September 29, 2012

Robbing the world of its power

We are vacationing on an island and noticing how island life in a hot climate affects us and the people who live here all the time. For one thing, heat and humidity dull ambition. They may also affect logic for we notice a few things that make little sense. 
For instance, in the heart of the largest city, there are almost no signs to tell you what street you are on, and a multitude of one-way streets that change to the other way at major intersections. 

This island is filled with signs of poverty, but also pride. Many houses are half-built or abandoned, yet 99% of the women are dressed like models. Clothes are definitely more important than a weed-free yard. 

Do these island priorities and values also dull the desire for God? We see many churches but less signs of godliness and biblical living.

The world at home is different. Our weather can kill you in the winter, so housing must be maintained. Many take pride in their ambition and so-called logical thinking, but this also can draw people away from God. Our lifestyle reflects increased wealth, but that easily interferes with genuine spirituality. We can be just as worldly as any islander.

The Bible speaks of the dangers of loving the world. It also defines what worldliness means…
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. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17)
I cannot love the beach more than I love my lawn, or think my priorities regarding spiritual matters makes me better than those who slave to keep their yards lush and their bank account full. I cannot desire a suntan, or nice clothes thinking this improves my status in life or makes me better than those who are pale-skinned and less well dressed. This too is worldly.

Yet God also commands me to live in this world as His child. I’m to obey Him rather than those desires of the flesh and eyes and the pride of life. In fact, obedience is my only option for overcoming the pull of the world.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:3–5)
Today’s devotional reading says that the world conquers me when it succeeds in hindering me from seeing, loving, holding communion with, and serving my Father, God. It doesn’t matter if it lures with me easy living or ambitious challenges. Anything that will stop me from drawing near to God, striving to be more like Jesus, thinking often about Him, and gladly doing His will can quickly become an enemy to my soul.

Instead, the Spirit of God challenges me to gain victory over the world by making it “serve me in the highest things.” That means I can use the world to give me a clearer vision of God, even a deeper love for Him and a joyful commitment to serve Him. As the devotional writer says, I win over the world when I make the world a ladder to lift me to God. 

When the world comes between me and God as an obscuring screen, it has conquered me. When the world comes between me and God as a transparent medium I have conquered it. To win victory is to put whatever is in the world beneath my feet, standing on it and letting it motivate me to reach to God that I might live out His love for those in it. This victory is as Jesus said,
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
Worldliness is about comfort, power, impressing people, and thinking that having more money and stuff will make me a happier, better person. Worldliness also focuses on this live only instead of continually remembering that this life is so short, but what is done in obedience to God will last forever. 

In a place where “the living is easy” I can easily forget the eternal things. However, because of Jesus who lives in me and saves me from sin and the world, I can also forget the stuff of this world. There because there is no pressure here to have, obtain, or impress, so it is actually easier to think of eternal matters.

Lord, my spiritual life is in Your hands, whether in this world or out of it. Help me to be obedient, for obedience overcomes the power of sin and any power the world might have to draw me away from You. Keep my heart focused on You, no matter where I am or what kind of pressures the world may put on me.

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