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Not Of The World

The Lord Jesus in the World

The separation of the Lord Jesus was complete. This was achieved through His spiritual consecration to the Word of Truth - I sanctify Myself (John 17:17,19). He did not serve in any remote way. He had the closest contact with people, but was never defiled, nor did He at any time condone or compromise with the world's ways. The pleasures, pursuits, principles and plans of this age held no interest for Him. The potential danger of the world's evil was in the Lord's mind as He prayed for His disciples. Their safeguard was consecration to the Truth. The Word of Truth in the heart produces sanctification and fitness for serving the Lord. Its application in the life not only brings separation from the world but brings one into a position of viewing it from God's stand-point: so there can be manifested before men and women our relationship to the Father in a manner of conduct and witness that is honouring to His name.

Exposure to "Worldliness"

The Lord's works and words had so troubled the world it was glad to be rid of Him. Gloom filled the disciples' hearts; it was soon dispelled on their seeing Him again in His resurrected body. They belonged to the Father and the Son. They were now associated and identified completely with the Son of God. Still physically in the world they were not part of its ways. Their life was above (Col. 3:3). They were to live and be together for Christ in a unity showing to the world their common life in the absent Master whom they loved. His purpose and will was for their remaining in the world as His witnesses.

The cross of Christ has not only severed the believer from his and her sins but has brought rescue from this present evil age (Gal. 1:4). Separation is not narrow-mindedness but spiritual mindedness. All believers are called to a holy life, but the old sinful nature still will be there as long as life lasts. Scripture does not teach its elimination at the new birth. Separation does not make a person free from the possibility of sinning nor yet remove sin's presence. There is the need for constant confession and cleansing from defilement. God's call is for separation from the world's false religious systems and organisations - "this is the will of God, even your sanctification" (1 Thes.4:3).

Worldliness V Spirituality

Today, even among the Lord's disciples, there can be the scramble for wealth, power and possessions which sacrifices the principles of righteousness and truth. Sights are set on the horizon of fame and prosperity, taking the keen edge off spiritual life and witness. The indisputable conclusion of Scripture is that love of the world leads to carnality and enmity with what is spiritual. The apostle John was an exemplary shepherd of God's flock. He gives encouragement before warning. He realizes that although the "young men" may be overcomers and have gained a victory over the evil one, yet the tendency to go after the world can be a very real temptation. In his first letter (2:15-17) he teaches that the world should not be courted. It is by definition (a) the lust of the flesh, (b) the lust of the eyes, and (c) the pride of life. The reasons for separation are (i) it is not of the Father (contra "not of the world", John 17:14,!6), and (ii) it is transient.

The word "love" is agape, used in its biblical sense of a love not naturally characteristic of human attainment but attributed to the love of the Father for the Son. The love of those who belong to Christ is not to be placed in the things of the world, which consists of all that is hostile to God; it is the realm where the devil exercises considerable influence (Eph. 2:2,3). In it is that which prevents the believer loving God to the full. Physical gratification, covetousness and egotism are the desires of the flesh. The devil used, these temptations against Eve and was successful; he tried them against Christ and was defeated. The world is Satan's dominion. Its people have no time for those who do not think and act like them.

Involvement or Non-Involvement

The world is a foreign country to those who know the Father. They have a caring, a hope and a home which are heavenly in character (Heb. 3:1; Col. 1:5; 2 Tim. 4:18). The world's ways should be strange to the heaven-bound saint, its maxims cold and its friendship false. Seek the things ... above; set your mind on above (Col. 3:1,2). The apostle uses strong verbs in these two phrases. The thought behind them is to earnestly desire and constantly attend to. The danger to those in Colossae was of becoming bound by legalistic requirements and neglecting spiritual values. Their total aspirations were to be Christ-centred, not earth-centred. Life was not to be measured by codes of social conduct but by the Lordship of Christ. The world is the main tool by which the devil compromises and overthrows his victims.

