In a previous article (No.270) I listed the 3 main enemies to the mental health of humans as being the World, the Flesh and the Devil. Believers are asked to renounce them as a means of coming out from under their negative and damaging influence. How do these enemies seek to influence us, and how can we gain victory over them? We begin with the first enemy, the “world’.
A). WHAT IS MEANT BY THE “WORLD?’
There are two main words for “world” in the New Testament. The first is the Greek word [oikoumenē] meaning the [planet] earth, the inhabited part of the world and the peoples of the world. (We will not be considering this word in the present article.) The other word is [kósmos] which also means the created world and its inhabitants. However, it has a much wider meaning. It can also mean the following.
In a positive sense it can mean the people of the world for whom Christ came to die and to save and who are meant to respond to Him in faith.
God in His love sent His Son to save the world by dying for sinners, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.“ Jn 3:16-17.
Jesus gave as His reason for His first coming, “… I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” Jn 12:47.
God sent His Son to take away the sins of the world, as John the Baptist declared when he saw Jesus approaching him, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jn 1:29.
Jesus taught that He came to bring life to a world spiritually dead through sin, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Jn 6:33.
Paul wrote that Jesus came to reconcile the world to God, “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Cor 5:19.
In a negative sense it can mean everything and everyone alienated from God and antagonistic to His purposes in and for the world
It is the “world” in this sense that believers are meant to renounce in order to be free from its influence. Unregenerate humans (those not yet born again of the Holy Spirit) follow the world’s ways and are spiritually dead, blind, deaf until they are born again from above, as these verses indicate.
Eph 2:1-2, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—”
Eph 2:4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—”
2 Cor 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Acts 28:27, “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
Even human wisdom is seen to be folly in the sight of God, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness.” 1 Cor 3:18-19.
Humans can be conformed to the world’s values, the world’s ways of thinking and the world’s ways of behaving, “Do not be conformed to this world …” Rom 12:2.
Humans can be held captive by worldly thinking, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Col 2.8
Humans can have the wrong sort of love which is focussed on the wrong object (that is, on the world and not its Creator), “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 Jn 2:15-17.
B). HOW CAN PEOPLE OVERCOME THE INFLUENCE OF THE WORLD FOR BETTER MENTAL HEALTH?
i). By recognising that the unbelieving world is our enemy. As it was for Jesus
The world would rejoice in the death of Jesus, Joh 16:20, but would also hate His followers following His death and resurrection. The world brings ongoing tribulation to the people of God, but there is victory in Him, Joh 16:33, “… . In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” AND 1Jn 4:4-5, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them… .”
The world did not recognise God nor Jesus as His Son. Nor did they recognise His followers as the people of God. John encouraged his readers to recognise their privileges as being loved by God and indeed as being His children, 1Jn 3:1, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Believers belong now to the family of God and need to keep on affirming that truth in a world that is hostile to God and to His children.
ii). By understanding the blessings coming from our true identity in Christ as believers
Believers have died with Christ in their faith-union with Him and have become free from that which once held them captive, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations.” Col 2:20.
Believers belong to God and are able to recognise truth from error in a way that unbelievers cannot, “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” 1Jn 4:6.
Believers are able to mature in wisdom and knowledge. Paul prayed for the Colossians, “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col 2:2-3.
Believers are “not of the world ” but belong to God as they live in the world, “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.” Joh 15:19.
Believers are hated by the (unbelieving) world but Jesus prays for His own that as they live in the world, they will be protected from the evil one, and be sanctified by His word, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Joh 17:14-16.
Believers are always being prayed for by Jesus, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Heb 7:25. Believers are never neglected! They are always being prayed for! By Jesus!
iii). By receiving a new attitude in our thinking as our minds are renewed
The process begins as we present all we are to God as Paul exhorted his readers, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Rom 12:1.
In doing so, we allow ourselves to be transformed by Him, “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.” Rom 12:2. Or in the translation by JB Phillips, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould.” That is an apt description of what takes place as we are pressured by the unbelieving world around us to conform to its values and practices. The solution is to have our minds transformed by the Holy Spirit to be able to recognise, know and do the will of God as we commit ourselves completely to Him and to His will for us.
iv). By learning to operate with divine wisdom rather than the wisdom of the world
Wisdom is the [new] birthright of believers. God chose us as “nothings” in the world to belong to Him and to impart to us His wisdom, in and through Christ, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Cor 1:27-31.
Believers are promised wisdom when they need it, provided they ask for it, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Jas 1:5. However they need to ask sincerely, believing that God hears and answers the prayers of His people, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” Jas 1:6-7.
The Holy Spirit imparts God’s wisdom and knowledge to His people. Paul prayed for his readers that they might receive a deeper personal knowledge of God Himself, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,” Eph 1:16-17. He also prayed that his readers in Colossae might know the will of God and “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Col 1:9.
v). By exercising faith in God and in God’s presence in us
John affirms the true identity of believers as belonging to God. They gain victory over the world because of God’s powerful presence in them, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1Jn 4:4.
They overcome the world by believing Jesus is the Son of God, “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 Jn 5:4. It is faith in God that allows Him to accomplish victories in and through our lives.
SUMMARY: [Previously published separately in blog No 278 as the Micro version of this whole article.)
1). Every person ever born is a creature in this physical world.
2). Humans rebelled against God so God sent His Son into the world to save the people of the world.
3). The response of those in the world varied. Some in the world chose to reject Gods’ salvation in Christ. The Bible sees them as still belonging to the [unbelieving] world.
Others in the world chose to believe in Jesus and received Him as Saviour. They still live in the world but as John declares, they are “not of the world.” They are now “in Christ” [in a living personal relationship with Christ] as they live in the world.
4). The [unbelieving] world, influenced by Satan and the powers of darkness, is antagonistic to God and to the people of God. The unregenerate “world” is spiritually blind, deaf and dead and cannot understand spiritual realities or people of the Spirit.
5). Victory over the world is possible by recognising our identity in Christ and acting on it in the ways suggested in section [B] above.
6). It is the truth that is known to believers by the illumination of the Holy Spirit AND acted on in the power of the same Holy Spirit, that brings freedom and victory over the world to the people of God.
Blog No.279. Posted on Friday 4th May 2018