The Christians relationship to the world
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. – 1 John2:15-16
The term “world”, often refers to the vast world system that exists independent of God (that is when we go out of our way without regard for God) and basically opposed to Him. It is how things in the world have operated ever since the first humans gave in to Satan’s temptation, disobeyed God and brought the curse of sin upon all of creation.
As a result of defying God, humankind gave up the authority over creation that God had originally delegated to them. Satan then seized control and began to dominate human endeavours (ideas and efforts) with his evil purposes.
This means that the “world” in its present condition is characterized not only by wicked immoral and selfish lifestyles, but also by a spirit of rebellion and indifference (apathy, unresponsiveness, lack of concern) toward God and His revelation. This attitude is characteristic of all humans and human endeavours that are not submitted to Christ’s leadership and authority.
Consequently, Satan uses the world’s ideas of morality, its philosophies and its social customs to oppose God, His people, His Word and His standards. Most of these issues and areas of life are not evil in and of themselves, yet Satan will work through any or all of them to promote taking lives, as with abortion, or educational systems may be used to nurture in students an ungodly and humanistic philosophy.
Or more subtly, the clothing industry can be greatly used to promote general habits of dress that would definitely bring shame and offense to those who live according to the standards given by God for His people. Christians must be aware that behind all human endeavours, apart from God, there is a spirit of power that moves against God and His Word in varying degrees.
Finally the “world” also includes all unbiblical religious systems and organizations that use the name of Christ or His family of believers, yet teach and encourage lifestyles contrary to God’s true church standards of holiness that are given in His Word.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO NOTE ABOUT THE “WORLD”
- Satan is the god of the present world system; he controls it, along with a host of evil spirits who work their destruction under his limited authority.
- Satan has long had a foothold in the world’s political, cultural, economic and religious systems that are inherently hostile toward God and His people. These systems and those who are part of them refuse to submit to God’s truth, which exposes their evil.
- The world and the true church (all genuine followers of Christ) are two distinct groups of people. The world is under Satan’s authority and control; the church belongs exclusively to God. For this reason, true believers must separate themselves from the ungodliness and corruption of the world.
- In the world, God’s people are aliens and strangers, simply passing through on the way to their true home with God.
They do not belong to the world, but are called out from it. As a result, they no longer conform to the world’s pattern. Instead, they despise the world’s evil, die to the world (become unresponsive to its influences) and are liberated from the world. Through a relationship with Christ, God’s people overcome the world and its evil.
Loving the world is a form of spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness that defiles our relationship with God and leads to spiritual destruction. It is impossible to love the world and God the Father at the same time. To love the world means to be closely related to and associated with its beliefs, behaviours and customs. It means being devoted to or accepting of its values, interests, practices and pleasures. It involves taking pleasure in or enjoying what is common in the world, but is offensive to God. While we are to hate the corrupt ways of the world, we also are to demonstrate God’s compassion for people who are spiritually lost, caught up in the world’s evil and blinded by Satan’s deception.
- Three aspects of the sinful world create open hostility to God and promote defiance against His Word:
“The cravings of sinful man”: this includes spiritually impure and immoral desires and the pursuit of sinful pleasures and sensual gratification (satisfaction in selfish and ungodly ways)
“The lust of the eyes”: this refers to coveting (desiring what belongs to someone else) or lusting for things that are appealing to the eye but forbidden by God or outside of His perfect plan. This includes the desire to read, listen to or watch things that offer immoral pleasure and promote ungodly ideas. In the present modern age, this includes being entertained by watching pornography, violence, ungodly conduct, nudity or immoral behaviour portrayed on a wide range of media).
“The boasting of what he has and does”: This refers to an attitude of subtle pride and arrogance that often comes with wealth, material blessings, positions of power, personal achievements, honours or other apparent successes. This can lead to a feeling of self-sufficiency that does not recognize God as Lord or His Word as the final authority. This attitude of the human spirit seeks to exalt, honour and promote oneself in life. It is the opposite of submission to God and His Word, and it defies the spirit of humility demonstrated by Jesus and required of His true followers.
- Christ’s followers must not be in close companionship with those who participate in the world’s evil system and corruption. Christians must be spiritual salt and light to the world, reflecting God’s character and love so that those who are lost in the spiritual darkness of the world can see the hope that is found only through a relationship with Christ.
- From the world, a true Christian will experience trouble, hatred, persecution and suffering. By various forms of temptations, enticements and attractions of the world, Satan makes a determined effort to destroy the life of God in the Christian and to ruin his or her relationship with Christ.
- The world system is temporary and will eventually be destroyed by God. Even now, it is in the process of passing away.
By contrast, God values self-control, a spirit of generosity, and a commitment to humble service. It is possible to give the impression of avoiding worldly pleasures while still harboring worldly attitudes in one’s heart. It is also possible, like Jesus, to love sinners and spend time with them while maintaining a commitment to the values of God’s Kingdom. What values are most important to us? Do our actions reflect the world’s values or God’s values?
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