What are some of the practical expressions of what we have been considering? First of all, we must know that any allegiance or relationship with this world which causes us to compromise with the authority of God in our lives is wrong, and should be broken. If we do not break the relationship that is pulling at us, it will eventually pull us down, and may in the end cost us our own soul before God. There can be no divided authority in our lives. Christ must be Lord in reality. We can only have one citizenship, and that is a heavenly one.
Secondly, we are never called to fight by earthly means to uphold an outward standard of righteousness in this world. God is not doing that, and we are wasting our time and effort trying to do so on our own. Even where an outward standard is upheld due to laws, this does not make a man more righteous in God's eyes. There were many injustices in the time of Jesus--including slavery, abortion, heavy taxes, etc., but nowhere do we see that Jesus either by teaching or by example encouraged His disciples to get involved in the Roman government to change these things. He directed them to do exactly the opposite! He also did not encourage them to bring in democracy in order for everybody to have a say. The church is not a democracy, and democracy is not God's answer to sin. The government in the church is a theocracy (God in control of every man), and God's answer to man's problem is come out of the world and get into the church, under the rule of Christ.
We are commanded to let our light shine before men so that they will see God in us (Matthew 5:16). We also are called to be salt and light. Salt is that which affects and brings a good flavor where it is applied. Light illuminates the darkness so that things can be seen as they really are. To be light and to be salt are active places in God, but both are done as we are "about the Father's business" without becoming part of this world's system or using natural means.
Jesus is our perfect example. He affected every situation, spoke under the control of the Father, and yet never compromised or became involved in man's systems. On the contrary, He did not entrust himself to man because He knew what was in man. "It is enough for a disciple to be as his Master" (Matthew 10:25).
Questions may come to us about the place of human government. Are we not commanded to pray for it? Are leaders not set up and put down by God? Yes, we are commanded to pray "for all men...that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (I Timothy 2:1,2). Then is not God in control? God is still God, and He is working many things which are beyond us or our involvement. God only leaves Satan loose for His purposes, and when He chooses, Satan will be bound and Christ will rule this earth with a "rod of iron."
When we pray, we acknowledge the sovereignty of God over all, but that does not mean that God has called us to do everything that He is doing. Our calling is to display the love of God, show forth His mercy, give an expression of a heavenly life which shows forth the character of God, make disciples of all men, do good to all and especially the household of faith, and allow ourselves to be built together in the Body of Christ and the household of God. These and many other things form a full calling. In essence, we are to be about the Father's business today, as Christ was. Today we are the Body of Christ, to do the will of God on earth. None of these things in our calling require us to become involved in the system of man.
In the prayer of Jesus, we read these words: "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world" (John 17:15,16). There is a big difference between being "in the world" and "of the world." Men have always struggled with this, and it cannot be worked out with our natural minds.
Some have taken themselves "out of this world" by moving to a very remote place away from all contact with people, in order to be more pure before God. In this place, they are no longer salt and light. There is no fragrance of a heavenly life among men; thus they are of no use to God. Others, trying to be salt and light, have joined themselves to the world to be a "witness." In so doing, they compromised, and the salt lost its flavor. Both of these roads are natural; both are equally wrong.
How can I be in the world and not of the world? Only by the power and wisdom of God. It takes God's life working in us and the constant leading of the Holy Spirit. There is no pat answer, no rulebook. Jesus went to a wedding feast and glorified God. Another time He stood before a high ruler of the land and opened not His mouth. One time He forgave a woman caught in adultery, and another time He picked up a whip and drove men out of the temple. How can we divide? How can we know when to do what? There is only one answer, and that is an intimate, ongoing, real relationship with God by the Spirit. It leaves us on our knees, utterly cast upon God for the next step. He is the one who knows all. Our place is to be under His authority, speak when He speaks, and work where He is working.
If we are working where God is not working or speaking when God is not speaking, we are wasting our time and effort, and it will only be "wood, hay, and stubble" in the end. Who wants that? We all want to stand before God and hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant." God wants us to be under His control in every situation. If we are, God will control every situation He leads us into. The reason God does not control many of our circumstances is that God has not led us into them. Thus we are on our own, not knowing the grace or wisdom of God. The solution is to repent, get out of the situation, and get back on a solid footing in God.
One way we can test this is by the peace of God. He always leads us in His peace. When we are being controlled by God, it is a place of inward rest. We may earnestly contend for the faith delivered unto us, but always in a place of inner peace and confidence before God. Remember, God works from a place of strength to strength, victory to victory.
Another way to say the same thing is to say that Christ has called us to "abide in Him." He is doing the labor. He is building His church. We are called to abide in Him. This is a place of rest but also a place of diligence. Abiding is not drifting. It is active faith, keeping ourselves in the love of God. If we abide in Him, we will find ourselves separated from this world and actively involved in doing the will of God. We will find ourselves "outside the camp" of religion (man's efforts to please God) and outside the world's system. But at the same time, we will find a true godly care working in our hearts, and the Lord will be sending us down to a well to speak to a woman there, and tell her all the things that she ever did.
Again, there is no pattern, no rulebook, and no way to work it in our own energy. Every weapon is spiritual, and our place of discipline before God is very real. The calling is great, but He gives the grace. His leading will be according to the pattern revealed in the scriptures, for God never contradicts Himself. Scriptures do not substitute for the Holy Ghost, however, for our God is a creative God, full of surprises. His ways are not our ways, and we cannot predict how He will move. We must have ears for God so that we can be led.
Brethren, these few words are directed to those who have an ear to hear, and to those who may be confused over the constant cry we hear today to "get involved and change the world." May the Lord open all of our eyes to show us how and where to get involved so that we do not waste time and effort. The time is short, and we need to be about the Master's business.
May the Lord show each one of us what it means to be "in Christ," so that we can move in faith and please Him.