Life In This World
My life began like yours — out of 300 million some-odd sperm cells, I was one of the first to make it to the little egg. Somehow I had the key and was welcomed in even before those who had gotten there before me. Once I got in, all the others were locked out and died without achieving their goal. I was the chosen one. So, full of purpose and destiny, I waited… as a body was prepared for me… the vehicle that would carry me through this world.
I was born into this world in 1961. As an infant,my parents took me to the Catholic Church to be christened, to ensure my eternal destiny with Jesus in Heaven. When I was five, they put me on a bus every morning to go to kindergarten. There I learned how to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. I also learned new and exciting ways to go against my conscience with the other little children in my class.
As I grew up I spent a great deal of time with my main tutor — the television. As I fixed my young eyes on the screen, a myriad thoughts, ideals, sentiments, concepts, opinions, attitudes, persuasions, temptations, passions and desires imprinted themselves on the wet clay of my eternal soul. Along with these came millions of images of every conceivable kind, many that I wish I had never seen. These things formed much of my outlook on life and the perception I had of myself, and the world I was being conformed to.
In fifth grade I started playing little league baseball. I was a pretty good player, even though I was smaller and not as strong as most of the other boys. One thing I discovered early on was that I hated to lose. My experience with competitive sports seemed to really strengthen something in me to desire to have first place, not just in games, but every area of my life.
It’s not hard to see how this little boy developed into a very proud, selfish, disrespectful, opinionated, wise-cracking, foolish, rebellious, lustful young man. I lived exclusively for my own pleasure and gain. I wouldn’t let anyone tell me what to do. The way I treated many people, especially women, ruined their lives in certain ways. All the while, I somehow thought I was a pretty good guy, and if there was a God, then surely He knew my heart. Sometimes I could sense that the clay was hardening, but I tried not to think about it too much.
Then I became a born-again Christian. Someone had encouraged me to read the gospels about the life of Jesus. I was very convicted and enlightened by what I read and decided to give my life to the Lord, and was baptized. So I launched into my new life as a “born-again” believer, full of hope that my life would really change and that I could gain some real confidence that God had a place for me in His eternity.
I began to learn about how a believer is supposed to conduct himself. But somehow a lot of these things weren’t so easy for me to understand. For example, I was told, “Be inthe world, but not of it.” Well, how do you do that? I mean, I was totally wrapped up in the world — I was educated by the world, worked in the world, I was entertained by the world’s music and movies, I kept up on all my favorite sports. In fact, I lived my life much like every other person I knew who wasn’t a professing Christian, except that I went to church on Sunday (well, as much as I could anyways).
What I Learned…
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)
So, you know, I could say, “I don’t love the world or the things of the world,” just like I could say, “Oh, I am not of the world.” But I really wanted to know what John was talking about, because according to him, if I did love the world, then God’s love was not really in me. The Greek word translated love in that verse means the direction of the will towards whomever or whatever one finds his joy in,[fn]Hebrews 12:2[/fn] which is inescapably revealed in how one spends his time, money, and energy. John goes on to describe things a little more:
For all that is in the world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:16)
The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes… This speaks of desire, the longings of the mind — the motivating factor of a person’s life. What are the desires that drive this world? Wealth, fame, position, possessions, status, comfort, etc. It has to do with what one sets his mind on — what kinds of things he desires. So who is not involved in these things? It’s the normal life in society today that Christians and everyone else I know indulge in. Many even claim that material wealth is a sign of God’s blessing. But Christ Himself said, “No one of you can be My disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.”[fn]Luke 14:33[/fn] So how does one give up all of his possessions in the context of the lifestyle of modern Christianity?
The Pride of Life
The Amplified Bible defines the pride of life as: assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things. It says these do not come from the Father but are from the world itself. As a Christian I was supposed to change my thinking so that I was no longer trusting in my own resources, but in God alone. But here I go, investing heavily in health, dental, home, fire, theft and life insurance, in an effort to insulate my life from any potential vulnerability.[fn]Luke 6:24-26[/fn]
As far as putting my trust in God, it’s difficult to know where to turn. The Word tells us to “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” But I’m taught in my Church, “don’t listen to men, only God.” I’m not sure where that is in the Scripture. But I guess I can’t really listen to the people who tell me that. So here I am, left to rely on hearing some kind of voice in my heart to know what God’s will is for my life. I read books by Christian authors and listen to Christian radio to get a little more insight into living by Christian principals, but there are so many different schools of thought that I end up feeling like what Paul said about “being tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine.”[fn]Ephesians 4:14[/fn]
Foundations of This World
The other definition of the pride of life is: assurance in the stability of earthly things. Somehow as Christians, we seem to be intensely interested in preserving the foundations of the crumbling society around us. More and more the Christian leaders encourage us to get out there and vote, attend rallies, and write letters applying political pressure to the nation’s leaders, all in an effort to shape society according to “Biblical Principles.”
