The Kansas Conference received a letter from the clerk of a small church reporting that their membership was 13 and a half. This was probably a correct report. The reason is that we in our churches have a lot of half-hearted and half converted people there. People that are half awake and half asleep. People that have one foot in the world and one in the church. Worldliness is creeping into the church. If a person is half in the church and half in the world, does that make it heavenly worldliness? That's the title of my sermon. You know, Jesus was knowledgeable of the problem and even prayed about it. That prayer is in our Scripture today; the book of John, the seventeenth chapter.
Jesus' prayer life is incredible in its example and phenomenal in its power. This is an awesome prayer. Do you realize that most of the time when Jesus prays, He does not pray for Himself? Do you realize that most of the time when you pray, who are you praying for? Scarcely ever does Jesus pray for Himself. Most of Jesus' supplications are for others. In fact most of the time He's praying for us. Notice a portion of that renowned prayer in John 17 that pertains to us who are Jesus' contemporary disciples. Now, we're not going to examine the whole prayer; we're going to examine the central portion of the prayer which begins in verse 11 through verse 18. Here in these nine verses, ten times you have the word, "world" mentioned. And Jesus is telling us that we're in the world but we're not supposed to be of the world. But we are to go TO the world. I notice these prepositions here. We're IN the world, not OF the world but we're to go TO the world. And so I want to base the outline of my sermon on these prepositions that Jesus uses here in these verses.
A) In The World John 17:11-13 B) Of The World John 17: 14-16 C) To The World John 17: 17-18
1. We are in this World
Now, we can't help that, can we. We were born here, the location of our domicile is terra infirma. Unless we zoom off to the moon, we can't change that location. We can't change where we were born but we can change what we do about it.
We are to avoid worldly wickedness. Our zealousness in this battle calls us to resist and overcome the evil among us and at the same time to attempt to become more like Jesus. Jesus prayed that God's power might help us in this goal. Victory will come in God's own time and His own technique. Meanwhile, Jesus continues His prayer for you to be kept from worldliness and transgression. Jesus prays for your success in living the Christian life.
You see, Christians are really citizens of two world systems. We're members of heaven and we're members of this earth. They are diametrically opposed to each other. Unlike spiritual hermits, we should be properly involved in both time and eternity. Proper involvement places us in a quandary because, what are we going to do? We're supposed to be spiritual and we're supposed to be involved in the world: the world hates Christians according to verse 14.
We can choose to be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good. Or so apropos that we adopt every pagan fad and custom. How often the bright lights of the world obliterate Jesus who wants to be the light of the world. "Worldliness will cause many a star that we have admired for its brilliance to go out in darkness." - Prophets and Kings, p.188. (EG White)
Christians must be good citizens. And I think that includes paying our bills. Do you think Christians should pay their bills? I went down to the gas station to get the oil changed in my wife's car this past week. When I went in to pay the bill, I looked on a window by the cash register, and here were all sorts of copies of cancelled checks. I said, "What are all those checks up there for?" "Well, those are checks that have bounced. They are no good." I said, "Well, why do you have them up on the window?" "So everybody could see who these people are." So, I got to reading the list. Now, I'm not going to point my finger. I'm going to turn the other way here. I'm not going to embarrass you. Folks, Christians ought to pay their bills. Those are surely lists of non-Christians. They couldn't be members of the McDonald Road Church, could they. Could they?
Christians do not live in spiritual isolation chambers. Christians ought to be good citizens. We ought to vote. We ought to be involved in our community. We ought to be good neighbors. We need to live honestly. We're not programmed to do that. Do you realize that we spend a lot of time watching TV, and TV programs us to be neutral to others, internet, the media. What is our relationship to our neighbor who lives across the street that is dying of cancer or that is dying of loneliness? Do we have a relationship with that person. Yes we do! We have an obligation to those people. I hope it's not similar to our involvement with television because you probably realize that Tom Brokaw doesn't know you. Peter Jennings never heard of who you are. You have a relationship with that thirty inch screen but they don't have a relationship with you. It teaches us to be pseudo-involved with others. Jesus wants us to be properly involved with others. We are called to care for other people! You can't pretend to love God and hate your neighbors. And we don't know them. We are preprogrammed by the internet and the media to be neutral to others. What is our relationship with our neighbor across the street who might be dying of cancer, or loneliness? Is it similar to our involvement with the Television? Jesus wants us to be personally and properly involved with the world. We are in this world. We ought to be good citizens of this world.
2. Not only are we in the world but we are NOT OF THE WORLD. We are not to be OF this world.
Come over here to John 17:14. Here in Jesus' prayer, He says this: "I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not OF THE WORLD any more than I am OF THE WORLD. My prayer is not that you take them out OF THE WORLD but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not OF THE WORLD, even as I am not of it."
I wish Jesus would have prayed a different prayer. He chose not to ask His Father to remove us from this world. We're not of the world. We live here but we are aliens. We are extraterrestrial people. Worldliness is not to be a part of our life. Worldliness is not just doing the things that the world does, but it's also wishing that you could do the things of the world. One of its characteristics is mental slavery to illegitimate pleasures. Playing mental games with sin will lead you to active involvement with sin. Playing mental games with things that are forbidden is also worldliness. Our behavior as Christians should be good. "Worldliness twists values by rearranging their price tags." - Erwin W. Lutzer
As a little boy I remember playing hide-and-go-seek one day with my friends. For some unknown reason they stopped playing and did something else while I was still hiding. I was sad enough to weep. Over the years I thought about my emotions on that day. I had almost cried because my friends did not come to find me. You know, life is like a game of hide-and-go-seek between God and us. Only it is God who is weeping, because we have stopped playing the game. God is waiting to be found, but we have gone off in search of the world and are no longer searching for God. That's criminal: that's worldliness.
