Special Study Articles
How the World Helps us
“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).
In one sense, I’m glad (relatively speaking) the world is going so obviously “out there.” It is demonstrating to us all why, without God, life is a tragic, meaningless, pointless existence.
“I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted” (Ecc 1:14-15).
I’m not saying that I’m glad people are lost. I pray that God’s will be done and that all will come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Tim 2:3-4).
I’m not saying that I’m glad for immorality or evil in any way. I long for the day that the evil is duly swept away and judged for what it is (cf. Rom 2:5-6).
What I am saying is this: The more the world shows itself as “the world,” with its godless, passing lusts and clear opposition to the gospel, the clearer and more unequivocal our choice must be. I’d much rather the contrast between real Christianity and the world be obvious and clear than that the world makes things comfortable enough for us to just blend in.
“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way” (Eph 4:17-20).
The world cannot be “fixed.” The world must be saved, and the gospel of God’s grace is the only means by which this can happen.
When the world appears to be doing just fine, it is easy to become complacent. We don’t see the need for impacting the world as readily; if it doesn’t seem so broken, why concern ourselves with the cure so much? We may not understand the urgency of submitting ourselves to the Lord. Instead, we wrap ourselves in the world and bask in its coldness, thinking all the while that we are doing God’s will and really being lights; we aren’t so convinced of the outer darkness enveloping everyone around us. Our “dimness and neglect,” in response to the love of God, has too long been the norm, and this indeed may “keep some soul from its God.” We never wanted to “love the world,” but the problem is that the world looked too comfortable because it just didn’t seem like it was all that out of touch with God and righteousness. We thought God and the world could be friends. We were wrong, of course, but it wasn’t clear enough to us.
Not anymore. The days of a friendly world are over. Done. And we need to wise up to it. The truth of James’ statement is ringing loud: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
When the world has gone as far as it has, these choices and needs become much more obvious. It is more obvious that the world is broken and needs Jesus. The world has shown us clearly that this is not what we want, so we long for heaven even more. The world is miserable, and it is finally showing all of us just how wretched it really is, and that is far better than if it hid its misery in pseudo-righteousness and caused us to look upon it as if it is “just like us” or “one of our own,” even if just a tad out of sorts. It is not. The world right now is a hideous monster. It has finally broken free from its hypocrisy. It is horrible and it is willing to show us just how horrible it is when steeped in sin, selfishness, and arrogance. There is no more pretending. The world has exposed itself in full, and our eyes can be wide open to this fact. We can’t hold its hands any more.
The urgency of the gospel message has come into clear view once again. This is not about politics. The political arena is just another avenue for the world and its passing lusts, and by now this should be obvious to us all. Politics won’t save the world. Politicians won’t preach the gospel. What we must do is follow the Lord and don’t look back. Let the dead bury their own dead, and get out to preach the kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-62).
This is not about academics. The academic world has led the way in showing just how empty we are without God. This is not because typical academicians have pointed out the errors of sin and the destructive path of godlessness; rather, they have proudly espoused kicking God out of culture and learning. They have shown us that we must make that clear choice between sitting at the seat of the scoffers or delighting in the way of God (cf. Psalm 1). God is no longer just humored as a subject. They have launched full scare war against God, and this should make it clear to us how we ought to respond and live (see Psalm 2).
When the world is so antagonistic toward God, there is an opportunity to show what the gospel can do. There is an opportunity to highlight the contrast of what Christians stand for in Christ. In the first century, for example, what really sparked the spread of the gospel was that initial persecution (cf. Acts 8:1). While no one wants to be persecuted, there is going to be a purging effect that attends the world’s antagonism. The message of repentance will take on an even stronger meaning. The decision to follow Christ cannot be done in secret. Who we are and how we have chosen to live in Christ will demand a commitment that we may never have yet known.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory” (Phil 2:14-16).
Are we ready?