John 15:18-19 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
What does it look like to come out of the world?
This question has driven many arguments among those who firmly believe what showing love to others looks like. The thought is that we can’t truly show love to others if we position ourselves as a bastion of righteousness before them. By trying to act “too holy”, we only eliminate the opportunity to show love to others and thereby influence them to the gospel.
I’ve found that many people who hold to this position often reject being involved in a local church. Since ‘religion’ is so offensive, being involved in a church is the very symbol of that unattainable standard.
Is it true that people who are serious about living out their faith actually remove their opportunities to influence others who don’t know Christ?
According to Jesus, if we were of the world, the world would love us but because we aren’t, the world actually hates christians. How can we be a light to the world if they hate us?
In most instances where misperception occurs, it takes place in understanding the call.
John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
Who do They See?
When the world sees you, who do they see?
What image do we present?
If I were to grow self-righteous by taking glory in my position, I would be placing myself at the forefront of what I represent. Self-righteousness can take many forms, it can delight in the flesh, in the acclaim of others, in education, in how much your involved in, in your position, in your church, in your gifts, or in who you know.
If I act like others need to raise the bar to where I’m at, then I place myself as the focus of what righteousness looks like rather than exalting Christ.
I would interject this: if any of these self-righteous positions are evident in your life—pull back and stop doing them! If your involved in a ministry that encourages this behavior, it is highly likely the ministry is not bearing good spiritual fruit.
It is so easy to start doing ministry for the right reasons and allow the flesh to begin to glory in it for the wrong reasons.
When the world sees a false front of pride, it is either repulsed by the image or is drawn in for the wrong reasons.
Jesus made it very clear….it is the Spirit of God who first testifies of Jesus—secondly, it is us.
John 15:27 “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
The people of God who represent Christ to the world accurately, are those who are first filled with the Spirit of God, and secondly spend time in communion with Christ. This communion is accomplished with continuous prayer and meditating upon God’s Word.
John 14:15-17 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
When the world becomes repulsed by ‘religion’, it is that false representation of Christ that many have witnessed.
The core message of the gospel is found in the Law and Grace. The Moral law defines who has sinned and pronounces judgement, Jesus provides redemption from a death sentence and grace for those sins incurred.
When a false witness presents a distorted image of Christ, they blaspheme His name. Jesus was perfect and it was by His perfection that He was able to be the substitutionary atonement for sin. If a false witness presents themself as the image of perfection, it is repulsive.
Why anyone would want to invite such intense scrutiny is beyond me. I can only guess from what I’ve witnessed in the past, those who exalt themselves have to assume a position that only God can fill. The power, prestige, and control these people desire is the very sin that Lucifer was cast from Heaven for in the beginning.
True believers in Christ recognize their low position that Christ might be edified. The flesh might still attempt to get in the way, but they are quick to recognize their error, repent, and move forward in righteousness.
Jesus revealed to us in His life the model we must aspire to….
John 12:44-45 “Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.”
When people see Christ in us, Jesus is glorified. This is how you know if you are walking faithfully or self-righteously.
A false representation of who we are can actually lead others to feel defeated.
I was meeting with a good friend for a few months in discipleship and realized after he asked me a question about my own weaknesses that I had presented a false image. It wasn’t until I shared with him my failures and struggles did it actually free him from the guilt of his own failures.
Listen to a minister preach from the pulpit and you’ll find the audience is drawn in more by his transparency than if he always positioned himself like he never sinned. Sinlessness is unattainable in this flesh, so by acting like we have attained it before others, it makes them feel defeated.
If we present a sinless image, we exalt ourselves, not Christ.
John 12:31-32 “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
There is a reason the gospel is so offensive–because sin is so offensive. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is such that it reveals the depravity of mankind. The more we see ourselves in light of who we truly are, the more difficult it is to accept the reality of our position.
The world tries to make everything acceptable. Regardless of how wretched a lifestyle is, the common theme today is acceptance. According to the world, we must accept sin as being normative. If someone wants to express themself in a way that is meaningful to them, it should therefore be meaningful to everyone else.
The rejection of inherent absolute Truth is what makes people feel better about their sin. What very few are talking about is how these lifestyles lead to ruin.
The Lord established a moral framework by which we are to live because within it is freedom and a whole host of other blessings.
John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Abiding in Christ is more than associating with Jesus in name. There are many who think it is suffice to only call themselves christians, living like a sold out, death to self, humble, repentant, believer is far too much of a sacrifice. It is these false converts who enjoy playing the part, talking the talk, even trying to partake of spiritual gifts, but their hearts are far from Christ.
Concerning these false converts: Jesus will declare to them..”I never knew you.”
Abiding in Christ
If we want to affect this world culturally for Christ, we must be found in Him. It is only by His strength and power, that He supplies, can we then transform our culture for the better.
John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
We can do absolutely nothing of any lasting significance if we don’t do it in accordance with Christ.
- He dictates the plan
- He leads into the darkness
- He supplies our needs
- He gives power
- He accomplishes His perfect will
We are called to follow Him into the world.
When we abide in Christ, we see the goodness of His work manifest in the lives of His people and we are blessed for it.
Every good work starts and ends with prayer. Everything in between is acting in faith, hope, and love.
Influencing our world with meaning and purpose can only occur by influencing it for Christ. Anyone can be nice, but when charity is coupled with righteousness, it becomes powerful enough to turn hearts from darkness to light.
Do you let the culture affect you or do you affect the culture?
Where you start makes all the difference.