UNDERSTANDING YOUR PLACE IN THIS WORLD
To be successful in a world that has formally overcome you and that is at war with God you must understand your place in this world and know how to conduct yourself to remain effective in your walk with Christ. How can you remain in the world and not be overcome by the world? Understanding how to resist the power of the world to draw you back to your addictive behavior is a vital truth in experiencing God’s lasting victory in your life.
I. What does Scripture mean when it refers to the world?
The context of any word in Scripture will determine the meaning of that word. Sometimes Scripture refers to the world as the created earth (Rom.1:20), sometimes as all the inhabitants of the earth (John 3:16), other times it describes the kingdoms of man in this age that are in rebellion against God (Rev. 11:15), or other times the world refers to the corrupt moral goals of man (1 John 2:15-16). However, no matter which aspect of the world Scripture addresses the important issue is how you will conduct yourself in regard to the world.
II. What is your primary calling in this world?
You are called to leave the corrupt lifestyle of the world so that you may become an ambassador to this world (2 Cor. 6:17) (2 Cor. 5:18-20) (Matt. 5:14). Paul declared that you are to, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15). The most effective ambassador is one who shines the light of God’s love in the midst of a harsh and dark world. When people see you refusing to complain or fight with others and living morally upright lives they know that there is something different about you that they want. An ambassador is also to represent the will and purpose of his king and government as he or she speaks the words and desires of his lord. Each Christian is to preach the Gospel and make known to all men that Christ reigns and is coming again (Mark 16:15).
III. The essential commands necessary to fulfill your calling.
A. Do not be conformed to this world.
The apostle Paul declared, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2). Here the apostle gives one the most important exhortations necessary to fulfill your calling as an ambassador and find the perfect will of God in your own life. You must offer yourself to God as a living sacrifice and not be conformed to this world. The word conformed means to pattern yourself in mind and character to the ways of this present age. In other words, don’t live like an unbeliever, rather, turn from every evil way of this world and allow your thoughts and character to be transformed by Christ and His Word.
B. Be not entangled in this world.
In addition, Paul explained another essential aspect to fulfilling your position in this world. He declared that “no one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4). The word entangle means to interweave or to braid together. The metaphor Paul uses here is that of a soldier battling forces seeking to destroy him. A soldier simply can’t do two things at once. He must be a soldier in the fight or a civilian involved in the business of this life. This means that as Christians we must keep the lightest touch with this world as is humanly possible. We must be concerned with being a soldier of Christ and furthering His kingdom. This means you must fight the good fight of faith so that you might walk with Him and represent Him to others. Your focus won’t be on your position in this world but your position in His kingdom.
C. Keep yourself unspotted from the world.
James also commanded believers concerning their position in this world. James declared, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). The word unspotted means to remain morally unblemished from this world and it’s evil. Therefore, for you to fulfill your calling as an ambassador you must not compromise your moral values.
D. Reject friendship with the world.
James also explained why a believer should not become entangled or blemished by this world. He taught, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). The reason you must keep your distance from this world is because if you don’t you are placing yourself into a hostile position toward God. The world is in rebellion against God and if you choose the world’s side in the war you will naturally alienate yourself from God.
E. Love not the world.
Finally, the apostle John explained the ultimate imperative for your relationship to this world. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17). To love the world is why someone would be conformed to it, get entangled in it, find friendship to it, and why they would become morally blemished. Notice again that John makes it clear that love for the world and love for God are directly opposed to one another. You can not do both. John also explained what motivates those in the world. People apart from Christ are driven by their desires for how they might satisfy the passions and pleasures of the flesh (lust of the flesh), a craving to possess the things that they see (lust of the eyes), and the constant drive for position, honor, and glory from men (the pride of life). These are the things that can never satisfy a person’s soul and will all pass away one day. Choose rather to place you focus on loving the Lord with all your heart.
IV. Separated but not isolated.
Understanding your place in this world could best be described by these two words; separated but not isolated. Paul explained to the Corinthian church that it was imperative that they be separate from this world. He said to them, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17). This separation is referring to the moral evil of this world. However, at the same time God has placed you in this world that you might be the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). Jesus prayed to the Father with this balance in mind. “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:14-15). God doesn't want to remove you from the world; He wants to keep you from becoming tainted by the evil and lies of this world. Why? So He can use you as His witness to this dark world. If you will follow the above commands you will be able to accomplish this task.
V. How to fulfill your calling.
Simply do the opposite of each of the warnings above. Instead of being conformed to this world, allow the Holy Spirit to conform you into the image of Christ and make you a godly person who will become a weapon in His hand that will reach out to the lost in this world. Instead of becoming entangled in the affairs of this life, keep as light a touch as possible on the things in this world. Don’t allow lust to rule your heart. Allow love to motivate you toward others. Don’t become friendly with or love the world where you would become blemished by it, but take a strong stand to follow Christ and present His Word to this lost world as His light and ambassador.