There are really only three basic world views in life: Hedonism, which is the desire for pleasure; Materialism, which views possessions as all-important; and Narcissism, which is “I’m all that matters”. These aren’t new philosophies. God talked about them in 1 John 2:16 when he said, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
How do you live in a world like that without being controlled by those kinds of attitudes? I want to give you four strategies on how live in the world without being of the world.
1 – EVALUATE EVERYTHING.
You need to use the mind God gave you. Don’t automatically buy into everything you see, everything you hear, every idea that’s promoted on television or radio or through social media. Question, challenge and properly assess popular opinion. Does it make sense or not?
The apostle Paul encourages us in I Thessalonians 5 to “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid all evil.” Everything! That means to test music, TV programs, books, magazines, and movies. Test everything! Everything includes news show hosts, radio psychologists, and preachers. Everything!
What’s the standard of evaluation? The Bible. The Bible has outlasted every culture throughout history. It has a track record. We use this as a standard to evaluate everything. Is it right? Is it true? Is it what God says?
Use your mind, evaluate, and test everything. Don’t automatically accept what the world says.
2 – DEVELOP STRONG CONVICTIONS.
The people who have made an impact on the world with their lives are people who live by conviction rather than convenience. The people who’ve made the greatest changes in the world were not always the smartest, most educated or wealthiest. They were the people with the deepest convictions.
The old saying rings true: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” There’s a lot to fall for today. You need to develop some strong convictions to counteract culture. There is great pressure in our culture to conform. To a large degree, the expectations of others determine how we dress, talk, act, eat, buy, spend our money, and spend our time. We are constantly pressured by the culture around us. The #1 question can easily become, “What will other people think?”
Again, the apostle Paul comes through for us in Colossians 3:20, “With Christ, you have died to the elements of this world. Then why … do you let others dictate to you?” There are so many people who base their self-worth on the opinion and approval of others. If God accepts you and approves of you, what does it matter what other people think? It doesn’t really matter.
Don’t let other people dictate to you how you’re going to live. Following Christ sets you free from the expectations of others. That’s real freedom. I don’t have to be in. I don’t have to be out. If God likes me, that’s all that matters.
The point is this: Is popularity worth selling your soul for? Absolutely not. To lower my standards and do something I know isn’t right just in order to be popular, is very short-sighted. The one who does the will of God abides forever. Which is going to have a longer-lasting benefit – getting the approval of God or getting the approval of other people who won’t even remember you five years from now?
As a new Christ-follower in 1975, I hung a poster in the room where I had my daily quiet time. It contained a quote from a martyred missionary named Jim Elliot who once said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Adopt the long view.
3 – LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART.
The beloved disciple John wrote in I John 2:15, “Do not love the world or anything that belongs in it. If you love the world, you don’t have the love of the Father in you!” That’s a pretty strong statement, isn’t it? What does “don’t love the world” mean? Well, it doesn’t mean “Don’t love the people of the world,” or “Don’t be friendly to unbelievers.” In fact, John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world…” God loves the world. He loves people. And we are to love people in the world like God loves the world.
So, what does “the world” mean here? It’s talking about the world’s value system that says pleasure, power, position, and possessions are everything. The word “world” here in Greek is the kosmos from which we get the English word “cosmetics.” The world’s value system is shallow. It doesn’t run deep enough. It’s superficial.
We must not have divided loyalties. We can’t love God and love what the world loves at the same time. They are mutually exclusive. The point is this: God wants our full allegiance. He wants us to love Him with all our hearts. In Matthew 22:36, Jesus said, “Love God exclusively!”
Many years ago, I came across a poem written by a guy named Wilbur Rees. It’s titled, “Three Dollars Worth of God.” It impacted me greatly, and continues to do so to this day…
“I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.”
Let’s determine to not be that kind of Christ-follower! That’s not the way real love works. What if, when I married Nancy 52 years ago, I said to her at the altar, “I will be faithful to you every Sunday morning. But you give me the rest of the week.” Partial faithfulness is unfaithfulness. Unless you’re faithful all the time, you’re not being faithful at all.
4 – INFLUENCE OTHERS FOR GOOD.
Influence others for good rather than being influenced. Everybody is either a thermostat or a thermometer. Thermometers register the temperature of a room; thermostats change the climate! That’s what God wants us to do. He wants us to go out and penetrate society and set the agenda. Influence others for good rather than being influenced by others.
Philippians 2:15-16 nails it when it says, “You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world … shine out among them as beacon lights, holding out to them the Word of life.” Like stars stand out on a dark night, that’s how my lifestyle is to be as a Christ-follower. We are to be distinctively different than the culture. My lifestyle is to be such a bright contrast to the culture that I shine out like a star.
God wants you to make an impact with your life for good. When you put your faith in Christ, you became God’s agent in the world. He doesn’t want you to be a secret agent. He wants other people to know it. He wants us to influence others.
Instead of being in the world but not of the world, some are of the world but not in it. God says, “No! You missed the point! It’s time for you to get out of the bubble.” The answer is not isolation and imitation. The solution is insolation and infiltration.
Have you ever thought about the fact that you may be the only believer at your place of work? Who’s going to share the Good News with them? You may be the only “Jesus” they ever come into contact with. You may be the only Christ-following family on your block, or in your class at school.
Who’s going to be in heaven because of you? If you can’t immediately think of somebody, I’d say you’ve got some work cut out for you. Christianity is more than just something you believe. It is a lifestyle. That lifestyle involves four things:
- Evaluate everything.
- Develop strong convictions.
- Love God with all your heart.
- Influence others for good.