In the World, Not of the World
Modern Worldly Christians
There is an old question that many evangelical Christians have probably heard, if they have been in the faith for very long. It goes something like this: "If you went on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you." The answer for many in this 21st century American culture is, sadly, "No!"
According to some surveys that were published by the American Culture and Faith Institute, we are living in a society today where only 1 in 10 Americans have a distinctly biblical worldview. At the same time, 46 percent of adults in our country claim to live a "Christian life." That is 100 million people! Obviously there is a disconnect from what the majority say that they believe and what they actually believe and practice.
Every poll taken shows that there is no measurable difference between how the world acts and the way the average American Christian conducts him or herself. Researcher George Barna, who also lead the study cited above, is quoted as saying: "Every day, the church is becoming more like the world it allegedly seeks to change."
Evangelical theologian Michael Horton has said: "Gallup and Barna hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general." Indeed, everything from divorce to racism can be seen in the majority of Christians just like, or in some surveys, more than the world. For instance white evangelicals are the most likely to object to having neighbors of another race living right beside them.
The sad fact is that Christians are both in the world and embracing it as well. And there is a great need for a revival among the people of God. This begins by first knowing what the Bible means when it talks about the world
Christ's Prayer for His Disciples
I. What is the World?
Obviously, the Bible says that Christ's followers are not to be a part of this world. Jesus, in his High Priestly prayer in John 17 asked the Father with regard to his disciples:
"But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 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. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me"
The Apostle John took this notion even further by telling us that if we love the world then the love of the Father is not in us (I John 2:15).
1. The Godless World System
But how can we not be a part of this world? We were born here, we have to live our lives here and we have to interact with people who have very little or no regard for the God whom we love and serve. Obviously Scripture is not referring to the glorious world or universe that God created in all of its pristine glory and beauty. After the Lord created the Heavens and the earth, in Genesis 1:31 it tells us:
"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the sixth day."
There is so much that we can experience on this earth that can be enjoyed and God is perfectly all right with it. Indeed he expects us to find pleasure in it as long as it doesn't transgress his will. The Apostle Paul tells us: "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
When the Bible talks about "the world" it is the Greek word cosmos. In this context it is referring to the world system that stands opposed to God.and that functions apart from his will.
2. Satan: The Ruler of this World
. God's Word tells us that Satan is the "god of this age" (II Corinthians 4:4). He is called "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). Satan, or the Devil, is the evil power behind the anti-God movement in the cosmos. Before we were saved, we were under the control of Satan and his forces (I John 5:19). However, God the Father has: "rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13).
The bottom line is that Satan is a defeated foe. And he will one day be judged, along with all that belong to the evil world system that is all around us (I John 16:8-11; Revelation 20:10).
Those who know Jesus Christ as Savior were once slaves to sin and Satan but now we are slaves to Christ and righteousness. There is no middle ground. As singer Bob Dylan has said: "You gotta serve somebody!" (Romans 6:15-23).
I once read about the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863 during the Civil War. It was an order to free all the slaves. The masters could no longer legally hold them captive and force them to do their bidding. The interesting thing is that, rather than going free, many of the slaves chose to return to their masters and live out their lives as their slaves.
It seems strange, but many Christians have chosen the same thing when it comes to Sin and Satan. They choose to place themselves back into the world system that has held them captive and was destroying them. Their old master, the Devil, did not have their best interest at heart but they continue to choose Him and the way of the world.
By doing this they have also chosen to shirk their responsibility to the world that Christ has given us and have left them without a real witness. But what did Christ say was our duty? Let's look for a moment at this issue.
Don't Love the World
II. What is Our Duty to the World
Throughout history many Christians have made attempts to separate themselves from the evil system by monasteries, or they stay in Christian communities within their local church. They just totally remove themselves from sinners as much as possible in order to live a righteous life. That, however is not what Jesus and his Apostles did. They knew that they couldn't reach the world if they stayed away from those who needed the Lord. Jesus himself became known as a friend of publicans and sinners (Luke 17:31-34; Matthew 11:16-19). He even left the splendor of heaven to become a man and to dwell among us and be one of us in order to save our souls (John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8).
Jesus didn't live like the world. Rather he pleased the Father and demonstrated to the dark society around him what it's like to live under authority to the Father. He remained close to the Father, and lived to do his will.
So the answer for us in the 21st century is not to seclude ourselves from those who don't love God, but to get to know them like Christ would and live like Jesus did among them. We are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).
Salt acts as a flavor enhancer to make food more savory. At the same time it keeps food from spoiling in a world without refrigeration. Christians are to enhance the flavor of life in this world by demonstrating how to live holy lives, separate from sin. This should show to the world around us how good it is to follow the Lord. At the same time we are to preserve the world from the evil that is in society. We are to influence the world for good as we lead our lives for the Lord.
And if you've ever been in a cave devoid of light, you know that if someone lights a match, immediately you are drawn to the only light in the cave. It can be so dark you can feel it and you can't see your hand in front of your face. But the minute someone lights the match, the darkness is dispelled. In the same way we are to dispel the darkness of sin by pointing people to the light of Christ.
However, we cannot be the salt and light of the world if we have, as a whole, lost our saltiness and our light has grown so dim as to barely be noticeable. If we compare ourselves to flashlights, the batteries are getting weak and need to be recharged by the power source, the Holy Spirit, who lives in us. But we must plug ourselves into his power and let him work in us.
So we've come full circle. We need Christians today who are fully committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and to his mission to bring the world back under his Lordship. We are failing in America today and it is truly a shame that the society is falling apart as a result. Many non-Christian groups claim to have the light of truth but no one is seeing the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
As I've said earlier, we need a revival in this country and we need it soon. But it starts with Christians being Christians and living out their Christianity before a searching world. I pray that every believer who reads this will rededicate their lives to Christ and to winning souls for him. And let us do it for the love of our neighbors and for the glory of God!! May we light their way and show the savor of a life lived for our Savior.
© 2018 Jeff Shirley