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In it, not of it

Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life.

All believers struggle with the tension of being the Lord’s disciple and influencing those around without compromising our Christian testimony by conforming to the worldly culture. This tension faces us with choices every single day.

In His prayer to the Father, Jesus described His followers in two interesting ways: “they are still in the world” (Jn. 17:11 NIV) and “they are not of the world any more” (Jn. 17:14). This seeming contradiction is the puzzling but simple secret of Christian living – “in” but not “of” the world.

“In the world” means that every person shares the same challenges and choices over how to live based on the commonly known facts and available resources. To be “not of the world” implies that one was born outside the norm, that there are essential differences between himself and others, and that the individual has given accountability to God the first place in their lives. So, believing men or women, boys or girls that are living apart from the world should have a different lifestyle than the unbelievers around them.

In Practice 
This Christ-honouring way of living influences us in each aspect of our lives.

Regarding marriage a Christian must ask oneself:

• What does the Lord Jesus Christ teach about choosing a spouse? (Mt. 5:32; 19:4-12).

• How will we set up our home? (Mt. 7:24-27; 10:34-39; 12:25; Mk. 10:29-31; Jn. 12:1-3;


• What are the Christian ways to treat one another and to be good examples to our

children? (Mt. 7:11-12; 18:2-6; 19:13-15; 21:15-16; Mk. 13:12-13).

God’s instruction must take precedence over the wishes of parents, tribal elders and the community. We are “in” the world because we have no choice, but we must not be “of” it. We can and should choose to be Christianly different!

A Christian whose calling is to be working in the business world must ask himself or herself:

• What does our Lord Jesus Christ teach about working hard? (Mt. 9:37-38; 20:1-16;

25:14-30; Lk. 5:1-11; 10:7,38-42; Jn. 7:17-18; 9:4).

• What is God’s instruction about honesty? (Lk. 16:1-15).

• Am I following after money alone? (Mt. 6:19-21,24,25-34).

• What are my responsibilities as to providing for my family? (Mk. 5:18-20,40-43; 7:10-13;

10:19; Lk. 7:12-15; Jn. 19:25-27).

There is a real danger of conforming to the world’s way of thinking and working when we spend 40 to 50 hours each week in the business world. We must not do what others do just “because everybody does it.” Believers should be different!

Our Testimony 
Although we share with those around us the same choices as to how to live, we are to show one essential difference: We are accountable to God first and foremost. We must get the tension correct between influence and compromise. Some things do not affect our testimony but others do. If we do the latter we may have no Christian testimony left! And, I have often found that non-Christians have higher standards for believers than we do for ourselves.

As Christian disciples our relationships with everybody we meet must commend our Savior, Jesus Christ. We may be the only windows through which others catch a passing glimpse of Him. Ask yourself this question: Would everyone I am in contact with want to meet the God-Man I claim to serve? Am I reflecting Jesus as clearly and precisely as I should be? I can never be totally synchronised with this world as long as I “keep in step with the [Holy] Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). The holiness of God in me provides a solid way of testing what I can and cannot do.

Balance Or Tension 
I have often heard people talk of the “balance” between living “in” or “out of” the world. I used these terms myself at one time but now I prefer the word “tension.” Why? “Balance” means things are equal. But “tension” suggests that things are being stretched – there is stress and uneasiness.

In the same way that strong guy wires hold tall towers and poles upright we need guy wires of truth for life – each one pulling in tension and giving the proper force in every way to keep our witness boldly flying in the windy conditions of this world day after day. Rather than being dulled by our daily contact with the world, living close to the heart of the Lord Jesus will make our testimony always a beacon of light, shining bright and untarnished whatever happens to our circumstances.

In Jesus’ prayer of John 17 we notice in verse 11 that His followers are to be “protected by the name” (of God the Son, the Lord Jesus) and in verse 17 that they are to be “sanctified by the truth” (God’s Word, the Bible). Perhaps these are two guy wires. Verses 18-19 give another tense paradox: “As you sent Me into the world I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify Myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” Sent but sanctified! Put another way this means Christians are to be separated from unbelievers while being sent right into the middle of them to be signposts pointing to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Personal Application 
To apply this to yourself look in the mirror of these two scenarios. First, in every area of life only do what you can do in the name of Jesus. Stop everything that would damage His name if it were to become public knowledge. Second, test all you are doing in family, work and social relationships by the Word of God.

The airplanes we see flying high up in our skies are held on course by their agreed flight plans and timetables, together with the pilots, the air traffic controllers and navigational aids. The trains which noisily rumble past our cities on journeys from here to there are also kept in place by a variety of things including timetables, signalling, the engineers and, most importantly, two heavy duty steel rails. Just imagine what would happen if airplanes or trains were free of these restraints! There would soon be multiple crashes and chaos. Their restraints, held in tension with one another, actually give them the freedom to do what they do!

As Christians we are born outside the norm, being born again into a spiritual life in the kingdom of God. We travel through this world’s life on a different pathway than those still unsaved. Our eternal life means we live by the truth – living life in the light of God’s Word (Jn. 3:16-21).

We live on our planet among our fellow people yet apart from them. Given the same choices as everybody else we choose differently. We simply want to be like our Lord Jesus Christ whose life and death were, still are and forever will be outstanding from all others. There is no better way to be a witness for Him (Jn. 20:21-23,31; Acts 1:8).

By Colin Salter - October 2013 – Grace & Truth Magazine.

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