In, not Of?

It is a common saying among professing Christians to recite “Be in the world, but not of the world”. Looking at the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus preceding His betrayal and arrest in John 17, clearly Jesus states that neither He or His disciples are of the world (John 17:14) and restates it a couple of verses later (John 17:16).

It’s important to note that Jesus did not ask that His disciples be taken out of the world, but to protect them from the evil one as they are being sent into the world. We are not, as followers of Christ, to withdraw from the world, but are to remain in the world to influence it for good however difficult that may be. To be not of the world means our treasure remains focused on our eternal reward, not on what man can offer and to not be consumed by fleshly desire.

In John 17:17, Jesus asks that His disciples be sanctified in the truth—meaning to set them apart for the holy work that was to come. The truth is God’s Word, the sustaining standard bearer of truth for all time. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus tells His disciples to go into the world, not sit back and let the world come to them.

The Great Commission is not—to borrow a phrase from my favorite baseball movie, Field of Dreams, "if you build it, they will come”. We cannot seek the lost sitting in our pews or congregating only with fellow believers. They are rarely going to knock on the church front door and inquire about salvation. If you are not in the world, how can you expect to find the lost?

We cannot rely on our church building to bring souls to Christ. It is after all, only a building. WE are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16), not the building with which we gather on Sundays and Wednesdays. When we place our emphasis on the building, we can quickly lose our focus on what our purpose is.

However, we should not neglect the gifts we share and receive when we join together in fellowship. While we are called to reach a lost world, let us not overlook the value we have on lifting up our fellow believers through our church membership. In Romans 1:12, Paul longed to meet his brothers and sisters in Christ so they could mutually encourage one another. The writer of Hebrews pleads for believers to encourage each other daily (Hebrews 3:13) and in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we find Paul exhorting believers to encourage one another and build each other up. To neglect church membership is to suppress the ministerial gifts God has given you to be a blessing to someone else.

But we have to see this as only prep work for what we were commissioned to do: We MUST go into the world. And we must be intentional about seeking opportunities.

Your world will look different than mine. It might be your place of employment, it might be the gym you go to, or a club you belong to. It might be as close as next door. Wherever it is, God wants you to be His vessel and share the Gospel with someone who does not know Christ.

We are called to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Pray to our Father every morning to let today be the day you are put in the path of a lost soul. And give God all the glory for using you while you remain in this world.