7. THE SCRIPTURES AND
Not a little is written to the Christian in the New Testament about "the
world" and his attitude towards it. Its real nature is plainly defined, and
the believer is solemnly warned against it. Godís holy Word is a light from
heaven, shining here "in a dark place" (2 Pet. 1:19). Its Divine rays
exhibit things in their true colors, penetrating and exposing the false
veneer and glamour by which many objects are cloaked. That world upon which
so much labor is bestowed and money spent, and which is so highly extolled
and admired by its blinded dupes, is declared to be "the enemy of God";
therefore are His children forbidden to be "conformed" to it and to have
their affections set upon it.
The present phase of our subject is by no means the least important of those
that we have set out to consider, and the serious reader will do well to
seek Divine grace to measure himself or herself by it. One of the
exhortations which God has addressed to His children runs, "As newborn
babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (1
Pet. 2:2), and it behooves each one of them honestly and diligently to
examine himself so as to discover whether or not this be the case with him.
Nor are we to be content with an increase of mere head-knowledge of
Scripture: what we need to be most concerned about is our practical growth,
our experimental conformity to the image of Christ. And one point at which
we may test ourselves is, Does my reading and study of Godís Word make me
1. We profit from the Word when our eyes are opened to discern the true
character of the world. One of the poets wrote, "Godís in His heavenóallís
right with the world". From one standpoint that is blessedly true, but from
another it is radically wrong, for "the whole world lies in wickedness" (1
John 5:19). But it is only as the heart is supernaturally enlightened by the
Holy Spirit that we are enabled to perceive that that which is highly
esteemed among men is really "abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15).
It is much to be thankful for when the soul is able to see that the "world"
is a gigantic fraud, a hollow bauble, a vile thing, which must one day be
Before we go further, let us define that "world" which the Christian is
forbidden to love. There are few words found upon the pages of Holy Writ
used with a greater variety of meanings than this one. Yet careful attention
to the context will usually determine its scope. The "world" is a system or
order of things, complete in itself. No foreign element is suffered to
intrude, or if it does it is speedily accommodated or assimilated to itself.
The "world" is fallen human nature acting itself out in the human family,
fashioning the framework of human society in accord with its own tendencies.
It is the organized kingdom of the "carnal mind" which is "enmity against
God" and which is "not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be"
(Rom. 8:7). Wherever the "carnal mind" is, there is "the world"; so that
worldliness is the world without God.
2. We profit from the Word when we learn that the world is an enemy to be
resisted and overcome. The Christian is bidden to "fight the good fight of
faith" (1 Tim. 6:12), which implies that there are foes to be met and
vanquished. As there is the Holy Trinityóthe Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spiritóso also is there an evil trinityóthe flesh, the world, and the Devil.
The child of God is called to engage in a mortal combat with them; "mortal",
we say, for either they will destroy him or he will get the victory over
them. Settle it, then, in your mind, my reader, that the world is a deadly
enemy, and if you do not vanquish it in your heart then you are no child of
God, for it is written "Whatever is born of God overcomes the world" (1 John
Out of many, the following reasons may be given as to why the world must be
"overcome." First, all its alluring objects tend to divert the attention and
alienate the affections of the soul from God. Necessarily so, for it is the
tendency of things seen to turn the heart away from things unseen. Second,
the spirit of the world is diametrically opposed to the Spirit of Christ;
therefore did the apostle write, "Now we have received, not the spirit of
the world, but the Spirit which is of God" (1 Cor. 2:12). The Son of God
came into the world, but "the world knew him not" (John 1:10); therefore did
its "princes" and rulers crucify Him (1 Cor. 2:8). Third, its concerns and
cares are hostile to a devout and heavenly life. Christians, like the rest
of mankind, are required by God to labor six days in the week; but while so
employed they need to be constantly on their guard, lest covetous interests
govern them rather than the performance of duty.
"This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4).
Nothing but a God-given faith can overcome the world. But as the heart is
occupied with invisible yet eternal realities, it is delivered from the
corrupting influence of worldly objects. The eyes of faith discern the
things of sense in their real colors, and see that they are empty and vain,
and not worthy to be compared with the great and glorious objects of
eternity. A felt sense of the perfections and presence of God makes the
world appear less than nothing. When the Christian views the Divine Redeemer
dying for his sins, living to intercede for his perseverance, reigning and
overruling things for his final salvation, he exclaims, "There is none upon
earth that I desire beside you."
