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Discipleship (The Disciple and the World)

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In the world but not of the world. The chief distinguishing mark of a disciple of Christ is the peculiar relationship with the world. The Lord Jesus Christ described a disciple as (a) in the world but not of the world. (b) Taken out of the world but sent to the world. (c) Left in the world but kept from the evil in it. John 17:6-19I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 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.

These three aspects of the disciple have been totally left out of the Christendom today. Everyone wants to be like the world and have everything the world has in the church. The world had country and western music, then rock and roll, then rock, then punk rock and rap. And one by one, everything that the world began and invented by the inspiration of devils, the church has taken in and adopted to please the people and “reach the world.” You can go to church and take yoga, Karate and other martial arts, and do many worldly things. Our churches even have sports teams and compete. They have thought they could reach the world by becoming like them. But it doesn’t work. All you get is sanctified sinners in the church and a church full of people who have come on the wrong basis with the wrong motivation and purpose. It’s a lot like when Israel decided they wanted a king like the nations around them who were all heathen and the enemies of God and His people. God wanted for His people to be a totally separate and peculiar people from the rest of the world but they wanted to be like the heathen world. 1Samuel 8:6-8 “But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.” (V.18-20) “And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.” 1Samuel 10:19

But God had commanded them not only not to have any affinity with the heathen in the land, but the destroy them. Instead, because of their disobedience they suffered greatly and most of them “went to hell” with the heathen. Psalm 106:34-42 “They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the LORD commanded them:  But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions. Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance. And he gave them into the hand of the heathen; and they that hated them ruled over them. Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand.”

Look at the commandments God gave the people through Joshua before he died and the warning as well as prophetic result of their turning away from God to become like those in the world around them. Joshua 23:6-16 “Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left… But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day… Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God… ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof. Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you. When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.”

God told His people to come out of that which was the world and be a peculiar and separated people. This is both old and New Testament doctrine. Exodus 33:16 “For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.” Leviticus 20:24 “I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people.” Deuteronomy 14:2 “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” 2Corinthians 6:17 “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” 1Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” That was one of the key things concerning Jesus, who is our great example. Hebrews 7:26 “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” In the world, among the world, but not part of the world or partner with it. In Galatians 6:14 Paul said he was crucified to the world, and the world was crucified unto him. There was nothing in him that the world wanted anything to do with, as well as nothing in the world that he wanted anything to do with.

When the people of Israel had mingled with the other nations and become like them and God took them into captivity and then delivered them, the remnant that were restored again had to separate themselves unto the Lord to be His people. Ezra 6:20-21; Nehemiah 9:2 “And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.” 10:28-29 “And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding.” Being a separate and unique people, separated unto the Lord is the Biblical pattern and requirement for the people of God. It has always been God’s standard and demands for a people that He would claim as His own - that He would bless and fight for and give His salvation too. Any time God’s people have become like the world around them our joined in affinity with them, it has always brought his rebuke, displeasure and judgment.

Now it is not easy to define what the world is. It denotes the universal system of thinking values. Likes and dislikes, fashion and fads, customs and practices, culture and traditions, philosophies, religions, political and economic systems which as a result of sin and engineered by Satan stand against God, God’s will, God’s kingdom and God’s people. There are recurring warnings in the Word of God to God’s people about the dangers that they may face from the world. The Bible reveals that a follower of Jesus is a citizen of heaven, and that his total allegiance is to be to the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore he is an alien in the world. The world frowns upon him because it does not accept the kingdom of Christ, for whom the disciple is an ambassador in the world. The Bible says as a result of sin, man and everything he built around him, turned against the will of God. When man was alienated from God, Satan captured his mind and twisted his thinking fully to sin against his plans. Satan also dominated man because of sin and became the prince and ruler of this world. Jesus Christ came and paved the way to redeem man from the bondage of sin and Satan. Those who trust Him are redeemed and released from the power of the world. When they are chosen, they become the citizens of heaven. Jesus clearly warned His disciples that the world would hate them because he had chosen them to be His and to be separate from the world. Although a disciple is a citizen of heaven, yet he stays on in the world to be an instrument in God’s hands to pull out others also from it. He continues to live here as an ambassador for Christ. But his life does not have much in common with the people of this world. The Bible calls it a separated life. A disciple has to be alert, always lest the world should pull him down. The Bible warns us in 1John 2:15 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” As we have already noted, the love of the world or the things of the world would displace the love of God that has been poured into our hearts. When love is displaced from his heart a disciple would find it difficult to follow Christ. It is the love of the world, the things of the world that expresses itself as various forms of worldliness, of different degrees. Worldliness is different in various classes of people, but anything that is dictated to us or made attractive to us by the spirit of the world is deadly. The apostle John points out the three main roots of worldliness in 1John 2:16, “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.” These are deadly satanic magnets that attract and pull us away from the love of the heavenly Father. A disciple must learn and practice to die to such attractions. The Bible declares in Galatians 5:24 “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” There is still another great danger the Bible warns us that the friendship of the world is enmity or hatred toward God. James 4:4 How can a disciple of Christ develop friendship with the world that is hostile to God? It is the world that gave Jesus a crown of thorns, tortured Him and crucified Him. How then can a disciple of Christ dare to enjoy the delicacies that are offered by those hostile interests that nailed Jesus to the cross?

