Not of the World
As human beings, we must live in the world. But as imitators of Christ, we must avoid being “of the world.” Our focus should be on God’s will, but that can be very difficult sometimes. Inspiration is clear: “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).
What are some of the things that can distract us from God? Are these things necessarily bad, in and of themselves? How do we avoid the trap of being distracted?
“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. And 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” (Romans12:1-2).
Paul says it is reasonable to live for the One who created us. He created us with different personalities, different interests, and different abilities, and we should use those things to His glory. Whether it is singing, drawing, acting, writing, or simply making friends—use those talents to bring God glory. This is a concept found in both the Old and New Testament (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Colossians 3:23-24).
What do we know about Jesus’ life in the flesh prior to His public ministry? Read Luke 2:41-52. Jesus knew what was important even as a boy—“My Father’s business.” Yes, this was before cell phones and video games and musicals and band competitions and baseball cards, but other things existed that could have distracted a young boy in the first century. The distractions were different, but they were still present.
What do we know about the life of Jesus after this incident, but before His public ministry? The people He taught in the synagogue knew Him, and in Matthew 13:55 identified Him as “the carpenter’s son,” while Mark 6:3 calls Him “the carpenter.” They said He had brothers: “James, Joses, Judas, and Simon,” as well as sisters. Other than these facts, we have no information about what Jesus did during most of His earthly life.
Jesus does reveal His focus on several occasions after His ministry was made known. Read Mark 2:13-17. Who did the Pharisees say He was eating with? What was Christ’s stated purpose? Read Luke 19:1-10. What was Zacchaeus’ reputation among the people? What did Jesus say about Zacchaeus?
On multiple occasions, Jesus deals with the Pharisees’ disapproval of the company He kept. They complained, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). Why did Jesus do this? Read Luke 15:4-7. What is the intended analogy? Read Luke 15:8-10, and Luke 15:11-32. Why is Christ so intent on finding that one lost sheep, that one lost coin, that one lost son? Read 2 Peter 3:9. To do God’s will in this regard—to reach the lost, to lead them to Christ—we must be in the world, but our influence will be greatly diminished if we live as the world lives. We must not be of the world.
Jesus’ focus on this earth was doing the will of the Father. Read John 5:30. Even knowing where it would lead, and the pain and suffering that would come with it, Jesus was willing to do the will of the Father. Read Luke 22:41-44. His focus was not on Himself, but on the Father and on those who would benefit from the Father’s will.
Where is our focus? Read Colossians 3:1-4. Whatever you may be doing in this life, whatever classes you take or whatever job you have or whatever hobbies interest you, our focus needs to be “on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Jesus sent His disciples into the world. Read John 17:14-18. He told them to teach others to obey, and they taught others to teach others. If we love our families and our friends who are not members of the church, we need to figure out a way to get them to see what is truly important.
Jesus was in the world, but was not of the world. While He was in the world, and He associated with sinners. However, He did not condone their sins. What did He tell the woman who was caught in the act of adultery? Read John 8:3-11. His purpose at that time was not to condemn, but to lead this woman to repentance. Read John 3:17.
We are in the world, but should not be of the world. We will have friends who are not members of the Lord’s church, and we need to show them and teach them about His grace and mercy and love. How do we do that? Being a good example is important, and is necessary to avoid any charge of hypocrisy, but we need to use our words as well as our works to lead others to the Lord. Read Matthew 28:19-20 and 2 Timothy 2:2. Many will reject the truth, but that does not relieve us of the responsibility to teach it.