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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Matt's Messages - “Real Christians Are IN the World But NOT OF It”

“Real Christians Are IN the World But NOT OF It”
Real Christians
December 2, 2007
John 17:1-26

We only have three messages left in this Fall series on Real Christians.

This week, next week, and the following week.

This is the 10th message that I’ve prepared in the series.

The first was:

Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel. There is only one gospel that saves and Real Christians believe it and nothing else. A gospel of a wonderful, merciful Savior.

Second, Real Christians Really Love God. There is a change that happens inside of Real Christians that changes them from enemies of God to genuine lovers of God.

And that spreads to other people. Real Christians Really Love People. Even their enemies! Real Christians have tasted real love and want to pass it on to others.

And that forms the basis of their mission. Real Christians Are On a Real Mission–to make Real Disciples of Jesus Christ. We are ambassadors, sent with a message to those who need to hear it. And when they believe it, we baptize them and teach them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded us.

So Real Christians have a real relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The fifth message was Real Christians Really Pray. And the sixth was Real Christians Delight in God’s Word. We both talk to God and listen to God and love what He says to us.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that life is always easy. Indeed, it’s not. In fact, God has promised trials and tribulations to His Real Christians, not just good times in this life.

So, the seventh message was Real Christians Trust God In Times of Trial. We know that our suffering has a purpose and that it makes our faith proved genuine and it brings glory to God. So we trust Him through times of trial.

Now, in the last two messages, we’ve been talking about specific kinds of trials–the kinds that come from battles with enemies.

You know that we have 3 major enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

I like to call them our external enemy, our internal enemy, and our infernal enemy.

The world, the flesh, and the devil.

We talked about the flesh 2 weeks ago: Real Christians Walk in the Light. We strive to live holy lives like God wants us to. But we also sin because sin, for now, still dwells within us–the flesh. But when we do sin, we confess our sins, and He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and the blood of Jesus purifies us from all unrighteousness.

Last week, we talked about the devil. Real Christians Are in a Real Battle. But God has given us the resources we need–the armor of God–to stand in that battle and see Him win it for us.

You know, I told you about our van breaking down along in the Interstate? And I told you that it was a sign of spiritual warfare. Well, Jeff Banghart and I rode down there Sunday afternoon and it started right up and hasn’t acted up again. I’m not sure what that means, but I know that I’m in a real battle with the devil!

Today, I want to talk about our relationship with our third enemy: THE WORLD.

The world, I’m talking about here, is not the creation itself so much as the people in the world that are under the sway of Satan, united in rebellion against God and the culture that they create.

Sometimes we call the world “society” or “culture” or the “world-system.” The Gospel of John uses the Greek word: KOSMOS “world” to talk about this enemy.

And make no mistake, the world hated Jesus–that’s one of the reasons why He died.

And we should expect no less than the hate of the world ourselves.

Therefore, the world is our enemy.

And yet...there is more to it, isn’t there, for our relationship to the world.

The world hated Jesus, but God so loved the world He sent Jesus.

There is a tension here. A narrow road that we need to walk here and not fall into the ditch on either side.

In John chapter 17, the Lord Jesus is praying for His disciples and for us. And He uses a few little words that I think have a big impact for our understanding of our relationship to the world.

I’ll put it this way: “Real Christians Are IN the World But NOT OF It.”

I wish I had time to unpack this entire chapter. It’s one of Heather and my favorite chapters in all of the Bible. When we are lost for something to read, we almost always gravitate right back here.

But I just want to make three points from this passage and others like it about our somewhat paradoxical relationship to the world.

Real Christians Are In the World But Not Of It.

#1. REAL CHRISTIANS ARE IN THE WORLD.

Verse 11 says that. “[Jesus] will remain in the world no longer, but [His disciples] are still in the world...” And therefore, they need protection.

In verse 15, Jesus prays not that the Father would take His disciples “out of the world” right then and there but that they would be protected from the ruler of the world–the Evil One.

Real Christians Are In the World.

We are flesh and blood. We are here.

You don’t get saved and then float away to heaven!

There is no “instant rapture plan” for Real Christians.

No, we live here. And we live IN the world. With the world.

We work here. We have family. We have relationships. We do shopping. We do business. We do sports. We do school. We interact with non-Christians, as well, as Christians.

