This is the next installment in a continuing series on personal separation. It is a series I have entitled Perfecting Holiness In The Fear Of God.
In this segment we are going to consider the world and its relationship to holiness.
1 John 5:19 - And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.
There is contained here both a sobering thought and an implied contrast.
The sobering thought is that the whole world lieth in wickedness. Here we have God’s judgment on the matter. The world is wicked. This is why it is inconsistent for a Christian to be worldly. To be worldly is to be participating in that which is wicked. We are apt to err on this point. We do not tend to see the world as we ought. If it is wicked then it is a war with God and righteousness. There is a reason that Jesus told his followers to seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, it is not readily apparent in the world in which we live.
The implied contrast involves the issue of separation. We are of God; the whole world lieth in wickedness. Implied is that we are not to be of the world. We are of God not of the world. People tend to want to dismiss the idea of separation when in fact it is a Bible doctrine. Some refuse to make an issue of it thinking it is not important. Having lived for almost 44 years and Pastoring for almost 17 years I am coming to realize that it may be more foundational than what people are willing to admit, both the pulpit and the pew! Compromise nearly always enters in the realm of personal separation and standards. It is here where many learn the spirit of compromise. Having embraced the spirit of compromise, in time (maybe the next generation or two) other truths become victimized by the spirit. I have seen way too many cut their teeth on compromise at the doctrine of separation. It is here where we teach our children the spirit of compromise by failing to require from them standards of holiness and at the same time imparting a heritage of holiness.
We must not forget that we are of God and not of the world. The whole world lieth in wickedness. Because we are of God we should separate ourselves from the world. Unfortunately most people have convinced themselves if they are simply tracking a few years behind the world then they are separated when in fact what the world was a few years ago they are today and what the world is today they will be in a few years. I am not an old man but I have seen the pattern played out time and time again.
My title is The World – The Antipathy Of Holiness. Let me define the word antipathy so you will know exactly of what I am speaking. I looked the word up to make sure it was a word that would adequately express my thoughts on the matter.
Antipathy – Contrariety or opposition in feeling; an aversion felt at the presence, real or ideal, of a particular object; distaste; disgust; repugnance.
The world and holiness are in opposition to one another. The world feels an aversion at the presence of holiness and holiness feels an aversion at the presence of the world. The world finds holiness distasteful and holiness find the world distasteful. The world is disgusted with holiness and holiness is disgusted with the world. Holiness is repugnant to the world and the world is repugnant to holiness.
Let me conclude my introduction with a few pointed words from A. W. Tozer in his book This World: Playground Or Battleground? “People think of the world not as a battleground, but as a playground. We are not here to fight; we are here to frolic. . . . The “worship” growing out of such a view of life is as far off center as the view itself – a sort of sanctified nightclub without the champagne and the dressed-up drunks.”
Let us be attentive as we unfold a Biblical understanding of the world and a right response to it.
It all begins with having a right view of the world. The only place to get a right view is from the Scripture. Our flesh is too determined to be pacified and our hearts too easily deceived to think we can develop a right view of the world from any other source. What matters is what the Bible reveals about the world and it is that view that we should strive to embrace.
There are three primary considerations in this area.
1. The world is corrupt.
There are at least two reasons why this is true.
The world has a corrupt administrator.
2 Corinthians 4:4 - In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Ephesians 2:2 - Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Revelation 12:9 - And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast
out with him.
The devil is the God of this world. He has been given immense latitude by the God of heaven and earth to influence events in this world. Consequently the place where we live bears the marks of the work of the wicked one. His presence is pervasive, and powerful. His handiwork is all around us in the form of that which is vile, depraved, violent, dishonest, and corrupt. The fruit of his work is seen in wars, broken families, abused children, uncommitted Christians, weak preachers, powerless churches.
He is the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. He does so by exploiting the carnal desires of men, creating an environment where profane living and unrighteous behaviour is tolerated if not out right applauded. He is the prince of the power of the air.
He has deceived the whole world which is one of several reasons why the whole world lieth in wickedness. Participation in wickedness necessitates a degree of blindness for wickedness is the destroyer of men's souls. The book of Hebrews speaks of Moses choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. The fact that men, with wild abandon, seek the temporary pleasure of sin is a sure indication that they are living in darkness having been blinded by the devil. The world that we live in is characterized by the presence of this archenemy of God. The world is where he plies his trade of deception and destruction.
The world is corrupt because of its inhabitants.
