can be hard to stop. Refusing the sin means resisting the social pressure that makes the temptation powerful. How will you handle upsetting the group?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the key. We all want to be liked and included, and if you’re a Christian, you are! You are a child of God, eternally a member of his family. Because Jesus was excluded for a time on the cross, you are loved and welcomed in the best way imaginable. Though your repentance may displease your friends, be confident that God is pleased with you. All the favor and approval you want from other people, you have in your sovereign, loving, heavenly father.

Avoiding These Sins

Though we think of peer pressure mostly for adolescents, sins of conformity are present in all social groups. Repenting of these sins is one matter, but how can we avoid them?

  1. Pray. Pray that God will sharpen your conscience and make you aware of your weaknesses, your temptations, and the group pressures you face. Pray for the Spirit’s help to stand firm in the gospel.
  2. Read the Bible. The Scriptures replace the loud, urgent messages of our peers with the eternal truths of God’s law and his love.
  3. Nurture close friendships. You need at least one person in your life who can—and will—ask you anything. He knows your struggles and tendencies, and you can talk honestly with him about your wider social circles. Sin is deceptive, so we must have devoted friends with whom we speak regularly and deeply about the most important things in life.

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Links for the Weekend (7/26/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Mothers in the Church

Jen Wilkin has written an outstanding piece on spiritual motherhood. It’s worth a read by everyone, not just by women. Spiritual infants need spiritual mothers, and all women can leave a legacy of spiritual descendants.

But a motherless church is as tragic as a motherless home. Guiding the spiritually young to maturity is not solely the job of the vocational pastor, the elder, or the Sunday school teacher. The church needs mothers to care for the family of God. We must rise to our responsibility, eagerly searching for whom the Lord would have us nurture. There is no barrenness among believing women. Through the gospel, all become mothers in their maturity. And unlike biological motherhood, spiritual motherhood holds the potential for hundreds, even thousands of descendants.

The Most Radical Mission for Christians May Be the Most Mundane

For many Christians, the thought of foreign missions is much more compelling and attractive than loving our neighbors down the street. Brett McCracken writes about the beauty of committing to and serving in a local church, even if there are fewer exotic stories that result.

Why is it easier for us to go to the other side of the world than it is to go across the street to talk to our neighbors about Jesus? It’s uncomfortable to share our faith with people in our immediate context because, well, we have to continue to do life with them and it may get awkward if we bring up Jesus. Plus it is sometimes easier to care for the soul of the foreigner who we don’t know than the proven heathen that we do.

Study the Bible for the Sake of Others

Evangelism is rarely about a one-time, thirty-minute conversation. Using the story of Philip in Acts 8, Kelly Minter writes about how our personal study and learning from the Scriptures prepares us to share the gospel with others.

So here are the two challenges this passage confronts us with: First, we must be willing to step into some chariots and sit alongside people who can’t make sense of life, much less the Bible (assuming we’ve been invited in). Second, we must be studying God’s Word diligently, learning from good teachers about His whole counsel, so that when we do have opportunities with those seeking to understand, we can engage them with the whole story instead of leaving them with a presentation.

Thanks to Maggie A for her help in rounding up links this week.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (7/19/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Embracing the Good in ‘Goodbye’

On this side of heaven, saying “goodbye” is a sad inevitability. It happens whenever God calls his people to a different earthly location. But when people we love move away, or when we are the ones moving, there is often profound grief knocking at our doors. Heidi Carlson helps us handle goodbyes as Christians.

Whatever the circumstances of the parting, grief is a close companion of goodbye. God created us for community, and when physical separation breaks our community, we grieve. We long for togetherness. As I tell my children and remind myself, it’s okay to cry at goodbyes. As believers, we stand in a long line of the faithful who have grieved at a departure. However, we grieve with the hope and knowledge that eternal togetherness is certain.

Living in the Bodies We Have and not the Ones We Don’t

Lore Ferguson Wilbert wrote a beautiful reflection on living in a body that is both wonderfully made by God and yet profoundly affected by brokenness. She has spent the last year writing a book on the topic, and this is a meditation on submitting to the bodies we have, not the bodies we want.

I have spent nearly 40 years trying to be the body I am not. I remember with startling clarity the moments I began to look for another body: the words a friend’s mother said about my pubescent body, the comment from the preteen girl with the perfect nose and teeth, the jovial jokes my family made about our genetic disposition (male and female) for sturdy thighs—these all took my eyes away from the fearfully and wonderfully made creation of the body God gave me and put my eyes on the impossible pursuit of the bodies God gave others. I worshipped the form I couldn’t have. I became a slave to the body I wanted, counting calories, straightening my hair, trying every new diet with a hashtag and eliminating every food group one at a time.

