WORTHY OF THE KINGDOM

by Thomas W. Finley


Chapter 6-1 (contd.)

THE WORLD’S INFLUENCE

We need to look further at the topic of the world and its effect upon the believer so that we can see how the Holy Spirit is trying to work in our lives. We are in the world system. If we could have God’s unhindered spiritual sight, we would most certainly be amazed at how much we are unconsciously and adversely influenced by the world system around us. It is needful for us to recall that we are in a spiritual battle. Our adversary, the Devil, is "the ruler of this world [kosmos]" (Jn. 12:31). Further, "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one [Satan]" (1 Jn. 5:19). He is not only the ruler of the kosmos, but he is also termed "the god of this age [aion]" (2 Cor. 4:4, NKJV). The current age (aion) is nothing more than the present form of the kosmos, or world system, which takes on different forms throughout history. Satan is a terribly powerful being and the Bible depicts him as very subtle (working insidiously, secretly, or imperceptibly) (Gen. 3:1), and extremely deceitful (2 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9). The Second Chapter of Ephesians shows us how, through the kosmos, he works in man to place man essentially under his control.

...you formerly walked according to the course [aion] of this world [kosmos], according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Eph. 2:2-3).

Although these verses speak of how all believers once lived in such a condition, as is the common lot of all unbelievers, they do not indicate that we are no longer subject to being deceived by Satan’s world after conversion. The world is still an active enemy of the Christian after conversion (Jas. 4:1-10; 1 Jn. 2:15). The interesting thing in the verses cited above from Ephesians is that they show how Satan (the prince of the power of the air) exercises control over people by getting them to follow, to go along with, "the course and fashion of this world...under the sway of the tendency of this present age" (Eph. 2:2, AMP).

How can this be? Simply put, it is because the course of this world is designed, by Satanic forces, to appeal to the cravings within man. "Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of the flesh--our behavior governed by our corrupted and sensual nature; obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind" (Eph. 2:3, AMP). Notice that not only the lusts of the flesh are involved, but also the "thoughts of the mind". Remember how Satan worked within Peter’s mind to object to the Lord’s suffering (Matt. 16:21-23). Also, Romans 12:2 admonishes us: "And do not be conformed to this world [aion, age], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Any conformity we have to the world’s ways is due to our mind not having been renewed in particular matters.

Satan’s goal in so using the world (kosmos), which is under his control, is simple. It is to keep people from knowing God, loving God, serving God, obeying God and growing in God. He uses the world to attract, distract and preoccupy people, whether believers or unbelievers, so that they will not know God or progress with God. Note the following observation:

The Greek word for "world" is kosmos, which means system or organization. Satan not only employs the necessities of life, such as people, activities and things, to preoccupy man, he furthermore organizes them into numerous individual systems in order to intensify his grip upon man. The world today resembles a university, in which are many different departments, such as eating, drinking, clothing, marriage, funerals, literature, music, money and fame--more than we can enumerate. The aggregate result is a world university, occupying man with many courses. One by one, these courses enslave and possess man, causing him to completely forsake and forget God and go along with the current of the world. Man believes that he is handling and enjoying all these, but actually, without realizing Satan’s deception, he has fallen into the hands of the evil one and is controlled and tricked by him. Therefore, the world denotes the enemy’s scheme, system, and organization to usurp the place of God in man and finally to gain full possession of man.[1]

This quote shows us that the world has many departments, much like a university. Some of the departments will fit the "taste" of some people more than others. One person may be attracted by sports while another might enjoy recreational reading. This world offers attractions and activities that suit every kind of personality.

Satan’s world also contains a huge religion department, with one section carrying a Christian label. Remember that he "disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14), meaning that he can disguise his activities as "Christian."

All Christian activities must be put to the test. What is their source? Do they glorify Christ exclusively? Are they thoroughly Biblical? Does the Spirit bear witness? Are the activities so designed to strictly build up and nourish the spirit? I regret to tell you that my spiritual discernment convinces me that many of today’s Christian activities and projects are not of the Lord. And, in respect to the point here, many "Christian" activities today, I strongly fear, are designed to appeal to the soul of man. These activities simply gratify the soul’s natural likes and longings. In other words, these activities are helping Christians "save" (preserve) their souls today. Any such activity would be inspired by subtle demonic forces, working through the souls of seemingly well-meaning believers. Was not Peter, the great apostle, himself deceived (Matt. 16:23)?

