Have you ever wondered why God leaves you on earth? Have you ever wondered why you might live in a place you do not want to live or work in a place that you do not want to work? There are many times we want to escape our circumstances and our surroundings but we need to have a bigger perspective on our lives and how God is going to use them no matter the difficulties we are facing.
We are going to talk about Abiding in the World but when it comes to defining the word “World” in the Bible there are several definitions and some authors have even given sixteen definitions of the word “world” in the Bible. I am going to break the word “world” into just three categories to simplify the discussion.
- Physical World: includes everything that was created. (Acts 17:24)
- Human World: all of humanity. (John 3:16)
- Moral World: Those who are hostile toward God. (1 John 2:15-16)
Although this is a simplistic way of speaking we have to understand when we read the Bible what is meant by the word World in the passages that we are reading. As followers of Christ we are called to be in the world but not of it but we have to know what exactly that means. One of the prayers that Jesus prayed for all of those who would follow Him is that God would not remove them from the world.
John 17:14-1814 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. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
Jesus is asking that we do not get removed from the Physical world even though we are not a part of the Moral world. Jesus came into the Physical world to save the Human world from the Moral world. There seems to be two different extremes when it comes to Christians and even the Christian church.
The first extreme is to look so much like the world that they see that “Christianity is cool” or that “Jesus is a good guy” or something along those lines in order to try and introduce people to Jesus. Although they may have a pure heart and good intentions sometimes people begin following the wrong view of Jesus and eventually leave Him when things are said they do not agree with. (See John 6)
The other extreme is that we separate from the world so that we do not allow it to influence us in any way therefore removing any influence we may have on the world. God did not call us to be monks in a monastery where we hide ourselves from the temptations of the world. Although there may be time of retreat for spiritual introspection the fact remains God called us to be in the very world where the temptations exist.
The problem with both of these approaches is that they do not resemble the prayer of Jesus or the life He lived. 1 Corinthians 5 says that we should not hang around immoral people that call themselves Christians but we have to hang around immoral people who are not believers. Matthew 9 shows us Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners showing that we are not to remove ourselves from the world. Jesus has called us to be in this world and if we are going to be ready for the world there are a couple of things we have to know that the Bible says about our impact on the world.
1) To Impact the World you have to be in the Word
“I have given them your word” We have already talked about abiding in the Word of God a couple of weeks ago so I will not go into great detail but we cannot forget that God’s Word was given to us for correction, reproof and for doctrine (how we should live) (See 2 Timothy 3:16). We are branches in the Vine (john 15:5) and we have to be in God’s Word for the nourishment we need to withstand the heat and the storms that life can throw our way. The World can deceive you into its philosophy of life and the only way we can make sure we are not being deceived or pulled away is by being in God’s word. In Jesus prayer it is clear that the gift of His word is important for them to be able to stay in the world and not be affected by it so we must also take the prayer of Jesus seriously by staying in His word.
2) You will be hated by the world
“The World has hated them because they are not of this world” Churches that are trying to make Jesus acceptable to all will struggle with this statement by Jesus. We think sometimes that if we just present Jesus a certain way or if we do not act like “Certain Christians” that we will be able to be liked by the world while still being a follower of Jesus. The reason that we will be hated by the world is because Christians should have different priorities than those who do not follow Jesus Christ. It is our allegiance to Jesus and not the things of the world that will put us at odds with them. We will not love the same things they love. We will not focus on the same things they focus on. Our views will be different and so will our priorities and that will make us hated by the world. Even the fact that I say that everyone is not right with God can be a point of contention or that Jesus is the “Only Way” is viewed as wrong. (John 14:6)
“Thou shalt not criticize another person’s life choices or behavior. Our public square is rapidly devolving into a place where sharing opinions, especially those that make another person uncomfortable, is off limits. (Good Faith, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Pg. 108)
The world says look out for number one but Christ says to put others above yourself. The World says and eye for an eye but Christ calls us to forgive. Christians that try and make “Jesus Appealing” have a tendency to take away from the Jesus in the Bible and what He really said and meant. (Jesus spoke some difficult things) The reason for the hatred is because we are not to conform to the world’s ways.
“Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth” Sanctify means to set apart for a sacred purpose and we are separated for the sake of the world. As we are in God’s word we will be more and more set apart from the rest of the World as we read and take to heart what God is called us to be. Your actions will cause others to notice that you are different and they will act different around you, may be drawn to Jesus through you or even hate you. If you are asked to change the numbers for a business report and refuse you will be hated. If everyone is picking on someone and you choose to love and accept them for who they are you will be hated. We live in a society that says “Live and let live” but the reality is they are pushing an agenda on people that if they do not buy into then they get criticized and even hated. It’s the word of God that develops our conclusions about Marriage and Gender but to say that those things are wrong in today’s society is quickly becoming hate speech.
