Several years ago a song was popular that spoke of Christians being in the world, but not of the world. That may seem like a strange concept, but actually it was a part of prayer Jesus made for us.
John 17:14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Most Christians wish that Christ would take us out of the world. Yet Christ did not pray that we should not be ‘in’ the world, but that we should not be ‘of’ the world. What does this mean?
I. Love Not the World
1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.
A. “The World”
Perhaps first we should clarify what we mean when we say –‘the world.’ The term ‘world’ can have at least meanings:
Sometimes people use the term ‘the world’ to describe creation. Is the Bible telling us to not love God’s creation? Doesn’t the Bible say that the heavens declare the glory of God? (see Psalm 19:1) Although God doesn’t want us to worship the world, He certainly doesn’t want us to hate it. Creation is a part of God’s gift to man and I believe that we should value creation and take care of it. When the Bible says- “Love not the world”, it is not speaking of creation.
Perhaps we should note that often when the Bible is making a reference to creation, it refers to the world as –‘earth.’ “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth…” (Rev 21:1) Biblically speaking, the world and the earth can be two different things.
2. The People in the World
Sometimes people use the term ‘the world’ to describe people. Jesus did.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
When Jesus used the word ‘world’, He was not speaking of the plants and animals, but rather the people who live on the earth. If God loves the people who live in this world, surely we should so as well. What then does the Bible mean when it tells us to not love the world?
3. The World System of Evil
The Greek word for ‘world’ is – kosmos which refers to an ordered system. For instance, if we spoke of the ‘World of Finance’, what would we mean? We wouldn’t be talking about another planet somewhere called Finance; but rather a system of finance. Or if we spoke of the ‘World of Politics’ we would be speaking of a system of politics. When the Bible says -‘love not the world’, it it telling us to not love the way the world goes about conducting itself.
Why should believers not love the world system? John tell us –
1 John 5:19 … the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. ESV
The problem with the world system is the one ruling it. The Bible says that Satan is currently in charge of this world’s system of doing things. Scripture calls him:
“the god of this world” 2 Cor 4:4
“the prince of this world” Jn 12:31
“the prince of the power of the air” Eph 2:2
Since the fall of mankind back in the Garden of Eden, Satan has been the ruler of this world’s system. His authority comes not from his ownership of the world, but by the fact that men follow his methods and schemes. Paul tells us that he is able to present himself as an angel of light. (see 2 Cor 11:14) Satan is able to make what is wrong seem right. Satan’s influence extends even into the world’s religions. Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day – “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do…” (John 8:44) Just because it claims to be religious or spiritual doesn’t necessarily mean that it is of God. John writes – “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.’ (1 John 4:1 ESV)
Satan is very powerful in his methodology; so much so that he sometimes entices God’s people to follow his guidance. As I have studied this subject, I have discovered a downward path Satan causes men to follow.
First, he entices us to LOOK at the world. The Bible says of Eve – “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3:6) Adam and Eve’s sin began with a look. The same happened to a young man named Lot. The Bible says that Lot – “lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain” towards Sodom. Long before Lot lived in Sodom, he looked at Sodom. Jesus said that if a man looks upon a woman to lust after her, he has already committed adultery in his heart. (see Mt 5:8) “Oh be careful little eyes what you see.”
After the look comes the LURE. James tells us – “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:14 ESV) Those who spend too much time looking will eventually be lured.
Thirdly comes LIKING. James refers to it as becoming ‘friends with the world.’ “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
Next comes LIVING. Lot looked and liked what he saw and thus he was lured into Sodom. The next time we read of Lot, he’s living in Sodom. The world has a powerful influence upon our fallen nature. It is for that reason that Paul writes to Christians-
Romans 12:2 “…be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
The Bible speaks of a man named Demas. The first time we read of Demas, he is a companion of the Apostle Paul. The last time we read of him, he isn’t. Scripture says: “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world…” (2 Timothy 4:10) Demas turned his back on the things of God in order to go after the world. Only the Lord knows how many professing Christians there have been who have followed the path of Demas. No doubt there have been many. The same can happen to any of us unless we follow the Lord’s command. Rather than allowing ourselves to be conformed by this world, we need to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Each and every day we need to allow Him to transform our thinking by His Word. Only then will we recognize and do God’s good and perfect will.
Lastly comes LOSING. Perhaps you’ve seen a bumper sticker that says – “He Who Dies With the Most Toys Wins!” That sounds funny but it isn’t. Jesus asked – “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mt 16:26) Hell will contain many a person who could not give up the world in order to receive Christ. Someone has wisely said: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”
B. Love Not the World
1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
God doesn’t love the world system of evil, and neither should His children. Rather than loving and embracing the world’s system, we are to come out of it and be separate. The Bible says –
2 Corinthians 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate , saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
What does it mean to come out form the world and live separately? Does it mean that we try to live like monks in a monastery? Jesus prayed:
John 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
Jesus didn’t ask His Father to take us out of the world. Christ wanted us to remain here until He returns. But why? Paul calls us Christ’s ‘ambassadors.’ “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’ (2 Corinthians 5:20) As the old song says, ‘This world is not our home, we’re just a passing through.’ But until we are through, we have a job to do. Christ has left us here in this world to be His ambassadors. He wants us to be ‘In the world, but not of the world.’
II. Love the World
Though we are not to love the world’s system of thinking, we are to love the people of the world. First we need to remind ourselves of God’s love for the people of the world.
A. God’s Love for the World
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Recently I heard someone on TV criticize the statement – “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.” This individual believed that if God truly loved him, then God would also love his lifestyle and choices. Yet Christ tells us something very different.
First we see that there are consequences to our choices and actions. Jesus spoke of ‘perishing’, as well as ‘condemnation.’ The Bible tells us that the wages (consequences) of sin is death. (see Romans 3:23) This death includes a physical death as well as a spiritual death. The Bible says: “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) Everyone is going to die someday and after they die, they are going to stand face to face with their Maker. According to Revelation 20:11-15, each will be judged ‘according to their works.’ Someone who sins against God and His holy Word will be judged and condemned for their actions and perish for eternity in a place called hell.
But God doesn’t want that to happen. Though God hates the sin, He loves the sinner. God loves the sinner so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we can be forgiven and receive eternal life.
The Bible teaches us that this is God’s desire for the whole world.
“For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16)
“God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.’ (2 Peter 3:7)
“He (Christ) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2 HNV)
B. Our Love for the World
1. A City Upon a Hill
Christ has not called upon us to be monks in a monastery, but rather a city set upon a hill.
Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus left heaven’s glories and brought the light of salvation to a world that was trapped in darkness. After He had completed His mission, He returned back to heaven where He today is seated at the right hand of His Father. But His work of bringing light in darkness still goes on. Today the church is His beacon of light in this world. We are His city that He has set upon a hill so that all the world around us might see the truth and be saved before it is eternally too late.
2. Therefore, Go Ye into the World
Jesus said: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) Go where? – into all the world. Do what? – preach the gospel to every person.
Recently I read a verse of scripture that I have not been able to get out of my mind.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Even into the time period known as the Great Tribulation, God will be extending His love to mankind. Not until His gospel has been preached to all nations, will the end of time come.
It is with this thought in mind that we offer up to God these Christmas Shoe Boxes this year. Our prayer is that God will use each and every one of them as a beacon of light to a child who is in darkness. Our prayer is that through these Shoe Boxes and the hundreds of thousands just like them, the world will see and understand that there is a God who loves them and who gave His Son to be a sacrifice for their sins.