          We must admit here that the craft and cunning devices of the world are very often beyond the detection of the mind. Worldliness in various forms has spread its cancerous roots into the very fabric of our spiritual lives. It is powerful as enchantment, inviting as pageantry and seductive as witchery. It is akin to leprosy without any pain, but eating into the very bones of the body of Christ. It is very unlikely that Christians can ever agree on what worldliness is, therefore each one of us should sincerely ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the areas of worldliness in us. But we must certainly watch out for worldliness in the following subtle forms. These are ways of compromise with the world.

  (1) Fear of being called a fanatic or eccentric because we stand for our convictions and principles based on the Word of God. Particularly atonement by faith through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of Divine Healing divine healing. These will bring the quickest rejection and ostracism by the world, even those who claim to be Christians. Jeremiah 1:17, Ezekiel 2:6-7, 1Thessalonians 2:2.

  (2) Our tendency to go by public opinion rather than by the commands of the Word of God. Galatians 1:10, Ephesians 6:6, 1Thessalonians 2:4.

  (3) Allowing our minds to be filled and action controlled by thoughts about the earthly and temporal rather than the heavenly and eternal. 2Corinthians 4:18, Hebrews 11:24-26.

  (4) The spirit of blindly imitating what others are doing simply to keep up with them. Or to be accepted with them. 2Corinthians 10:12 Imitating the world is a great mistake and cancer within the church.

  (5) Our willingness to cater to the wild desires of our body and mind except in things that are generally branded as sinful. 2Corinthians 10:5, Galatians 5:16-17, Titus 2:11-12.

  (6) Fear of criticism, rebuke or frowns of worldly men and eagerness to hear flattery. Isaiah 51:7, Luke 6:26, Acts 24:1-4, 1Thessalonians 2:4-6, Jude 16.

  (7) The time, energy and resources that we spend to promote our self, contrary to the call of Jesus to deny “self”. Matthew 16:24, Colossians 3:5Philippians 3:7-8, 1Peter 2:11, 4:1-5.

  (8) Our great love for earthly comforts and our unwillingness to endure hardness for the sake of Christ and His gospel. 2Timothy 1:8, 2:3-4, 4:5.

  (9) The disproportionate time, resources and energy that we spend on trifling hobbies and our laziness which we justify by calling it by the honorable name of relaxation. What you give your time and energy too is what you are devoted too. It shows what is most important to us. As disciples, what is the purpose of our lives? Why were we saved, for what purpose? To whom do we belong and owe our lives? Are we our own but just now moral and living a different lifestyle or are we not servants of Christ, bought with His blood and not our own? 1Corinthians 6:19-20, 2Corinthians 5:15.

  (10) Pampering ourselves and especially in the areas of our likes and dislikes. 1Timothy 6:9-12, 2Timothy 4:10, Hebrews 12:16.

  (11) Our fear of suffering for the sake of Christ and His gospel. Matthew 10:28.

  (12) Our tendency to be overly reserved, exclusive and the constant excuse of busyness instead of making ourselves available to a needy world of people suffering physically, mentally and spiritually. Luke 14:16-20, 8:14, 17:26-30. Why do we have time for everything else but serving Christ?

        Well meaning Christians have always sought to find the reason for the dominant state of the church of Christ and have come up with answers like “lack of prayer”, “lack of love”, “failure to study the word of God” and the like. While all this may be partly true, the most important reason for the present pathetic state of the Church can be traced to worldliness. A disciple must stay as an alien in the world and carry out the task that Jesus has entrusted to him. And just as the Lord said, so long as he remains separated from the world, it will hate him. When the world knows that the allegiance is to Jesus Christ, it will declare him “person non grata” and target him for expulsion and sometimes extermination. It is a fallacy to think that a disciple must go with the world or fashion himself after it in order to win people for Christ. It is not the compromise with the world that will win it, but the uncompromising stand for the truth, coupled with love for them, which will express itself in sympathy and compassion, prayer, fasting and tearful intercession. The life of a disciple is a continuous battle He has to swim against the current of the world keeping his head high above the waters of popular opinions and making. He must always be conscious of the cost of discipleship and engage in the battle with deep assurance that the battle is the Lords and His life is not his own.

          “Love not the world…” The problem is not in the things, but in what is filling your heart. When the world and things of it fill your heart, they displace the love of Christ and destroy your relationship with Him.

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