Summary: Being in the world can feel like an alien experience. Do we hide under sheets and hope not be detected? Do we marshal our forces in order to "not be part of the world"? Or does Jesus mean more when he says, "Be in the world, but not of it."
It was a favorite movie of mine when I was a kid. I can remember it being the first movie I cried during. The movie was E.T. If you have seen the movie (or even if you haven’t) there are some classic scenes that will be remembered.
Elliot cutting his finger and E.T. healing Elliot’s finger saying, “Ouch.”
Elliot and his friends riding their bicycles in the sky while the FBI tries to capture E.T.
E.T. building a communication device in the words saying, “E.T. phone home.”
If you remember the movie, the premise was simple. Disguise E.T. and misdirect attention from him long enough until he can get home again. I want you to keep the movie E.T. in mind as we wrap up this sermon series.
Over the last six weeks we have been discussing what the Christian phrase “Living in the world, but not of the world” really means. In the process we have been addressing some tough topics. We have been discussing some cultural criticisms leveled at Christ’s bride, the church. And we have talked over that time about ways we should respond as people separate from the world. We have been asking, “What does it mean to be in the world, but not of it?” When we discuss the phrase, we can feel like strangers; like aliens.
The impression we could get is that to be in the world is akin to being stuck in the world. We may even feel like our best strategy is to marshal our greatest strength to avoid being detected as part of the world; to be a kind of spiritual separatist movement that is simply waiting for the mothership to bring us home.
Is that what Jesus means by “in the world, but not of it”?
Today we are going to look at the words of Jesus himself as we conclude this series.
John 17 begins with this.
17 After Jesus said this,
What had Jesus said? The gospel writer is referring to what Jesus has said in chapters 13-16. In John 16, Jesus is talking to his disciples and he has told them “in a little while you won’t see me anymore. Then you will see me.” The disciples are confused by this talk and they express it to one another. “What does Jesus mean when he says he is going to disappear and then reappear?” Is Jesus talking about some spiritual magic act?
Jesus reads the confusion in their hearts and he explains to them in different terms what is about to take place. He reveals to them in plainer terms about his upcoming arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection. Jesus reveals to them that when he rises again, he will return to his Father.
The gospel tells us the disciples’ response (16:29-30)
His disciples say….
9…“Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”
They aren’t responding to the prediction (which they clearly still don’t understand.) They are responding to the fact that Jesus KNEW they were confused. In essence they say, “You can read or hearts Lord and that makes us believe that you came from God.”
Listen to Jesus response. This will be important as we discuss being in the world, but not of it.
31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
It is clear that the follower of Jesus is going to experience trouble while IN the world. Our beliefs will conflict with culture. This is Jesus’ prediction for his own disciples. In this world you will have trouble. And we have seen over the last few weeks that this is true in today’s world as well. But Jesus tells his disciples to take heart, to have courage when trouble comes.
Why? Because HE has OVERCOME the world. When troubles come, we should remember that it is JESUS who overcomes the world!
When conflict with the culture of the world comes, it is easy to get discouraged. Sometimes it feels like the world is winning. I hear it all the time…I have people tell me “The world is an evil place….the world is messed up… it’s not like it used to be.” Despite our efforts, the world seems to be getting worse, not better.