21. Do Not Love the World
By seeking a self-identity, mankind lost its only true identity. The result is a powerful urge inside of everyone to seek an identity from some source. There are two choices only for every individual born of Adam from which to draw an identity - Christ or the world. We draw our identity from Christ only through full acceptance of the finality of the cross and our personal union with Jesus. But all non-Christians draw their identity entirely from the world. And most Christians do the same.
21. Do Not Love the World
9. Do Not Love the World
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. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14
The world is the contradiction of God’s story. The world was birthed, not by the tree of knowledge, but by the words coming out of the serpent’s mouth: “Did God indeed say?”
The world is incredibly powerful in the lives of all. The world is far more powerful, personally, in the lives of believers than most understand. The cross has removed all connection between the believer and the world; but most Christians live in ignorance of this reality. The light must turn on. The danger for a believer who loves the world is not condemnation, but rather, the choice to fight the light, that is to war against the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to preserve the world and their identity with it.
What is the world? The world is the system of relationships and interactions between selfs living for self. The world is the corporate body of Adam. The world is all those ways and means by which those living by their flesh in this world manipulate and control one another, honor and compromise one another, and live in relationship with one another.
The world is that set of arbitrary rules by which people place themselves in relationships with, over, or under other people. The world is rooted entirely in the imagination of the mind. It is 100% a confidence game, that is, a con. The world is the practice of mask-wearing by which people attempt to pretend they are what they think other people expect them to be. Or by which cunning people pretend to be something other than what they are for self gain.
The world is not the earth. The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness.
And the world is not individual people. When John said in his gospel that God loves the world, he was not speaking of a love of God towards the system of manipulation and self-exaltation by which the people of the world relate together. He was using a different definition of the word “world” than the other times he used that word. In John 3, he meant that God so loves the individual people in the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Most everywhere else John uses the word “world,” he means the system of false relationships that God hates.
In understanding God’s commandment to us not to love the world, I want to focus on the most important element found in “loving the world,” the pride of life. The lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh are dealt with in us by the exaltation of Christ our life and by enveloping our consciousness in the blood of Jesus. The very nature of Christ arising in our hearts causes that which is not of Him to simply dry up and blow away.
However, the pride of life has the power to harden the hearts of believers against Christ. It is the primary thing that causes people to trample down the seed of life inside them or even abort it, at least as far as their present life in this world is concerned. The pride of life is what causes Christians to betray and kill other Christians, a very prevalent occurrence in Christian history.
The pride of life is the necessary foundation of all war and killing. Cain killed his brother Abel because he was seized by the pride of his own life, his own choices, and his own identity rising up in his heart.
The pride of life works on every person in this way. Every one of us gains our identity of ourselves, who and what we think we are from outside of ourselves. As humans we are simply vessels. A rock is a rock. It is what it is. People may stumble over it, something heavier may crush it, but it gains no sense of self from any of that, it is just a rock. Humans are vessels. We were created to contain another and to gain our identity from the infilling of another. We were created to contain God. We were formed psychologically to gain our identity only as expressions of Him.
By seeking a self-identity, mankind lost its only true identity. The result is a powerful urge inside of everyone to seek an identity from some source. There are two choices only for every individual born of Adam from which to draw an identity – Christ or the world. We draw our identity from Christ only through full acceptance of the finality of the cross and our personal union with Jesus. Relating to others through a Christ-identity is called love. It is the normal operation by which individual members of the body of Christ relate with one another.
However, all non-Christians draw their identity entirely from the world. And most Christians do the same. Most Christians see themselves separate in some way from Christ. Therefore, they must identify themselves by their group. Thus, “I am a Baptist,” or “I am a Catholic,” and so on.
This is a powerful urge, even among those who are truly seeking the Lord. Drawing one’s identity from any cause or association or group on this planet is the pride of life, it is the “world” God commands us not to love. In whatever area and to whatever degree that we draw our identity, our definition of ourselves, from the world, in that area and to that degree we do not draw our identity, our definition of ourselves from Christ. It is one or the other, an equation that, in the end, must become all of one and nothing of the other. “No man can serve two masters.”
We know that this is a deep concern of the Lord Jesus for His people throughout the church age, and especially now, in our day.
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Revelation 3:15-16
Certainly, people get their identities from the church they are a part of, or the country club they frequent, their place of employment, or the school they attend. Even in the Christian school, we practiced “school spirit,” an effort to cause children to draw their identity from the “school.” People gain an identity by being part of some cause, some crusade, some effort to “save the world.”
However, let me focus in specifically on how we draw our identity from anywhere outside of Christ inside of us. It all boils down to one overpowering emotional and psychological concern. Because we interact with other people, what we think they think about us impacts our hearts and minds more powerfully than we understand. When I am around other people, especially people who have some role of authority over me, I am gripped by what I think they think about me. This grip does not have to come from what they actually think about me. Rather, it is the story I concoct in my own mind about what I assume other people think about me and how I think they will react if I do this or if I do that.
And so very often, I put on a mask; I wear the image that I think they expect from me – especially those who have the power to do me harm, such as a boss.
Inside this false identity that we still wear are two powerful emotions. These two emotions are completely intertwined and inter-related. You never have one without the other. The first emotion is shame; its counterpart is pride. The trees and fig leaves that Adam and Eve wove around themselves came entirely from this false identity, shame manifesting as pride.
However, here is something we must reckon with. The greatest force of identity in this world is “love of country.” Every other form of identity pales in comparison with this largest element in the pride of life. “Love of country” is the greatest fig leaf, the greatest false identity, the greatest anti-Christ that exists for us to hide our shame behind.
