One of the greatest biblical tensions Christians face when they become new in Christ is how to be in this world but not conformed to it. While we live in this temporary place waiting for His return or our entrance into Heaven, how do we live in it without allowing it to live in us?
“They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” John 17:16
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:19
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3:20
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
In understanding these verses, we first need to understand what the “world” is. Although the term world can mean the physical planet we live on, in these passages, it is referring to a system of belief.
In Romans 12:2, “the world” refers to the human system that is at odds or in direct opposition to God. It dismisses the need to worship God or acknowledge Him as creator. This worldly system says our flesh needs its needs met — “this life is all there is, so I need to obtain all there is now”. In reference to people, “the world” are those who are still alienated from God through their rejection of the grace God offers to them through Christ.
People of the world focus on this world only. People of God also focus on the eternal.
When we accept Christ, we also accept His way of thinking and behaving. With the help of the Spirit, the old patterns of our minds are replaced with new ones. These comfortable patterns are in direct opposition with the systems of this lost world. Christ warns that we will be hated for not following after the old ways just as they hated Him. (John 15:18-19)
This is the cause of the spiritual tension we feel in our desire to walk with God. There is a battle for our hearts and minds, and we must fight against it. It is not easy to live in a world so pervasively intolerant to God. There are temptations everywhere we look. Denying our flesh and walking in the Spirit will cause tension. But if we allow Him, He uses the tension to produce a beautiful growth toward His likeness. This is what will truly satisfy us.
We are in the world but not at home in this world. All of the old ways we knew, God says to put to death. We are being transformed from one glory to another through refusing to live under the world’s system of belief.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
This passage tells us who gives us the increased glory – it comes from the Lord. Through living in the Spirit and not in the flesh, we are drawn closer to the Father and further from the father of lies. All who contemplate on the Lord’s glory will be transformed into His image. What does it mean to contemplate His glory? The Greek actually means to reflect as in a mirror.
Consider how often you stand in front of a mirror to contemplate what you look like or to check your image for flaws before leaving home. Those who know Christ are to contemplate or reflect God’s glory to the world. But so often we look at the world and mirror back exactly what we see. There is little distinction between our reflection and the mirror image of the system that dishonors God through vain philosophies, striving for more than God offers, and rejecting the gift of His son. All of these things leave us perpetually dissatisfied.
Today we can begin again. We can understand our role in this world as ambassadors for Christ. We can wipe our mirrors clean, pull out our Bibles, ask God for wisdom, and begin to live as strangers in a foreign land that have a home in Christ. We aren’t lost. We may not physically be with Christ, be we are in Christ, and He is in us. This world is not our home. We have a better one coming. But until then, we are to live in the waiting as a reflection of our new nature and place in the family of God.
How will you choose to reflect His glory today and live in contrast to the me-centered world we live in? I would love to hear in the comments.