The Christian in the World

Dear BPCWA worshipper, The Christian must have the right view of the world to live rightly in this world. The Bible tells us, “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” (Jn 3:16).  Yet, God reminds us that “the whole world lieth in wickedness.” (1 Jn 5:19). So are we to love the world or shun it as evil?

Do you think the world is evil? We live, walk, see, and talk every day in the world so much that we’ve gotten accustomed to it. Yes, we’ll admit that some pockets in the world aren’t good, but we may feel that to “generalise” that the whole world is evil (same word for wickedness in 1 Jn 5:19) is going too far and kind of extremist. Then either Christ is wrong to say that the entire world lies in wickedness or you are right in defending the carnal world system and the ways of the unrepentant ones and hence are taking the world’s side. If you don’t see it or feel the evil in the world, it is because your eyes of judgement have been clouded. God cannot be wrong. Hence, He would expect us to take sides with Him on this matter and not sit on the fence because “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jn 2:15). This is a very strong statement, isn’t it? It certainly leaves no room for believers to be neutral or say “well, you have your opinion and I have mine”. Child of God, judge honestly within yourself whose side you are on. Why do I harp on this point? Simply because unless you agree with God that the whole world lies in wickedness, you will never keep yourself away from the evil in the world. In fact, you will get intertwined with the evil in the world, all the while denying that it is evil. This is a sad and sorry state for the Christian. But what is worse is that such a Christian hurts the testimony of Christ.

Why is the world evil? The world order runs under the direction and based on the values of the wicked “Chief Operations Officer” which is the “prince of this world” (Jn 12:31, 16:11) and the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), i.e. Satan himself.  Hence, worldliness is referring to the ungodly character of the world, and what the world thrives and runs on. The statement, “the whole world lieth in wickedness” refers to “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ”. The word “world” is kosmos, i.e. the arrangement and collection of the values, pursuits, principles, systems, and practices which constitutes the world. What is the character of this worldly system and what value does it propound? God tells us the answer, “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” (1 Jn 2:16)  This refers to anything that is carnal and appeals to the flesh and pride. By this, it doesn’t mean that the processes are evil. Just take the financial world for example. The mechanics of the accounting system of credit, debit, ledgers, and balances, are not evil in themselves. And economics isn’t evil either. But underlying much of the philosophy that fuels the world systems are sinful in nature. The insatiable desire to get more and more gain. So, what is evil is what drives the financial systems of the world? The desire to feed the lust of covetousness and avarice (the love of money, which is the root of all evil) to feed our other lusts.  The world thrives on fulfilling the fleshly lusts and carnal pride. It will never promote the glory of God or His Kingship over man. The world seeks hedonistic enjoyment and pleasure, and what is right or permissible is defined by their standards of getting what they want to help them feel good. This is the lust of the flesh. Businesses are often run by marketing which promotes the lust of the eyes. The desire to possess or own this or that, or to look like this or that. This is so integrated to all the world systems that we take it for granted. Unknowingly, Christians can easily imbibe these into our “systems” too.

How should Christians be not of the wicked world? Firstly, it is not to leave the world and live an ascetic life on an isolated island. Christ came into the world, but He was not of the world, and He expects His disciples to walk in His path. Simply put, to not be part of the sinful world system is to accept God’s values and standards and embrace them with childlike faith. We can read these verses about the all that is in the world is not of God, but yet find it so difficult to accept God’s call for us to avoid worldliness. Because we find the world and all that is therein so attractive to our flesh, such a call seems ridiculous and unnecessary to obey. Unless the Christian rejects the charms and resists the convincing of the prince of this world about how harmless this world is, he will be deceived. That is why Christ answered Nicodemus that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). Nicodemus was a “master of Israel” (Jn 3:10) and very familiar with the Scriptures but he needed to humble himself to accept God’s teachings in its absolute totality. He must no longer impose his own fleshly thinking and worldly standards which he has gotten used to, upon spiritual truths (Jn 3:6). Christ teaches about the gulf between the world’s thinking and God’s standards when He says, “light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn 3:19). On the other hand, the description of a believer is one who “doeth truth” and “cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (Jn 3:21). The Christian who is not worldly not only knows what God commands – he also does what God commands with joy because he knows he is being pleasing to God. In the light of God’s definition, does He see you as a worldly Christian?

Ultimately, we must remember that when Christ died for you, it was to “called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” and be part of His people in His church. This is the very meaning of the word “church” in Greek (ekklesia) – an assembly of Christians called out from the world which lies in wickedness to be His witnesses.  To fulfill God’s purpose for our salvation, we must then be people who “are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (Jn 17:14). Christian, leave no doubt in your mind that God expects you and I to be people who are different and “not of the world” as we live in this world.

Yours in our Lord’s service,