And how is it with you as you read these lines? You may cordially assent to
what has just been said in the last paragraph, but how is it with you
actually? Do the things which are so highly valued by the unregenerate charm
and enthral you? Take away from the worldling those things in which he
delights, and he is wretched: is this so with you? Or, are your present joy
and satisfaction found in objects which can never be taken from you? Treat
not these questions lightly, we beseech you, but ponder them seriously in
the presence of God. The honest answer to them will be an index to the real
state of your soul, and will indicate whether or not you are deceived in
supposing yourself to be "a new creature in Christ Jesus."
3. We profit from the Word when we learn that Christ died to deliver us from
"this present evil world" (Gal. 1:4). The Son of God came here, not only to
"fulfill" the requirements of the law (Matt. 5:17), to "destroy the works of
the devil" (1 John 3:8), to deliver us "from the wrath to come" (1 Thess.
1:10), to save us from our sins (Matt. 1:21), but also to free us from the
bondage of this world, to deliver the soul from its enthralling influence.
This was foreshadowed of old in Godís dealings with Israel. They were slaves
in Egypt, and "Egypt" is a figure of the world. They were in cruel bondage,
spending their time in making bricks for Pharaoh. They were unable to free
themselves. But Jehovah, by His mighty power, emancipated them, and brought
them forth out of the "iron furnace." Thus does Christ with His own. He
breaks the power of the world over their hearts. He makes them independent
of it, that they neither court its favors nor fear its frowns.
Christ gave Himself a sacrifice for the sins of His people that, in
consequence thereof, they might be delivered from the damning power and
governing influence of all that is evil in this present world: from Satan,
who is its prince; from the lusts which predominate in it; from the vain
conversation of the men who belong to it. And the Holy Spirit indwelling the
saints co-operates with Christ in this blessed work. He turns their thoughts
and affections away from earthly things to heavenly. By the working of His
power, lie frees them from the demoralizing influence which surrounds them,
and conforms them to the heavenly standard. And as the Christian grows in
grace he recognizes this, and acts accordingly. He seeks yet fuller
deliverance from this "present evil world," and begs God to free him from it
completely. That which once charmed him now nauseates. He longs for the time
when he shall be taken out of this scene where his blessed Lord is so
4. We profit from the Word when our hearts are weaned from it. "Love not the
world, neither the things that are in the world" (1 John 2:15). "What the
stumbling-block is to the traveler in the way, the weight to the runner, the
lime twigs to the bird in its flight, so is the love of the world to a
Christian in his courseóeither wholly diverting him from, greatly enticing
him in, or forcibly turning him out of it" (Nathaniel Hardy, 1660). The
truth is that until the heart is purged from this corruption the ear will be
deaf to Divine instruction. Not until we are lifted above the things of time
and sense can we be subdued unto obedience to God. Heavenly truth glides off
a carnal mind as water from a spherical body.
The world has turned its back upon Christ, and though His name is professed
in many places, yet will it have nothing to do with Him. All the desires and
designs of worldlings are for the gratification of self. Let their aims and
pursuits be as varied as they may, self being supreme, everything is
subordinated to the pleasing of self. Now Christians are in the world, and
cannot get out of it; they have to live their Lordís appointed time in it.
While here they have to earn their living, support their families, and
attend to their worldly business. But they are forbidden to love the world,
as though it could make them happy. Their "treasure" and "portion" are to be
The world appeals to every instinct of fallen man. It contains a thousand
objects to charm him: they attract his attention, the attention creates a
desire for and love of them, and insensibly yet surely they make deeper and
deeper impressions on his heart. It has the same fatal influence on all
classes. But attractive and appealing as its varied objects may be, all the
pursuits and pleasures of the world are designed and adapted to promote the
happiness of this life only therefore, "What shall it profit a man if he
should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" The Christian is taught
by the Spirit, and through His presenting of Christ to the soul his thoughts
are diverted from the world. Just as a little child will readily drop a
dirty object when something more pleasing is offered to it, so the heart
which is in communion with God will say, "I count all things but loss for
the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord... and do count them
but dung, that I may win Christ" (Phil. 3:8).