Love of country has nothing to do with love of people or love of the earth and the land. Both the “civil war” and the “revolution” in America proved that people can “love their country” while hating half the people in it. Love of country gives people the excuse they need to kill their neighbor and burn down his home. It is exactly how Cain justified the murder of Abel to his own mind.
The god of this world has a simple trick by which he persuades humans to murder one another; he gets them to wave their little flag, making them ready to rush out and commit horrendous criminal acts against their brother, or to give their full prayers and support to those who do commit those acts in their name.
When I see someone wave an American flag, I see next a little Iraqi or Pushtun girl burned to death in her bed. The one who waves the flag is the one who pours fuel over the little girl and lights the match – all to celebrate “American freedom.” The one who waves the flag may deny such responsibility, but such a denial will not stand before the truth.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes, Cain, you are – but you murdered your brother because he offended you.
Every crime is considered wrong when an individual commits the crime, but the moment a “country” commits the crime, people think it is now a virtue, and they thank God for it. This is how group identity always works, even in the church, even in Christian community.
Why? What does anyone gain by the surface, thoughtless sentiment of loving their identification with a particular country or group in this world? Loving the identification with the group, whatever that group might be, but especially that group called a “country,” is the highest form of self-loving-self that there is in this world. There is not one ounce of honesty or of Christ in any of it.
Christ does not know boundaries. The earth does not know boundaries. The countries of this world are figments of people’s imaginations maintained by violence and by self-delusion. It is the opposite of Christ. It is an identification of self drawn from the vanity and emptiness of this world. It is flesh. It is passing away.
There is no call for the Spirit of God to move upon a modern “nation.” He will never do such a thing. He will only move through hearts that are yielded to Him and He does so with no regard for any worldly grouping.
To treat any human being with less than the dignity with which one would treat the Lord Jesus is to treat Christ Himself with contempt. To separate one’s self from any human on earth on the basis of “country” is to separate one’s self from Christ. We cannot have both the world and Christ. We cannot know both the life of this present age and the life of the age to come. It is one or the other.
The entrance of the revelation of Jesus Christ into this present age is a cataclysm. It is an earth-shattering and nation-toppling event. It is the Apocalypse; it is the climax of the great story of God.
Elijah fled for his life because he spoke against the evil of the government of Israel. Isaiah (some say) was sawed in half because he spoke against the evil of the government of Israel. Jeremiah was thrown into the pit because he spoke against the evil of the government of Israel and because he spoke against the temple of God. Zechariah was stoned before the altar because he spoke against the evil of the government of Israel.
John the Baptist was beheaded because he spoke against the evil of the government of Israel.
Jesus was crucified because He spoke against the evil of the government of Israel. More than that, Jesus called the Jews themselves liars and children of the evil one. He called the leaders of the church in His day open graves filled with rot. He spoke directly against the self-righteous pretending of the leaders of Israel. That is one reason why they crucified Him.
And He told you and me that the people of this world would hate us for the same reasons. Jesus said to us that they, those who think of themselves as the people of God, will kill us thinking they are serving God.
The dearest Christian saint turns into a murderer when you speak against the evil of their flag.
The revelation of Jesus Christ is a light that exposes all that is evil in this world. The exposure of evil is the direct result of the appearance of the Lord Jesus in our midst. The exposure of evil is the direct result of the overwhelming love of God moving through us to redeem His creation. Yet, just as when Jesus appeared the first time, the manifest love of God moving through Him was rejected and called “demonic” by those to whom He had come.
It cannot be any different today. Jesus said it couldn’t be any different.
“Love of country” is really nothing more than an irrelevant and meaningless human emotion. All believers are severed from it by the cross, and so it actually and truly means nothing. Yet the power of evil is its ability to cause us to believe things that are not true and to give our lives defending that which is central to this fallen world and to the systems of relationships created by men from which they falsely draw their personal identity.
To cease waving the flag cannot impair in any way one’s union with God and one’s love for other people. To wave the flag can cause one to murder the Lord Jesus Christ by supporting the murder of one of the least of these His brethren.
Now, the last thing I want to do is lay a religious charge of condemnation on anyone. No one can lay a charge against those who trust in Jesus; I don’t care how self-righteous they see themselves to be. And so I make all the dealings of God personal to me. God leads by the tenderness of example only, and He draws all with great compassion into the Lord Jesus Christ.
This truth has been portrayed in stories as a universal understanding. When a people are in bondage or in slavery to something false, the hero comes to set them free. Only, they resist the hero because they prefer their slavery. In the end, the very people whom the hero came to free put their savior to death.
In God’s story, the Hero rises out of death and brings salvation anyway by the power of His mighty love.
First Christians, and then all mankind, who are enslaved by their identity with this world, with anything other than Christ their life, will see the glorious liberty of the sons of God as a threat against them personally. “Love of country” is a meaningless emotion that vanishes without a trace of loss. Yet so many hold to it as their very life, and the more you try to free them from its falseness and uselessness, the more they throw it back at you as if it is life itself.
Jesus Christ is revealed into this world as it is. He comes as LOVE and as SAVIOR. He comes through you and through me. All that He is, we are. To set people free, you must strike their chains. But they will defend their chains, and we must be prepared for that.
This world, in all of its cruelty and vanity, is the context, the setting of God’s great story. We are not in this world to win the world or to make it a better place. We are in this world to defeat the world and to deliver all mankind from its horrors.
To love is to strike the chains without self-righteousness or condemnation of others, to receive the blows that must come back against us with the open arms of forgiveness, and to love until all chains are gone and the glorious liberty of the sons of God fills all the earth.
This is our calling; this is our journey. This is the focus and climax of the great story of God.