by Stan Smith
In Jesus's High Priestly prayer (John 17) He prays specifically for a particular group of people. "I have manifested Your Name to the people whom You gave Me out of the world" (John 17:6). This particular group of people are those whom the Father gave Him. Now, there are a lot of observations possible about this group and Jesus's prayer for them, but I'm only looking at one piece here.
I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one (John 17:14-15).Here we see an interesting concept. Perhaps you've heard it before. If not, you will now. Those whom the Father gives to the Son -- the Elect, the saved, believers -- are "in the world but not of the world." You can see that clearly in Jesus's words. "The world has hated them because they are not of the world," He says. "Not of the world." But, He also prays, on this occasion of His soon departure from the world, "I do not ask that You take them out of the world." That is they are in the world, not to be taken out of the world. The prayer here is that the Father will protect His own while they remain in the world. In other words, it's not God's plan to save you and then remove you. It's His plan to save you then use you under His protection and with His power.
The phrase "not of this world", even though it is popularized by a Christian apparel company, is often lost on us. We know we live in the world, so we appear to take most of our cues from the world. We decide whether sex outside of marriage is fine based on whether or not the world says so. We determine what marriage is based on what the world says it is. We decide to choose a spouse, marry, and raise a family all based on the world's perspective on these things. Suggesting there might be another, different, better, biblical approach will likely get you laughed at ... at best. The world knows; the Bible doesn't -- even among Christians.
God's Word doesn't like this approach. Our command is "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2). The rather dire warning from John is "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). Now, we know we are to love our neighbors, so that's not what's in view there. What's in view there is the "things" -- the value systems, the "stuff", the belongings, the morality, the "things in the world". And yet so many of us -- all of us at some time or another -- if we are honest will find ourselves loving the world and the things in the world. We love our stuff. We love our belongings. We love their ways. Everyone knows, just as an example, that you go to school, go to college, get a good job, raise a family, work until you retire, then take it easy until you die. Why? Well, because that's what we do! We don't examine the source. We don't examine the motivation. We don't examine God's view on all this. We take the world's perspective and adopt it as our own. Why is it that surveys indicate that divorce is just about as prevalent in Christians as it is in non-Christians? They've adopted the world's values for marriage, for self-fulfilment, for personal pleasure and personal happiness. Our economics, our politics, our ethics, our family structures, our views of gender roles -- and on and on -- are so very often dictated by our surroundings -- the world -- rather than by God and His Word. We are working so very hard at being of the world as well as in the world.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Notice the biblical perspective of what we once were. When we were "dead in our trespasses", we were "following the course of this world." Notice also the further definition of this phrase. The course of this world is ruled by "the prince of the power of the air." Thus, if our course is derived from this world, it is the course set by Satan in opposition to God. (John 17:14-15).
May I make a suggestion? Just an idea, perhaps. Maybe just my own, if you will. But here's what I recommend to Christians. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Maybe, just maybe, deriving our worldview and determining our course of action from a world that is in opposition to God may not be the best option. I'm just sayin'. You know, in the world but not of the world. It might be a good idea to reexamine your lifestyle, your premises, your value systems, your worldview and see if it is "of the world" or not. Just a suggestion from one believer to another.
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I'm married with four grown children and (currently) four grandchildren. My wife and I live in sunny Phoenix by choice. I hope to encourage people with my words and to share with others what God has shared with me.
For more writings you can see my blog at birdsoftheair.blogspot.com.
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