I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15)
The Christian faith seems to be a weakness, yet it is a strengthâ€”as though we are trying to escape from reality yet cope with reality; as though passive yet active. Every Christian needs to clearly understand the spirit of the Christian faith: we live in this world but do not belong to the world. We are entrusted with the commission to save the lost souls of this world in order to bring glory to the holy name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul staunchly affirmed his commitment to the gospel: he would never coexist with this worldâ€™s values, lifestyles, or philosophies. The "world" Paul referred to includes fleshly lust, worldly fame, and material wealth. Paul once said, "But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14), "[f]or to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil 1:21). Paul found all his reality, all his existence, and all his being in Jesus Christ. He also manifested an abundant and peaceful life: a life that was ready to dieâ€”that was living in this world yet living so much above and beyond the world.
It is so easy to fall along our spiritual journey. Christians are in constant danger of evil temptations and desires. Our Lord does not require us to seek self-isolation in the mountains, or in the wilderness. We do need to live in this society. But we can remember that in the book of John, Jesus asked the heavenly Father to protect us from the evil one. This is the spirit of the Christian faithâ€”to be set apart by the Lordâ€™s redeeming blood while living in a corrupted world.
The early disciples of Jesus went into the world to fulfill what is called the Great Commission: to preach the gospel to all nations and lead them into repentance unto eternal life. We must preach so that those who have not heard the Word may receive Jesus as their Savior. And we must preach to accomplish Godâ€™s wondrous plan of salvationâ€”that all that is in heaven and on earth may together rejoice over the good news of Jesus Christ. Members of Godâ€™s sacred community must go out actively into this world, in all holiness and godliness, if we are ever to accomplish this task.
Christians live in the world, yet must not become enticed by all its glory. This is difficult to do. We befriend those of this world and yet we need to keep a holy life. While this is indeed a challenge, we need a determined spirit. A Christian with a great enough heart to reach out to the world in compassion and love is more praiseworthy than one who hides, cloistered in the wilderness. A generous heart is one that goes out in the power of the Holy Spirit and spreads the gospel, making disciples in the present to enjoy eternal life in the future. A mature Christian manifests a spirit of being out of the world yet in the world, thereby reaching out to save this world.