10 Things You Should Know about Reformed Theology

The phrase “Reformed theology” broadly describes the theological framework to which our church subscribes. What does that mean? If you’re new to Reformed theology, or if you’d just like an overview, check out this post at the Crossway blog from Paul Smalley and Joel Beeke.

God-centered teaching calls us to God-centered living. The Word aims to inculcate the wisdom of God’s Word through faith in Christ (2 Tim. 3:15), and the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10). Though it is possible to do theology in a spiritually arid, merely intellectual manner, Reformed theology has historically aimed at the same Paul had in his teaching: “love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5).

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published The Sad Song of Samson, by Zachary Wisniewski. Check it out!

Thanks to Maggie A and Phil A for their help in rounding up links this week.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (7/12/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

What Is Union With Christ?

Here is a helpful overview of this crucial doctrine, written by Cale Fauver at For The Church.

Scottish theologian Sinclair Ferguson once wrote that, “[union with Christ is] a doctrine which lies at the heart of the Christian life.” If there was ever a doctrine taught so profoundly in the Scriptures that believers must better see and adore, it is their union with Christ.

An $8.2 Million Judgment, Over $8.2 Million in Royalties Given Away, and God’s Sovereign Grace in Your Life and Mine

Randy Alcorn writes an account of his ministry, his legal troubles, and his salary (trust me, it’s relevant). It’s a wonderful testimony to God’s grace.

I stood before a judge in Portland and told him I would pay anything I owed to anyone else, but I could not in good conscience willingly hand over money to people who would use it to kill babies. I explained to the court and the media and all who were there the human rights of the unborn children, and the established history of civil disobedience to defend human rights.

Jesus and Nicodemus

Here is a sermon recommended by Phil Amaismeier. It is a sermon by James Montgomery Boice from John 3, which appeared on The Bible Study Hour. Phil said that he “found great encouragement about how the reading and teaching from the Bible is used by the Holy Spirit, and how John’s conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 emphasizes that very fact.” Check it out!

Thanks to Phil A for his help in rounding up links this week.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (7/5/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Do I Need to Love Myself More?

Does the second greatest commandment (“Love your neighbor as you love yourself”) mean that we need to focus on loving ourselves? John Piper tackles this question in another episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast.

He’s referring to the fact that all of us have an inborn instinct, or reflex, to seek our own happiness and to avoid harm. In other words, our self-love that Jesus assumes in this commandment is our desire for happiness or our desire to minimize our unhappiness.

Touch

This article from Stephen McAlpine is so beautiful that I almost hate to describe it for fear that I’ll diminish it somehow by my description. Let me just say that he reflects on the power of human and divine touch in a simple and captivating way.

We love touch. We long for it. And there’s something biblical about its healing capacity. God forms everything but humanity with Word, but when it comes to us, the image is of hands shaping and moulding. And then there’s the deeply intimate act of God breathing the breath of life in the nostrils of the man.

A Dynamite Sermon

Pastor Waltermyer spent several days recently in Dallas, Texas for the PCA’s General Assembly. He told me that the sermon preached on Thursday night was one of the best he’s ever heard. The sermon was given by David Cassidy and was entitled “A Brief History of the Future.” You can find a video of the entire worship service here, and the sermon begins at 1:14:45. I’ve also tried to embed the video below.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published Where Our Gaze Lands, by Erica Goehring. Check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (6/28/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Is God Angry at Me When I Sin?

In this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper answers a question that gets right at the center of Christian experience. God loves his children, but he hates sin. So how does he feel about his children when they sin? At this link you can listen to the answer (or read the transcript).

He never looks upon us with contempt because he’s always for us, never against us. He will always restore us and bring us unfailingly to an eternity when there will be no grieving him, no quenching him, no displeasing him anymore.

The Most Epic Bible Study of All Time

Do you remember the conversation Jesus had with disciples on the road to Emmaus, where he showed them how Moses and the Prophets pointed to him? Garrett Kell imagines this exchange, and he goes through each book of the Old Testament to give an example of what Jesus might have said. It’s a great illustration of how to see Jesus in the Old Testament.

Reading the Old Testament to find Jesus isn’t meant to be like playing “Where’s Waldo?”—looking behind every tree for a cross or every chair for a throne. We do, however, find both explicit teachings and also implicit themes that push us to know that something, or someone, greater must come to fulfill them. Jesus proved this true that day following his resurrection.

Sleep Well for God is Awake

With all that is going on in the world—not to mention all that happens in your life—how are we supposed to sleep? Darin Smith gives seven (brief!) reasons why Christians can sleep well.

You are as secure as Christ is (Eph. 1:13-14).  No one loves you like Jesus, so unplug your life-giving cord from people, and live, love, and serve to God’s glory today (1 Cor. 10:31). Rest!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (6/21/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Stop Praying “Be With” Prayers

Gulp. I apologize in advance for the conviction you’ll feel when you read this article by Alistair Begg. This is an excerpt from his new book on prayer, and he urges us to pray more like our biblical ancestors.