I want us to understand that if our goal is to be popular or to be liked Jesus tells us that if we abide in His word and by His word then we will be hated. (Even by some Christians) The Early Christians suffered broken families, loss of Jobs and hatred simply because they believed that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah that was predicted in the Old Testament. They were hated by religious people who were looking for the Messiah to come. Matthew wrote his gospel with his Jewish brothers and sisters in mind in order to help them understand Jesus met all the Old Testament prophecies and was truly God in the flesh.
John 8:31-34 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave[b] to sin.
If you ever watch drug or alcohol intervention shows you will see people who think they are free but are really in bondage. They do not see that the drug or alcohol has now trapped them in a lie that is destroying their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Everything that God calls a sin works the same way in that people who believe that they are free are really in bondage (prison) to that sin. Sin is a bondage that can only be broken by Jesus Christ but many people do not believe that they are in bondage. Hebrews 11:25 tells us Moses would rather be mistreated than give into the fleeting pleasures of sin. Sin is fun for a time and it lures us into thinking that it is providing something without any consequences. Whether it is overeating, overdrinking alcohol, taking too many prescription drugs or even living a carefree sexual lifestyle eventually people see that those things have led them to bondage and not freedom. Most people say that Christians are in bondage because they think that the restrictions God gives us are there to take away our fun but in fact they are there for us to enjoy life to the fullest. Who has more freedom the person who disciplines themselves to eat healthy or the person who has allowed food to control them to the point of being in a bed full time? The restrictions God ask for us to follow lead us to freedom not bondage.
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
People are in bondage because they do not have the truth and they believe that the world does. Only as we live out the truth in our lives will the world see the truth. If we do not live out the truth then where will people go when they realize they have believed a lie?
3) You have to stay in the world
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world” We sometimes talk about how we wish Jesus would just come back and get us and we quote Revelation 22:20.
Revelations 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
I know I have said that many times but I think there are times that Christians get and escape mentality from the very world that God has called them to reach out to. Jesus, God in the Flesh, came to earth to reunite us back to Himself and we are left on earth for the very same purpose.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Most people do not believe that they are separated from God because they have the wrong view of God. Because they believe God loves the world they think that they are on good terms with God. Are you on good terms with everyone you love or is there some issues that are separating you from having a relationship with them? Just because God loves us does not mean that we are not separated from Him. Jesus came to reconcile us back into a right relationship with God and so that alone tells us that we are separated from Him. Also Christians are left to reconcile other people back to God which means the problem of separation continues to this day.
One of the mistakes I believe churches have made is creating so many programs that we have no time to be in the world. We have made church about entertaining the saints rather than equipping them for the world. We ask if the children have fun in bible study instead of what they learned. Was the worship music great, was the sermon too long, and did everyone have a good experience are more of our concerns in churches than if God’s word was taught and was God glorified. No matter how good we make our service and how appealing a sermon topic may be the only way we can reach the world is by being in it and not separated from it.
“Increasingly, in a “post Christian” society, unbelievers will simply not make their way into our churches, no matter how “attractive” we make them….”Nones”, as they are called, do not casually make their way into churches- for any reason. We have to think of them as we would people of a completely different religion.” (Gaining by Losing, J.D. Greear, Pg 29-30)
America has changed and we can either complain about it or be prepared for how God is going to use His church to bring people back in a relationship with Him. You need to realize you are on mission to tell others about Jesus being the only way. In order for them to be reached with the truth we have to realize that we are God’s instruments to be used in the world because they are not coming to church.
John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
The People we are around need to know about Jesus Christ and God has placed them in our lives for that very reason.
“We think of missionaries as God’s “super servants”, Jesus’ Navy Seals. The word “Missionary” is never used in the Bible, however, not even once. That’s because all of God’s people are sent, all of God’s people are commanded to go. There is no “special class” of sent ones. So the question is no longer if we are sent, only where and how.” (Gaining by Losing, J.D. Greear, Pg 34)
If you are on a travel team then be on that team with a bigger purpose than just competing. Parents have you ever thought that the parents right around you may be hurting? Have you ever thought that one of them may have just received divorce papers or a bad report from the doctor? Is your coach someone that needs to know about Jesus? If we will realize that God has placed us around certain people for a reason than it will change our outlook as to why we are there.
The Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” F. H. Henry
Will everyone accept the good news? Of course not but our job is to share. People are not going to church in America like they used to and so we have to see ourselves as being sent by God to reconcile people who are separated from Him.
How can I be on Mission?
- A) Be in God’s Word every day
- B) View everyone as being in your life for a reason.
- C) Pray for everyone you work with. (Pray for 5 People)
- D) Look for opportunities to love others and share about Jesus Christ.