On the convergence of Scripture and popular sayings, and our tendency to forget which is which.

The other day, as I was lamenting about how most job opportunities out there would be frustratingly supportive of things I am rather opposed to (such as sleazy sales techniques, companies that fund things that are quite unholy, or even working in a place with a wall of TVs and secular music blaring, or selling/renting movies that would have been called pornography a few decades ago and now have a PG rating, etc.) a friend of mine was telling me about how the Bible says I am supposed to be in the world and not of it. In fact, that phrase has come up quite a few times lately.

But I’ve been thinking about it. Where is the address of that supposed verse?

The closest phrase in Scripture is in the High Priestly prayer of John 17 – the prayer prayed by Jesus for His disciples, Himself, and believers to come. The text can be found here, and I recommend reading it in full context. According to Strong’s exhaustive concordance, every instance of the word “world” is the same word, κόσμος, which He uses first to describe the earth, this sphere of existence. (See John 17:5)

In reading the prayer, the world itself seems to be relating to created order – literally, this globe, this earth. I believe what He is actually saying about keeping His followers in the world is in reference to something many believers have thought to themselves – “Lord, why don’t you just save me then take me up to heaven? Why do I have to live life once I am saved? Why can’t I just be with You?”

The context seems to point to an interpretation of the phrasing “not of the world” to mean not claiming citizenship on this planet, in an earthly kingdom. This makes sense, especially in light of passages like Hebrews 11, which describes those who walk by faith, those of whom the world is not worthy.

I think the phrase, which is used like Scripture though it’s built off an interpretation and combination of the Word out of context, can actually lead people into deeper temptation than they ought to face. It’s often used as a “go to the party and drink a coke instead of a beer, you’ll show someone what Christ is like…” kind of nudging, which has surely lead some believers directly into backsliding when they constantly come face-to-face with familiar sins and eventually stumble. I think it can place a burden on shoulders! Right after Hebrews 11, Paul exhorts believers, saying “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin…” and later, “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healedStrive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

We come out of struggles and sins, and we are still so easily tempted. The Lord does provide a way out, He makes us overcomers, but it’s not without effort on our part! Grace catches us when we fall, but it’s not a license to surround ourselves with temptation. I think it is better to realize our proneness to sin than to think we’ll be ok in the face of it!I know for me, I have come out of situations with deep regret more often than not, of things I’ve filled my mind with because I thought they wouldn’t effect me – but the truth of the matter is, we become like that which we behold. (1 Corinthians 3:18) This is good and bad! When we take time to behold the Lord, and we enter into His presence, it transforms us into His image. But when we behold sin, it also expresses itself in us. This gives us a weighty choice on what we choose to behold.

A song I enjoy, called “Indwelling Spirit” by Justin Rizzo, has a line in it that I believe sums it up well: Am I sowing into the Spirit or sowing into the flesh? I’m doing one or the other all the time.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Critiques?

Published in: on August 20, 2009 at 11:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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