One of the things that irk my taters is when someone says, “This isn’t a spiritual issue.” I used to subscribe to that, but I no longer can.
As a follower of Jesus (an imperfect one); as a student of the Holy Scriptures, I am learning that everything is a spiritual issue. Nowhere is that more readily observed than in the affairs of the world.
Scripture talks about “the world” a lot. It’s a phrase that we use quite frequently. If you’ve been in any kind of Christian circle for more than thirty minutes you’ve probably heard that we are “in the world but not of the world.” So what is “the world?”
In Scripture, the Apostle John writes:
15 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 John 2:15-17, ESV)
Familiar passage, but a very misinterpreted one. What if our “being in the world, but not of it” mindset has crippled our commission to partner with God in restoring the world? I mean think about it: the misinterpretation (by many, many, well-meaning, sincere people, me included) has led to all sorts of craziness in church history. The monastic movement which taught that one must completely separate themselves from the world and only live around like-minded people, or by oneself if no like-minders were available. Is there anything more antithetical to the Great Comission than that? I think not.
See, the problem is in how we define, “the world.”
The word “world” has many meanings in the Bible. It can mean the earth or the universe and all of their creative order. In the Old Testament, the phrase, “the world” refers almost always to all nations other than the nation of Israel.
However, the word, “the world” is also used to refer to the present condition of humanity apart from God. The world, then is the system that operates on the earth. It is a system that is opposed to God and His Son Jesus Christ. The world is the corporate group of those on the earth who are in willful rebellion against God. The world is the whole organized system of social, economic, materialistic, and religious philosophies which have their expressions through organizations, personalities, and governments. The “world” provides plenty of opportunities to sin and is ruled by Satan, the ruler of the world system.
Interestingly enough, we find a lot to be said about this in Scripture:
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. (John 12:31)
“I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me.” (John 14:30)
Satan is also called the god of this world:
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
(2 Cor. 4:4)
All the “kingdoms” of the world are presently influenced by Satan and are his:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
BUT it won’t always be that way: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15)
So ultimately, we learn that the “world” is NOT the planet, per say,or even the people (though sometimes it is) but when Scripture speaks of “the world” it is the system under the rule and influence of Satan. I mean, Scripture calls him the “god (lowercase g, btw), of this world in 2 Corinthians. Matthew’s temptation narrative says that Satan shows Jesus the Kingdoms of the world and promises that he will give them all to Jesus if He would worship the devil. That implies that it was his to give. Jesus even calls Satan “the prince of this world” (John 14:30)!
So as I close this post, let me just say this: EVERYTHING in this world is a spiritual issue. Sure there are medical, psychological, and even self-cause consequences and outcomes, but ultimately, we are in a struggle against the kingdom of darkness…and it would seem that it has a pretty good hold on things. That’s why Christians have to understand the theology of spiritual warfare; that demons and satan and evil are very real, and according to Jesus are here to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).
It’s the world that sets itself against God. It’s the world the organizes a government that says it’s ok to murder babies. It’s the world that pridefully tries to deconstruct God and faith to comfort the evil-seared consciences of the masses. It’s the world that spreads hate in propaganda. It’s the world that seeks to destroy the dignity of all humanity.
The resurrection of Jesus; the death of Jesus shows us that it isn’t supposed to be the way it looks. That we can be different, that we can change, that life matters; all life matters, and that every single human being on this planet has a God-given dignity and purpose they are put here to fulfill. When we fail to fight in prayer and in truth, we begin to be in the world and of the world, and that, my friends is not God’s purpose!