Ephesians 2:2 - Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Romans 3:10-18 - As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Romans 1:29-32 - Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Ephesians 4:17-24 - This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Consider the content of the previous verses and what they reveal about the inhabitants of this world.
They are the children of disobedience.
There is none righteous, no not one.
They are all gone out of the way.
They are all unprofitable.
There is none that doeth good.
There throat is an open sepulchre.
Their tongues are deceitful.
The poison of asps is under their lips.
Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood.
Their ways are filled with destruction and misery.
They have not known the way of peace.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
They are filled with fornication, wickedness, covetousness, and maliciousness, murder, debate, deceit, malignity.
They are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable and unmerciful.
They walk in the vanity of their mind.
They have their understanding darkened.
They are alienated from the life of God.
They are filled with ignorance.
They are living with a blindness of heart.
They are past feeling.
They have been given over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
Need I say more. This is just four passages in the New Testament. Although we may keep our selves sheltered from this kind of behaviour and attitudes (and rightfully so) this is nevertheless the world in which we live. This is a powerful and compelling argument for personal separation. In fact we fail to separate ourselves from a world characterized by these things at our own peril.
2. The world is vain.
1 John 2:16,17 - For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, these are all basic areas of temptation as a direct result of living in a corrupt world that has no appreciation for righteousness and self-denial. The Apostle John clearly identifies all three of these areas as being of the world and not God. And remember the whole world lieth in wickedness but we are of God. Thus, we should abandon the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. This is a difficult task and one with which we all struggle. If we refuse to separate ourselves from the world we make it nigh well impossible to have any success in this area. You will also notice that we are soberly instructed that the world passeth away with the lust thereof. It is a sad commentary on our lives that we so often live passionately for that which will pass away. This is a direct indictment concerning our lack of separation from the world.
1 Corinthians 7:31 - And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.
This is a wonderful verse that helps us establish the proper context for the things of this world. The things of this world are to be used by the believer. Used for what? For the advancement of God's kingdom and righteousness for this is what we are to be seeking first. As we use it we must stand guard that we do not abuse it. That is we do not allow the things of this world to become an occasion to encourage the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life! Our hearts are not to be set upon the things of this world again emphasising the need for separation. Why should we not abuse it? Because the fashion of this world passeth away. It does not last, it is fleeting.
Ecclesiastes 1:14 - I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
This is the testimony of one who had the resources to try it all. Read chapter two. The world in which we live is a vain world. It is only as we are living in the light of eternity and for eternal purposes that we can find any real meaning in this world. We need to be separated to eternal purposes and from temporal ones.
2 Peter 3:7-14 - But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
Let me summarize. It is all going to be burned up! What is the exhortation for believers. Seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. In other words, if we are looking for the dissolution of all things we should be motivated to be separated. If we will acknowledge the vain nature of this world and that it will all in truth be burned up one day we will have an easier time separating ourselves from the fashion of it.
3. The world is opposed to God.
John 3:20 - For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
The world hates light. Why? Because light reproves his deeds. Even worldly Christians will be offended by light. It becomes even more interesting when you consider the implications of the world hating light. In what capacity is light given to the world? The Scriptures tell us that Jesus came a light into the world. Did the world hate Jesus? Yes, of course they did. He is the only perfect man that ever lived and the world crucified him. The Scriptures also tell us that ye, that is believers, are the light of the world. If we are being that light, that city set on a hill, that candle that is not under a bushel but on the table so that it gives light to all that are in the room what can we expect will be the world's response. We are not left to conjecture here. The world hates light. The brighter our light the more the world will hate us. The darker the world becomes the more it will hate the light. Unfortunately, many believers tend to give off less light as the world grows darker. They give way to the darkness rather than be counted the offscouring of all things.
John 7:7 - The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.
Jesus identified the reason for the world's hatred of him, because he testified that the works thereof were evil. He brought light into the darkness and the darkness hated it. To the degree that we follow in Jesus' steps we will find a similar response. If you don't believe me just testify of the evil works of the world. Shed light on them and you can rest assured that the world will not offer you its accolades for the service rendered, even though it is a valuable service.
1 John 3:1 - Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
The world should not know us. If we are following in the steps of the saviour the world will not know us. If we live like him who was holy, harmless, separate from sinners the world will separate itself from us. Our problem is that we too often desire a familiarity with the world. We do not want to live unknown or be seen as different. This is too bad!
