The separation of the Lord Jesus Christ from the world is the measure of His people's separation. This He clearly states in His intercessory prayer, saying to the Father, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (Jn. 17:16). While in the world, He was not of the world. He moved entirely outside its sphere of aims, ambitions, amusements, fashions, habits, purposes and tastes. So must we. Not only so, but He declared the unchanging hostility of the world to His disciples. "I have given them Thy Word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (Jn. 17:14); and on the eve of His departure He said to them, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (Jn. 15:18, 19).
The world has a distinct and unchanging character, whether it is the rude or cultivated world, the world of the first or of the nineteenth century. "The whole world lieth in wickedness [the wicked one]" (1 Jn. 5:19), however various the methods which the wicked one takes to exhibit its essential and unalterable evil. Sometimes the enemy instigates the world to seek the destruction of the truth by violence, and when this fails, as it always fails, he adopts the policy of Balaam, who could not curse the redeemed nation but "taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication" (Rev. 2:14). What he cannot accomplish by slaughter he effects by strategy and, in this way, has triumphed over the great mass of professing Christians.
Hence the searching and solemn testimony of the Holy Ghost: "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). The Christian who loves the world, and conforms to the ways of the world, is guilty of precisely the same shameful sin committed by a woman when she is unfaithful to her husband, and moreover, "settles down to be, becomes, takes his stand as "an enemy of God, according to the meaning of the word translated is in our Authorized Version in the aforementioned text. Christ claims the Church as His bride, and when she goes over to the world that lieth in the wicked one, what is it but spiritual adultery, which puts upon her a stigma forever?
Along with the stinging rebuke comes the tender beseeching "by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world" (Rom. 12:1, 2). But why? Because Christ "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Gal. 1:4). If, then, a professing Christian is not delivered from the present evil world, if it still masters his heart and controls his conduct, if he acts and speaks and thinks and desires like the unsaved around him, if his aspirations go out to a worldly life and his enjoyments consist in worldly pleasure, it is obvious that the end for which Christ died has not been gained in his case, nor has the will of God and our Father been done.
Here is the command, and neither indifference nor unbelief can erase it from the book of life: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love 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 pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (1 Jn. 2:15-17). The Holy Ghost does not say if any unprofessing man, if any unbelieving man, but, "if any man," whether he be a member of the church or not, "love the world, the love of the Father is not in him"; and when this unerring test is applied to every man's standing and hope, how many will awake at last to the bitter disappointment that instead of abiding forever, they are undone forever!
"When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and He shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets. But He shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity" (Lk. 13:25-27). It is not enough to come to the communion table and to listen to the preaching of the Gospel. Every one who claims to be a Christian must enter somewhat at least into the experience of the apostle when he exclaimed, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). The Cross has snapped the link that bound us to this world, now under condemnation.
"Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not" (1 Jn. 3:1.) Alas! The world knows most of those who have named the name of Christ too well, and it knows them because it sees not a particle of difference between them and its own votaries. If one attends the theater, so does the other. If one engages in fashionable dances that are devised to promote licentiousness, so does the other. If one encourages the card table, so does the other. If one plunges into the business of making money as the supreme object of life, and in utter disregard of the warnings of God's Word against the covetousness which is declared to be idolatry, so does the other. If one is over-reaching and unscrupulous in trade, so is the other. If one fills his library with books which heathen might have written, precisely the same books are found in the library of the other.
These words are written with profound sorrow; and if they should fall under the eye of any one who has become entangled in the meshes of the world, most affectionately and earnestly is he entreated to consider immediately, and to consider prayerfully, whether he is not bound "to keep himself unspotted from the world" (James. 1:27). For the sake of friends and acquaintances who may be stumbling over him into hell, for his own soul's sake and, above all, for Christ's sake, is he urged to ask himself the question whether he has a right to belie his profession, to inflict a most grievous injury upon the cause he has publicly espoused, to dishonor the Lord who bought him with His blood, to grieve the Holy Spirit of God whereby, if he is a Christian, he is sealed unto the day of redemption.
If any are led to reflection and repentance, they may also be led to inquire how they are to get back to their first love. The answer is plainly given in the infallible Scriptures: "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips" (Hos. 14:1, 2). "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9). "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 Jn. 5:4, 5). It comes to this: Take Christ with a renewed act of faith as a Savior, not only from the consequences of sin but from the dominion of sin, and from the accursed love of the world.
"He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not" (Jn. 1:10). In His last intercessory prayer it evidently grieved Him to say, "O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee" (Jn. 17:25). So then the world knows not the Son nor the Father; nor does it know the Holy Spirit, for Jesus says, "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him" (Jn. 14:16, 17); and the apostle writes, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Cor. 2:12). Well, therefore, may Christians heed the admonition of that Spirit, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? ... For ye are the temple of the living God." (2 Cor. 6:14-16).
Written By James Hall Brookes (1830-1897)
The above article was written by the famous 19th century pastor, James H. Brookes, and his sermon is just as relevant today! We work in the world; we shop in the world; we must live in the world but we should not be of the world. We should pray that the Lord would give us strength to rise above worldly things and seek those things which are from above. May God give His people the strength to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 5:14: Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Matthew 5:13: Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Colossians 4:6: Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.