The Christian and the World
“Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything that belongs to the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle — is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
Scripture, in all of its major sections, calls us to a basic theme: a theme that is often neglected, one that makes us a bit uncomfortable, and one to which we will be accountable. That theme is this: “come out from among them and be separate.” The call is to be different from the world around us. This theme also accords well with the idea that the greatest apologetic for Christ is the life that we live.
Consider how this theme is found in all the great sections of Bible. For example:
The Law: The Law taught the people not to do as the nations around them — in Egypt, in Canaan, in whatever circumstance they found themselves in. God called them to be holy, separate, refusing to conform to those around them. One of the signal calls of Leviticus is to “be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44-45). God warned them about desiring to inquire after other gods and become ensnared by them (Deut 12:29-30). He told them, “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations” (Deut 18:9). After they entered the land, a strong warning given in Joshua 23:1-13.
This is one of the reasons why it was so bad for the people to desire a king like the nations around them (1 Sam 8). They were desiring, not to be distinct and separate, but to be just like them. This was the very thing they were told not to do. This was also the major issue with Solomon. His intermarriage with pagan women led him astray, with devastating consequences for the nation.
The Prophets: By the time we get to the prophets, Israel had already succumbed to the nations around them. For example, Ezekiel tells the people exactly why they went into captivity: “Thus you will know that I am the Lord; for you have not walked in My statutes nor have you executed My ordinances, but have acted according to the ordinances of the nations around you” (Ezek 11:12). This is a powerful prophetic theme.
The Gospels: Matt 6 emphasizes “do not do this… as the hypocrites do.” Recall what Jesus said about being lights: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:14-16) Jesus warned His disciples that the world would hate them (John 15:18-19). This expresses the expectation that the disciples will be different from the world.
The Epistles: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:1-2)
2 Cor 6:14-7:1 emphasizes the point that the believer and unbeliever are not to yoked together in a manner that would cause the believer to give in to the demands of the world. “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the Lord. And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.”
Paul further wrote, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Eph 5:11).
Revelation: The book of Revelation is meant to be anti-assimilation into the culture of the beast. This is plainly expressed in Revelation 18:4-5.
Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.
God expects His people to be different from the world, and this can summed up with the basic command, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet 1:16). Let’s be thinking about how we can do this more.