The world is designed to rob God of our love. The apostle John wrote to Christians, "Stop loving the world, or the things that are in the world. If anyone persists in loving the world, there is no love of the Father in his heart" (1 Jn. 2:15, Williams). Do you feel that your love of God and Christ has waned? If so, it is probably because your affections are on the things of this world. Our love for God is to be supreme (Lk. 10:27). We should love our families, but we must be careful that our heart loves Christ foremost. This is also a matter related to the salvation of our souls:

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it (Matt. 10:37-39; see also Lk. 14:26-27).

In the materialistic society of the western world, possessions and the enjoyment of amusements and recreation have become a great snare to the people of God. The majority of believers have been influenced by the "course of this world". The mind-set here is that of a "consumer" society: Get a good job so you can make lots of money. Use your money to buy whatever you want (in other words, please your soul--save it!). When you think of a car, don’t think "transportation". Instead, think status, think power, think leather seats. Think what will make you feel good! Always think in terms of "moving up" to a better neighborhood and a bigger house with more amenities. Be sure to get the latest fashion, and don’t neglect getting the proper name brand, especially one that can be "recognized", maybe by a distinctive logo. Now is the time to have more hobbies; this is the leisure life! Since you like sports, why not a season ticket? You can afford filet mignon now; it’s your money, so forget the hamburger! ENJOY YOURSELF!

Dear brother or sister, is not God disgusted with this attitude? If you believe the money you earn is your money--which you can spend however you like in order to enjoy yourself--then based upon the authority of the Word of God you need to repent. The attitude of the materialistic consumer society in the western world is utterly against God’s Word:

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s [namely God’s], who will give you that which is your own? (Lk. 16:10-12).

"So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions" (Lk. 14:33). (Here Christ speaks of our willingness to let go of all of our possessions. This is the opposite of the attitude that wants to increase and enjoy possessions.)

Besides robbing God of our love and affection, preoccupation with the things of this world prevents us from serving God and from doing His will. This truth was taught by Jesus Himself: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24).

God wants to meet our legitimate needs. If we, however, attempt to fulfill our lusts, seeking satisfaction in possessions and pleasures beyond our legitimate human needs, then we have been caught by Satan’s world and are guilty of saving our soul. We have been deceived by the mind-set of the world. "What God allows is restricted to natural requirement; and hence we should only seek for the supply of needs and not the gratification of lusts!"[2]

Dear Christian, may I ask you to think about some questions? Why did you buy the car you now have? What influenced your decision on where to live? Do you need all the clothes that you buy? Or, did it just make you "feel good" to buy special things that just please your soul? What about your hobbies and leisure time activities? How much attention do you pay to them? How much entertainment and television do you indulge in for pleasure? Are you a great sports fan? Do you crave good novels? How much affection do you have toward the things you do in your "free time"? Are you a music lover that frequently goes to concerts? (I fear that even many "Christian" concerts may cater to the love of music rather than to the glory of God.) Do you welcome and cherish opportunities to be recognized and praised by others, thus feeding your inward pride? May God open our eyes to see how much we may be captured by the things of this world, robbing God of our love and service.

PREOCCUPATION WITH DAILY AFFAIRS

Apart from the issue of pursuing the gratification of our lusts, the Bible indicates that even our involvement with things necessary to our human existence can become an entanglement to us. We all need clothes, food, houses, and jobs. Our families are also part of our fundamental human existence. Yet, these are things in the world and they can be sources of anxiety and preoccupation. To be overly involved in them is to be entangled in the world and usurped by it. Thus, we may not be able to fully love God, know God and His will, and serve God. Note the following observation:

Actually, when a believer pursues the Lord, he is seldom usurped and entangled by things beyond his living necessities. On the contrary, he is usually usurped and entangled by things that are needed for living. Therefore, when the Lord on earth called people to follow Him, He did not ask man to forsake that which exceeded his daily needs, but stressed that he should forsake the involvements of his daily life, such as parents, wives, children, lands, houses, etc. If these necessities usurp man, they seize the Lord’s place in man. Of course, the Lord Jesus did not ask us to forsake our responsibility, but He desired us to relinquish the entanglements of people, activities and things. For this reason, in the Epistles, the Lord teaches us again through the Apostles that we should honor our parents, treat our wives fittingly and care for our relations, etc."[3]

Therefore, we see that although the Lord warned that the rich would have difficulty in entering the Kingdom, his application of that teaching to the disciples made it clear that one must leave not only the excess riches, but even the necessities of life. Luke’s gospel tells us:

And Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! . . . Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life (Lk. 18:24, 29-30).

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)

[1] Witness Lee, The Experience of Life (Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1973), p. 72.

[2] Nee, p. 24.

[3] Lee, pp. 86-87.