Scripture consistently draws lines of demarcation between the Spirit and the world, and between Christ-followers and the world. As the called-out, we are repeatedly adjured to be set apart from the world system. We are entreated to resist the urge to pattern our lives and our passions after that system, pursuing rather the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
Consider these two passages of scripture:
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 desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. – 1 John 2:15-16, ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2, ESV
There are three ways the term “world” κοσμος (kosmos) is used in the New Testament, and context must determine which is in play.
- In some cases, kosmos refers to the physical creation, as in Acts 17:24 – “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man.”
- In some cases, it refers to the “world of humanity,” as in John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave…” God loved the people, and here that is denoted by the word kosmos.
- The third usage of kosmos is to refer to the world system, the values, ethics and mores of society. It is that usage we employ when we say something or someone is, “so worldly.” We are saying that it, or they conform to that world system. This is the usage in 1 John 2:15 – “Do not love the world or the things in the world.”
Occasionally, we see multiple uses in one context or one verse. I would argue that we see all three in John 1:10 – “He was in the world [system], and the world [physical creation] was made through him, yet the world [humanity] did not know him.“
We use the term “world” in a variety of system nuances on a regular basis. We say someone is going to be in a “world of hurt” if they do X, Y, or Z. We speak of the “world of politics” and how it is so divisive and teeming with hatred. I remember hearing, as a youth, “Welcome to ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” These are descriptive of an invisible, underlying system – an entity, structure, or philosophy that drives the activity of that system.
The Bible urges us in the strongest possible language not to love the world. Here are five reasons to embrace and live out this principle.
We do not Love its Ruler
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. – 2 Corinthians 4:4, ESV
Satan is described, biblically, as the god of this world. The values system of the world is of his making. Thus, when we look at what the world values and promotes, it generally falls into one of the three buckets of 1 John 2 – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life. Look at and listen to the world system, and you will see and hear these three values consistently promoted and praised. Any sin you can imagine will fit into one or more of those categories.
When I am passionate about thinking like the world, looking like the world, being loved and accepted by the world, I am actively inviting the influence of Satan into my life. I am succumbing to “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). This is both foolish and dangerous. Aligning myself with the world system is to align myself with the spiritual realities underlying that system – a system opposed to redeeming work of Christ.
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. – 1 John 5:19, ESV
Consider the relentless allure of the film and music industry, and the pressure it exerts to shape our thinking and passions, not after God, but after the pattern of the world. These industries stoke fires of inner dissatisfaction on the basis that our lives do not resemble the lives of the beautiful elite. Thus, we buy their stories and their wares so we can live vicariously through those that we foolishly admire.
Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. – Proverbs 23:17
We do not Love its Objectives
As just noted, the core objective of the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), the prince of this world (John 12:31), the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), is to oppose and thwart the redeeming work of Christ, to blind the minds of the unbelievers, to deceive the whole of society and lead us astray (Revelation 12:9).
As a Christ-follower, I cannot align with those objectives. I cannot march to that drumbeat. Just as Christ-followers are animated by the Spirit of God, those who are not Christ-followers are animated by the spirit of the world. Jesus himself refers to them as “children of the world” (Luke 16:8).
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. – Luke 5:25, ESV
We do not Love its Effect
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. – 1 John 2:15, ESV
Note that the issue is not engaging in worldly activities, but rather my love and admiration of a system that is actively opposed to godliness. This is a matter of the heart. When I am in love with the world system, I cannot be in love with God. It is reminiscent of Jesus saying, “No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).
The love of the world system pollutes and diseases my heart, and out of that diseased heart, my behavior flows.
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. – Matthew 15:18-19, ESV
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Note that the driver of the obedience is a heart full of love for Jesus rather than love for the world. Love for the world puts my heart in direct competition with love for God, and draws me away from him. Anything that sours my love for God, or competes for it, is of the world, and demands an examination of my heart toward it.
We do not Love its Progressive Takeover
It is rare that one moves from godly to worldly in a moment. No, this is a gradual seduction, the frog in the boiling pot, drawing us in almost unaware. James teaches us about this transition.
We begin by tolerating worldliness, being friendly and polite toward it. “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4, ESV)
If the world is okay with me, I need to examine my own heart toward the world. Jesus said, “All men will hate you because of me.” (Luke 21:17) John confirms this, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” (1:John 3:13, ESV)
These are not fun passages to read, but they are illustrative of the incompatibility that exists between loving God and loving the world system.
Moving beyond friendship with the world, James says we become stained, spotted, or polluted by it (James 1:27). The world begins to “leave its mark” on us, and over time we look more and more like the world to the point that we are indistinguishable from it. Eventually, we are fully conformed to the world, celebrating its values and idolizing its performers.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.. – Romans 12:2, ESV
Do not fall prey to the world’s subtleties. Remember the lesson of Lot who first looked toward Sodom, and then pitched his tent toward Sodom and then moved into the city of Sodom, and was eventually captured when the city was overrun (Genesis 14).
Remember Who and Whose You Are
When my eldest son was about to leave home for the university, I told him, “Never forget that you are Sheridan Gray.” I was not concerned that he would forget his name, but wanted to impress upon him that his name, his honor, his reputation, his integrity, once compromised, are terribly difficult to recover.
You are a child of the living God, creator of heaven and earth. You are a saint, a holy one. You are a son or daughter of the high king of Heaven, a child of covenant. You are the redeemed, the blood-bought. You are ambassadors of Christ, witnessing the gospel of grace to a dying world.
Remember, also, that you are an eternal soul, while the world that is seducing us will pass away (1 John 2:17). This world system is temporary, but our God is forever! We are here as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)
Then remember that you are growing and maturing into Christian adulthood. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
In the end, it comes down to a choice each of us must make. We can live for eternity, or we can live for time. This decision is at the core of everything we do at Long-View Living Ministries. We challenge men and women everywhere to embrace Long-View Living in a Short-View World. You can live for now, for the flesh, the tangible, or you can live for eternity, for the spirit, and the glory of God.
The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God remains forever. – 1 John 2:17, ESV