Today begins a three part blog series I am releasing. It is based upon a portion of Jesus' High Priestly Prayer in John 17. Over the past year, the Lord has taught me much about our mission in the world as followers of Jesus, of which i've gotten to share with various groups over the past 6 months. Today, in part one, we discuss why as followers of Jesus, we should not remove ourselves from the world.
Many times, this is the approach we think is successful. We believe the idea that if we simply withdrawl from the world, we will be more pleasing to God as somehow we will not be infected by the world. I have news for you-you are already infected! Whether you are a Christian or a non Christian. We all are! We are all sinners. Since Adam and Eve, we have been infected with sin. And yes, as followers of Jesus, we are covered by the blood of the lamb. But, that is the only way we are “clean”. We are not clean by our “Good doing”. It is only Christ, and his blood, that "cures" us of this, and we must rely on him daily for the cure.
Withdrawing from the world has always been seen as something to do for the religious over the centuries, however it NEVER works, nor is it what Christ calls for us.
Think about the Pharisees...what were they? To be a Pharisee was the be a separatist. The goal of the Pharisees was to escape a society that was degraded. That is not what it means to be a follower of Christ in an unbelieving world.
In the 3rd century Christian hermits fled to the deserts of Egypt.
In the middle ages monastaries arose to be separate from the world. Paul Tripp discusses this in his book “Dangerous Calling” and suggests that monasteries were and are a failure because they neglected one very significant Biblical truth: the biggest danger to every human being...is located inside of him, not outside of him. There is something dark and deceitful that still lurks in the heart of everyone of God’s children who has not yet been fully glorified: SIN. It is only ever the sin inside of you that draws and hooks you to the sin outside of you. Every day there is a war fought for control of your heart. But your jealous Savior, with the zeal of gorgeous redemptive love, will not share your heart. He will not rest until your heart is ruled by him and him alone.
We sometimes even do this in our day. An example could be our decision to go to a “Christian business” rather than the buisness that a number of differing kinds of people go to, so that we don’t have to be around people that think differently and act differently. When I was in Kansas City assisting with a new work to get started-our team intentionally spent time at community gathering places-and in that eclectic community-it was a coffeeshop. It as an interesting place. I befriended people, and loved people, that thought and believed differently than I did. But you know what? If we had said to ourselves, “No, we won’t go in there....you know what? We would have never built any relationships, and we would have never saw the work God did in individuals lives there. We think by staying in our little bubbles that we are staying holy-but are we being a good witness and following the commands of our savior-really?
Many times we can let this mentality of withdraw consume our lives and go way too far. Sometimes, the way in which we live our lives are motivated by nothing but fear. We get this mentality that to be Godly is to be away from unbelievers who do not have the same values and viewpoints on life as us, and that’s simply not what the Bible tells us, and not the way that Jesus lived his life.
There are countless passages of scripture that point to Jesus going to an unbelieving (and many times hostile) world, interacting with it, and doing life with people who were much different than He. Below are a few examples:
Matthew 9-jesus calls Matthew the tax collector (and everybody LOVES the tax collector-right?) to be his disciple-he is spending time with them
Luke 7-The sinful woman anoints Jesus with Ointment and wipes Jesus’ feet with tears (and let's be real people, she was not sinful because she stole a loaf of bread...this was scandalous)
Luke 15-tax collectors/sinners are drawn to Jesus, while the Pharisees grumbled about it
Luke 19-Jesus hanging out with Zachaeus-he repents and comes to faith-yet the Pharisees grumble about it.
John 4-Woman at the well-a Samaritan woman! In their culture, Jesus should not even be acknowledging her! But he does, and she goes on to be an incredibly impactful woman for the Kingdom.
We all need to ask ourselves if we have functionally removed ourselves from the world., and if so why? Do we really believe that we are going to catch some kind of virus? Do we not understand that we have the virus already? Do you go to your school, your job or your community, and as believer, try to remove yourself from anyone that doesn’t think or live like you? We are called to live missionally every day of our lives amongst people who need to know the greatest news they will ever hear.
Christ has prayed in John 17 that we would not be removed from this world, to go into hiding, to simply hang out with each other, but that we would be protected from the evil one.
15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.
That we would be sent out-as called ones-living missionally at our schools, at our jobs, in our families-but that God would protect us. That is a very different posture when it comes to how we live our lives.
In part two, we will discuss how we should not conform to the world.
Matthew is 34 years old and currently lives in St Louis, Missouri with his wife Leslie. He serves as the Associate Pastor at The Groves Church, in Webster Groves, Missouri.