5. We profit from the Word when we walk in separation from the world. "Know
you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever will be
a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). Such a verse as this
ought to search every one of us through and through, and make us tremble.
How can I fraternize with or seek my pleasure in that which condemned the
Son of God? If I do, that at once identifies me with His enemies. Oh, my
reader, make no mistake upon this point. It is written, "If any man love the
world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).
Of old it was said of the people of God that they "shall dwell alone, and
shall not be reckoned among the nations" (Num. 23:9). Surely the disparity
of character and conduct, the desires and pursuits, which distinguish the
regenerate from the unregenerate must separate the one from the other. We
who profess to have our citizenship in another world, to be guided by
another Spirit, to be directed by another rule, and to be journeying to
another country, cannot go arm in arm with those who despise all such
things! Then let everything in and about us exhibit the character of
Christian pilgrims. May we indeed be "men wondered at" (Zech. 3:8) because
"not conformed to this world" (Rom. 12:2).
6. We profit from the Word when we evoke the hatred of the world. What pains
are taken in the world to save appearances and keep up a seemly and good
state! Its conventionalities and civilities, its courtesies and charities,
are so many contrivances to give an air of respectability to it. So too its
churches and cathedrals, its priests and prelates, are needed to gloss over
the corruption which seethes beneath the surface. And to make good weight
"Christianity" is added, and the holy name of Christ is taken upon the lips
by thousands who have never taken His "yoke" upon them. Of them God says,
"This people draws near unto me with their mouth and honors me with their
lips; but their heart is far from me" (Matt. 15:8).
And what is to be the attitude of all real Christians toward such? The
answer of Scripture is plain: "From such turn away" (2 Tim. 3:5), "Come out
from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord" (2 Cor. 6:17). And what
will follow when this Divine command is obeyed? Why, then we shall prove the
truth of those words of Christ: "If you were of the world, the world would
love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you
out of the world, therefore the world hates you (John 15:19). Which "world"
is specifically in view here? Let the previous verse answer: "If the world
hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you."
What "world" hated Christ and hounded Him to death? The religious world,
those who pretended to be most zealous for Godís glory. So it is now. Let
the Christian turn his back upon a Christódishonoring Christendom, and his
fiercest foes and most relentless and unscrupulous enemies will be those who
claim to be Christians themselves! But "Blessed are you, when men shall
revile you, and persecute you ... for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding
glad" (Matt. 5:11,12). Ah, my brother, it is a healthy sign, a sure mark
that you are profiting from the Word, when the religious world hates you.
But if, on the other hand, you still have a "good standing" in the
"churches" or "assemblies" there is grave reason to fear that you love the
praise of men more than that of God!
7. We profit from the Word when we are elevated above the world. First,
above its customs and fashions. The worldling is a slave to the prevailing
habits and styles of the day. Not so the one who is walking with God: his
chief concern is to be "conformed to the image of his Son." Second, above
its cares and sorrows: of old it was said of the saints that they took
joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they had "in heaven a
better and an enduring substance" (Heb. 10:34). Third, above its
temptations: what attraction has the glare and glitter of the world for
those who are "delighting themselves in the Lord?" None whatever! Fourth,
above its opinions and approvals. Have you learned to be independent of and
defy the world? If your whole heart is set upon pleasing God, you will be
quite unconcerned about the frowns of the godless.
Now, my reader, do you really wish to measure yourself by the contents of
this chapter? Then seek honest answers to the following questions. First,
what are the objects before your mind in times of recreation? What do your
thoughts most run upon? Second, what are the objects of your choice? When
you have to decide how to spend an evening or the Sabbath afternoon, what do
you select? Third, which occasions you the most sorrow, the loss of earthly
things, or lack of communion with God? Which causes greater grief (or
chagrin), the spoiling of your plans, or the coldness of your heart to
Christ? Fourth, what is your favorite topic of conversation? Do you hanker
after the news of the day, or to meet with those who talk of the "altogether
lovely" One? Fifth, do your "good intentions" materialize, or are they
nothing but empty dreams? Are you spending more or less time than formerly
on your knees? Is the Word sweeter to your taste, or has your soul lost its
relish for it?