Formation to conformity: our formative journey

 

Dictionary.com gives 44 definitions for the word “form”, thirty as a noun and 14 as a verb.  “Form” is a key element of so many words in the English language.  By examining the word “form” and its derivatives, I would like to take you on a seven-step journey, from God’s formative power (whereby God creates and develops, then gives shape to His creation) to man’s ultimate conformity (when we are finally brought into complete harmony and agreement with God’s plan of salvation).

  1. God Forms – To Make a Mold or Pattern (God Creates, calls into being, etc.)

After the formless void was given structure and substance. In Genesis 2:7, we are told that God formed man from the dust of the ground, and that He formed out of the ground the beasts and the birds (Genesis 2:19). But, that was just the beginning of God’s formative efforts.  It is God who formed each of us in our mother’s womb (Isaiah 44:24), and He says that He knew us even before He formed us (Jeremiah 1:5). And the psalmist exclaims that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). But God’s forming power goes far beyond the physical. Psalms 33:15 says that it is He who forms the hearts of every man. And the state of our heart is important to God, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (Isaiah 16:7)

Yes, God forms, but then…

  1. Satan Deforms – To Make Ugly, Disfigure or Mar

Satan knows Scripture! He knows the Word of God, but he deforms it (by distortion and by taking the Word out of context) in an attempt to cause God’s creation to fall into sin.  Throughout the history of mankind, Satan has tried to deform man into his own corrupt form. And his favourite tool just might be doubt. After Jesus had been alone and hungry in the desert for forty days, Satan said to Him, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3)  Satan’s deformation (by distortion or misinterpretation) of the Word is an attempt to sow seeds of doubt. Even in the Garden of Eden, Satan was aware of God’s instructions to Adam and Eve, but he deformed that good word by saying, “Did God really say…” (Genesis 3:1)

God forms, and Satan deforms, but the…

  1. Prophets Inform – To Supply With Information (Teach or admonish)

God has frequently used prophets to inform His people, to show them the error of their ways, to lead them back to a right relationship and the correct path.  Jeremiah (the prophet) informed King Zedekiah that God had promised that he would not die in the siege of Babylon (Jeremiah 34:10).  When King Ahab tried to create an alliance with the king of Damascus, one of the prophets informed Ahab that God was displeased with his disobedience in allowing a defeated foe to live and that his own life would be forfeit in payment. (1 Kings 20:36-42)

Yes, God forms and Satan deforms. The prophets inform, but…

  1. Religion Performs – To do, Carry out, to act

Much of what passes for religion today is about performance.  If people perform well enough to mollify an angry deity, then their prayers may be answered, or they may earn enlightenment or an opportunity for a better future life. Scripture gives us many examples of performance. By the power of the Almighty, Moses performed many miracles before Pharaoh (Exodus, chapters 7 to 11). Eventually the Egyptian king was forced to admit that his magicians and sorcerers could not perform the same miracles and had to let the Hebrews leave. Not only did legitimate priests and prophets perform their duties but, we are told that “false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect…” (Matthew 24:24)

Yes God forms and Satan deforms. The prophets inform and religion performs. But there is hope because a Holy God calls sinners…

  1. Sinners Reform – To correct what is wrong, especially by removing some evil or abuse

We are called to obedience and admonished to reform our sinful behaviours, to abandon our wrong and evil ways of life and conduct. This call to reformation, voiced by a Holy God, was frequently through the prophet Jeremiah, who said, “Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place.” (Jeremiah 7:3).  Much of that entire chapter deals with God pointing out their errors and telling them how to correct their faults.

God forms and Satan deforms. The prophets inform and religion performs. God calls us to reform, but The …

  1. Holy Spirit Transforms – To change into something else (to metamorphose or go through an amazing change)

This transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit (the process of sanctification) is partly through our own efforts and partly through the miraculous intervention of God. Paul encouraged the Roman believers to abandon the influences of the world around them, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) Paul told the Corinthians that the veil Moses wore was no longer required. “And we … are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18)  Paul went so far as to say that transformation will go far beyond our behaviour and extend to our bodies. “And we eagerly await a Savior … will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:21)

God forms and Satan deforms. The prophets inform and religion performs. God calls us to reform, and The Holy Spirit transforms. But it is Jesus who helps us to be conformed.

  1. Jesus Conforms – To act in agreement with a standard, pattern (to make similar and to become like Jesus)

God expects a degree of conformity in us, but He desires that we be conformed to Him and to the likeness of His Son, not to a sinful and wicked world.  God chastised Jerusalem for her wickedness, “You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you.” (Ezekiel 5:7)  Paul said that God predestined some of us to be like Him. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)  Paul warned the Roman believers that conformation to the likeness and Spirit of God was possible only if we first ensured that we were not trying to also be like the world. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)  Peter had a similar warning. “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

So here is our seven-step journey of formation: from God’s formative power (whereby God creates and develops, then gives shape to His creation) to man’s ultimate conformity (when we are finally brought into complete harmony and agreement with God’s plan of salvation and we become one with our Saviour in heaven)

God forms

Satan deforms

Prophets inform

Religion performs

Sinners reform

Holy Spirit transforms

Jesus conforms us…

In the very beginning God created us in His image (our formation).

Part of that image, I believe, is the ability to attain holiness (our reformation).

Even though our holiness is attained though the shed blood of Jesus (our transformation), we must still live a lifestyle which reflects that holiness (our conformation). And this we can do if the ultimate goal of holiness (i.e. heaven) means more to us than anything else this life has to offer.

 

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