Elder Jason Malveaux
By Elder Jason Malveaux
Associate Minister, Bethesda Temple Church
“These are in the world…they are not of the world” – John 17:11, 14
The world is a marvelous place. It is filled with wondrous beauty. However, the world is also filled with an insidious systemic underbelly whose values seek to suffocate the voices of better judgment.
Is it any wonder that we need little, if any, encouragement to be bad? Yet, we must fill our lives with positive affirmations on our mirrors, walls, windows, refrigerator doors, and virtually anywhere we would venture to remind ourselves to do good deeds, be giving, and have patience.
Jesus places His own, you and I, in a seemingly precarious position. He prays to the Father that we be left in the world, but re-iterates that we are not of the world. Essentially, our Lord prays that we come to an irrevocable decision to league our soul’s desires with pleasing God and expressing godly character rather than with the world to please ourselves.
Such statements intimate two distinct situations that are often in conflict but do not need to be. One is the world as a place. Christians are placed ‘in the world.’ We are citizens on planet earth. We have homes here; we have careers here; we raise our children here; we bury our dead here. We are in the world.
The world has beautiful landscapes, hustling city streets, serene waterfalls, majestic mountains, and beautiful people to offer. Jesus gives us conclusive permission to be citizens in the world.
On the other hand, it is clearly revealed that Christians are not citizens “of the world.” This is a situation of norms, mores, and culture.
The spiritual system that governs interaction between human beings, that guides how much of one’s soul is for sale, that speak to, and for, our human nature is what is foreign to God’s purchased people. If there is any conflict at all, any means by which we thwart our own spiritual success, it is in trying to be adherents to two mutually exclusive societies.
A Christian will always be conflicted as long as he chooses to defer full acceptance of his purchased place in Christ. As long as Christians choose to delay the irrevocable decision to come out of the world, he will always be at war (with himself).
The great Apostle John warns Christians, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you… For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.” The world offers physical pleasure, sensualism, and recognition. It is not offered in a ‘take it or leave it proposition.’
The world makes you crave it. Cravings are intense desires that are difficult to ignore until satiated. The prodigal son had an intense craving to see the world, experience pleasure, and be recognized for his wealth. He was willing to spend all his living to have physical pleasure and recognition. Such a path finally led him to eat and sleep with pigs. Peter was willing to swear in order to be recognized as not a disciple of Jesus Christ.
It is not until the prodigal son makes an irrevocable decision to go home and accept any place in his father’s home that healing for him begins. Peter, after being filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, came to his irrevocable decision to be numbered as an Apostle of our Lord Jesus and sacrifice his life rather than deny his Christ ever again.
The irrevocable decision is to leave the cravings for physical pleasure, possessions, pride, and reckless ambition. The irrevocable decision chooses to express love, faith, hope, patience, joy, and peace.
Clearly, this task is humanly impossible. That is why God has invested the Holy Spirit in us – not for us to confuse gain with godliness; but to be living letters of love from God, read of all men.