Not of the World
"I am not of the world.” (John 17:14)
In one sense it was not so. Jesus did not seek to maintain His holiness intact and unspotted by avoiding contact with the world. He mingled familiarly in its busy crowds. He frowned on none of its innocent enjoyments; He fostered, by His example, no love of seclusion; He gave no warrant or encouragement to mortified pride, or disappointed hopes, to rush from its duties; yet, with all this, what a halo of heavenliness encircled His pathway through it!
“I am from above,” was breathed in His every look, and word, and action, from the time when He lay in the slumbers of guileless infancy in His Bethlehem cradle, until He said, “I leave the world, and go to my Father” (Jn. 16:10). He had moved uncontaminated through its varied scenes, like the sunbeam, which, whatever it touches, remains as unsullied, as when it issues from its great fountain.
But though Himself in His sinless nature unconquerable by temptation — immutably secure from the world’s malignant influences — it is all worthy of note, as an example to us, that He never unnecessarily braved these. He knew the seducing spell that same world would exercise on His people, of whom, with touching sympathy, He says, “These are in the world” (Jn. 17:11). He knew the many who would be involved and ensnared in its subtle worship, who, minding earthly things, would seek to slake their thirst at polluted streams!
Reader, the great problem you have to solve, Jesus has solved for you — to be “in the world, and yet not of it.” To abandon it, would be a dereliction of duty. It would be servants deserting their work, soldiers flying from the battlefield. Live in it that while you live the world may feel the better for you. Die, that when you die, the world, the Church, may feel your loss and cherish your example! On its cares and duties, its trusts and responsibilities, its employments and enjoyments, inscribe the motto, “The world passeth away” (1 Jn. 2:17)!
Beware of everything in the world that would tend to deaden spirituality of heart, unfitting the mind for serious thought, lowering the standard of Christian duty, and inducing a perilous conformity to its false manners, habits, tastes, and principles. As the best antidote to the love of the world, let the inner vacuum of the heart be filled with the love of God. Seek to feel the nobility of your regenerated nature, that you have a nobler heritage to care for than the transitory glories which encircle an indivisible point, a fugitive atom.
How can I mix with the potsherds of the earth? Once, “I lay among the pots;” now, I am “like a dove, whose wings are covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold” (Psa. 68:13).
Stranger, pilgrim, sojourner — ”my citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20). Why covet tinsel honors and glories? Why be solicitous about the smiles of that which knew not (nay, which frowned on) its Lord? “Paul calls it,” says an old writer, “schema (a mathematical figure), which is a mere notion, and nothing in substance” (Thomas Brooks, 1608-1680).
Live above the world’s corroding cares and anxieties, remembering the description Jesus gives of his own true people, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (Jn. 17:16).
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