The World's Grip
The World’s Grip
As Christians we must exercise vigilance in our relationship to the world. On the one hand, we are “not of the world” (Jn. 17:16 ESV); but on the other hand, the Lord has sent us “into the world” (Jn. 17:18 ESV). So spiritually we are set apart from the world, but missionally we are sent to the world – and this inevitably involves tension. Paul’s one-time team member Demas failed to navigate this tension: “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me” (2 Tim. 4:9 ESV).
Demas’ worldliness is exactly what we must avoid: “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.” (1 Jn. 2:15) Indeed, an indispensable part of true religion is “to keep oneself unstained from the world” (Ja. 1:27 ESV). Frankly, we aren’t going to be very effective at rescuing people out of the world’s sin-sick system, if we ourselves are infatuated with it. Those who crave the advantages of this present world aren’t in a position to persuade others to cherish the Lord’s promise for a new heaven and a new earth.
So we must be on guard and keep watch over the inclinations of our heart. Consider these four questions:
1) Do you let the world draw you into its desires?
According to 1 John 2:15-16, loving the world is bound up with “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (1 Jn. 2:16 ESV). James 3:13–4:4 makes a similar point: “friendship with the world” (Ja. 4:4 ESV) is tied to intensely misguided desires. If we find ourselves craving ‘much, more, and better’, then the spirit of the world is at work within us.
2) Do you let the world draw you into its treasures?
Sometimes we ‘succeed’ at turning our desires into acquisitions. And every treasure that we acquire makes us feel good… for a little while. The problem, of course, is that the luster of worldly possessions fades over time, and ultimately our possessions are subject to decay and theft (Matt. 6:19). And even if some of your treasures are in perfect condition at the time of your demise, you won’t be taking them with you when you exit this brief life (1 Tim. 6:7).
3) Do you let the world draw you into its respectability?
All things being equal, we would rather be welcomed and honored by other people. But all things are not equal, and the corrupt world is in the habit of doling out praise to those who share its values. Let’s be clear: if you are a true believer in Jesus, then you do not share the world’s values. So why maneuver to win its applause? If they didn’t applaud Jesus, they won’t applaud you (Jn. 15:18-20). “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Lk. 6:26) But Jesus assures that we are blessed when people hate, exclude, and revile us because of our fellowship with Him (Lk. 6:22).
4) Do you let the world draw you into its fears?
Fear is big business! The world fears everything except the Lord, and in consequence their fears will ultimately overtake them. By contrast, we are to fear the Lord alone, trusting Him to be our refuge at every turn. “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your dread.” (Is. 8:12-13 ESV) And as it turns out, honoring the Lord alone as holy is key to our witness to a fearful and hopeless world: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pt. 3:14-15 ESV).
Brothers and sisters, it is no surprise that the world is unhinged: its desires are never satisfied, its treasures are destined to perish, its respectability game is void of true virtue, and its fears are inescapable. And let’s be honest: this blend of unquenched thirst, fragile possessions, social flattery, and fearful hearts doesn’t allow much space for gentle and respectful conversation about matters of utmost importance – whether in Congress, on college campuses, through social media, or around the dining room table. Yes, worldliness comes with a hefty price tag!
But we are summoned to be different. The world is what it is because “the prince of the power of the air… is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2 ESV). But a different spirit – the Holy Spirit! – is at work in believers. The Holy Spirit enables us to understand the riches of God’s grace (Eph. 1:15-21), establishes us in deep unity with each other (Eph. 4:3-4), enlivens us unto the bearing of good fruit in all of life (Eph. 5:18–6:9), and empowers us for the spiritual battle against the powers of darkness (Eph. 6:17-18).
Friends, don’t let the world draw you into its agenda – an agenda that is destined to fail. Instead, “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18 ESV) and let the Spirit’s controlling influence protect you from the world’s alluring grip and instead satisfy you with the superior joys that Jesus gives. In Jesus’ kingdom, there is living water for the desiring heart; there is treasure that will never be diminished; there is the Father’s steadfast love which is so much better than the world’s flattery; and there is peace that will never run dry.
If perchance you have gotten sucked into the world’s conversation and it is wearying you, you should pursue the biblical solution: indulge yourself in the things of God. “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” (Ps. 119:36-37 ESV)
No one will regret spending a lifetime of looking at the worthy ways of our God!
NOTE: Header Image/Featured Image Photo by Jason Chen on Unsplash