IN THE WORLD—NOT OF IT

IN THE WORLD—NOT OF IT

Have you noticed, as you are watching TV, using the internet, shopping, or simply driving down the highway, the morals and beliefs of this world that are displayed? I remember watching a show on TV with my father-in-law several years ago. He was shocked at the language and at the disturbing, violent images—and these from his favorite genre: old westerns! Sad and very telling was the fact that I was not as shocked; more regular exposure had dulled my spiritual senses. Such a slow, creeping effect of moral decay is downright alarming. Our children are being exposed to things that would never have been shown in our childhood, including displays of terrible family dysfunction, immoral behavior, and portrayals of violence as normal life. The so-called “reality” shows are nothing like the reality I know.

2 Kings 17:6-8 describes the consequences of moral decay in the Israelite nation; the nation who had been so blessed by the Lord and then turned away from Him. Read it below.

In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh King of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced.

Paul warns the New Testament Romans to be on the alert for this same thing in Romans 12:1-2 and explains how to guard against the creeping in of the world that replaces God’s will and teachings:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The Message translates those same verses this way,

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

As we consider these warnings, what steps should we take to be on guard against the pattern of the world? First, we need to know how the word “world” is defined. The Amplified Bible Classic Edition (AMPC) defines the world as “this age, fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs.”

Once we recognize that the mindset of this world is in stark contrast to God’s mind and will for us, what do we do? The AMPC goes on to explain verse 2 in this way: be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].  The Message simply says, fix your attention on God, which I have heard some call “God-consciousness.” Part of this involves remembering all He has already done for us and the promises of what He will do for us. God has also shown us through Paul’s urging in Ephesians 6 that the way to be transformed and to know His will is to intentionally fix our attention on Him and to put on His special armor every day.  That armor is key in protecting us from wrong thinking and also a great source of God’s gracious empowerment to keep us strong and courageous.

In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places. Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. So stand firm and hold your ground, having tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), and having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. Above all, lift up the [protective] shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people (Ephesians 6: 10-18, AMPC, bold emphases are mine.)

As you can see, this is not a passive thing but a deliberate act of choosing God’s way, not the world’s way. We have God on our side, so we are to be strong in Him, in the power of His might, and to fight against the ways of the world. Stand firm and hold your ground, stay on the alert and pray for all God’s people to recognize how we slowly are adopting the ways of the world. Make bold choices not to watch the shows or movies that compromise what you believe. Don’t read the books or go to the web sites. Stand your ground. Protect your children and grandchildren, don’t compromise. Have discussions with your children when they are exposed to things that are not God’s will for you or your family. Remember this promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV), If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. In his commentary on this verse, David Jeremiah asks this question: When the world around us seems to be crumbling in chaos, how does God want His children to respond? Then Dr. Jeremiah answers —before Christians ever speak a word to anyone else. Before we confront the culture, we must humbly look inward, kneel down, seek God and confess our own sins.

Holy Father You loved the world so much that You gave Your one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  You did not send Your Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16-17.)  We praise You and seek You today, humbly asking that You help us to look inward, and that You convict us of all the times we have put the world’s ways first. We seek You and confess total dependence on You. Please guide this generation to total dependence on You, living a God-centered life rather than a self-centered life.

In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.



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