The time-bound and fallen creature that I naturally am, I often forget the spiritual and eternal element of reality. That’s why the things that fill my prayers are so regularly absent from Paul’s—and why the things that fill his prayers are so regularly absent from mine. He has his eyes fixed on eternity. His prayers are spiritual. We need to make ours so, too.

Stop Loving Your Spouse Too Much

Ray Ortlund writes at Desiring God about two insights that can help shape and direct our marriages. First, “your marriage is your little remnant of the garden of Eden.” And, second: “Life is not in you. Life is not in your spouse. The life we all long for is in Christ alone.”

A marriage is not Christian because two Christians get married. A marriage becomes truly Christian as two Christians keep looking to Christ for the wherewithal each needs moment by moment. It isn’t a matter of practical tips, though I suppose there is a place for that — like training wheels on a child’s bike. But far more, it’s a matter of seeing him, with the eyes of faith, real-time as a husband and wife walk together through each day. It’s a matter of rejoicing that he is present with you, he is sharing his life with you, his light is banishing the darkness from the sacred circle he has given the two of you.

4 Things Teens Need from Your Church

Just because our church is not bursting with teenagers doesn’t mean we can ignore this important age group. Check out Sara Barratt’s article at The Gospel Coalition; she’s a teenager writing with solid advice for the church.

Instead of undiluted biblical truths and concrete theology, many are fed a watered-down message. They’re entertained at youth group and isolated from older, wiser Christ-followers. They’re drawn in with pizza parties, games, and programs, but leave with the burning issues of their hearts still unanswered. The games and good times were never what kept me in church or helped me as I battled the tumultuous struggles of my teenage years. Instead, it was the gospel-drenched truth that kept me coming back.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published Faith that Lives, Works that Justify, by Sarah Wisniewski. Check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (6/14/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

My Quiet Times Are Anything but Quiet

Perhaps we don’t read and pray as much as we’d like because we’re waiting for a perfect time that never arrives. Rachel Jankovic thinks this is the case, and writes about seeking the Lord in the midst of a noisy life.

When we imagine Bible reading, what we are seeing is something like the life of a scholar. We see uninterrupted focus and commentaries. We see a pastor in his study, where the word is his life’s work. We see someone living at a lake house — no intrusions, complete serenity, perfect coffee. Maybe we see the life of a superwoman, who rises well before dawn because she cares so much more than we ever will be able to. We see calm. We imagine focus. We see heroic diligence.

Simply put, we see the Christian practice of reading the Bible as dependent on a really specialized kind of moment — a moment that seldom (to never) graces our own life.

When Your Friend Is Suffering and Sinking

Sarah Taylor writes a helpful article at The Gospel Coalition about her experience of the pain and suffering caused by cluster headaches. She details the lies she is tempted to believe in the darkest moments, and she relates how her friends have helped her.

Lies especially thrive in the darkness. When I wake up at 2 a.m. with searing pain yet again, the pull to believe lies is strong. It’s hard to believe God is really for me. It’s hard to believe he loves me.

I hear things like: If God really loved you, he’d heal you. Your life was supposed to be better than this. Your children deserve a better mom. Your husband deserves a better wife. You deserve to be normal. No one cares about your pain. This is pointless pain. It would all be over if you’d just drive your car into an oncoming semi. Those are just some of the lies I’m tempted to believe in the dark.

The Good Enough Podcast

Lore Ferguson Wilbert and Andrea Burke host the Good Enough podcast, which I gladly recommend to you. I’ve read and benefited from Lore Ferguson Wilbert’s writing for years now, but the podcast is a new venture for her. It’s aimed at women, but I think everyone will benefit from listening. Here’s the podcast description.

Influencers aplenty, memes a dime a dozen, self-help books lining the shelves of bookstores, and YouTube tutorials for every tip under the sun and it’s still never enough. Why do the messages like “You’re the hero of your story” and “Trust yourself” still lead to anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and despair for most women? Andrea Burke and Lore Ferguson Wilbert are tackling fourteen of the counterfeit gospels American women believe today. We invite a guest each week to talk about beauty trends, diet culture, social media, “clean” living fads, singleness, dating, friendship with guys, and more. We know in Christ we truly are good enough for this never enough world.

I’m guessing that the whole podcast series (which is ongoing) is excellent. I’ve listened to and enjoyed this episode on diet culture.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (6/7/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Sabbath Rest Is for Busy Moms, Too

Do you ever feel that you don’t have time for a weekly sabbath? That’s how Laura Wifler felt, and until she was challenged by her sister-in-law, she didn’t know what to do about it. This article explains how she realized her faulty reasoning, and how busy mothers can (and need to) find sabbath rest.