One of your blue survey questions asked “How are Real Christians to treat those who aren’t saved from a practical perspective in day-to-day interaction?”

That’s a great question! Because we aren’t hermetically sealed away from the world.

We are in the world!

At least, we should be!

V.18 said that we are SENT into the world.

Jesus prayed, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”

Real Christians Are Really Sent into the world.

Remember, we’re ambassadors of King Jesus!

Real Christians Are IN the world.

The opposite error, the ditch that we are tempted to fall into is to CHECK OUT of the world.

To withdraw. To isolate ourselves. To insulate ourselves. To stand-off. To check out.

One of the extreme examples of this is the Amish. It seems to me that they think that they can “check out?” of the world and therefore be protected from its dangers.

Does that work?

But it’s not just the Amish who check out. It’s also holier-than-thou Christians.

And Christians who protest everything that the world does. And who don’t form relationships with nonChristians.

And who try to isolate themselves from the world.

That’s one of the dangers of homeschooling. My wife and I have chosen to homeschool our children for a variety of reasons that we find compelling.

But one of the dangers of homeschooling, that we have to be aware of as we do it, is that we can check out of the world to some degree and insulate ourselves from relationships with nonChristians.

In my most recent article in EFCA Today, I wrote about our Leadership Board asking me at my last performance evaluation what was my plan to connect with our community, and I didn’t have a good answer.

Jack Kelly had driven school buses just to be in the world.

Jack had worked in the strippings just to be in the world.

Josh Perry works at Starbucks once a week just to be in the world (and to get the free coffee!).

What was my plan to be “in the world?” Because we are sent to be in the world.

One of the things I’m doing for that this Fall, is driving with Meals on Wheels. That’s giving me a chance to be out in the community, rubbing shoulders with the world.

We aren’t allowed to check out. We aren’t allowed to just circle the wagons and check out of the world.

Are you “in the world?” Do you have relationships with nonChristians?

I have a pastor friend who is part of a Bible study up at Cooneys.

Would you be seen having dinner there? I’m told they have excellent wings! And my pastor buddy eats some wings and talks about Jesus with some friends around the table...in the world.

Jesus was in the world. He ate with tax collectors and sinners.

Jesus was sent into the world. And so He sent us into the world, as well.

Check out, isn’t an option.

However, that’s not all there is to it, is it?

The world is still our enemy!

Even though we’re here, even though we are in the world, we are not supposed to be OF the world.

#2. REAL CHRISTIANS ARE NOT OF THE WORLD.

Jesus said it twice in one prayer! Look at verse 14.

“I have given them your word and the world has hated them [Don’t forget that. If the world seems to love you, beware!], for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.”

And then verse 16. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”

We don’t belong!

We aren’t part of that club any longer!

Real Christians Are NOT OF the World. We are different.

If the world world is square, we disciples are round. If the world is green, we disciples are red. If the world is stripes, we disciples are pokadots. The world rejects, we disciples believe. We are at odds. Real Christians are not “of” the world–and the world hates it!

We have a different lifestyle.

We have different goals.

We have different values.

We have a different family now.

Real Christians are NOT OF the World.

So, as we are IN the world, we have to be careful to not fall into the ditch on the other side!

The ditch on this side is CHECKING OUT of the World.

The ditch on this side is CONFORMING to the World.

Acting like we belong.

Fitting in.

And settling in. As if this were (ultimately) home.

We call this “worldiness.” It’s that “love of the world” that 1 John 2 tells us to avoid like the plague.

John says there: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him [He’s not REAL]. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

Remember, the world is our enemy. And it’s just temporary.

We need to focus on our future home.

The apostle Paul uses the imagery of citizenship.

He says in Philippians 3:20, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”

We may be living here now, but we don’t belong. We belong there.

And so, we can’t let ourselves get pressed into the mold of the world in which we now live.

Romans 12:1 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this....what? ...world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

We have to swim upstream.

Real Christians Are DIFFERENT.

We don’t value what the world values.

If you don’t stand out in your relationships with nonChristians, then you aren’t doing your job.

Now, we don’t want to be different for different’s sake! But we do need to be different for Jesus’ sake.

We should stand out at work.
We should stick out at school.
We should look different in our neighborhoods and at family gatherings.

