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 (Manna 57: Christians in the Community)
In the World, not of the World
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In the World, Not of the World

Bright H

            “I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (Jn 17:15, 16)

This is part of the final intercessory prayer of the Lord Jesus just before His arrest and consequent crucifixion. Being a prayer immediately prior to our Lord’s physical death, it reveals His deepest concern for His disciples. I do not pray that you should take them out of the world… they are not of the world. To be in this world, and yet not of this world—this seemingly paradoxical theme continues to resonate through many a Christian sermon, down the generations.

Jesus is God incarnate. He came from heaven to bring truth and peace. In terms of the authority and fame He wielded while on earth, Jesus was not like an earthly king. When the multitudes pushed for Him to become their king, Jesus immediately retreated. He was in this world to save man from the corruption of this fallen world, not to become a part of it.

CHOSEN TO NOT BELONG

The world lies under the sway of the wicked one (1 Jn 5:19). It continues down the path of corruption after the fall of mankind when Adam sinned against God. With Satan as the king of the world, we see how the world becomes more corrupt by the day. Almost daily, we read or hear of unfathomable atrocities or freak crimes committed. Immorality and darkness keep a tight rein on this world.

In the midst of corruption, God wants to preserve for Himself a special group of people, righteous and holy, not succumbing to the evil of the world. Throughout history, God has always chosen one person, one lineage, to be separate, to be preserved as His own. As early as one generation after Adam, God demonstrated His pattern of salvation. He found Abel, son of Adam, a righteous man and showed him favor. After Abel was killed by Cain, God chose Seth. Thereafter, we see the emergence of Noah, then Abraham, down to the lineage of David.

Whenever God chose His special people, He made a covenant with them. Bringing the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt, God said to them,

            “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” (Ex 19:4, 5)

To be chosen as God’s special people means that we are part of the covenant to be a royal priesthood, to be holy towards God.

TO BE A PART OF THE COVENANT

Today, we are this chosen people. When we are baptized, we are washed in the precious blood of Jesus Christ. We belong to Jesus, the descendant of David, so we are a special people of God.

We also become part of the covenant in that we agree to be a sanctified people, to live in His light. This covenant gives us the hope of eternal life and the guidance and truth of the Lord. We belong to Him, not to the world.

It is far too easy to see only the requirements of the covenant and forget the blessings that come with it. But let us not treat lightly the manifold grace embedded in this covenant. As God’s people, Satan has no hold over us. If the Lord Jesus does not allow it, not one strand of hair on our heads will be touched because we are under His protection. Because we are His. 

In this journey of faith, many have witnessed and experienced hindrances when they resolve to come before the Lord to receive baptism and be a part of His kingdom. It is no wonder that Satan wants to thwart any attempt to come before God. Spiritually speaking, once a person is baptized and washed by the blood of Christ, Satan cannot touch him.

LIVING LIFE APART FROM THE WORLD

So how does one live in this world but not belong to this world? We can easily avoid being tainted by wickedness if we isolate ourselves and live an ascetic life on some mountain. Similarly, we see many spiritual lives at their zeniths, with fasting and long prayers and extensive Bible reading, at training seminars.

The essence and goal of such seminars, however, is not for us to isolate ourselves. We need to be in the world, carrying the light of Christ. Jesus wants us to be in the world so that we can influence it as He did while on earth.

Even as we try to influence the world, things in this world—what we see and hear—will inadvertently find ways to influence our thoughts and actions. Our hearts have to be truly turned towards the Lord. Judas Iscariot followed the Lord Jesus for three years. Yet, his heart never did convert to the Lord. His heart completely belonged to the world, overwhelmed by greed.

It is too easy to fall for the many things in this world. Wealth, sexual desires, food—this world has much to offer when it comes to leading our hearts astray. Greed is the state of hankering after things beyond what we need. Crucifying our desires on the cross becomes a task we need to engage in daily.

In addition to overcoming our greedy desires, we should expect to be rejected by this world when we do not belong to it. “[A]nd the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (Jn 17:14). Jesus is the light. The world is full of darkness, so it rejected the light and hated it. Similarly, we cannot expect to be popular with people who engage in activities of darkness.

As children of God, we will find life tedious if we do not overcome this world. “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4). By holding on to God, we can overcome this world.

            For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 Jn 5:4, 5)

OVERCOMING THE WORLD

To overcome the world is to transcend those things that do not have a place in the kingdom of God, whatever form it takes. Overcoming the world is not as complicated as it is sometimes made out to be. There are basic principles that underpin any situation:

Obedience to the Word of God

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (Jn 17:17). Life would be less of a struggle if we resolve to obey God’s truth without compromise. The kind of life we lead will then be a joyful one.

            How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word…
Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. (Ps 119:9, 11)

The word of God is our protection against the world. When the word of God dwells richly in our hearts, we will have clear vision as to what is right and wrong.

The word of God is the sword of the Holy Spirit. It is our defense against Satan and our source of strength in resisting temptations. The Lord Jesus used the Scriptures to counter the devious suggestions of the devil. The Scriptures are food for angels; God’s words are for savoring. Bible reading is not meant for cursory skimming so as to get through quickly. It is only when the words in the Bible possess significance in our hearts that the word of God can become a source of strength for us.

Prayers with Intercession

Living our lives prayerfully is another way to help us overcome the world. Prayers, especially intercessory prayers, go a long way toward shielding us from the darts of Satan. The Lord Jesus prayed for Peter when Satan asked to have him, as one would sift wheat.

Living under the influence of worldly values can be likened to being sifted as wheat. In the same way, Jesus is interceding for us today. We should intercede for other brothers and sisters in turn.

The power of intercessory prayer cannot be overstated. Moses’ prayer on behalf of the Israelites quenched the anger of God. Jeremiah’s tears and prayers moved God to hold back offensive foreign forces.

Today, intercessory prayers remain just as effective. Brothers and sisters receive the Holy Spirit when others fast and pray with them. Prayers of worried parents have turned back the feet of many who were crossing the border to unpardonable sins.

Close-knit Fellowship with Brethren

            “[I pray] also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You…” (Jn 17:20, 21)

Once, in response to strife between His disciples, the Lord Jesus cited that even the devils are united as one in Satan’s kingdom. What is most detrimental to the kingdom of God is division among the brethren, for the devil will then be able to devour the members one by one. Fellowship in the church therefore becomes of utmost importance.

Each of us has an assignment to ensure that we fit in church and to reach out to those who may not be as fortunate. Without fellowship with brothers and sisters, our walk of faith is a very lonely one, and it is easy for us to give up.

Family service is one way to generate fellowship with one another. A few families who live in close proximity to one another ought to gather together for Bible reading and prayers. In addition, such small groups can share problems and help one another out.

When church members are bonded together, Satan will find it difficult to attack. On the other hand, if a church is cold and love cannot be found, members will not have any sense of belonging. When members do not become as one, individual members will not be able to overcome this world and will succumb to the devil’s ploys.

This world indeed is dark, but we are the light of the world. One small flame can push back much darkness. But let us not be only that one small candle, because a small candle can easily be extinguished by a strong gust of wind. Let us instead be a strong beam of light, just as our Lord Jesus is the light of the world.

May we all rise above this world of corruption and perversity and work out our salvation by not belonging to this world.

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