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Building up believers and the New Testament church

In the World But Not Of the World

Called Out of This World

When we talk about "the world," what do we mean? Probably most of us realize that we are not referring to rocks and trees and oceans. Consider these scriptures: "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (I John 5:19). "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" (Romans 12:2). "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God" (I Corinthians 2:12).

From these and other scriptures, I believe we can say that "the world" is the whole of mankind and the system which mankind has built, separate from God and outside of Christ. It is characterized by sin and lawlessness, and is under the influence of Satan. Throughout scripture, "the world" is constantly seen in opposition to God and what He is doing.

When Jesus came into the world, He made it very clear that He was not a part of this world. "You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world" (John 8:23). He said that He loved the world, and came to save the world. The world lies in death and sin, and one day will know the wrath of God. "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth" (Revelation 3:10)."Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth" (Revelation 16:1).

Although God will one day in the future bring His wrath upon the whole world, He has already pronounced His judgment on the world for all to see. He did this at the cross of Christ. "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out" (John 12:31). The apostle Paul said, "But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).

We may think of the judgment as the verdict before the sentence is carried out. God's judgment on this world is final, however, and the wrath is sure to come. This is the time of mercy when those who desire to be with God may choose Him and separate themselves from this world. The only hope for those who do not avail themselves of God's provision in Christ is the wrath of God. But God is longsuffering, "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).

The fact that the world has already been judged has tremendous implications. When a judgment has been issued, there is no further discussion. There is no more debate, and no more effort to change the situation. To try to change the world or to work within the system of the world is to try to work where God is not working. God is not trying to uphold a standard of righteousness in the world or its system. God is not trying to change the world system.

To try in our own efforts and our own wisdom to do something when God is not with us is futile. It is to be like Israel when God told them not to go across the Jordan into the Promised Land. If they had gone when God told them to, God would have been with them, and they would have succeeded. But when they tried to go on their own, they were completely defeated, and God was dishonored even by their attempts.

We must see something of the character of God in this matter. God always works from a place of victory. He does not struggle with one arm behind His back. Christ has won the victory, and the devil is a defeated foe! The verdict has been pronounced on his end and his whole domain. There is only one question before us: "Who will come out of this world into Christ?" Every man has a choice. If we do not choose Christ, then we choose this world. And if we choose this world, we choose to be under the influence and control of Satan. God does not force that choice. Based on that choice, however, the end is sure. Those who choose Christ will be with God forever. Those who do not choose Christ and His authority will be cast from His presence into eternal judgment and the wrath of God against all ungodliness.

From our point of view, it is hard to accept this "black and white" verdict. We tend to think that things cannot be that bad, and that surely the world can be made a better place in which to live if only we try. But will we be honest with God's verdict, or will we bring in our own wisdom? "For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.' Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (I Corinthians 1:19-21). Paul goes on to say that he preached "Christ crucified," and that the answer lay in the message of the cross "which is the power of God to salvation."

What is the message of the cross? Part of the answer is that the world has been judged, crucified with Christ, and that every man should separate himself from the world and its system. When we speak in this way, some would interpret this view as not caring, and not being willing to stand against evil in this world. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Rather, we are saying that in standing against sin and the evil one, we must stand God's way, not in our own wisdom. The way to stand is to stand in Christ. We are not called to fight but to stand. Christ has won the victory! Our place is to separate ourselves from this world, and stand victorious in Christ. This is where God is working and this is where we are to be found. We are not disinterested bystanders, but victorious participants. We are standing in Christ--outside the camp, separated from this world, and bidding all who will hear to come out and separate themselves unto Him. There is nothing to fight about. The battle has been won at Calvary! Glory! What rest and peace this brings to our hearts. It is a place of strength and victory.

If we do not see what Christ did at Calvary, then we will be pulled down to Satan's level and continue to fight on his ground with his tactics as though the victory had never taken place at Calvary. If we do, we will be defeated, because God is not in it and we are no match for Satan on his ground. He will always win, keeping us in turmoil and completely useless to God. But why would we fight a defeated foe? What is there to gain? Christ said, "It is finished." Do we know what was finished? May God open our eyes to see things from God's perspective, and then to move in His victory by faith. In that place we are "more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37). In that place we have entered the rest of God and ceased from our labor as God did from His (Hebrews 4:10).