This Sunday’s sermon is the first of a few sermons that will speak directly to the question of what place the Christian and the church have in today’s world. I am excited about these messages, and ask for your prayers that what I share in these crucial and much needed lessons will be exactly the message the Lord wants us all to hear and fulfill.
As the saying goes, we are to be in the world but not of the world. That actually is a very hard balance to maintain, and it’s getting harder all the time. We are not to take on the world’s values as our own. But neither are we to try to escape our interaction with the world. Both destroy our opportunity for ministry and witness.
You see, some would have us not be any different at all, and simply accommodate ourselves to the values and ways of our culture. Yet that is not what the faithful of God’s people have ever done. The apostle Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20) The writer of the book of Hebrews affirms this, recalling that those great heroes of faith listed in chapter 11 “admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth,” that they were looking and “longing for a better country—a heavenly one.” (Hebrews 11:13-14) And the apostle John charges us that we are not to love the world or anything in it, for it all passes away. (1 John 2:15-17) Truly, we are not to be identical to the world.
Yet neither are we to be isolated from the world. Rather we are to be a real and genuine presence in our world and seek to influence and impact our world for Christ. Just as Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” (John 8:12), He also said of us, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) In fact, our Lord was crucified because He came to this world yet refused to change His values from the heavenly, eternal ones to earthly, temporal ones. And just before that happened He prayed that we would faithfully do the same:
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:15-18)
Aren’t you glad that Jesus chose not to isolate Himself from the world? Aren’t you glad that though Jesus was tempted in every way by the world just as we are, that He never sinned, never sought to be identical to the world, never took on the world’s values and lifestyle? (Hebrews 4:15) And now our Lord has sent us into the world to live with the same faithfulness and love, and to have the same impact on those in our world today.