In the World but not of the WorldAugust 22, 2021
So what does it really mean to be “in” the world, but not “of” the world? How do we decide which shows we ought to watch, which environments we ought to avoid or which activities are “out of bounds”? It may be helpful to examine these questions from the perspective of location and information:
I often think about the all too familiar expression many of us quote as scripture: We are called to be“In the world not of the world.”
This notion is consistent with the teaching of the New Testament, even if it isn’t a direct quote:
If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
It seems that Jesus understood the tension we would experience as Christians living in a place but not be motivated by what others were motivated by.
The fact that you might be in a locationwhere your Christian worldview is being challenged is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, God may have placed you there so you can have a positive impact on those who don’t yet know Jesus, or at least learn more about the culture so you can influence it later.
“In” the World: It’s Our Point of Location
1 Corinthians 5:9-10
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.
Paul was right when he said that we would have to leave the world altogether if we wanted to truly separate ourselves from immoral, “worldly” people.
The apostles did not sit down and say, “Now what are the issues that need to be addressed in the Roman Empire?”
The apostles did not set out to change the world
They simply set out to tell the world about the Christ who had changed them.
And through proclaiming Christ, lives were transformed, churches were planted, and the world was changed.
Bible scholars say a more accurate rendition of Jesus’ command to “…go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19) is, “…as you go, make disciples of all nations…” Wherever we go as God’s people, we are to be making disciples.
Here is how God’s work gets done in this world: We are the means. Christ is the message.
The work of God gets done by his chosen instruments
who act in obedience,
even when they are afraid,
who are filled with the Spirit,
who know and love the Bible,
and are able to open it, and who point others to the Jesus who can change the world.
As you go
It means that we are to become disciple makers as a way of life.
Whether we are going to work, to school, to shop or to play, we are to be making disciples.
This changes the way we look at our lives.
We become aware that every relationship is a potential opportunity to talk to them about Jesus and invite them to respond to Him by becoming one of His disciples.
We have been authorized by Christ’s “authority” to represent Him to the world.
We are His “ambassadors” (2 Cor. 5:20), making disciples for Him everywhere we go.
The calling to make disciples as we go, is a calling to be “everyday missionaries.”
There is a driving school somewhere around Augusta that uses bright, shiny-red Mustang with two signs printed on the back.
The first sign is the name of a driving academy and a telephone number.
The second sign had three simple words: “DRIVE THIS MUSTANG!”
It was quite a contrast to the driving schools in my hometown; their cars are nondescript, uninteresting vehicles, and if the academy put a sign on their cars that said, “DRIVE THIS CAR,” everyone would laugh.
“The car represents the academy in two ways:
The sign represents the academy in words, People who see the Mustang will know all the information they need to contact the academy,
But the car itself is a representative of the academy, the Mustang itself is the real advertisement. People who see this car will say, “That is the academy I want to go to!”
In the same way, we must be the “advertisement” for Christianity both in our words, and in our lives.
Our words tell others about salvation which is to be found in Christ.
But our lives must be an advertisement for Christianity as well; when people look at our lives, they ought to say, “That’s a life I want to live and if that’s what it means to be a Christ follower……. I want that!”
The words and the deeds must go hand in hand. One without the other is pointless.
This is consistent with Christ’s command to be His witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Our going to make disciples begins right where we are, right in our own “Jerusalem.” But it doesn’t stop there..
Never forget all the nations that are
People from around the world have come to our country.
Look for them as you go.
Remember the Lord’s command to go towards them in your disciple-making.
And all of us should be praying and giving , so that the nations are reached with the gospel both those living abroad and right here.
Jesus wasn’t an isolationist. He was constantly moving around the community, gathering crowds, bumping into people, rubbing shoulders with notorious sinners, going to parties with tax collectors, sharing life lessons with prostitutes, and offering grace and more grace to anyone who wanted it.
But he was also clearly:
The authors of the New Testament also encouraged us to continue our relationships with the world around us, but to be careful to live in a way that pleases God, not the culture:
1 John 2:15
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
If “In” the World: It’s Our Point of Location…..
“Of” the World: It’s Our Source of Information
We have to be aware that the repeated exposure to the worldview expressed in most of the media and influencers around us is having an impact on my worldview as a Christian.
Our influences change the way we think if we’re not careful.
That isn’t always the case, but I know there are definitely times when I’ve caught myself repeating some questionable phrase (or embracing some ungodly concept) simply because I heard (or saw) it repeatedly in some movie, video, or series of conversations.
It’s one thing to be located in these environments; it’s another thing to draw from them as a source for information and behavior. I’m less concerned with my point of location than I am with my source of information.
We’re “In the world” when our decisions are influenced more by a godless philosophy than a God-centered one.
When we think materialistically, as though this world is all there is;
Or when we think humanistically, as though we are sufficient without God’s influence;
Or when we think naturalistically, as though there isn’t a supernatural empowering available to us from God…
Those are the world’s influencers….. then we’re being worldly.
God’s strategy is insulation and invitation in which
We insulate ourselves with the truth of God’s Word
Then carry that truth into the world with us inviting others to join us.
John 17:15-17 in the CEV version…
Father, I don’t ask you to take my followers out of the world, but keep them safe from the evil one. They don’t belong to this world, and neither do I. Your word is the truth. So let this truth make them completely yours.
And how do we do that effectively? Two simple steps…
We are not better. We’re just better off through the grace and truth of God.
Robert E. Coleman writes that he once “heard a missionary tell about a boy who appeared at a mission hospital in Kenya with a gaping wound in his foot. He had been accidentally injured while cutting grass far out in the jungle. Part of his heel was cut off. Without waiting to inform anyone of the mishap, he set out across country to find the mission station where he had heard medical help was available. Every time the little foot touched the sandy earth it left a faint trace of blood. The journey was long and difficult, but at last he arrived.
A little while later the boy’s mother appeared. The doctors were surprised that she found the way. There were no well-defined trails, and she had never made the trip before.
“How did you do it?” she was asked. The dear woman, overjoyed to be with her child, replied, “Oh, it was easy. I just followed the blood!” (Robert E. Coleman is Distinguished Professor of Evangelism and Discipleship, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary).
I’m less concerned with my point of location than I am with my source of information.
I often place myself in locations where non-Christian cultural worldviews are strong.
My job forces me into situations that are challenging and I am still curious and adventurous enough to choose locations that are unfriendly to Christianity.
We must however step away only when we recognize the environment is starting to change the way we thinkor are influencing others.
For me I back off when I realize my point of location has become my source of information.
Crucified to the World — and Raised to It
Jesus’s assumption in John 17 is that those who have embraced him, and identified with him, are indeed not of the world. And now his summons is our sending — we are sent into the world on mission for gospel advance through disciple-making.
Jesus’s true followers have not only been crucified to the world, but also raised to new life and sent back in to free others. We’ve been rescued from the darkness and given the Light not merely to flee the darkness, but to guide our steps as we go back in to rescue others.So let’s revise the popular phrase “in, but not of.” Christians are not of this world, but sent into it. Not of, but sent into.
Don’t Hate This World
Keep in mind that just because this world is not our home, that doesn’t mean we should despise it. We can still enjoy the world , such as the beautiful creation God has given us. However, there is a dangerous darkness here that we must avoid. The world’s values are not the things Jesus values. The world’s pleasures are not the pleasures of an Ambassador of Christ, tempting as they may be. Personal pleasure is no longer our goal in life, as it once was, but rather the worship of God and living our lives as light in the dark.
Make every effort to live, think, and act like an Ambassador for Christ’s Kingdom, for you are princes and princesses of that world—not this one.