Matt 5:10-12 - Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Have you ever been persecuted for righteousness sake? If so you are blessed. Have men reviled you, persecuted you, and spoken all manner of evil against you because of your stand for Christ and his righteousness? If so you should rejoice and be exceeding glad. It puts you in the lineage of the prophets before you. Yet, this is the very reason why many Christians will not commit themselves to a life of separation from the world. It seems to them an unnecessary requirement that only attracts the worlds displeasure! Could it be we would rather God be displeased that the world in which we live??
John 15:19 - If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Now please do not misunderstand. We should not set ourselves to act in such a way simply so the world will hate us. The point is, if we are enough like Christ the world will hate us. If the world loves us, then it is a sure sign that we are of the world because the world only loves its own. It does not love those who seek to live in such a way that they are separated from it. Jesus makes it clear here that we are not to be of the world because he has chosen us out of it.
2 Timothy 3:12 - Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Living godly will result in the world's displeasure. There is a price to pay for godly, separated living. It is a price that some are unwilling to pay. This verse should probably, for most of us, cause us to hang our heads in shame that we are not persecuted more often than what we are. And why is that true? Well, it is likely because we are more like the world than we are Jesus!
1 John 3:13 - Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
Having set forth a Biblical understanding of the world it is right that we should progress from here and consider what should be our response to the world. Again the Bible does not leave us uninformed on this important matter. There are many verses and passages that would provide some insight in this area let me draw your attention to just five.
1. Galatians 1:1-5 - Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
This passage gives us three thing worthy of consideration on the issue at hand. Christ gave himself for our sins. What a grand and glorious truth! This is the kernal of the gospel. He interposed his precious blood for our sins. God's wrath, under which we were cowering, as the law threw down the gavel and declared us guilty, was satisfied by the precious blood of the Saviour. But we must not be casual readers! He gave himself for sin that he might deliver from sin, or as it is stated in our passage, deliver us from the present evil world.
Two things about this. Once again the world is identifed as being evil. The testimony, were we to search the Scriptures, would be unanimous on this point! One of the purposes of Christ's sacrifice was to deliver us from the present evil world. In Christ we are afforded the opportunity to escape the tenacles of this depraved world. Where is the consistency in desiring deliverance from the penalty of sin yet not desiring to be delivered from this present evil world? This is embracing a practice that is inconsistent with our profession!
It is clearly stated that this is the will of God. It is God's will that we be delivered from this world. If we are delivered from it we will be separated from it. Separation is a glorious thing, it is the will of God for those whom Christ gave himself. It behooves the people of God to embrace the will of God in this matter.
2. John 17:15-19 - I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
You will again notice several things from this passage. It was not the Lord's purpose to have us removed from this world. It was his desire for us to be lights in the world and be willing to endure the difficutly associated with that high and holy calling.
Then you will notice he makes a clear declaration. "They are not of the world, . . . " It is simply a given that God's people would understand the importance of not being of the world. Separation was anticipated and expected. It was not seen as a nice thing to consider if it is for me or not. It was simply stated that the followers of Christ would not be of the world. In fact Jesus says, "even as I am not of the world." If we are following Christ we will not be of the world, for Christ was not of the world and the world hated him.
He then asks the Father to sanctify them. You must understand the nature of the word sanctify. We discussed it in an earlier message in this series. To sanctify means to make holy, purify, consecrate. Christ is asking the Father to make his followers holy. he does not ask him to make them popular, or intellectually superior, or compatiable with the world. He asks the Father to make them holy. He asks the Father to separate them. He asks the Father to impart his nature to them. Here at the end, when Christ is praying to the Father, the very night of his betrayal, his desire is that the Father would make his followers holy, that he would sanctify them.
And he indicates the means by which that would happen. Sanctify them by the word of God. The word of God is the standard and it reveals holy and unholy. It reveals what is pleasing and what is an abomination. It reveals what is righteous and what is unrighteous. Holiness is brought about through a thorough, submissive, and courageous response to the word of God!
3. Romans 12:1,2 - I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
How are we to present our bodies? It does say bodies. People want to say it is the heart that matters as though what is on the outside is of no concern and we are being very petty by even thinking about what is on the outside. Well, the Bible says our bodies are to be presented. The inside is important, no one disputes that. What is disputed is the importance of the outside. Of course the argument that the outside is a reflection of the inside seems to always fall on deaf ears.
We are to be holy. There is that word again. It is amazing to me how that some people have taken a word that by its very nature relates to that which is pristine and by their wrangling have made it a dirty word. We are to be pleasing to God. We are not to worry about what the world thinks, or how we fit in with the world, or adopting the fashion of the world, our only concern should be to please him!
