Jeremiah 10:1-5 (ESV)
Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel.  Thus says the Lord:
“Learn not the way of the nations,
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
 for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
 They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it cannot move.
 Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
neither is it in them to do good.”
Judgement on Judah is coming. The die is cast, but even as close as that day is, God still holds out His hands to His people by way of commandments to stop their sin. The chief sin of the house of Israel, of course, is idolatry and that is what is constantly mentioned. But chapter 10 opens up, not with a command that the people not commit idolatry, but that they do not become like the nations around them. This amounts to the same thing of course, but what it tells us is how the country was able to fall away from God so dramatically. They wanted to be like everybody else. They got entranced by the ways of those around them.
This had always been Israel’s problem. From the days when they insisted to Samuel that they get a King “like all the nations” (I Samuel 8:5, 20) they have looked around and been enamoured with what they saw. God had warned them about it (see Deuteronomy 12:29-31 as one example). By the time the Old Testament closes not even the religious leaders are aware of how entrenched in sin they are (read all of Malachi).
Defining conformity to the world is a little like nailing Jell-o to the wall. Just when you think you have a handle on it, it slips away or proves to be a stupid thing to try in the first place. The numbers of people who were raised in strict “fundamentalist” homes can tell stories ad nauseam about the rules that they were raised under in an attempt to keep them from becoming worldly. The famous four sins are often quoted: dancing, movies, smoking and drinking. Stay away from those and you are not conformed to the world. Now that the generation raised under such legalism is setting the rules it seems that there are hardly any rules to set. What is conformity to the nations around us anyway? In this passage we see two prominent things.
The first we have already mentioned. Idolatry. Do not chase after the gods of the nations around you. That we should not leave Christianity for all the other religions and philosophies that are available is obvious. But look at the other mark of conformity to the world in Jeremiah 10:2. “… nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them.”
This probably refers to the astrology of the nations. They read the stars and the omens are not good. This makes them very afraid.
The mark of conformity to the world is fearing what the world fears, fearing the future.
Our hands are in the hands of the sovereign Creator of the universe. We do not fear as others fear. Of course we do to want bad things to happen to us or our loved ones, but Christians are not to be a people who look into the future with dread. And the reason we do not is that we know our lives are in the hands of the One who is in real control and He loves us. Economic downturns will not make us panic. The dreaded diagnosis from the doctor will not cause us to lose hope. Hear the Psalmist in Psalm 11:
Psalm 11:1 (ESV)
In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
“Flee like a bird to your mountain,
Note what the Psalmist says. Why should I run in fear in light of the current crisis? Do I not hide in God and is He not my refuge? Is this not what Jesus purchased for us on the cross? Faith in a sovereign God that can sing with the Apostle Paul:
Romans 8:31-39 (ESV)
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
How conformed to the culture around you are you? When money or health or physical safety or peace or __________________ are threatened, do you react like the world? Does fear grip your heart? This is conformity to the world. This is idolatry. Idolatry fears the future because what it hopes in weakens. We hope in God and He never weakens. Therefore we will not fear. We don’t need to.