But then John goes on to say:
And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:17)
It seems to me that the foundations of this world have been eroding for a long, long time. I remember when divorce was a shameful thing and there were many things we didn’t even speak of that are now openly flaunted in public. So then I read what Isaiah prophesied:
The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live in it are held guilty. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left. (Isaiah 24:5-6)
Well, it’s not too hard to imagine that this will come upon this world. It seems the people of the Earth are clearly guilty of transgressing laws, violating statutes and breaking the everlasting covenant.[fn]Genesis 3:16-19; 9:1-7[/fn] And the curse is coming upon the Earth and its inhabitants. I don’t think anyone would argue with that. But is it our job to make the world a better place to live? If we’re striving to make the world a better place to live, doesn’t that just prove that we’re trying to find our assurance in the stability of earthly things? Aren’t we seeking our comfort in full in this life?
The Starting Point
All this takes me back to the starting point — my relationship with Christ. I either belong to Him or I don’t. I am either forgiven or I’m not. This is important! You know what I mean? Like the old saying goes, “Just because you say it, don’t make it so.” Regardless of what other Christians tell me about how to think, and how they assure me that I’m saved, it seems there is some objective criteria in the Scriptures by which to judge my salvation. If I do not truly know Him, but claim that I do, it would be better if I had not been the one that got to the egg first.[fn]John 9:41; 1 John 2:4[/fn]
I consider the words of Christ in John 12:25-26:
He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.
So if I love my life in this world, then I will lose it. That word love, means to be attached to life in this world by common interests and sentiment. But I can expect to inherit eternal life if I hate my life in this world, detaching myself from this world and its fallen agenda and its crown prince. After all, John said that “the whole world lies under the power of the evil one.”[fn]1 John 5:19[/fn] Christ Himself referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world.”[fn]John 14:30[/fn]
In order to be detached from life in this world, one must follow Him to where He is, for it is only there, in that place where one can serve Him. And it is only those who serve Him who will be honored by His Father.
This brings light to what He said in Luke 14:26,
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
We must come to Him without any other attachments, even to our own life in this world, if we want to be His disciple. The Greek says that if we don’t forsake these things, we won’t be able to be His disciple. So it’s not a matter of being saved by doing some good deed, but rather it’s the reality that no one can serve two masters. Christ spoke of this dichotomy in Matthew 6:31-33,
Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
So one category — those who are of this world — is described in verses 31 and 32. The other category — His people who serve Him where He is — is described in verse 33. So where is this place where you can seek first His Kingdom and have all your needs met? I guess it takes a community, just as it did in the First Church in Jerusalem.[fn]Acts 4:32-34[/fn]
The Spirit and the Bride Say, “Come!”
All things considered, I can only conclude that the only confidence I can have that I have passed out of death and into life, is if I am living a life of love[fn]1 John 3:14,16,17; John 13:34,35[/fn] and unity[fn]John 17:21-24[/fn] with all those who have surrendered everything to make Him their only possession and their King.
You may have guessed by now that I found the narrow way out of this world and its lusts into the abundant life of Messiah where we are able to serve Him where He is — where He has caused His name to dwell, in His Community. He is the Chief Cornerstone and unshakable Foundation of this house.[fn]1 Peter 2:5,6; 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:19[/fn] For there is no other way the Church can be than the way it was when it was called “the Way.”[fn]Acts 9:2; 2:41-47; 4:32-37; 22:4; 24:14,22[/fn]
This is the witness of the truth of God’s love to the world that must go to the ends of the Earth before the end of this age can come and Christ can return and set up His Kingdom on the Earth. It is necessary that there would be a tangible witness of His life before the nations and the clear comprehensive gospel to give revelation and understanding of how one comes into this life.[fn]Matthew 24:14; Acts 2:40; 5:20[/fn]
So my warm invitation to you is to come and visit one of our communities and get to know us. We were just like you, groping to know how to serve God in a fallen world. But now He has made a way for us to live together in peace and harmony and He has given us a practical, down-to-earth way to obey His commands every day. Please come!