And you will note that the Bible says this is our reasonable service. People complain about separation under the pretense that it is unreasonable to ask people to dress a certain way, talk a certain way, behave in a certain way, refrain from certain venues of entertainement. Being holy is not unreasonable. In light of what God has done for us in Christ nothing he asks could be unreasonable. When people tend to smart under the demands of separated living they need to remember how Jesus must have smarted under the lash of a Roman gaurd! Please, please do not speak to me about the unreasonablness of the demands of holiness!
The passage is very clear. We are instructed to not be conformed to this world. This only makes sense in light of what we have presented concerning the nature of the world. As the Apostle John stated the whole world lieth in wickedness. Certainly we should not be conformed to it if this is true and it is! We are not to see how close we can live to the world and still be respectable. Our passion should be to nonconformity when it comes to the world, its behaviour, its fashion, its attitudes, its hairstyles, its nakedness, its entertainment. Separation is the need of the hour. Men and women who are committed to not be conformed to this world. Unfortunately the reality is that if you were to go to your average shopping mall you would not be able to tell the Christians from the worldlings. Why is this? Because the worldlings look like Christians? No, because the Christians have conformed to the world! Shame, shame. In fact you can go to a lot of Baptist churches and feel like you are at the local mall, or ball game by the way people are dressed! Shame, shame!!
The fact is we need to be transformed not conformed. This transformation takes place by a renewing of the mind. Our minds need to be altered. We look like the world because we think like the world. We behave like the world because we think like the world. We dress like the world because we think like the world. We talk like the world because we think like the world. We are entertained like the world because we think like the world. We need to have our minds renewed so that we can undergo a transformation that will result in us not being conformed to this world. Amen!!
4. Titus 2:11-15 - For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
This is an interesting passage because it teaches us some things about grace that many have convienintly overlooked. The grace of God teaches us some things and they are things that have a direct bearing on personal separation. The grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. The grace of God teaches us that we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. Yes, this present evil world we have a responsibility to pursue righteousness and godliness. If we do so we will be separated!
Again we are reminded as in Galatians 1 that he gave himself for us. What a grand truth. But he gave himself for us with purpose. His purpose was to redeem us. To buy us back. The Bible tells us we have been bought with a price. We do not belong to ourselves. Our body and spirit are God's by nature of redemption. His purpose in redeeming us was to purify us. As we were purified we would become a peculiar people. Peculiar in our zeal for good works. Listen friend, say what you will. God's people are to be different! It is in keeping with God's purposes.
In fact Titus the preacher was exhorted to take these truths and speak, rebuke, and exhort with all authority! So here I am doing just that! In fact he was encouraged to let no man despise thee. The Holy Spirit knew that if he faithfully proclaimed these truths there would be those that despised him. Their reaction was to in no way cause him to alter the truth. Pity the preacher who alters the truth to accomadate an apostate generation!
5. James 4:4 - Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Adultery is, at its root, unfaithfulness to a covenant. God often used the idea of adultery to signify the unfaithfulness of his people in the Old Testament. The Prophets are full of this kind of imagery. Here we find the same thing in the New Testament. It is possible for believers to be so cozy with the world that they are actually at enmity with God. They oppose God by espousing and behaving in ways that are at odds with God. Why would we ever want to be friends at any level with the world? This is unfaithfulness to the covenant. We are guilty of spiritual adultery when we dress like the world, act like the world, behave like the world, entertain ourselves like the world, etc. . . . . . . . . .
The only way to ensure that we do not even inadvertenly become a friend of the world is to separate ourselves from it. The world is a deadly place spiritually. It will sap you of all your spiritual vigor, discernment, and passion! You will have aligned yourself with the enemy and be unproductive in the work of the great King!
Do you remember the A. W. Tozer quote at the beginning? Let me give it to you again with the rest.
“People think of the world not as a battleground, but as a playground. We are not here to fight; we are here to frolic. . . . The “worship” growing out of such a view of life is as far off center as the view itself – a sort of sanctified nightclub without the champagne and the dressed-up drunks.”
The whole thing has grown to be so serious that it is now the bound duty of all Christians to reexamine their spiritual philosophy in the light of the Bible. Having discovered the scriptural way, they must follow it, even if to do so, they must separate themselves from much that they had accepted as real, but which now in the light of truth is seen to be false.
A right view of God and the world to come requires that we have a right view of the world in which we live and of our relationship to it. So much depends upon this that we cannot afford to be careless about it.”