God gives a strong warning about the world: Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. How do you renew your mind? You renew your mind by pouring the Word of God through it in daily study. That's how you do it. Every morning you ought to be studying your Scripture. If you want a changed mind you say, "Well I don't like all these thoughts that I keep having in my mind." Well, if you want different thoughts feed some different information into your mind and you will have different thoughts. The process will be gradual but it will take place and it will be permanent.
We live in the world but we must not let the world live in us. I appeal to you to let Jesus take the world out or your pleasure before eternal death takes the pleasure out of your world.
Titus 2:11-13 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ...
One day a young minister toured a coal mine. At the entrance to the black dirty mine he spied a beautiful white flower growing out of a pile of black grimy glunk. The minister asked his host, "How can it blossom in such purity and radiance in this dirty place?" The guide said, "Let me show you." and he threw some coal dust on the pure white petals. The pastor was surprised that the fine, sooty particles slid right off the snowy petals, leaving the plant just as lovely, just as unstained as before. Its surface was so smooth that the grit and grime could not adhere to it.
Jesus can give our hearts same characteristic. Just as that flower could not control its habitat, so we cannot help it that we have to live in a world filled with evil. We can't help what family we are born into. But God's grace can keep us so clean and unspotted that though we live in a dirty world, the world will not cling to us. We can be clean in a dirty place. But only if like that pure flower, we keep our face directed to the SON!
The bible speaks to us about wickedness in James 1:27. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. We can, through the power of Jesus Christ, be pure. We can have the victory. May I suggest that looking after the orphans and widows will also help keep the worldly pollution away. Ministering to others in behalf of Jesus can keep you clean. Helping, visiting, lifting, cooking, cleaning, fixing, transporting, mending, praying, will also help the helper to be less worldly and more like Jesus.
Stay close to Jesus. You can't keep fooling around with the world and come away clean. It might be fun to run with the dogs, in the end, you will have fleas.
Look at 1 John 2:15-17. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. That is beautiful. That is so nice.
Americans are supposed to be rugged individualists, aren't we? Isn't that what we claim that we are? But that's not true. We shake with fear of being different. The truth is that we are all trying to be like the neighbors. The truth is that peer pressure is one of the strongest things in the world today. "If everybody is doing it, I'd better get down to the store and get me some so I can do it too. If they're all wearing that type of shoe, I'd better wear that type of shoe." Do you know what I mean? We are a land of followers. We want to act like the world, dress like the world, and Who are we following? You may say, "Well, I'm a fad. I admit that." It's more than a fad. "I'm following a trend." We have whole magazines that are named, "Vogue." We try to be in vogue. Where is all this taking us? The path may seem pleasant enough if you don't stop to think where you are going. Little do we realize that the devil is leading us all, like a herd of zombies marching toward destruction. I think we need to be following Jesus Christ.
Voltaire, I hate to quote Voltaire, but he's right in this instance. Speaking about human beings, he said: "Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new road." That's true. Jesus calls us out of the world and its enchantment.
To escape the world we must claim God's promise in 2 Pet 1:4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. How do we escape the corruption? How do we escape worldliness? Through the divine promises of the Bible. If you immerse yourself in the Bible you are going to be a changed person. You can be a changed person.
Earlier this year we had a party for our grand daughter's first birthday. I noticed a strange behavior. She tore open a very expensive toy, and then played with the wrapping paper! Isn't that odd behavior? She played with the wrapping paper. If an adult did that we would send him to the mental farm. But let me tell you that when a Christian turns their back on Jesus and starts fooling around with the world it is the same situation. The world is merely the wrapping paper. The valuable gift is a relationship with Jesus. That's what it is. That's what you need. That's the value. Stop playing with the wrapping paper of life.
3. Not only do we live in this world and not only are we not supposed to be of this world, but we are supposed to go TO THIS WORLD. With what? The message of Jesus Christ. Matthew 24:14. "And this gospel will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." So we need a mission, and the mission statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the gospel to all the world. We have the three angels of Revelation 14:6-12 on our stained glass window. We have the three angels on our business cards. We have the three angels on our churches.
What is our mission in the Seventh-day Adventist Church? To preach the gospel to all the world. So, let me ask you a very personal question: What is your personal mission? Do you have a mission statement? Every successful company has a mission statement. Who are you working with this week to take the gospel to? Do you have a Bible study scheduled in your house? Do you have a dinner appointment or some time that you are meeting with somebody to share the gospel with them? You should. We need a personal mission statement.
John 17:18 "As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world."
Being properly involved in this world means seeking God's mission for your life. Every successful organization has a clear mission statement. But what about a personal mission statement? Jesus clearly says our mission is to take His gospel into the world, to let the world know He loves them.
2 Corinthians 2:15. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. What are we? We are the aroma of Christ.
How do you smell? What do you smell like? Some "Christians" stink! I saw that in the gas station. They are the aroma of the devil, saturated with the world, hypocrites. That's not what Jesus is calling us to do. He's calling us to be Christians, to take the message of Christianity, and to go to the world with Jesus Christ and to be the aroma of Christ, to be sweet, sweet smelling, lovely, loveable Christians. Be the perfume of Jesus. And you can only be that way by saturating yourself with the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
We can't help living in this world, but we don't have to be of this world. Let's take Christ quickly to the world.
Hymn of Praise: #12, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee Scripture: John 17:11-18 Hymn of Response: #329, Take the World But Give me Jesus. 000916Gettys#226
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last updated 9/18/2000 by Bob Beckett.