Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Rom 12:2
Sometimes I have to write to think. And sometimes that writing/thinking is a bit rambly. Allow me to ramble a bit on those two words . . . “conform” and “transform”.
“Form” means to shape, and the “con-” prefix means together. “Conform” means to become similar in form or shape to something – to become like something else. We conform when we change how we look or act in order to fit in with the group. Conforming is an external process.
In “transform”, however, the “trans-” prefix means across . . . like being here and then being there . . . being this and then being that. Transforming means changing in composition or structure. Transformation is internal.One is changing how you look from the outside; the other is changing who you are on the inside. Notice also that “conform” is an active verb and “transform” is passive. Conforming is something that we do to ourselves, while transforming is something that is done to us.
Vocabulary and grammar are good things. They can shed light on our spiritual walk.
Let's say Jimmy has always been a good person, and he knows he's not supposed to lie. So, he tries to tell the truth most of the time. Sometimes it's painful – so painful that he doesn't succeed as often as he probably should. But nobody knows that, so it doesn't bother him much. He looks the part of an honest man; he has successfully conformed to the image of what society expects of him.
But then the day comes when Jimmy becomes a follower of Christ. Now when he lies (which still happens once in a while) he is genuinely grieved in his spirit – not because he's afraid he's going to go to hell, but because he has come to value truth, just for itself. He gets better at being honest and genuine all the time, and it's important to him in a way that it never was before. Not only that, it satisfies his soul in a way it never did before. He is becoming more like Christ. He is being transformed, from the inside.
The goal here is transformation, not conformity. (In fact, if you find yourself looking and acting too much like everyone in your church around you, you might want to check and be sure that you're not just wearing a mask to fit in. Real transformation by God will never result in cookie cutter Christians. Our God is a God of variety.)
All this to say: if I find that I'm am upset by the prohibition of a sin in my life, I am merely conforming. If I find that I am upset by the presence of a sin in my life, I am being transformed.
And, again, the goal here is transformation.
Thanks for the ramble.