The Deadly Peril of the World!

Deadly peril of the world

The Deadly Peril of the World

Richard Hollerman 

Are you influenced by the World?

Why is the World such an Enemy to Us?

What Does Friendship with the World Mean?

How does Satan use the World to Destroy Us?

If a deadly virus spread across this country, killing millions of helpless people, then proceeded around the world with hundreds of millions of victims, we would consider it a deadly scourge, an enemy of mankind, and would earnestly look for some remedy.

God speaks of an even more deadly enemy of our soul, revealed on the pages of the Bible, His divine Word.  What is this spiritual peril that destroys nearly the entire human race?  What can be done to escape its dreadful destruction?

I’ve described above what the Bible refers to as “the world” and “this age.”  These terms and concepts are closely related.  The Bible uses the term, “world,” and this comes from the Greek word, kosmos, often denoting the “present condition of human affairs” that is in “alienation from and opposition to God” (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary).  It commonly refers to “man and his affairs, especially in an evil sense, over against the new life in Christ, the kingdom of God, the Body of Christ, the Church” (The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary).  The other Greek term is aion, meaning, “an age, a period of time” that is “marked in the NT usage by spiritual or moral characteristics” (Vine, Ibid.).  It denotes “the temporal or durative aspect of that which exists” (Dictionary).

The true Christian knows that he is an “alien and stranger” on earth, whose “citizenship is in heaven” (1 Peter 2:11; Philippians 3:20).  While we dwell here, the believer knows that he does not “fit in” with the society around him that has no room for God and His will (cf. 1 Peter 4:1-5).  We are “misfits” in a world in rebellion against its Creator that refuses to submit to the Lord.  The ways of the world, its motivations, programs, standards, values, goals, lifestyle, education, and pleasures are the opposite of the righteous and true ways of our infinite, eternal, and holy God!

Satan is Ruler of this World System 

What does God say about this age and the present world that dominates it?  First, three times Jesus said that Satan is “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).  Our Lord said that this ruler was to be “judged” and “cast out” (16:11; 12:31), although he continues to exercise extensive power and influence.  John the apostle even stated, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).  Satan has “the kingdoms of the world” under his evil and diabolical influence (Matthew 4:8; Luke 4:5).

Before coming to Christ for salvation, the Christian “walked according to the course [age] of this world” and followed the ways of Satan, thus placing ourselves under the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:1-3).  When one turns from sin to God, he escapes “the corruption that is in the world by lust” and “the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 2:20; 1:4).  This corruption and defilements that are inherent in this fallen world must forever be in the past, and we must not walk in them anymore!

One way that the whole world is under Satan’s power is through his deception!  Scripture says that Satan “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9).  So extensive is this spiritual deception that Paul startles us with this terrifying reality: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).  If Satan our enemy is the ruler of this world, the “God” of this age, and exercises such massive spiritual deception on the world, we can see why we need to beware of the world’s influence!

We Have Renounced this Deceived and Sinful World 

What else can we learn about our relationship to the world?  The Bible says that God’s kingdom is “not of this world” but is spiritual in nature and under submission to Jesus Christ (John 18:36).  This shows the distance between the world and God’s kingdom, the difference between living according to this sinful age and living for the age to come (cf. Mark 10:30; Ephesians 1:21).  You see, to be a follower of Jesus our Lord, we must have a dramatically different view of the world and of this age!

When one comes to Christ in faith and repentance, he turns from the world, its evil ways, and every form of idolatry (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).  Paul writes, “The Lord Jesus Christ . . . gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age” (Galatians 1:3-4).  We are no longer “sons of this age” but now we are “sons of light” (Luke 16:8).  So decisive is our coming to the Lord, that Jesus declared, “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal” (John 12:25).

When we come to Christ, we die to sin (Romans 6:1-11), and this involves a “crucifixion” or death to our flesh as well as the world!  Paul said that through “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14; cf. 2:20; 5:24).  This is a decisive action, a climactic event—we are “crucified” to the world, and the world is “crucified” to us!  We must be absolutely dead to the world!  Do we really fathom the kind of separation that the true Christian should have from the world?

Do we tenaciously cling to this world and love it when we know that it opposes our God?  If we are tempted to compromise with the world, John warns us with these solemn words:

Do not love the world nor 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 and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).

