Out of This World.
“The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.” – John 15:19 NLT
Let’s face it. We love to to be loved by this world almost as much as we enjoy loving all that it has to offer. The world can be an attractive place and there’s something inside us that makes us want to be attractive in return. Worldliness, once the bane of the Christian’s existence and a temptation to be avoided at all costs, has become not only acceptable, but fashionable. It is in to be of this world. Even as Christ-followers, we have this innate desire to be known by the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the homes we live in, the schools our kids attend, the country clubs we belong to, and even the churches we attend. To many of us, being worldly isn’t a sin, it’s just good business. It’s how you get ahead – in this world. But Jesus gives us a sobering warning in this passage. He blatantly informs us that the world hates us. Why? Because we don’t belong here anymore. When He chose us, He called us out of this world. Oh, sure, He left us here. We still have to live in this world, but this is not where we truly belong anymore. We have a home reserved for us elsewhere. Jesus told the disciples, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:1-3 NLT). Jesus never intended for us to make ourselves at home here. Getting comfortable and cozy with the world can be dangerous to our spiritual health.
Peter echoed this idea long after Jesus had ascended back into heaven. “Dear friends, I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world” (1 Peter 2:11-12 NLT). Did you notice what he said? It is worldly desires that wage ware against our souls. John gives some much-needed advice that our generation could stand to listen to: “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever” (1 John 2:1-17 NLT). Take a second to think about what he is saying here. If we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us. That’s a pretty strong statement, and one we tend to gloss over fairly easily. Loving God and loving this world are not only incompatible, they’re completely contradictory. As believers, we have three mortal enemies: The world, the flesh and the devil. Cozying up with any of the three is a sure way to threaten your spiritual health and destroy your effectiveness as an instrument in the Redeemer’s hands.
In the Garden just before His betrayal and arrest, Jesus prayed to the Father, asking Him, “They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:16-17 NLT). That phrase, “make them holy” can also be translated, “sanctify them.” It simply means to set them apart of consecrate them for a specific use or purpose. Jesus is asking the Father to not only set the disciples apart, but those who would be His followers in the generations to come. He goes on to pray, “Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth” (John 17:18-19 NLT). Again, Jesus knows that they are going to be left behind when He leaves. But He was not going to leave them alone or unequipped. Goud was going to provide them with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26 NLT). They were going to be left in the world, but they would be far from alone and far from defenseless. But they would have to constantly fight the temptation to blend in with and grow comfortable being like this world. Compromise and complacency are both dangerous tendencies that the believer must avoid at all costs. The risk of falling in love with this world is a constant reality for the believer. Our sinful flesh craves it. Our eyes are naturally attracted to all the shiny trinkets it places in front of us. James reminds us that the problem lies within us, not outside of us. “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away” (James 1:14 NLT). Our sinful human flesh wants what the world has to offer. Like a fish that can’t control its insatiable appetite, we are easily lured to our deaths by the things of his world that look so beguiling and appealing. But James warns us, “These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:15 NLT). The world is out to kill us, just like it did Jesus. The enemy is out to destroy us, just like he tried to do to Jesus.
In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis chronicles the correspondence between a senior demon and a demon-in-training. This mentor provides his young charge with some interesting and enlightening insights into the methods for destroying Christ-followers. “Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of really being at home on Earth, which is just what we want. You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old.” That is exactly what Jesus was warning His disciples about. And it applies to us just as much today as it did more than 2,000 years ago. Being at home here is not our objective. The apostle Paul sums it up well. “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ” (Philippians 1:27 NLT).
Father, I echo the prayer of Jesus. Keep me from this world. Don’t let me fall in love with all that it offers. Help me keep my distance and maintain my perspective. This world is not my home, I’m simply passing through. Let me live with an eternal perspective, not a temporal one. May I reflect my heavenly citizenship while I’m here – each and every day of my life. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men