In The World, But Not In It?


My wife and I have been talking about this lately. Being “in the world, but not of it”

I have heard so many different versions of how people see this playing out in there lives. I love the conversation that is happening right now on my wife’s blog. I think it is ok, to have lots of views on how this plays out in our lives, but there has to be some foundation to it.

What does it mean to be in the world but not of it?

Many Christians tend to shelter themselves. They tend to surround themselves with like minded people who they can feel safe with. One problem with this is that we can find out very quickly that people fail and feelings can be hurt. A lot of people put faith in Christians and churches and when they get hurt, they leave. We can’t put faith in people, we have to put faith in God. Another problem with this is that our view of God and how He both cares for and works in people can become very narrow or even completely non-existent.

I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago and the speaker asked, “is going to church my way of making a difference?” This hit me straight between the eyes. Wow, have I been living in a way that says participation in a church is enough? Have I come to believe that attending church is bringing my community closer to God? This was very revealing to me. If it affected me, a Pastor(who should know better), how much would this thought also affect others.

My daughter in first grade attended a Christian school. There was a gift given that allowed us to pay for her education. I grew up in private schools and I liked the idea of sending my daughter somewhere she would be taught the Bible as well as reading, writing and arithmetic. She asked her Mom one day, “why do I go to this school”. My wife replied that our hope for her at this school was to teach her things she could share with people to show them God’s love and lead them to God. Her answer was, “Well how can I show others if I am here at this school?” This came from a first grader. Our intentions were good in sending her to this school and I believe this school is one I would be happy to send my child to again. But the point is, in doing this, we attempted to shelter her from the very place she needed to be a light. I can say confidently that our kids are that light right now. They are making an impression at their public schools.

I saw this verse today…

Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Iโ€™m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” John 17:13-19

When I read this I realized. Jesus didn’t come to take us out of the world, he came to save us from it and to give us His power to share that good new swith them. When Jesus prayed this prayer, He was passionate about His truth being spread across the world. He had spent time sharing His life with others, so that they could turn around and share it as well.

If you know the Lord personally, then you realize that I am not speaking anything new to you. But I hope I am helping you rethink areas of your life that may keep you from being “in the world”.

What keeps us safe from the world when we are in it? Our desire for God.

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”
1 John 2:15-17

Is God our desire or is the world? Are we in the world to enjoy it? Or are we in the world to share the good news of our Savior? I love the phrase, “In everything we do we either re-enforce or dilute.” In everything we do, in this world, we either re-enforce the love of our God or we dilute what He came to do, to “seek and save that which was lost”. He came to save us from the death and destruction this world has to offer. This world is fading, but our lives in Him will never perish. Romans tells us not to conform to the world but to be transformed by God. That can’t happen when our love is of the world.

So, are you in the world? If so are you of it? Are you neither? I don’t remember Jesus ever telling us to shelter ourselves away from the world. He is our protection(as we allow Him to be) in this world. But, people will never know Him, if we aren’t in it.

There is a ton to say on this subject. What does this look like for you?


31 Responses to “In The World, But Not In It?”

  1. It looks beautiful to me – pretty much the way He intended as His words declared i feel.

    One thing though – it is my interpretation that Jesus was clearly refering to His Disciples – not all mankind or all Christians in John 17.

    That does not alter the fact that if we do all that He did and follow all that He told us – no more and no less – He will make us Perfect as He says he made them.

    23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. John 17:23

    or was he just being ‘nice’, do you think??? ๐Ÿ˜‰


  2. Jesus is definitely not speaking to all mankind, but very much to His immediate 12 as well as those that would come to follow Him. In Acts, there is implication that there were many disciples after Jesus left earth, speaking to the fact that the 12 had led more to be disciples of Christ.

    “That does not alter the fact that if we do all that He did and follow all that He told us – no more and no less – He will make us Perfect as He says he made them.”

    I completely agree ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. i do so like it when people say that – makes me feel all ‘gooey’ inside for some reason ๐Ÿ˜‰ Especially if it is clear they mean it and are not just being sarcastic.

    Thanks for that! ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. This is great!