The choice seems clear: Either we love the world and the things in the world, or we love God and His will.  We can’t have it both ways!  I remember when I first read those words as a young person and they motivated me to make drastic changes in my lifestyle.  Jesus warns, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24).

Do Not Be Friends with this Evil World System 

Since the world is such an enemy of our life now and our life to come, we can see why God would warn again and again against this dreadful and destructive opponent.  James says that “pure and undefiled religion” is “to keep oneself unstained by the world” (1:27).  We must separate ourselves from “the world of people in their rebellion against and alienation from God” (NASB study note).

Peril of the World

So diametrically opposed is God to the world, that He plainly warns compromising Christians: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4:4).  He says that they are guilty of spiritual “adultery” since they are friends with God’s enemy, and this is actually “hostility toward God”!  How can we dare to play around with what God hates so much!

You may ask, “If we are living in this world and interact with people in this world, how can we be separate from it?”  Paul does acknowledge that the only way to separate ourselves from people in this world would be “to go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10). This we cannot do and must not even try.  Those who fled to the mountains, cloistered themselves in the monasteries, or secluded themselves in the deserts tried this, without success.  Jesus has us on earth to be spiritual light in the midst of darkness (cf. Matthew 5:14-16).

Have you ever visited the country and looked into a dark sky at night?  You will see thousands of stars that will brighten the dark expanse above you!  We are like that in the darkness that covers most people on earth.  Paul explains it in this way: “You will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the world of life” (Philippians 2:15-16).  Yes, we live among “crooked and perverse” people—those who live in sin and don’t know God—but we can be a light to them and point them to Jesus as Savior and Lord, that they also may become light! (See 1 Thessalonians 5:4-10)

In the World, but Not of the World 

How do we view our relationship with the world?  Jesus gives us some instruction to help us understand.  First, He says, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  So it is clear that true followers of Jesus will face tribulation, trials, suffering, and rejection from the world, but we should not become discouraged at this.  Jesus has the victory over the world, and we can share in that victory!  We too have victory in Him by faith: “This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4).

The Lord then says that we must live “in the world” (John 17:11).  In prayer to God His Father, Jesus says, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth: Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:14-18).

In this long passage in Christ’s prayer, we see that Jesus says we continue to dwell in the world, however, we are not of the world, that the world hates Jesus’ true followers, that God is to keep us from the evil one as we live on earth, that Jesus sends us into the world to share the gospel, and that we can be sanctified (set apart) from the world through Christ’s words.  This is something that we should ponder very carefully!  We must have contact with the world to reach them for Jesus and His salvation—but we are not to think, speak, or act like people who belong to the world!

Beware of the World’s Deceptive, Destructive Influences! 

The world is all around us and exerts much pressure on us to conform to its deceitful ways.  Think of the advertising that entices us to buy luxurious and unneeded items.  Think of the entertainment that urges us to live a hedonistic, selfish, lustful, and rebellious life that is diametrically opposed to the holy and righteous ways of God!

Think of the educational systems of the world, with the emphasis on evolution, relativism, pluralism, materialism, competition, pride, and worldly knowledge.  Paul castigates such an emphasis, “The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. . . . The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless” (1 Corinthians 3:19-20).  The epitome of the world is the arrogant insistence that the earth and all life evolved from simple matter, that there is no all-powerful, eternal Creator, and that there are no moral absolutes to guide our life (read Romans 1:16-32 very carefully).

Think of the American emphasis on luxurious cars, sporty vehicles, expensive homes, lavish furnishings, costly and immodest clothing, competitive sports, prideful athletics, flaunting of one’s talents, as well as the prideful display of physical beauty or one’s physique.  All of this reveals a worldly spirit that entirely overlooks God’s call to live in separation from the world!  Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world [age], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Utterly Renounce this World System! 

We must hate the way of the world that is alienated from God’s ways, and not be like Demas who “loved this present age” and thus turned away from the Lord (2 Timothy 2:10).  We must see the world for what it is—the very enemy of God that would destroy us because it deceives us:

  • The world pertains to what we hear—sensual and worldly music, slander and gossip, cursing and lying.
  • The world pertains to what we see—evils on television, fleshly scenes in movies, sexuality in books and magazines and videos.
  • The world pertains to what we wear—immodest and revealing clothing, unisex clothes, fine fashions, expensive designer clothes.
  • The world pertains to what we learn—new age philosophies, evolutionary theories, political propaganda.
  • The world pertains to our entertainment—the rock and country and hip hop music, the sports mania, the computer games.
  • The world pertains to religions—loyalty to denominations, allegiance to cults, following world religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and others.

