In The World, But Not Of The World
 By John D. Woodbridge

    What is the relation of the Christian to the world we live in? Are we Christians sheltered from the sins and enticements of todayís culture? No, not at all. As Christians, we are called by the Lord to live in the world but not be of it (1 John 2:15-16).

    Moreover, even if we profess that the Bible is our infallible rule of faith and practice, we are not beyond the reach of the charm of the gospel of self-fulfillment, so popular today. The gospel of self-fulfillment caters directly to our self-centered old nature.

    In this "Me-Decade" we may think that the teachings of Christ about self-denial, about losing oneís life to find it, and about discipleship are fanatical, old-fashioned, or beside the point. We may show a high tolerance for the indulgence of the flesh, whether we encounter it in the viewing of television programs or encounter it close at hand. It is possible for us to strive to make our lives comfortable and to forget about the pain and wants of our neighbors. In the name of cheap grace it is possible for us to minimize biblical passages that speak of Godís judgment of pride, sexual impurity, and covetousness.

    Even if we sense that the gospel of self-fulfillment is only a cheap counterfeit of the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ, it is possible for us to accept more of the false gospelís values than we realize. Not that we disbelieve the Bible per se. We simply neglect its teachings about sexuality and about the value of a Spirit-controlled ego. The supreme commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind drops from our consciousness. We want to be good Christians, but the culture has infiltrated the way we think and live. The temptation to compartmentalize what we say we believe from what we actually do is almost irresistible. In a growing number of circumstances, we can cease to make the Bible our rule of faith and practice.

    Rather than experiencing the abundant Christian life, we dutifully struggle with feelings of guilt and self-recrimination for our spiritual failures. We wonder why we suffer from such a shortage of spiritual power. We do not know where to turn.

    By Godís grace, there are many of our brothers and sisters in Christ who do mesh deeds with words even in this narcissistic age of self-love. They are salt-and-light Christians. They try to love their neighbors as themselves. They make sacrifices for their family members, for fellow Christians, and for the poor and sick. They seek their ultimate fulfillment in pleasing Christ, not in satisfying every personal whim.

    They enjoy the gifts of life but within the guidelines set by Scripture. They appreciate the wholesomeness of sexuality within marriage. They understand that material blessings are not to be hoarded but are to be shared with others. They marvel at the beauties of nature. They regard the splendors of a crimson sunset over the Arizona desert as the handiwork of the Creator. What is more, they experience spiritual power. But probably even they wrestle with the self-centered temptations of today more than their Christian brothers and sisters would guess.

    How can the Christian tell if he is drifting toward an unhealthy fascination with self-fulfillment in place of self-denial? His answers to the following questions may give him clues.

   1. What is the ratio between the amount of time you devote to watching, listening to, or reading materials that contribute to your spiritual growth and the time you give to other fare? If the ratio favors non-Christian materials, you may be feeding the old nature and starving the new. The psalmist reminds us that the "blessed" man delights in the law of the Lord and "meditates day and night" on the law (Psalm 1:2).

    2. Has your Christian faith ever cost you anything? If your faith has cost you nothing in recent months or years, are you actually bearing your cross daily and following Christ? Jesus said, "If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever will save his life shall lose it; but whoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it" (Matt. 16:24-25).

    3. Do you want to be a disciple of Christ, or does that idea strike you as being fanatical? Jesus said, "Not every one who says to Me, ĎLord, Lord,í will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).

    4. When you spend time with non-Christians, are you a different person from the one you are with people at church?

    5. Have you felt guilty and hypocritical for weeks because you indulged in practices that you knew displeased the Lord?

    6. Is your tolerance level so high you are hardly ever offended by anything you read, hear, or see?

    7. How often do you call upon the Lord each day? Or do you rely upon yourself? Jesus said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

    8. Do you consciously seek to obey biblical teachings each day?

    9. Do you love your heavenly Father and worship Him, or are you interested only in how He can meet your needs and desires?

   We live in a society in which Christian churches do not exercise a decisive role in shaping public and private morality and policy. Our culture is truly a secular one. All of us can profit from reflecting upon the critically important matter of renewing our minds in such a world. The massive onslaught of our culture against our minds forces us to do so.

    And then we must return to the basics: prayer, Scripture meditation, devotional Bible study, and a commitment to the local church and to each other. Moreover, we must relearn a lesson we may have understood well once before: on our own we cannot win the battle for our minds; on our own, we cannot penetrate the culture with the gospel of Christ. We fight against spiritual powers that are unimpressed by wealthy churches, professions of orthodoxy from spiritually-cold hearts and slick strategizing.

    Our strength comes from the Lord alone. He is our victory (John 15:5)Ö.With the Holy Spiritís power to guard our minds, we can resist the attacks of the evil one. With the strength of the Holy Spirit we can make advances for Christís church in these days of vanishing securities but of unusual opportunities. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, our minds can be renewed. We can develop "the mind of Christ."

   Taken from Renewing Your Mind In A Secular World, edited by John D. Woodbridge, Moody Publishers, Copyright © 1985.