Do not love the world or the
things in the world
Where is your home? Where do you vote? Register your car? Receive your tax refund? Have your legal residence? For the most part we all have an address, a citizenship in a country, a place where we can feel at home in this world. And we may be very attached to, and patriotic about, our city, state or country. But the spiritual world is a different matter. Is our spiritual home the same as our worldly home? Where should our affections be? Let's take a journey through Scripture and see what the Bible says about the believer's relationship to his physical home and what is his true spiritual home.
The Christians True Home
One of the most comforting statements Jesus ever made concerns the true home He is preparing for His own. "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3 NKJV). When I lived in Italy, I knew servicemen who got married in the States and went to Italy in advance of their new wives. They would get the apartment all set up and then have the wife fly over and join them. Jesus has gone to our true home in advance and is preparing it for us. Someday He will bid us personally to come to Him or He will bid us all to come to Him and we will fly up to join Him.
Even before we get to the place Jesus is preparing for us, God has already declared that our citizenship is officially there. The Apostle Paul tells us in Phil 3:20 (NKJV), "Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." This statement had an immediate meaning for the Philippians, since they had been declared by the Roman government to be citizens of Rome. This status was bestowed upon cities that Rome wished to honor for some service. So, even though they lived in Philippi, their citizenship was in faraway Rome. Similarly, our true citizenship is in heaven, though we live out our lives on earth.
Because of this difference in where we live and where our true home is, we are declared by the Word of God to be foreigners here on earth. Peter says in 1 Pet 2:11 (NKJV), "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." And Jesus says in His high priestly prayer, "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world" (John 17:16).
Not only are we foreigners in this world, but we have an official purpose here. Paul gives us the purpose when he says, "Therefore, we are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, because God pleads through us; we implore on Christ's behalf: ""Be reconciled to God""(2 Cor. 5:20 HEB). An ambassador is an official representative of his king or government to the king or government of another land. We are official representatives of the King of Heaven to the earth. We do have our residence here, but we are to represent our home and culture, not get too immersed in the local culture.
The Ruler of the World
Usually, ambassadors of one government to another countries are well-received and welcome there; but the ruler of this world is hostile to us. The ruler of this world is not presently God, but Satan: "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out" (John 12:31 NKJV). John says that "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19 NKJV). He is also called "the god of this age" (2 Cor 4:4).
In this case the sovereign of the place where we are ambassadors fights against us, according to Paul in Eph 6:11-12 (NKJV): "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." These are sobering words, but they set our task firmly and clearly before us.
Although our adversary would seem to be too powerful for us, we are given an impressive weapon, namely the Holy Spirit. "You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4 NKJV). Notice that this statement by the Apostle John promises us the victory.
The World's Attitude Toward the Christian
It would be bad enough to have the ruler of this world against us, but according to John again, the inhabitants of this world are also against us (John 15:18-19 NKJV): "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." Some ambassadors serve in countries where the general populace is against them. They have to be constantly vigilant against terrorist attacks, kidnapping, or assassination. While our situation in the world as heavenly ambassadors is not always that physically dangerous, the attitude of the world is always opposed to our King and His will. And it is getting more so in this self-centered, godless age.
Peter tells us that the world's inhabitants are out to drag us down into the mire of their evil practices. "For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles; when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you" (1 Pet 4:3,4 NKJV). Most believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have experienced what Peter is talking about.
Why are they opposed to us? John explains it: "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19 NKJV). The sovereign Lord we represent is pure goodness and light (1 John 1:5), and those who are in the world reject His light.
The Christian's Attitude Toward the World
The ambassador who is a foreigner in the country where he temporarily resides should naturally not get too comfortable. Even in the political arena, ambassadors are not permanent. In our spiritual realm John reminds us the same is true. "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. For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17 NKJV). Unfortunately, this happened to one of Paul's companions and co-workers, causing the Apostle to leave this sad comment for us: "...Demas has forsaken me, because he loved this present world" (2 Tim 4:10). The world and its principles and practices is the very opposite of what we are and represent as children of the Father and as representatives of His will for the world.
When we love the world, we can become conformed to its thoughts and attitudes. Paul warns about this when he says, "…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom 12:2 NKJV). The admonitions on this topic are many. James warned "that friendship with the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4). And he said that one should "keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). Peter told his readers, "you have fled the corruption which is in the world through lust" (2 Pet. 1:4). Paul's statement should close the question: "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14 NKJV).
The Christian's Responsibility To the World
We already have seen that we are to be ambassadors of Christ to this world. But what are our specific responsibilities to this world that hates us? Jesus' followers should always be "...the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14 NKJV). Paul amplified this in Phil. 2:15 (NKJV): "...that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." We, as children of God, should be different from those to whom we represent Christ. We should be like Christ so that they can see and glorify Him. We saw part of a statement from the Apostle Peter before, now let's look at all of it: "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Pet 2:11-12). We must be glorifying God in this world, otherwise we are not fulfilling our purpose.
Of course, as part of glorifying God in our conduct and walk, we are given the task of making disciples for the Lord Jesus Christ from among the world. We are told in Mark 16:15 (NKJV), "And He said to them, ""Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."" This gospel is the good news of Christ's death and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-8). When we preach the gospel from a platform of honorable conduct, we fulfill our purpose as ambassadors and representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Christian's True Focus
The Apostle Paul clearly establishes what our true focus should be in Col 3:1-4 (HEB), "If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking those things which are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep setting your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." We should be focusing on Christ and His work, not on the world and its activities and pleasures. It is our tendency to get too comfortable here where we live. But Paul says it is not about our comfort, our happiness, our rights, or our fulfillment; rather, according to 2 Cor. 5:15 (NKJV): "those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." As a friend of mine said, "the Christian life is not about me, it is about God."
Let's draw some conclusions out of what we have seen from Scripture:
We are 'recruited' out of the world (the kingdom of Satan).
Then we are named ambassadors from Christ to this kingdom of darkness (without ever having seen our true home).
We are then strangers and pilgrims in this world.
We are not to allow ourselves to be polluted by this world.
Our business is to represent Christ in this world, not to get comfortable or infatuated with the world.
Our focus and affection should be on heaven, our true home.
What are some of the problems of living in the world for the Christian? First, it is all we have ever known. It is difficult sometimes for us to keep the perspective of a home we have never actually seen. Second, there are things we like about the world. We should just face this fact honestly and then deal with it. We too often enjoy and focus on our possessions, entertainment, relaxation and fun activities. And don't forget, Satan tries to be a good host; he says, "Make yourselves at home!"
So how do we combat our tendency to be too much at home? First, we must examine our lives to see if we are really focused on living for Christ. "And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:15). Then, as in most spiritual battles, we must take up our sword, the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). One way we can do that is to memorize appropriate Scripture verses like the ones we have looked at in this study. Another helpful tactic is prayer, particularly the prayers Paul prayed. You might want to start praying every day the same prayer Paul used for the Ephesians in Eph. 3:16, "that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man." Finally, we should make it our practice to specifically adopt the attitude of the song,
This world is not my home,
I'm just a passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me
From heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home
In this world any more.
"This World is Not My Home"
JR Baxter, Jr.
1946, Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Co. in Sentimental Songs.
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