God warns us of the corrupting enticements of the world, saying that this may come to us by means of religious teachings and practices as well as worldly philosophies: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).  These “false, worldly, religious, elementary teachings” (NASB note) are still with us and are an ever-present danger to our spiritual welfare!  We must beware!

We must renounce all of the worldly religious teaching—such as the “health and wealth” doctrine, the “word of faith” teaching, the ritualistic and formalistic ecclesiasticism, the megachurch phenomenon, the seeker-friendly church compromises, the church entertainment emphasis, and any other religious teaching or practice that would degrade, devalue, or dilute our precious, glorious Lord Jesus Christ and His Word!  We must run from being contaminated by the world!  Paul says that the grace of God instructs us “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” as we look for the blessed hope of Christ’s return and seek to be a purified people for God (Titus 2:11-14).

Persecution by the World 

We should notice that Jesus said the world hated Him: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil” (John 7:7).  Why did the world despise Him?  Because He told them the truth—that their deeds were sinful and opposed to God!  The world said that the sinless Son of God had “lost His senses” (Mark 3:21), was “possessed by Beelzebul [Satan]” (Mark 3:22), had a demon (John 8:52), and was guilty of blasphemy (Mark 14:64).  Be prepared to receive the world’s scorn, accusations, and misunderstandings—just like your Lord!

If we follow this rejected Christ, we also will suffer from the world’s rejection.  The Lord Jesus solemnly warns us: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).  What is Jesus saying?  The Lord was hated by people in the world, thus we also will be hated by them.  Because we are not of the world (we do not think, speak, or act like people in the world)—for this reason, they will disapprove of us, slander us, and even hate us!

We must be prepared to suffer rejection by those in the world.  Paul and his companions became “a spectacle to the world” since they based their life on the truth of God rather than the popular philosophies and religions of their day (1 Corinthians 4:9).  Don’t be surprised if you also must be considered unconventional, unusual and uncompromising, according to the world’s standards and expectations.  Be prepared to receive disrespectful epithets on occasion: peculiar, strange, laughable, foolish, fanatical, zealous, Victorian, old-fashioned, prudish, modest, crazy, short-sighted, stupid, absurd, idiotic, ludicrous, heavenly-minded, religious, cultic, outdated, fundamentalist, Bible-thumper, Bible-believer, creationist, and ignorant!  We are different from the world and if we truly live for Jesus Christ, the world will be utterly aware of this difference!

Those in the world will do all within their power to draw you into their Godless ways.  You will be pressured by friends, family, educators, and fellow-workers to participate in an array of worldly activities and relationships.  They will want you to dress as they do, according to worldly fashions; they will want you to listen to their worldly music; they will want you to watch their worldly TV programs; they will want you to go to their worldly sports events; they will pressure you to engage in their worldly conversations; they will expect you to run after their worldly education; they will want you to laugh at their worldly jokes and comments; and they will encourage you to be part of their worldly entertainment.

Peter mentions this kind of experience.  He says that because of your refusal to participate in worldly affairs, “they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you, but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:2-5).

The World is Under God’s Judgment 

Let’s not overlook that the world is under God’s condemnation (1 Corinthians 11:32), and the world and those in the world will pass away (1 John 2:17).  Are we doing all we can to live a holy life before the Lord (Hebrews 12:14), that we might be like the Holy One who called us (1 Peter 1:14-16)?  Are we growing in the Lord and His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:17-18), and are we cleansing ourselves “from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1; cf. 2 Timothy 2:20-22)?  These are questions that we must honestly face so that we might avoid compromising with the world and might be prepared for the Lord when He comes!

Make no mistake, the world is not our friend!  Although this is not always apparent, God says that it is true, and He says that those who love Him cannot love the world and all it contains (1 John 2:15-17).  Let us not be deceived!  Let us not compromise!  Let us not fail to defend ourselves or protect our family against the deadly and deceptive ways of the world!  It would be a horrible shame if you tried to live an “unworldly” life yourself, but you allowed your family to be influenced by the world—to their eternal destruction!

Now is the time to make a break with the ways of this present evil age and surrender yourself totally and completely to our gracious and merciful, our holy and righteous, our fearful and jealous God (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24).  Turn your back on the world and take up the cross of discipleship for Jesus your Lord!

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