The Truth About Following Jesus IN the World

“They are not of the world,
even as I am not of the world.”

John 17.16

Jesus’ statement in prayer to God about His apostles set the stage for the theme of every disciple’s walk in the world. It is a challenge. It is hard. We are IN this world. Trying to not be OF the world at times reaches a stage of worry and impossibility with Christians. Why? We expose ourselves or allow ourselves to be exposed to all that is in the world frequently. There is no way we avoid everything in the world, but constant exposure poses a problem to living by faith and maturing in the wisdom of God.

We were born INTO this world and had no choice in the matter. The world is where we start and in the world is where we will end. Taking the apostles out of the world is not what Jesus wanted. He wanted them to stay. He requested God let them stay and provide them protection from the evil one (John 17:15). Is He not asking the impossible? No! He is asking for the necessary thing. The necessary thing we often view is avoiding the world, while God is asking the necessary thing of exposing godliness to the world through us.

We are not “stuck here.” We are sent into the world as Jesus was to “show forth the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). The world is not an “unfortunate” place to live. It is a bonanza of opportunity to live in the world by a set of standards which come from heaven to the world (Ephesians 3:8). This is what Jesus meant by saying, “Sanctify them in the truth: Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Allowing the message of truth to be our guide IN the world OF error, hypocrisy, and false doctrines presents the world with the integrity, justice, and righteousness it is missing.

This world has long been exposed to injustice and lies. Trust is missing in relationships. Honesty has disappeared in many social settings.Lies have been accepted as truth by the one telling them as well as the one listening to them. Ethical misconduct is understood as “part of the business.” Reliance, dependability, and accountability are items of character few seem to charge their own hearts to have. Where, then, will righteousness be found? Who has it to give? Where is the resource for the truth needed IN this present world? Titus 2:12 instructs Christians to “live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world.

Being not OF the world means followers of Christ hear and live by faith IN the world by the inspired words of heaven (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The ways of God are higher than the world (Isaiah 55:6-9). They come from heaven. These are the powerful words which saved us (Romans 1:16). These are the words we trust when the world’s messages are uncertain and vacillating (Psalm 19:7-9). IN this world we need a firm foundation when the waves, wind, and storms of society shake us with exposures to hatred, immorality, and lust. God’s word provides us with security in an insecure world. Where the world knows the certainty of its future in economy, politics, and healthcare, the Christian knows his/her security is in the unchanging, certain, and indestructible truth of scripture.

The more Christians hear and follow the truth from heaven, the more they realize the world is their starting place, and heaven is their destination. Being not OF the world was Jesus’ way of saying He was OF His Father and OF heaven. Heaven gave Him instructions. He listened and obeyed what heaven wanted while He was IN the world. Not only were those words His desire, He desired to be where those words came from - HEAVEN. Is this where we long to be? Then listening and following the words OF heaven and not of the world will take us there.

At the end of Jesus’ prayer, He has a desire all disciples should soberly consider: “Father, I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with me where I am, that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). The depth of keeping His apostles IN the world reaches a point of glory. He asks God to keep these men IN the world for the purpose of glory to His name. Let the world witness in these men the sacrifice and service they can give in the world as He was about to give in dying upon the cross. Let the world see in every Christian them being crucified in Christ and the life they live IN the world. Let all the world see a life of faith in the Son of God who loved and gave His all (Galatians 2:20).

Being IN the world is not to be considered a frightening responsibility. It is us being sent into it for the purpose of God’s glory.