That’s because our weekly rest isn’t about tightly kept boundaries, it’s about delighting and finding our joy in the Lord. As we spend our Sundays going to church with our fellow saints, taking time for personal Bible reading and study, or heading outdoors for a prayer walk, we deepen our dependence on Christ. As mothers, we can bring our children alongside us—telling them Bible stories, practicing Scripture memory, or bringing them with us as we visit the sick and needy—to teach them the regular rhythms of a believer and reveal a mother wholly reliant on God, not her own efforts.

The Unknown Stories Behind Three Well-loved Hymns

Sometimes the soil of tragedy produces the most beautiful flowers. This article by Mike Harland highlights three hymns that were written after great personal loss. While the third story here is familiar, I had not heard of the first two.

In all three of these stories, a circumstance of life confronts the child of God. And, in all three, God’s grace enables his child to trust the heart of the Father.

Life will confront us too. The songs we sing in the darkest of midnight will be the very songs that show the world the unwavering faithfulness of our Father who loves us so much.

The darker it gets, the more we should sing.

Summer Reading: A Grade-by-Grade Recommended Reading List for Kids

Justin Taylor has posted a nice list of books from Calvary Classical School. This may help parents and grandparents as they point their children toward the library or bookstore this summer!

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published a post I wrote: Obeying God’s Commands as the Body of Christ. Check it out!

Thanks to Maggie A and Phil A for helping me round up links this week!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Obeying God’s Commands as the Body of Christ

This part of the Bible wasn’t written for me.

I’m not an older woman, so why should I pay attention to Titus 2:3–5? I’m not a preacher, so what relevance does 2 Timothy 4:1–5 have for me? It almost feels like opening my neighbor’s mail.

The Effect of Individualism

We have a great temptation toward this thinking in the United States, as we breathe the air of individualism from an early age. Our sinful hearts hardly need any help, but our culture insists at every turn: be true to yourself, take care of yourself, believe in yourself. It isn’t long before our lungs are full of that toxic cloud and we lack the oxygen to think about others.

But God has called Christians to a different reality. We are the body of Christ, a people vitally connected to each other and to Jesus.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12–13)

The books of the Bible were composed for all the people of God. Even when a letter was written to a church or an individual, the intention was public reading and instruction for the whole church.

So when we say that a part of the Bible wasn’t written for us, we’re actually wrong. If the Bible applies to anyone in the body, it has implications for all of us. We must not check out.

We Need Help From Others

Christians readily acknowledge that we need God’s help to obey his commands. (Though we always do well to remember!) It’s easier to forget how much help we need from other saints.

We need others praying for us, encouraging us, and giving us counsel. We need to talk with older saints who have stood in our shoes. We need the bold, clear-eyed enthusiasm of younger Christians to strengthen our wills to do what is right.

Finally, we also need correction from Christian friends when we sin. A gentle, loving rebuke is not often what we want, but we should seek and embrace this discipline. (See Proverbs 12:1.)

We must also view this truth—that we need others—from the other side. Others need us too. The experiences and wisdom God has given us are not just for our benefit; they’re also for the church.

An Example: Husbands

Let’s look at an example from 1 Peter. This command for husbands is found in 1 Peter 3:7.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Husbands need the prayers of the saints to obey this command. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, husbands will not love and sacrifice in the ways God requires.

Husbands should also talk to married men and women of all ages and experiences. Though understanding and honoring one’s wife will look different from one marriage to the next, husbands can learn of helpful habits to develop and dangerous pitfalls to avoid through the counsel and stories of others.

Each husband needs a few close friends who will ask him difficult questions. Are you honoring your wife? How are you living with her in an understanding way? Good friends will remember a prayer request or a confession of weakness and ask specific follow-up questions the next week. These friends will offer encouragement when they see fruit. A husband may also need a loving rebuke when neglect or selfishness continues without repentance.

And, of course, husbands need to listen to their wives. A wife will know if her husband is working to understand her and live with her accordingly. She will feel the presence or lack of honor.

None of this help is easy or natural to give, and none of it is possible without the work of the Spirit within us.

Called to Obey as a Body

The key to this obedience in community is love. It takes seeing and experiencing God’s love to lift our eyes off ourselves and recognize our corporate calling.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15–16)

God didn’t call us just to each other, he called us to himself. Through the atoning work of Jesus, God has forgiven his people and the Spirit is working to change us. Though withdrawal may be our default mode—wanting neither help from others nor to give aid ourselves—we are no longer slaves to this sin.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24–25)

The wounds of Jesus have set us free and given us a new identity. We’ve been healed of our sin so that we might live to righteousness.

By God’s power, let’s do just that. Together.

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