    My kids are in 6th and 4th now. We made the decision before they started that we would rather them be lights in the school rather than put them in Christian school. In retrospect, I’m really grateful we did. Not only in the fact that they are blessing their friends and school, but also that perhaps they might not be taught… well… ‘correctly’ in a Christian school. Certianly many things are great, but if you’ve read much of my stuff, you know that I wouldn’t be too keen on my kids getting in-‘doctrine’-ated in a modern church/school.

    Our Simple Church has been wonderful for them.

    I totally agree with needing to be ‘in the world’. One caveat… It’s not wise to be ‘in the world’ alone. That’s where the ‘church’ part comes in. I’m not talking about the gathering that typically takes place at 9:30 for an hour on Sunday mornings… I mean being in community with a group of people all through the week. Holding each other up and accountable… waling together in the world.

    The slope is too slippery to walk alone.

  5. I remember one time during one of my old church’s youth group gatherings (Buddy was there as well). We were cautioning the kids on the dangers that awaited them out there in the world, among those other kids that didn’t have the guidance available to them that they had. We were telling them basically to do all the things we didn’t do at their age; stay away from the ‘bad’ kids (though we didn’t call them that), avoid going to parties that the ‘bad’ kids were at and so on and so forth. ( I think that I was probably one of those ‘bad’ kids in those days).

    But some of ‘our’ kids brought us up short. They said that they had friends who were struggling with drugs and sex and other temptations. Some of their friends were struggling with depression and low self esteem. Shouldn’t they be there for those kids? Since Christ was with them, shouldn’t they trust in his promise? What was the point of being a Christian if you had to hide? What witness did you present from behind closed doors?

    From the mouths of babes. Sometimes I think that I learned more from those kids than just about anyone else.

  6. Thanks for getting where I am coming from.

    Buddy – You are exactly correct. The community we have is what teaches, trains, encourages, gives wisdom…and so on. Jesus always took a couple of His disciples with Him and I think there is something to learn from that.

    Christian – Mouths of Babes…agreed! Heck, Jesus did say to be like the children ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. When we read the word โ€œworldโ€ in the New Testament, itโ€™s most of the time referring to the Greek word โ€œcosmosโ€. Itโ€™s meaning people of the earth that functions apart from God. Several scriptures in John, show us that Satan is the ruler hereโ€ฆso when I think of living in a world system ruled by Satan, i can appreciate the scriptures that say we are no longer part of this world, ruled by sin, or bound by the rules of this world.

    I do believe that we should be set apart, living a holy and righteous life. Not engage in the sinful activities the world promotes, or retain the corrupt mind that the world can create. Romans 12:1-2 says to conform ourselves, and minds to that of Jesus Christ. It takes a daily commitment, thatโ€™s for sure. We can enjoy the world, but not immerse ourselves in itโ€ฆ..worship of our Lord is our calling once we have commited to Him.

  8. Do I hear an echo ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. LOL….Tam and I didn’t think you would notice….DANG!

    Seriously, I tried to answer your blog two or three times, but it came out the same…..sigh…

  10. I love ctrl+c, it’s my friend…


  11. “Not engage in the sinful activities the world promotes…” The hard thing here is trying to determine what those activities are. For some of us that means never partaking in a cocktail or two with friends, others would frown upon watching R rated movies and for others that would mean making sure your skirt is a certain length. (If you’ve ever seen Buddy in a mini-skirt you would sympathize with that one).

    I have a friend who is in a rock bank and his ‘church’ is on his back about hanging out with drunkards and the sexually promiscuous (not to mention playing the devil’s music). But what of the other ways of this world that we have adopted as our own within our church traditions. Those typical church ‘horror’ stories that everyone seems to know a couple of. I don’t know how successful we have been at setting ourselves apart from the world. We seem to be very selective in this regard.

    Wasn’t it St. Augustine who said? “Love God and do as you please.” It’s that immersion part Tam speaks of. It’s hard to become obsessed with anything when Christ is your focus.

  12. Christian, there has to be a balance, but I agree with you that finding or defining that balance is near impossible…except by His Spirit. I truly believe that God has given us His Spirit to lead, convict and guide.

    “Itโ€™s hard to become obsessed with anything when Christ is your focus.”

    I like this and I think it answers your question(I think you can be confident in it). The image of Peter walking on the water, comes to mind. Once he took his eyes of Jesus, he sank.

