In But Not Of

Neil Girrard
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Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Gen. 3:22 π Jdgs. 21:25 π Mt. 7:20 π Jn. 1:12-13 π Jn. 3:8 π Jn. 4:24 π Jn. 7:24 π Jn. 17:14-16 π Rom. 8:4 π Rom. 8:14 π Rom. 13:10 π 1 Cor. 2:6 π 1 Cor. 2:12-13 π 1 Cor. 2:14 π 1 Cor. 6:9-11 π 2 Cor. 2:11 π 2 Cor. 7:1 π 2 Cor. 13:5 π Gal. 5:16 π Gal. 5:17 π Gal. 5:19-21 π Gal. 5:22-23 π Eph. 4:24 π Eph. 4:28 π Phlp. 3:18-19 π Col. 3:2 π 2 Ths. 3:12 π 1 Jn. 2:16

Jesus prayed to the Father for all who believe in Him through the teachings given by His original disciples, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” ( Jn. 17:14-16 ) If any facet of the gospel should show us the true nature of what God has called us to in Christ Jesus, this question of what it means to be in but not of this world must stand head and shoulders above most, if not all, the other facets of the gospel of Christ. This is where “the rubber meets the road,” where the genuine life of Christ exposes all else as mere fraud and false religion, where our lives can and must be measured in practical (that is, visibly beneficial to God’s kingdom) terms or else we must judge ourselves unfit and perhaps even fully disqualified in the faith. ( 2 Cor. 13:5; top )

We are, of course, most familiar with the world. The description of the unrighteous who do not and will not inherit the kingdom of God fits many of us perfectly – such were many of us! ( 1 Cor. 6:9-11 ) The list of the works of the flesh is very familiar to us – at least those parts God’s Spirit has graciously taught us to repent of, a work of purification that is not as complete as most “Christians” suppose. ( Gal. 5:19-21 ) Even John’s spiritual warning that “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 Jn. 2:16; top ) makes some sense to us even when its depths remain beyond our current reach.

Our ability to humanly dissect and grasp the difference between in and of the world pretty much stops right there however. “God is Spirit” ( Jn. 4:24 ) and “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” ( 1 Cor. 2:14 ) This is why Paul wrote, “We speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age… Now we [who believe] have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” ( 1 Cor. 2:6 , 12-13 ) The natural man is of the world and cannot know the things of God’s Spirit. Only the new creation, which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness ( Eph. 4:24 , Jn. 1:12-13 ), is freely given the things of God and those new creations whose spiritual eyes and ears are opened and developed are “the mature” who can discern and discuss what God has done and is doing as well as recognize and expose the schemes of the devil. ( 2 Cor. 2:11 , etc.; top)

There simply cannot be a list of rules by which one can determine whether one is in but not of this world. The laws of Moses have not been replaced by the rules of Christ and the apostles nor by the by-laws and creeds of the “church.” There are no rules, no fruit of the tree of the (independent from God) knowledge of good and evil. ( Gen. 3:22; top ) There is a Head, Christ Jesus, to follow. He alone is the tree of life.

This is not to say there are no Scriptures to use as tests that we may apply to ourselves to be certain that we are in the faith, but rather that the very ability to make a righteous judgment of ourselves is not based on our own ability to see and analyze what we have seen ( Jn. 7:24 ) but instead must rest upon divinely given discernment, revelation and understanding. Nor could it be otherwise. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” ( Rom. 8:14 ) We are not sons of God because we have decided to proclaim ourselves as sons of God. We are sons of God when we follow the Spirit of God. And whether our following is genuine or false is seen in the fruit that comes forth in our lives. ( Mt. 7:20 , Gal. 5:22-23; top )

Thus we need to know what this world is like (as God sees it) and examine ourselves (with the aid of the Holy Spirit of truth and righteousness) and purge ourselves of all filthiness of flesh and spirit ( 2 Cor. 7:1; top ) as quickly as He reveals it to us. We need to know what God has done for us and given to us and who and what He is (as best we can know such wondrous things). Then we need to know (by spiritual insight and revelation) what God requires of us, what He expects our lives to be like. This is the balance of being in the world but not of it. Anything else is merely a counterfeit designed to lure and pull us back into the filthiness and death of this world – and calling such a deception a “doctrine” or “theology” does not thereby transform it into a truth. Its attractiveness to our religious flesh only makes it a more lethal form of deception.

Let he who has ears hear.

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