Summary: The cosmos opposes God and is condemned by God. This “world system” is society organized without God and against God. At best, He gets a back seat. The cosmos puts people at the center of all things instead of God. Belonging to Christ involves a radic
“Up Against The World” Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
“I have given them Your word, and the world hates them because they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that You take them out of the world, but to protect them from the evil one. They are not part of this world any more than I am.” &John 17:14-16
In this day and age we’ve got more laws yet more lawlessness; more information yet less wisdom; more wealth yet fewer values; more power and yet greater weakness. Why is this so? Because we are up against the world.
The Greek word (for “world”) used these verses is the familiar word “cosmos”, which is the material world; but used in Scripture, it refers to our fallen human race. As such, the cosmos is alienated from God; its wisdom and values contrast with God’s. The cosmos opposes God and is condemned by God. This “world system” is society organized without God and against God. At best, He gets a back seat. The cosmos puts people at the center of all things instead of God. The cosmos says that we are our own basis of authority, making morality a relative concept. Dr. Francis Schaeffer warned, “If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.” Arbitrary values form our self-centered cosmos.
Jesus is not of the cosmos; He came to the cosmos, but the cosmos rejected Him (John 1:9-11). His Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). John writes in the Bible’s most familiar verse, “For God so loved the cosmos that He sent His only Son...” Although Jesus came to save, not condemn, His coming to the world brings judgment upon those who refuse His love. To escape God’s wrath, we cling to His love.
How do we relate to the world? I know what it’s like to live in a foreign country, where I didn’t quite “fit in”, even though I learned the language. This is the relationship of Christians to the world. We’re aliens; we live “in the world” physically, but were not “of the world” spiritually. Our true citizenship is in Heaven. The world is not our home! The world has its own system of values; in contrast, God’s absolutes form His Kingdom Law...and our joy comes as we follow God’s Law. Our joy puts us in opposition to the world; it sets us apart. When we know who we are in relation to God, we know who we are in relation to the world.
Being a follower of Jesus means choosing convictions over comfort, over family, over material things, over safety. Worldliness is going to the world to get our needs met. Belonging to Christ involves a radical breaking with the established order. We no longer live by the world’s standards. We’re driven by our convictions, not the world’s consensus. We can’t be at home where Jesus was homeless. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect; we fight sin in ourselves, rather than celebrate it like much of the world. Paul urges us to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:12). Thankfully we’re not alone in our struggle--we have the nurture and encouragement of our extended family of believers. If you’re struggling, your help is likely right here in this church--a fellow struggler who can help you through the tough times.
How do Christians endure the pitfalls of this world? Like an astronaut or deep-sea diver, we depend on outside resources to survive. Because we live in a deceived and deceiving world, our possession of the truth of God’s word is critical. It is not our word, but God’s that overcomes the deceitfulness of the world. As we hide this word in our hearts, it keeps us from falling into sin (Ps 119:11). God’s word is our sword in the spiritual battles of life. It is our nourishment in a moral wasteland.
Today, September 11th, we especially understand our alienation from this broken world in which we live. The Bible exposes the world for what it truly is; it spells out our relationship to the world. God’s word gives us power to live in a corrupt world, polluted by sin, without becoming contaminated by the world.
We control what influences us: We choose our books and movies, magazines and music, television and video games, websites and organizations--they don’t choose us. Do the things we expose our minds to build up or weaken our faith? Paul warns in Colossians 2:8, “Don’t let anything lead you astray with empty and deceptive philosophy, which come from human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ.” The Psalmist writes, “I will set no unclean/vile thing before my eyes” (101:3).