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The “World” Series

Acts 17:24 - God, who made the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and earth, and does not live in temples made by men.

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

1 John 2:15-16 - Do not love the world, nor the things that are 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 lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the father, but of the world."

What do the above Scriptures have to do with baseball? Nothing! But notice that it is a series of three Scriptures having to do with the world! That's pretty trite, to be sure, but you've got to admit that with some of you it was a hit--or maybe a strike out!

What is the world, anyway? Why does the Bible come down so hard on "worldly" Christians? How can the Bible say God made the World (Acts 17:24) and loves the world (John 3:16) on the one hand, and then turn around and tell us not to love the world (1 John 2:15) on the other? Is this a contradiction in the Bible? No, but it does need some explanation.

The Bible uses the word "world" in three different ways. First, it can mean the material universe or earth which God created. This is how the word is used in Act 17:24. Second, it can mean the world of mankind, as in John 3:16. God loves the whole human race. Third, it can mean the affairs and things of this earth. This is how the word is used in 1 John 2:15-16, and this is the primary meaning of the word "world" throughout the New Testament.

Other Scriptures show us that when the Bible mentions the world in this third way, it is speaking of something intangible which is operating behind the scenes of the visible affairs and things of this earth. 1 Corinthians 2:12 refers to the "spirit of the world" and 1 Corinthians 3:19 speaks of the "wisdom of the world." Furthermore, three Scriptures in John tell us that Satan is behind the scenes and is the "prince of this world" (See John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11.) Even though Satan was conquered at the cross he is still operating in this world until "judgment day." 1 John 5:19 says that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

The world, then, that Christians are not to love, or be "worldly" in, a Satanic System. It is not something we can escape from by living in a Christian commune or in isolation as a "Christian hermit." Neither is it a list of no­no's that can be written down to be kept or broken as some kind of measure of our worldliness. No, it is a system that extends itself into all areas of living. Think of organized crime as an illustration. It is a system which seeks to extend its infiltrating fingers into all areas of business--in any legal or illegal way available. Similarly, the world system extends its tentacles into all areas of human activity--studies, jobs, sports, even religious activities. Consciously or unconsciously we are confronted with the world system through philosophy, art, music, technology, the mass media, etc. The world system penetrates all of our culture.

The way to recognize the world system in our own situation is by its three principles of operation--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. (See 1 John 2:16.) Paraphrased, these three principles are selfish pleasure, selfish gain and vanity. Recognize any of these principles in your own life or areas of activity? You'd better believe it! This is the world system at work. You see, Satan has designed this present evil world system to appeal to our fallen sinful natures. And he is quite successful! Satan's normal way of tripping up the growing Christian is not to send out a bunch of demons for the attack. His world system is enough to arouse those ungodly desires within us which lead to sin. (See James 1:13-16.) Our involvement with the world is not just confined to what we might consider "big areas" such as materialism or free sex. The world system also reaches into those more subtle area of our lives. What is my true motive for wanting high grades? Why do I try and get the best room or bed at the weekend retreats? Why do I subconsciously manipulate for the better seats on the bus or in the car during long trips? What is my real reason for talking a lot at Bible studies and small group sessions?

How, then, are we to "keep ourselves unstained from the world" (James 1:27)? The simple Scriptural answer is: more faith and more love. 1 John 5:4-5 states that it is our faith that overcomes the world. The more we walk by faith the less the world system will appeal to us. Materialism, for example, is not a hang-up for the Christian who by faith recognizes that the present possessions on earth are garbage compared to eternal inheritance that awaits us as fellow-heirs with Christ. It goes without saying that the more we are in love with the Lord Jesus, the less the world and its attractions will arouse responsive chords within us. When a husband and wife are deeply in love, adultery is unthinkable. (It is significant that God looks on friendship with the world as spiritual adultery.  See James 4:1-4.) When we are deeply in love with our Lord, the world system loses its hold on us. No longer are we entangled with this world's affairs. (See 2 Timothy 2:4.) No longer are we conformed to this world's way of thinking. (See Romans 12:2) Rather, our lives are completely tied up with the One we love. We "hang on His every Word" and obey it out of love--not law!

Victory over the world is not easy. In fact, Jesus said that we can expect hard times. (See John 16:33.) But Jesus also said in that same Scripture that we can take heart because He has overcome this world. As we follow our Lord Jesus in more faith and love, we can be sure that we will be kept from Satan and his world system. (See John 17:15-16.) Furthermore, it is only a matter of time before the present evil world will be no more. It is on its way out! 1 John 2:17 states that "the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever". What a promise!
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