While the chapels may be filled with lovers of the world who claim to be lovers of God, the divine Church of God is composed of those who are sold out for God and devoted to Christ and His cause above all else. As spiritual pilgrims on earth, God’s children still need jobs to work, schools to attend, houses in which to live, and money with which to buy things. However, they seek not the earthly treasures of this world but seek rather to please God daily with their affections, time, energy, and earthly possessions.
In the World but Not of It
A profound truth of living for God is contained in the prayer of Christ for His disciples: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:15-16). It was never God’s intent for people to physically withdraw themselves from society and establish villages and communes for the saints. Rather, Jesus desires for His children to go into all the world and let the light of truth shine brightly as they live distinct, holy lives free from the evil and influences that exist around them.
Definition of World
It is vital to understand the call and requirement to be separate from the world. The term “world” is used in various ways in the scripture. The world can refer to the physical universe that God created; it can refer to people in general, such as “For God so loved the world”; and it can refer to the rules, principles, values, and affections by which unredeemed people are governed and the objects of this life after which they seek. It is this latter definition that Christ invokes when He declares that His disciples are “not of this world.” People who are living and walking after the values of this world are not disciples of Christ, for Christians indeed are not of this world.
Hated by the World
Jesus stated without qualification that society in general would hate His disciples because they are not of the world. “I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19). The people of the world love their own but dislike the dictates of holiness and godly living. Therefore, if someone is loved by the world, according to scripture, he is one with it and not living the called-out life of a saint. Disciples of Christ walk in the law of holiness which is very dissimilar to the spirit and interests of carnal, unsaved people. “Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1).
Love Not the World
In spite of attempts to undermine true holiness by mixing and mingling principles of Christ with values of the world, the scriptural requirements and instructions are clear: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Christians must set their affection exclusively on God and never be governed by the things or unrighteous spirit of the world. The child of God must remain aloof from the influences of the world and abstain from the sinful, prideful, lustful, pleasure, honor-seeking passions and appetites. Love for the world and love for God are incompatible and cannot coexist.
“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 John 2:16). The scripture gives great clarity in those things that are of the world and not of the Father. The lust of the flesh is the desire for fleshly pleasures that are sensual and impure; including but not limited to drugs, alcohol, gluttony, fornication, etc. The world is rampant with immodesty. Wearing tight and/or revealing clothing in public is of the world and contrary to what the Bible teaches about modesty and simplicity. Makeup and jewelry are after the spirit of worldliness and facilitate lust of the eyes—that which gratifies the sight. Inordinate desire for finery, gaudy clothing, expensive and showy houses and cars is vain and not of the Father. The pride of life includes the spirit of ambition that seeks for honor and recognition of man. It is the desire for the accolades and grandness of the wealth and riches of this world.
These lusts and objects of worldly desire are not compatible with walking with God in humility and love. If one’s personality draws strongly toward these things, there is grace to overcome it to live pleasing to Christ. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).
Power & Wisdom of the World
2 Corinthians 4:4 teaches that the “god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.” There is great power and force in the things and spirits of the world. Many children of God have been overcome by dabbling with the things of the world and have lost their love for God. Sports, music, entertainment, and fashion are just a few of the gods of this world that people worship as modern-day idols, for they control people’s affections, time, and money. The greatest power of the world is not even in the things but in its philosophies and ideologies. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
Children of God must be watchful, or they will slowly but surely be swayed in their thinking away from the practical holiness of daily living. They can be robbed by listening to the rationale of carnal, ungodly people. The unredeemed teachers and instructors of our time claim a higher degree of knowledge and understanding and purport superior intellect and enlightenment by trivializing godliness and propagating a mindset of openness and inclusion to things clearly contrary to godliness.
The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth warning them in 1 Corinthians 3:19: “The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” The preaching of the cross is foolish to the world, but it is the power of God; and the “foolishness of God is wiser than men.”
(1 Corinthians 1:18-25). To whom are you listening for instruction and guidance? There is a clear agenda in society to draw people away from holiness. Beware, child of God!
There should be a great caution while living in the world not to be of it. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life” (2 Timothy 2:4). This includes the politics and causes of society. Very quickly a carnal spirit can take root in a “good cause” and violate the spirit and attitude that was once sanctified to God.
The church at Rome was challenged, as should be the church today, to present themselves fully to God and to “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2). More minds need to be transformed because there are too many Christians conforming to the world in purpose, spirit, and appearance; it is not acceptable to God. Powerful and true, James 4:4 reads: “Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” Regardless of the teaching of many compromised, religious leaders, pure religion is to keep “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
May the eyes of the spiritually blind be opened to the danger of the world so they may see the beauty of holiness. Dear reader, examine your life by the Word of God. Are your robes spotted with the world or can you with clearness of conscience before God say, “I am not of this world even as Christ was not of this world”? Are you willing to be different from the world, your family, and friends and to take your stand with Jesus? What will it profit you if you gain the whole world and yet lose your soul?
This world will soon pass away, and those that have followed it will suffer everlasting death and punishment; but eternal life awaits the child of God who is “not of this world” through Christ. ■