Because we are not OF the world.

Jesus was like that. He was in the world but no of it.

Somehow, He managed to rub shoulders with nonChristians and not become like them.

To influence them positively without them influencing Him negatively.

And we need to do our best to do the same.

I think the other best example of this principle in the Bible is Daniel.

Daniel lived in the world. The worldliest of the world–Babylon.

And his job was to be a master of worldly information!

And he did it really well. He was in the world.

And sometimes, he had to exercise wisdom about where to draw lines when it wasn’t clear.

He let his bosses call him, “Belteshazzar!” Which was named after a pagan god!

And he didn’t say anything.

But he drew the line at the king’s food.
And he drew the line at bowing down.
And he drew the line at stopping praying 3 times a day at his window.

Where are you drawing your lines?

Are you different? I hope so.

Maybe right now you are being tempted to conform in a way that violates your conscience.

Don’t give in. You can still be saved, but there will be consequences.

The worst of example of this was a guy named, “Lot.”

Lot was a righteous man who loved God to some degree.

And he was pained by the world’s ideas of what should be. He lived in a place worse than Babylon! He lived in Sodom!

But he didn’t stand out. He didn’t stick out. He didn’t stand up.

And though he was saved, there were terrible consequences.

Don’t conform!

How can this be possible?

I don’t have time to unpack the whole chapter, but notice three things:

#1. The Protecting Name of Jesus. V.11

Jesus prays, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one.”

There’s a lot in this chapter about the name given to Jesus. Jesus has protected His disciples by that name. And He will continue to do it!

#2. The Sanctifying Word of the Father. Vv16&17.

“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them [set them apart] by the truth; your word is truth.”

Right here in this book, we have our guide for living differently (set apart) from the world.

If we aren’t in this book, we will conform.

#3. The Indwelling Presence of the Spirit. Vv.20&21.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message [that’s us!], that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

There is a lot here in chapters 14 through 17 about Jesus and His Father’s mutual indwelling and how that indwelling now involves us! And the way that happens is through the Holy Spirit, the paraclete, the other comforter.

He is holy and will make us holy–different from the world.

Real Christians Are IN the World, but NOT OF the World.

And here’s why:

#3. REAL CHRISTIANS ARE SAVED OUT OF THE WORLD BY JESUS.

Look back at verse 6.

“I have revealed you [the Father] to those whom you gave me OUT OF THE WORLD (not physically, but spiritually). They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.”

Jesus is saying that Real Christians have been rescued from this world.

We may still be in it, but we are not OF it because we have been SAVED OUT of it.

In just a few short hours from when Jesus prayed this prayer, He hung on the Cross.

And on that Cross, He was completing the work that the Father had given Him to do.

He was rescuing us from the world!

He did that by rescuing us from Satan!

He did that by rescuing us from our own sin!

The Real Gospel is that Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for the sins of the world.

His blood is sufficient to pay for all that you and I have done to offend a holy God.

And when we turn from our own way and put all of our faith and trust in Him, we are forgiven and saved OUT of the World spiritually–so that we are no longer OF the World.

And one day, we will be saved OUT OF THE WORLD completely!

Verse 24 is our Lord’s prayer that would happen. V.24

“Father, I want those you have given me to BE WITH ME WHERE I AM, and to see my glory!”

Our citizenship is heaven. And soon, we’ll get to go there!

Worship at the Lord’s Table

This memorial meal celebrates the Lord Jesus’ death on our behalf.

He died to save us from the world.

And then to send us into the world to save the world!

As we eat and drink this meal together, I invite you to think about what He accomplished on the Cross, and to evaluate your current relationship with the world.

Do you love the world like you shouldn’t? Are you conformed?

Do you watch all of the same TV programs? All of the same movies, songs, bands, magazines as the world does?

Do you value money the way the world does?

Do you stick out? Do you stand up?

Or are you “conformed?”

Or, maybe, are you “checking out?”

Are you isolating yourself from nonChristians and acting “holier-than-thou?”

Evaluate yourself: Are you “in the world but not of it?”

What ditch are you tempted towards?

And ask the Lord to help you to get that difficult balancing act just right.

Like Daniel did. Like Jesus did.

So that the world may know that Jesus saves!

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