Chapter 9 – Like Christ: Not of the World

“These are in the world.” “The world hath hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”—John 17:11, 14, 16.

“Even as He is, so are we in this world.”—1 John 4:17.

If Jesus was not of the world, why was He in the world? If there was no sympathy between Him and the world, why was it that He lived in it and did not remain in that high and holy and blessed world to which He belonged? The answer is, The Father had sent Him into the world. In these two expressions, “In the world,” “Not of the world,” we find the whole secret of His work as Saviour, of His glory as the God-man.

“In the world”; in human nature, because God would show that this nature belonged to Him, and not to the god of this world, that it was most fit to receive the divine life, and in this divine life to reach its highest glory.

“In the world”; in fellowship with men, to enter into loving relationship with them, to be seen and known of them, and thus to win them back to the Father.

“In the world”; in the struggle with the powers which rule the world, to learn obedience, and so to perfect and sanctify human nature.

“Not of the world”; but of heaven, to manifest and bring nigh the life that is in God, and which man had lost, that men might see and long for it.

“Not of the world”; witnessing against its sin and departure from God, its impotence to know and please God.

“Not of the world”; founding a kingdom entirely heavenly in origin and nature, entirely independent of all that the world holds desirable or necessary, with principles and laws the very opposite of those that rule in the world.

“Not of the world”; in order to redeem all who belong to Him, and bring them into that new and heavenly kingdom which He had revealed.

“In the world,” “Not of the world.” In these two expressions we have revealed to us the great mystery of the person and work of the Saviour. “Not of the world,” in the power of His divine holiness judging and overcoming it; still in the world, and through His humanity and love seeking and saving all that can be saved. The most entire separation from the world, with the closest fellowship with those in the world; these two extremes meet in Jesus, in His own person He has reconciled them. And it is the calling of the Christian in his life to prove that these two dispositions however much they may seem at variance, can in our life too be united in perfect harmony. In each believer there must be seen a heavenly life shining out through earthly forms.

To take one of these two truths and exclusively cultivate it, is not so difficult. So you have those who have taken “Not of the world” as their motto. From the earliest ages, when people thought they must fly to cloisters and deserts to serve God, to our own days, when some seek to show the earnestness of their piety by severity in judging all that is in the world, there have been those who counted this the only true religion. There was separation from sin, but then there was also no fellowship with sinners. The sinner could not feel that he was surrounded with the atmosphere of a tender heavenly love. It was a one-sided and therefore a defective religion.

Then there are those who, on the other side, lay stress on “In the world,” and very specially appeal to the words of the apostle, “For then must ye needs go out of the world.” They think that, by showing that religion does not make us unfriendly or unfit to enjoy all that there is to enjoy, they will induce the world to serve God. It has often happened that they have indeed succeeded in making the world very religious, but at too high a price;—religion became very worldly.

The true follower of Jesus must combine both. If he does not clearly show that he is not of the world, and prove the greater blessedness of a heavenly life, how will he convince the world of sin, or prove to her that there is a higher life, or teach her to desire what she does not yet possess? Earnestness, and holiness, and separation from the spirit of the world must characterize him. His heavenly spirit must manifest that he belongs to a kingdom not of this world. An unworldly, an other-worldly, a heavenly spirit must breathe in him.

And still he must live as one who is “in the world.” Expressly placed here of God, among those who are of the world, to win their hearts, to acquire influence over them, and to communicate to them of the Spirit which is in him, it must be the great study of his life how he can fulfil this his mission. Not, as the wisdom of the world would teach, by yielding, and complying, and softening down the solemn realities of religion, will he succeed. No, but only by walking in the footsteps of Him who alone can teach how to be in the world and yet not of it. Only by a life of serving and suffering love, in which the Christian distinctly confesses that the glory of God is the aim of his existence, and in which, full of the Holy Spirit, he brings men into direct contact with the warmth and love of the heavenly life, can he be a blessing to the world.

Oh, who will teach us the heavenly secret, of uniting every day in our lives what is so difficult to unite,—to be in the world, and not of the world? He can do it who has said: “They are not of the, world, EVEN AS I am not of the world.” That “EVEN AS” has a deeper meaning and power than we know. If we suffer the Holy Spirit to unfold that word to us, we shall understand what it is to be in the world as He was in the world. That “EVEN AS” has its root and strength in a life union. In it we shall discover the divine secret, that the more entirely one is not of the world, the more fit he is to be in the world. The freer the Church is of the spirit and principles of the world, the more influence she will exert in it.

The life of the world is self-pleasing and self-exaltation. The life of heaven is holy, self-denying love. The weakness of the life of many Christians who seek to separate themselves from the world, is that they have too much of the spirit of the world. They seek their own happiness and perfection more than ought else. Jesus Christ was not of the world, and had nothing of its spirit; this is why He could love sinners, could win them and save them. The believer is as little of the world as Christ. The Lord says: “Not of the world, EVEN AS I am not of the world.” In his new nature he is born from heaven, has the life and love of heaven in him; his supernatural heavenly life gives him power to be in the world without being of it. The disciple who believes fully in the Christ-likeness of his inner life, will experience the truth of it. He cultivates and gives utterance to the assurance: “EVEN AS Christ, so am I not of the world, because I am in Christ.” He understands that alone in close union with Christ can his separation from the world be maintained; in as far as Christ lives in him can he lead a heavenly life. He sees that the only way to answer to his calling is, on the one side, as crucified to the world to withdraw himself from its power; and, on the other, as living in Christ to go into it and bless it. He lives in heaven and walks on earth.

Christians! see here the true imitation of Jesus Christ. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.” Then the promise is fulfilled, “I will dwell in them and walk in them.” Then Christ sends you, as the Father sent Him, to be in the world as the place ordained of your Father to glorify Him, and to make known His love. Not so much in the desire to leave earth for heaven, as in the willingness to live the life of heaven here on earth, does a truly unworldly, a heavenly spirit, manifest itself.

“Not of the world” is not only separation from and testimony against the world, but is the living manifestation of the spirit, and the love, and the power of the other world, of the heaven to which we long, in its divine work of making this world partaker of its blessedness.

O Thou great High Priest! who in Thy high priestly power didst pray for us to the Father, as those who, no more than Thyself, belong to the world, and still must remain in it, let Thy all-prevailing intercession now be effectual in our behalf.

The world has still entrance to our hearts, its selfish spirit is still too much within us. Through unbelief the new nature has not always full power. Lord, we beseech of Thee, as fruit of Thy all-powerful intercession, let that word be fully realized in us: “Not of the world, EVEN AS I am not of the world.” In our likeness to Thee is our only power against the world.

Lord, we can only be like Thee when we are one with Thee. We can only walk like Thee when we abide in Thee. Blessed Lord, we surrender ourselves to abide in Thee alone. A life entirely given to Thee Thou dost take entire possession of. Let Thy Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, unite us so closely with Thyself that we may always live as not of the world. And let Thy Spirit so make known to us Thy work in the world, that it may be our joy in deep humility and fervent love to exhibit to all what a blessed life there is in the world for those who are not of the world. May the proof that we are not of the world be the tenderness and fervency with which, like Thee, we sacrifice ourselves for those who are in the world. Amen.