Not of this world

Ice RoseMatthew 16: 24-26, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8, “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”

Perhaps the most difficult, most painful, most disheartening thing in the world is to be in the world but not of the world, to live in the world and yet not love where we live, to minister to the world though be not entertained by it, to be in the world physically and yet mentally and spiritually bounding toward eternity. Recently, I found myself utterly discouraged and saddened simply because to be different is to carry a great burden. Specifically, to be an example of Christ is to carry a cross – His cross. To be holy and sanctified, which is to be set apart from the sinful wiles of the world, is to sacrifice for the sake of Jesus. And all for what? To be disliked, rejected, ridiculed, and afflicted? That is the very least of what is waiting for the one who is truly devoted to the Lord.

To follow after Christ, I am learning, is to invite the criticism and persecution of the world. Even if it is only to be viewed as the innocent and naive good-girl, the world still looks down upon me because I am seeking to be obedient to God’s Word. Every true believer will be persecuted, even if it is to as small an extent as in America. Think of the persecuted believers in Asia and Africa, who die daily, suffering imprisonment and torture, simply for uttering the name of Jesus! The one who loves God will suffer for His sake! It’s hard. It’s ugly. It’s sweat, toil, tears, and blood. It is complete and utter sacrifice of anything that might please the flesh.

I am, by God’s amazing grace, making choices to resist the things of the world as He teaches me these things. These are very specific choices. By God’s strength, I choose not to watch violent, sensual, or crude movies. I choose not to listen to secular music. I choose not to read popular romance novels, even by Christian authors. These are not simple or easy decisions! If it feeds my flesh and tempts me to sin in any way, then I am learning to give it up. And please don’t misunderstand. I am not expecting all Christians to live according to the standard that I have set for myself! However, I am saying this: that to follow Christ requires sacrifice, even that means every thing in this world that could possibly cause me to stumble as I pursue Christ.

The life of a believer is a race, and we are to be sprinting toward the finish line. Can you imagine how frustrating and discouraging it would be for an Olympic runner to see the finish line fast approaching, only to trip over a stone, to stumble on the track, to fall to one knee, to see the medal snatched up by another racer? Can you imagine the anger, disappointment, and sense of injustice that he feels? This, I am learning, is what the world does to believers in their pursuit of Christ! To indulge in the world is to willingly place stones on the path which slow our progress, steer us from the finish, and deter our passionate focus on Jesus.

So, I am to be in the world, but that is all. The Christian must look completely and totally different from the world that he/she lives in. God’s will for me, and every believer, is that we are sanctified and conformed to the image of Christ. After all, we are just passing through. I am looking to a new home. This sacrifice is not without its reward! The prize is a crown, many crowns, and eternity in glory, and worship, and honor of the Ultimate Sacrifice.

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