  13. 13 Jason

    ‘Wasnโ€™t it St. Augustine who said? โ€œLove God and do as you please.โ€’

    Yabut, Augustine “took up and [read]” Romans 13:13, kicked out his live-in and went celibate.

    I have cited 1 Cor 5 before, and it is clear, if not clarifying, that there are behavioral boundaries for the Christian. I agree with you C that Western Christianity is famous for a self centered distinction between liberty and proclivity. As well, the story of your friend who is going into the dark places well armored, and yet people in the Body getting on his case, is very bothersome and indicates a lack of vision to what we are supposed to be doing.

    However, there are always very subjective circumstances in which a person who is going into the dark places and pulling out the captives, so to speak (and not so to speak!), must also have a view to the weaker brother and what statement is being made by going to the dark places to the weaker brother who has just recently escaped a dark place. There is obviously no template for this, just praying over scripture, and doing as you are Spiritually compelled.

    It also speaks to our responsibility to each other, in that, though putting a length limit on a skirt seems ridiculous, at least some of the time such an arbitrary move is prompted by some in the congregation not being aware of how their personal presentation and behavior affects others.

    No two circumstances are the same, but the Spirit of the thing, one body part to another, needs to be deliberately emphasized, because we all get so self-centered in our stuff and our deals and our lives.

  14. I like 1 Cor 2’s take on the Spirit making us what’s different. Making us aware of who God is. I think as we know God more, we are more understanding of who we are to be in Him.

    Jason, one thing I have always been curious of is man’s need to create rules for things that the Spirit convicts us over. Churches seem to have the need for unBibilical laws that hold people to some sort of standard that they feel they “know” needs to be held. This is an issue for me. I have seen how much damage(like this friend of Christians) churches rules can play on the relationship process. It bugs me.

  15. 15 Jason

    “It bugs me.”

    sure it does. I’m certain that you have opened the bible for a brother or sister and found that the person does not want to listen to or obey what is written. So you bring another, they still don’t listen. So you bring them to the church in following the biblical pattern.

    The church making rules and what the bible says regarding whiat Christians should expect to see in themselves occasionally get mixed up in praxis. How do you try to help a person who remains decidedly unrepentant?

  16. I have no problem opening the Bible up and going through it with someone (Even if that someone is me). I would never force it, but would definitely treat it as the final say. My point is tradition and religion verses what the Bible has to say, doesn’t seem t always add up (I’ve had some experience with this growing up in very traditional Baptist churches).

    I like this statement.

    “So you bring them to the church in following the biblical pattern.”

    It kind of sums up to me what church is. We can’t expect someone who does not know the Lord to understand this kind of stuff, but a fellow brother or sister should truly be challenged.

    “How do you try to help a person who remains decidedly unrepentant?”

    Is this meant to be rhetorical? Dig deeper so I can understand ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. ” There is obviously no template for this, just praying over scripture, and doing as you are Spiritually compelled.”

    This got me J. We have to be Spirit led in order to be most effective, or effective at all.
    While the Bible guides us in any situation that I can think of that life may throw our way, it may not be in our timing and I believe it is important to keep that in mind when ministering. More times than not, the Lord has shown me something about someone, and I jump right in, yet they may be a year or two down the road before the “witnessing” would be effective. In the meantime, it’s important to wait on the prompting of the Spirit to move in that direction and see an actual change take place in that person.

    For me if someone is decidedly unrepentant, their struggle is with God, not us. They are not lost, but in a serious growth spurt, that unfortunately could be painful when things come full circle. Again, it is important to listen spiritually for what the Lord would have us do to help, if anything. Being in God’s will in those situations mean dying to our flesh and walking in the Spirit. I know my tendency is to fix, but then if I or another has not learned the lesson, they more than likely will have to go through it again…

  18. I feel like I am in a “like everyone” mood…but anyway…

    “their struggle is with God, not us.”

    I like this ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think this is a really good perspective. It takes the judgment off our shoulders (where we most often allow it to be held) and places it securely back in God’s hands (not that we ever really had it). I think this perspective would challenge a lot of church leaders in how they “deal” with people in their congregations.