Politics and Religion

The world is a most difficult place in which to live and work for the Lord. Yet in His wisdom He has left us to live normal working lives, sustain family units and abide in such by keeping divine precepts. The more one is in contact with the Lord, the less time there is for the world's interests. In the matter of politics (Greek polis - a city) it is important to perceive what lies behind involvement in the world's government and rule. Political activity is largely power-play by individuals convinced that their ideas are best for society. Any involvement with such activities is really participation; non involvement is separation. In this world the stranger/pilgrim character is what God looks for. The horizon is to be the eternal city - the heavenly abode which those who live by faith can call their "own". Many have endured torture, mocking, scourging, imprisonment, stoning, poverty, destitution and more for their stand of faith. This world has not been a worthy enough place to have such living in it (Heb. 11:13,38). The Lord and His disciples did not work through the political parties of their day. His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). Acts of Parliament never bring regeneration of the soul. The Christian's citizenship is in heaven. We are to be "ambassadors ... of Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20) from a heavenly court to a hostile land to testify of the Lord. The Lord Jesus was the Witness-bearer to divine truth which could only be perceived by faith-response to God's word. The worldly-mindedness of the Roman procurator, Pilate, gave him no conception of anything beyond this life - "what is truth?" he asked.

World politics and world religion will merge completely in the end-times of this present age. Two men will fill the world stage, one a cruel and ruthless dictator wielding widespread political power, a superman, the other a religious dictator who will be the first beast's sinister collaborator. Both are satanically activated and combine political and religious rule, a combination frequently noted in scripture and operative in the world throughout its history. Their charisma, cunning and craft will give them complete control of the financial and commodity markets of the world and also establish idolatry as the world's religion (Rev. 13). The patience of the saints of that day will be severely tested. Every ounce of spiritual stamina will be needed to keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus. God's call then as now is COME... OUT (Rev. 18:4). From the dawn of human history God has decreed separation for His people. It is an unchanging command; to set it aside courts spiritual peril. "Come out", "Stay out", (be ye separate) and "Keep out" (touch not) are concise yet obligatory for the people of God of all generations and so enable the Almighty to say, I will receive ... I will be ... ye shall be..." (2 Cor. 6: 17,18).

Membership of Unions and Associations

The daily employment of believers is to be characterized by the principle of "in" but not "of" the world. Membership of trade unions and professional associations must be examined as to the bond that exists between

leadership and membership and the extent of commitment demanded, along with affiliations with other groups and what these imply and possibly impose. These can be adjudged as "conflicts" for the disciple and effort must be made to ensure the principles demanded as a follower of Christ are not compromised simply to advance oneself at any cost in this world's arena of ambition. Unbelievers do not care about divine principles of behaviour and conduct. Where membership of a trade or business association impinges upon the liberty, devotion and loyalty of the individual saint, it should be strenuously avoided.

The New Testament presents the principles that should exist between employer and employee, using the servant-master relationship common in those days. Whatever the character of the work done, it is to be regarded as unto Christ (Eph. 6:5,7). This attaches dignity to the most monotonous and arduous labour. Servants are to be well-pleasing to their masters, showing all good fidelity (Titus 2:9, 10). Antagonism to employers' requirements because of opposing demands on its members made by an association or union would be acting contrary to scriptural injunction. Similarly, employers' own actions may violate

principles the believer seeks to follow. Christians are commanded to work and eat their own food where work is available and labour is possible (2 Thes. 3:10-12).

The words of divine authority spoken by the Baptist are often overlooked: Do violence to no man, neither exact anything wrongfully and be content with your wages (Luke 3:14). Discontent is a prevailing sin and to listen to voices attempting to foster such is no way to improve one's situation in life.

In religious and political aspects, as well as moral, the world can sap the spiritual affections and energies of the believer. The path of separation never has been popular: it is bearing the brand of the cross, and all who tread it will suffer reproach in some measure (cf. 1 Cor.4:12,13).

The fundamental principle of the believer's relationship to the world is stated concisely in 1 John 4:17 "as He is, so are we in this world". Identified and united to Him, the example He set in His attitude to and actions in the world are to be followed. The only involvement with unbelievers is presenting the claims of God's Word. Contact is vital; compromise, compliance and contamination are to be avoided.