ARE WE OF THIS WORLD?
Rom.12: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Jn.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.
The word “world” refers to the world’s systems and thought patterns. We are still physically in this world but we must not be of it. This does not refer to sinful habits like smoking or drinking or drug use. This is much more insidious. We as followers of Jesus should avoid the systems of this world and come out from among them and be separate. And just why is this important? Because when we are participating in the fallen world’s systems we cannot be following Jesus. And eventually the church itself falls prey to that compromise and becomes a moral and political lighthouse rather than a gospel witness.
Look at what Jesus prayed in verse 14 of John 17. This business about how we as believers see this fallen world is very serious business. No suppose for a moment that Jesus never intended His followers to get involved with politics. Suppose He never intended His followers to run for elected office. Suppose He never intended His followers to be in the military. Suppose He never intended His followers to be capitalists? Just for a moment suppose those statements to be true and contemplate the implications of those intentions from the Master. If indeed they are all true, then who is following Jesus today in America?
Let us go on. Suppose Jesus never intended His followers to complain about money. Suppose He never intended His followers to be entertained by that which is evil. Suppose He never intended His followers to create an entire music business. Suppose He never intended His followers to join hands with unbelievers. If indeed these are all true, and I suggest no one can even debate these, then who is following Jesus today in America? And in the light of all these statements, does it even matter anymore to church members if they are following Jesus anyway? How many actually take a month or a week or even a day and fast and pray and earnestly seek the face of Christ about these matters?
The western church structure is much like the Roman Catholic structure. Most church members like their pastor and will believe most of what he says. Most pastors are friendly and quite persuasive and somewhat gifted oratorically. And most local churches are designed to foster a feeling of community and they provide an array of activities. Their children’s ministry and youth ministry help to cement the loyalty of the family. It has become quite the sophisticated phenomenon. But how many churches actually address the statements I offered with sincerity and passion? And if we suppose that all the statements I offered are true then how many churches are following Jesus? This isn’t some philosophical musing. This goes to the very heart of what it means to believe in and follow Jesus. Do we not even think that is important anymore?
You see my brothers and sisters, suppose that the entire American church construct in practice and belief is not following Jesus at all? Yes by God’s grace some sinners come to Christ and yes by God’s grace most churches have some sort of a missions program, but suppose the essence of what the church believes and practices is not following Jesus? Those are hard words to even consider and many will reject them out of hand. Many will see them as hateful or self righteous and with that they feel comfortable in dismissing them altogether. But that would be a mistake. The evil one strives with great passion to keep people content in their present spiritual situation. What he fears most is when a believer truly begins to see Christ and place everything they thought they knew on the Spirit’s surgical table.
But just suppose that everything that has evolved into the western church mindset and practice is significantly in error and even though many people are redeemed children of God they are not following Jesus at all. And instead of following Jesus we have integrated religious substitutes. Instead of elongated season of prayer we send up a few sentences several times a week. Instead of fasting we don’t. Instead of being hungry for the Word we have our little devotional materials. Instead of being dramatically different than our neighbors we are very similar. Instead of partaking of the Lord’s Supper every week we have a schedule to observe it which includes a well organized system so that the “service” does not run too long. Instead of the church leadership being a humble collective we have our pastor who has a “salary package”.
I know, it sounds so fanatical and unrealistic and, yes, even critical. I know. And to be honest, it brings a little fear into people’s hearts. We love to be content and we resist change, especially change on such a great scale. To step back and truly seek God’s face in all these matters is a daunting task especially since most believers have never really experienced a spiritual passion which literally captures their present reality and drives them for weeks. In the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind people who came in contact with the alien ships were driven to seek a large mountain. They could not explain why but they could not stop either. They had an experience which changed them forever.
But that kind of experience is foreign to the average pew dweller. When we speak of fasting and praying in the morning and evening watches most professing believers are clueless. They have their lives, they have their jobs, they have their faith, they have their families, and they have their churches. Even the suggestion of a deep and sacrificial seeking of the Lord with everything on the table will get you labeled as a troublemaker. In fact, sadly, in most cases it soon become clear that if you are going to seek God with repentance and humility and openness you will have to do it without a church. That is a very painful journey.
At first it is a novelty to leave the church structure. At first your flesh desires you to feel self righteous and superior. But after the initial shock wears off you realize that any hint of self righteousness will keep you from Christ. And then there is a painful lack of former fellowship. This journey is not easy nor pleasant sometimes, but little by little the Spirit rains manna down to feed your soul. And then once in a while you receive a deeper glimpse into the Person of Christ. It comes on the heels of a deeper revelation of your own sin and helplessness. But you suddenly realize just how hollow all your doctrines are without a personal revelation of the Lord Jesus. That, my friends. Is manna indeed!
This post is meant to shake our faulty foundations. None of us are perfect, and just leaving a church structure is no basis for pride. But can you not see that a wrong structure and a wrong practice and a wrong system keeps us from following Jesus? We are to have some fellowship with lost sinners in a spirit of the gospel. We are to be law abiding people within this fallen culture. But we must view this culture and this government and this country as enemies of Christ and enemies of our spiritual walk. How can light and darkness become partners? But let all things be done in love which is another monumental task. And let us remain uncomfortably humble.
This quest, this journey of ours is not just a journey to find Jesus. It is in a real sense Jesus Himself. It is a glorious mystery which is easy diverted and misled by the things of this world. The depths of this journey are only limited by the depths of the Lord Jesus Himself. And the depths of Christ are infinite. So unravel the grave clothes and come forth from that tomb and walk in life, in resurrection life, or in other words walk in Jesus. There is no other life.
Or we can remain of this present world which will always be death.