    Jason, I can honestly say that when you asked that question, I thought of it both from an average person’s perspective and also from a church leaders perspective and I didn’t like the perspective I had when I thought of it from my church leader role. I can see in myself how leaders can be abusive or judgmental…and I want NOTHING to do with it.

  19. 19 Jason

    I think I can narrow this in both of your directions.

    “For me if someone is decidedly unrepentant, their struggle is with God, not us. They are not lost, but in a serious growth spurt, that unfortunately could be painful when things come full circle.”

    “Is this meant to be rhetorical? Dig deeper so I can understand”

    Say that we have entered into many steps of teaching and counseling a person from God’s word. Some will remain in a place where they will not stip doing whatever it is that they are doing. Some will say up yers, some will say sure I can do better, and then they don’t. Now I am not talking behaviorism here, I am talking about fruits of repentance. I am also not talking about an occasional slip up, I am talking about a manner of living which defines the person. And this person professes Christ. In Matt 18 and in 1 Cor 5 we are told to bring the individual before the congregation, “when you assemble”, that there is a point at which the person is to be rmoved from fellowship. As you pointed out in 1 Cor 2 the Spirit makes those in different ways, but what transpires between 2 and 5 is Paul tells the congregation in Corinth how to love each other. And then in 5 he instructs the congregation to remove someone. These two ideas cannot be that far afield.

    It really wasn’t meant rhetorically, and since you have had more experience within the body than I have, I was both wondering how you have handled issues of considerable disobedience, and, in light of the difference between church rules and bible, I was also wondering if you had asked yourself questions (as I have) regarding the body striving to reflect God’s glory and striving for purity.

  20. Jason, thanks for the interest in even hearing my opinion. I have to be honest in saying that I highly respect your intelligence and knowledge of scriptures.

    I have a hard time discerning what is right now…what was right then(time of Paul and the church in Corinth)…and what is my responsibility. I think Paul was a lot stronger than we are today as leaders of churches. I think our responsibility to lead needs to be the same though.

    With that said, I have been through 1 situation where we as a leadership have felt the need to ask someone to leave our church. This person went when we asked and we did not need to take him before the congregation. This person was defiant and abusive to God and others in our community. our community saw this and responded in many different ways to it. Dealing with the responses of others to this person was alot harder than dealing with this person.

    I think Paul telling the congregation to love was in hopes of people not “acting out” and then having to be dealt with. If the people loved, there would be no need to discipline (which in my opinion is completely different from judging…but the world may not see the difference). But, Paul knew they may fail and as a strong leader, he taught them and prepared them before an issue arose. we are not sure how many times or if at all the church of Corinth had to follow Paul’s instruction, but we are sire that they were prepared.

    In my opinion, I can’t truly answer how I would act if faced with this again. I have always tended to err on the side of grace. I will be held accountable for my assumed leadership in God’s community, but I would much rather know that I did not judge and condemn but instead loved. Where it gets sticky is when I or other leaders need to protect others from harm. Whether spiritual or physical. Look at the news…we could be attacked at anytime.

    Have I thought about how we should strive to reflect God’s glory…absolutely…everyday. I think this post is representation of that. Christians need to be willing to lay anything and everything down for God. I do believe the statement to love was to love Him first. But, I don’t think there can be a formula or specific rule…except that one I have just mentioned, to truly do this.

    This statement you made, “Now I am not talking behaviorism here, I am talking about fruits of repentance.” Can you explain to me how that is different? My understanding is that our behaviors do change and in doing so, our lives are fruitful.

  21. Sorry, don’t mean to interupt the awesome conversation here…but that passage J, in Corinthians got me thinking…again..The sexual immorality that was happening there was obviously forbidden. The statement “And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.”

    To me this is as bad as the sin iteself, and Paul was more concerned that the Corinthians were taking the sin lightly. Tolerance is scary to me at times as well. I’m sure the Corinthians were saying, “Look how loving we are. We are accepting this brother just as he is. We are so open-minded…” The reality was pride in their acceptance of this man.

