Jesus said that we as His followers are to be encouraged because He said he overcame the world (John 16:33). Just what does that mean for you? “Everyone born of God overcomes the world,” wrote John, the one who wrote the Gospel of John (1 John 5:4). John goes on to say, “only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” overcomes the world (1 John 5:5).
If you are a new Christian you may be amazed that many things that once had your attention and were the center of your life seem less important now. Even activities that are not considered wrong or sinful may have changed in your life because you are engulfed in this new walk. What will be an even bigger surprise for you is that some people who have been Christians for a long time may not share your joy. At one time they were where you are, excited and “on fire” for God, but today they live without the joy of the Lord. They have lost the excitement that you possess. As a matter of fact, they may discourage you by their lack of excitement about what is going on in your life. These are Christians who have been overcome by the world. Overcoming the world in your new Christian walk will be one of the most important aspects for your walk as a disciple. Even if you are entering this discipleship study as someone who has been a Christian for a long time, this subject is just as much for you.
What Is The World?
When we speak of the “world” we are talking about the philosophies, systems of operations, ideas, and ways of doing things that are outside of God’s will. This includes people and activities that operate independent from the laws of God. In the Bible there are several uses of the word “world.” It can mean the created order of things, however, it most often refers to the system and way of life that opposes God.
The Bible is clear, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world– the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does– comes not from the Father but from the world” (I John 2:15-16).
Three aspects make up the world; (1) the things that attract the appetites of men (physical), (2) the things that appear attractive (mental), and (3) vain assurance in one’s own ability (what others think about us).
Paul refers to the principles of this world as hollow and deceptive philosophies: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world . . .” (Colossians 2:8).
John the apostle wrote that those who oppose Christ are from the world and speak from the viewpoint of the world. So we can say that the world has a viewpoint that is opposite of God’s. It should also point out that sin and the world are two different things. Both defile your life and are against God, but they do so in different aspects. The defilement of sin is personal and immoral. Even the sinner often knows he is doing wrong. Only the hardened sinner will support sin and say what he is doing is okay. But the world is more subtle and refined and often appears beautiful and accepted by man. However, in the sight of God, both are unacceptable. It is just as bad for one to be possessed by the world as to be contaminated by sin. It is possible for a believer to sin yet not be caught up in the world. However, if one is possessed by the world, he is certainly contaminated by sin and will depart from the path of God’s will for his life. If one loves the world, he becomes an enemy of God. If Satan can get you to be a lover of the world, then he can have greater influence over you because that person’s way of life, philosophies, and standards will oppose God. That man will be more concerned about his own pleasures and what people think of him than what God thinks. A worldly man is without the fear of God. The world is often easily justified in its cultural acceptance and takes the place of God’s perspective on life.
A person caught up in the world will allow it to erect strongholds in his mind so his confidence will be in the world for his provision, protection, and pleasure. God wants to be the one to satisfy you with pleasure, provision, and protection. The world actually usurps God’s place and hinders you from honoring God. When man thinks he determines his existence, fulfillment, and provision, he becomes driven by the world. That is why the scripture says, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
If the love of the Father is not in him, that person will reject the things of God. If you seek your own pleasure apart from God, even good can become worldly. Remember, God desires for you to have pleasure. It is not His plan to take that away from you, but He desires to be the source. Even in the garden God created things that were pleasant to the eyes. It is not pleasure that God opposes, but rather man running after people, activities, and things that usurp God’s place in his life.
Jesus experienced this temptation when the devil tempted Him in the wilderness by taking him to the top of the mountain and showing Him all the kingdoms of this world and their splendor. Satan said they were given unto him, and he offered them to Jesus if He would bow down and worship him. Jesus came back with the word of God, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'” (Matthew 4:10).
The devil’s scheme was to get Jesus to go after the splendor of the world and thus bring Jesus subject to himself. That is still a method of operation against you as a Christian. Jesus’ response must be your response. You must be full of the Scripture to counter the temptations that the world lures before you. Later Jesus was given full dominion, but He had to go the Father’s way of the cross to receive what the devil offered as a shortcut. Being a disciple is going the way of the cross and not the way of the world.
It takes a maturing Christian to identify the world and its bondage. Sin comes about when you give in to temptation birthed from your desires, but the world infiltrates through philosophies, concepts, and ideas that may appear to be acceptable and good but oppose the nature of God. A person may even believe his way of thinking is only progressive, enlightened, and tolerant, when in fact he could be entertaining the world. That is not to say that Christians are to be closed-minded, judgmental, and non-accepting, but you must depend upon God’s laws and standards and not upon your own way of thinking when being a disciple.
That is where God’s Word comes into the picture. A Christian viewpoint must be reasoned from the Bible. The Word of God is alive and powerful and is able to judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. That is why you must guard your heart. The world entices the mind and heart. The more your heart is given to God, the less you will be attracted to the world.
About the Author:
Glenn Shaffer is the author of Apostolic Government in the 21st Century, Christianity 101 and Discipleship 201. He has a Masters of Ministry degree in leadership studies from Southwestern Christian University and is working toward a Doctorate in Ministry at ORU in Tulsa.
Glenn and his wife, Ami have been married for 40 years with two sons, Matt and Daniel. Together, they co-see the elder pastoral care of Destiny Life Church, one church in two locations (Owasso and Claremore, Oklahoma) where they have been serving for almost 4 decades. It is a non-denominational church, based on a New Testament Apostolic form of church government. Together, they also serve as the directors of ATI- Apostolic Teams International, an emerging network of churches and ministers.