Two worlds – to which do you belong?
by Michael J. Penfold
At the beginning, God placed man in Eden’s paradise.
The original creatorial order was marked by harmony between the Creator and His creation under the rule of Adam, heaven’s vice-regent on earth. Satan then engineered a rebellion which resulted in Adam rejecting God’s authority. Adam shifted his allegiance from God to the arch enemy Satan, and since that time the whole world has lain in the lap of him who the Bible calls the “prince of this world” and the “god of this age”.1 As punishment for their sin, our first parents were driven out of Eden. Upon discovering they had lost out on God’s world, they and their descendants set about making this world as comfortable as possible.
The identity of the world – what the world is.
Author William MacDonald describes what the Bible repeatedly calls “this world” as “…the system which man has built up in an effort to make himself happy without Christ. It may include the world of culture, opera, art, education – in short, any sphere in which the Lord Jesus is not loved and welcomed.” J.N. Darby calls it, “…an immense system built up by Satan around fallen man to keep him insensible to his ruin.”
The efforts of mankind to settle down cosily in the world without God are tellingly illustrated in the actions of Adam and Eve’s son Cain. God told Cain the murderer, “A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth”. “I will be no such thing,” thought Cain. In total defiance of God he built world’s first city, in which to settle down comfortably and make a name for himself. W.W. Fereday comments, “From a garden to a city was a great stride; indeed it marked a revolution in human affairs...Immediately after the notice of the world’s first city we have recorded the rise of men’s varied industries. Jabal was the father of such as dwell in tents and keep cattle; Jubal of those who handle the harp and organ, and Tubal-cain was the first worker in brass and iron…It would seem as if Cain’s family, having lost God, would now get the utmost out of this present world. The city…thus soon resounded with the strains of music, and with the industrious clang of the smith. Comforts and accomplishments gave character to it. It became, as men would say, the centre of light and learning; and the great commercial depot of the human family. But God had no place there; it was a city of which he was not the builder and maker. The old Mosaic record in Genesis Chapter 4 is of the greatest possible value as showing us the beginning of ‘this world‘ as we now know it.” The early city builders and ‘earth dwellers’ used their tools and inventions for their own glory, comfort and amusement, and all in defiance of the God who had judged them.
The mentality of the world – how the world thinks.
The Bible speaks of ‘the way of world’, ‘the wisdom of the world’ and ‘the spirit of the world’.2 The world’s spirit is all about autonomy, pride, power, glory, self-sufficiency and selfish ambition. The Bible speaks of “all that is in world” under three categories. The “lust of the flesh” – what man’s sinful heart desires; the “lust of the eyes” – what man’s sinful eyes delight in; and “the pride of life” – what man’s sinful pride boasts in.3
It is all too easy to think of ‘worldliness’ in very narrow terms…smoking, drinking and partying. In reality, worldliness encompasses a very much wider sphere. It is any moral or spiritual conformity to the thinking, attitudes and behaviour of “this present world”. Simply to make one’s boast in possessions, material status symbols, or educational and vocational accomplishments, is to be marked by the pride of life, which is the very essence of worldliness.
The destiny of the world – where the world is headed.
Readers concerned that this article is going a little too far in writing the world off should remember that God has already written it off “at the cross”. The Lord Jesus said of his death by crucifixion, “Now is the judgment of this world”.4 What does that mean? Think of it this way: God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, but man would have none of Him. The world crucified Christ. In the words of Paul, the “princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory”.5 The crucifixion of Christ was its crowning evil, the capstone to thousands of years of relentlessly pursued rebellion. Thus God condemned the world, even as it condemned His Son. The world system – since the death of Christ – has existed in a particular state of condemnation. The post-cross era is called in the Bible “this present evil age”.6 The world’s toys and attractions now represent more than just a brazen attempt to live comfortably without God. Hollywood, Broadway, the Lottery, the World Cup, MTV and celebrity culture are a Satanic smokescreen to cover up the crime of the cross and move on.
A day of reckoning is approaching. ‘The world’ is on borrowed time. God has appointed a day in which he will judge it.7 All the cities of the world will yet fall and be brought to nothing, even as Babel was long ago.8 Until that day, those who own Jesus as Lord are “delivered from this present evil world.”9 By the cross the world is crucified to the Christian, and the Christian to the world.10 Prior to conversion to Christ a person wishes above all to be in favour with the world and to have its approval. Yet, confronted with the Bible’s truth, that same person will look to the death of Christ on the cross and see the true enormity and cost of his or her sin and part company with the world. The world crucified the Christian’s Lord! It hated Christ, and hates those who follow Him.11 So, while the death of Christ fits sinners for heaven, the cross of Christ finishes them for the world.
Can I take part with those who nailed Him to the tree?
And where His name is never praised, is that the place for me?
Nay, world! I turn away, though thou seem fair and good;
That friendly outstretched hand of thine is stained with Jesus’s blood
The strategy of the world – what the world wants.
The Bible contains three striking warnings about the world system:
“Whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God”12
“Love not the world”13
“Be not conformed to the world”14
Why these warnings? The world that crucified Christ, that is condemned, that is in rebellion, wants us to love it and be like it. Doesn’t that remind you of something? The ultimate purpose of the Christian’s life and existence is to love God be like His Son.15 Everything hinges on the outcome of this great struggle. No one can be at the absolute disposal of two masters. The pressure is on. Will you be conformed to this world, will you love it and be like it, or will you love God and be transformed to become like Christ?
Throughout history the ‘god of this world’ – Satan – has orchestrated the culture in order to ruin God’s people and damn souls. In Genesis we read of the Sodom world – a world of immorality designed to defile and degenerate. In the days of the Pharoahs, Satan worked through the Egypt world – a world of slavery that set out to dominate and domineer. He was behind the Jericho world, a fortress of hostility designed to defeat and delay. He worked and still works through the ever present Babylon world, a world of idolatry that exists to delude and deceive. Today, in the world of Google and Apple, when the world is in the palm of your hand, Satan’s plan to distract, deceive, dominate and damn has never been more subtle, influential and pervasive. Will you heed the urgings of Scripture? “Love not the world” and “be not conformed to the world”?
How did Abraham overcome the Sodom world? He refused the temptation to enjoy its goods.16 How did Moses overcome the Egypt world? He refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter and by faith in God renounced Egypt.17 How did Joshua overcome the intimidating Jericho world? He saw it for what it really was – a city under condemnation.18 How did Daniel overcome the Babylon world, a world that changed his home, his diet and his name and sought to brainwash and indoctrinate him? He “purposed in his heart” not to be defiled by its ways.19
Reader, see the world for what it is. Mark its influence, its strategy and its destiny. Christians are called neither to conform to culture, nor to Christianise it. The world is to be reckoned as condemned, corrupt and transient, and to be separated from – not in glorious isolation, but as we confront it with the Bible’s counter-cultural message of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Michael J. Penfold (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- 1 John 5:19, John 12:31, 2 Cor 4:4
- Eph 2:2, 1 Cor 1:20, 1 Cor 2:12
- 1 John 2:16
- John 12:31
- 1 Cor 2:8
- Gal 1:4
- Acts 17:31
- Rev 16:19
- Gal 1:4
- Gal 6:14
- John 15:18, 1 John 3:13
- James 4:4
- 1 John 2:15
- Rom 12:2
- Rom 8:29, 1 John 4:19
- Gen 14:21-23
- Heb 11:24-27
- Josh 6:17-19, Heb 11:30
- Dan 1:8