    Some may say or believe that such a thing is “delivering them to Satan”…..yet by putting someone outside the church and into the world, the punishment would be a removal of spiritual protection and social comfort, not infliction of evil. To me it would cause a destruction of the flesh, not the body, rebellious flesh, and hopefully bring them into a healthy relationship with the Lord…

    Sorry for the rabbit trail…just a thought. ๐Ÿ˜€

  22. Interrupt all you want ๐Ÿ™‚

    One thing you said GG made me think about God’s interest in the heart. He wants whats real. Actions aren’t real, the heart is. Actions can be fabricated and performed, but our intent is always what it is. He saw that as most important. I pray everyday as a leader for discernment…

  23. PS – I’m going to bed…I’ll pick this back up tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. 24 Jason

    “Now I am not talking behaviorism here, I am talking about fruits of repentance.โ€ Can you explain to me how that is different? My understanding is that our behaviors do change and in doing so, our lives are fruitful.”

    You are right in that the distinction really cannot be made in many cases, that was not well thought out. Because, in the “end”, what people do is all that anybody has to go on, whether they are really being transformed, or whether they are just doing better at not doing “it” maybe impossible to tell.

    I know that you have thought about about how to reflect God’s glory, B, that is abundantly clear from what you write here, I was really just speaking to that necessity within this specific messiness. I think in many ways you are, in that, you don’t draw lines, you just point to the one’s that are already there. Pursuing holiness, desiring greater dependence, expecting a lot from the body, forgiving, a high view of Scripture and a high level of Scriptural fidelity…

    There’s no question Paul was stronger, but how could we aspire to that ideal? A while ago it was pointed out to me that the person being turned out in 1 Cor 5, may be the same person being gloriously restored in 2 Cor 2. Seeing both sides of this activity is essential, in that, Paul’s desire to bring the person to repentance and faith in Christ has to be the goal. I am sorry you had to go through that.

    The whole thing, everything you wrote, sounds about like I expected, which is, never, ever, until God says so. Which I like. Not that you need my approval.

  25. Not asleep yet ๐Ÿ™‚

    “A while ago it was pointed out to me that the person being turned out in 1 Cor 5, may be the same person being gloriously restored in 2 Cor 2. Seeing both sides of this activity is essential, in that, Paulโ€™s desire to bring the person to repentance and faith in Christ has to be the goal.”

    See now this gives me chills…honestly…in a very good way (Christian will probably have fun with this, first I was “in love” and now Jason gives me chills) BUT, I digress!

    I really believe this has to be our intention. I don’t think it can be any other way. I don’t know how to sever and still love. I also believe that we should allows be willing to keep walking the extra mile and to keep accepting rejection to bring them to faith and repentance. Let’s hope that we all don’t have to deal with these things often(in as an extreme fashion as we’ve been speaking), if ever.

  26. “Not that you need my approval.” Maybe not, but it sure is enjoyable to have these discussions with everyone on the same page…..

    B, not to make your head pop, but your discernment is obvious in your ministry…it touches hundreds.

    Gnite all….sleepy girl signing off til tomorrow.

  27. Well I guess it ‘pleased’ Augustine to become celibate. Of course, I think he may have had ample opportunity in the past to get that out of his system. I guess he chose to ‘deny’ himself in a way that the rich young ruler could (or would) not. His particular demon of hedonism.

  28. Being not of this world comes from the words of our Lord in John 15:18-21, and the world is the over 33,000 religions of man worldwide. Being not of this world is never questioning God, but just believing His every pure word of truth that was as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.{Psalms 12:6} So when God says this whole world has been deceived, {Revelation 12:9} His words are of no confusion. {1 Corinthians 14:33} So “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God. They are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. {Psalms 14:2-3}

    God speaks only truth to a world of believers who do not believe Him because they look to man, and the men they look to have gained their human spirit wisdom by looking to other men.

    To be not of this world means to live by only the words of God while only looking to Him because we can do nothing ourselves; and we only want to please our Father just as our Head Jesus Christ. John 8:28b-29b

    To be not of this world means that you are not liked or understood, therefore murdered and persecuted by false brethren who have no love and know not God. 1 John 3:14-18, 4:7-8

    To be not of this world means having no association with the religions of man in the buildings of man falsely called churches. Church means a group of people and not a building that takes God’s money for material and fleshly reasons as 1.8 people die each second because they have simple needs.

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