Loving the World
By Jack Kinsella
”Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
In times like these, that’s great advice – but with the economy on the brink, the world on the brink of war, the country on the edge of default and your 401k forcing you to reconsider the prospect of retirement at any age, it’s hard advice to follow.
I know lots of Christians that wax eloquently against ‘loving the things of this earth’ that suddenly turn apoplectic when their own personal comfort zone is threatened.
It always reminds me of the 400 lb preacher I once saw who pointed his stubby finger accusingly at his audience as he roared, “If you smoke, you’re defiling the Temple of the Holy Spirit!”
Everybody loves the things of this world, when you get right down to it. Love your dog? Your kids? Your wife? Love being in your own personal comfort zone at home?
You can run down the whole list of things you love in your own mind. You don’t feel ‘dead’ to the people or things that you love – what does that mean to your salvation?
Is this a conditional statement? Does it mean that unless your affection is set on things above, unless you are dead to the things of this earth, your life isn’t hid with Christ in God?
One of the central themes of Bible Christianity is;
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1st John 2:15)
This is one of those cognitive dissonance moments. You know how Christians are supposed to feel about the world and all that is in it – but you still love the things you love. You even throw around quotes like, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” – but you still love the things you love.
You love the Lord and you love your fellow man. You love your church family. You love your OL family. You love your country.
You know you aren’t supposed to love your life, but you do everything in your power to make it as comfortable as possible. You know that you love your life. If you didn’t, you’d be a prime candidate for suicide counseling.
Christians try to parse this until they read it to mean, “love not sinful things” or “don’t love the world too much” but Jesus confronts us with an either-or ultimatum: “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Which presents us with an enormous conundrum. There are those who scrupulously practice religious asceticism, which is the practice of austere self-discipline in order to achieve a higher spiritual ideal – (think monks in hair shirts).
But the rest of us aspire to live in warm houses with comfortable beds with a loving family and a loyal dog named Shep. Sometimes, we even criticize our brethren for loving the things of this world – while worrying about our own 401k.
What is it that I am trying to say here? That we’re all sinners? Well,…yeah. But you already knew that. I can find a dozen verses that clearly command us not to love the world or the things that are in it. But you do anyway — and you know it. Then you criticize other Christians for loving some things of this world, usually the things that you don’t.
“If they love that, they can’t really be saved.” Or, “if they were really saved, they wouldn’t love that.”
What does “really saved” mean, in context? Bible salvation refers to the redemption from sin through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel (Good News) is that salvation has been secured on our behalf. The Book of Romans contains what is often called “Roman’s Road” to salvation.
Salvation requires a recognition of one’s personal sinful state (Romans 3:23) It demands an understanding of the consequences of sin (Romans 6:23) and that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 5:8 explains that our salvation is a product of the unfathomable love of God, “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 10:9 tells us that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Romans 10:13 summarizes salvation thusly: “whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Jesus described salvation as being “born again”…“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6)
This isn’t a figure of speech. It is an actual rebirth of one’s spirit, which dies at the moment we commit our first sin. The soul of an unregenerate man only receives input through his five physical senses.
When he is saved, his spirit is “quickened” opening up a new source of input to his soul.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1st Corinthians 2:14)
That sense of spiritual discernment comes from the awakening of the spiritual senses. Now the soul gets input through both the physical and spiritual gateways. It is this transformation that the Bible refers to as a “new creature”.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2nd Corinthians 5:17)
The purpose of the first part of today’s OL was to illustrate the Bible’s principle that,
“But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 19:30)
I believe that principle illustrates what happens to those to define salvation as something somebody else doesn’t have because they aren’t living according to their understanding of the Bible.
Which is to say, “love not the things I don’t love. The things I love aren’t sinful,” — while ignoring the fact that loving them is.
Salvation creates a new creature with a direct spiritual connection with the Holy Spirit.
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8:16)
If it is possible for a person to lose one’s salvation, Hebrews 6:6 teaches that it is impossible for such a one to be born again, again.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost…if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)
Why would “renewing them again unto repentance…put Christ to an open shame?”
During His Agony in the Garden, Jesus prayed,
“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy Name: those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost…Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:12,24)
The open shame is found in the fact that He was unable to keep such a one by His sacrifice, despite the testimony of Scripture:
“But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12-14)
The regenerate man whose spiritual eyes have been opened cannot commit spiritual suicide because his spirit is directly indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. “Falling away” is defined in the eyes of the beholder, not the eyes of God. God says you already fell away when you decided to buy a comfortable shirt instead of one made of sackcloth.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in it.” Doesn’t say a word about loving the things of this world in a righteous way. Remember the rich man who went away sorrowful because he had many possessions?
Aren’t you glad you weren’t offered that same choice? Oh, wait. You were. And unless you live under a bridge in a cardboard box, you probably made the same choice the rich young man did.
Except that you are saved by grace through faith, not works, lest any man should boast. Your life is hid with Christ in God. Your life is ‘hid’ in Christ — when God looks at you, He sees Christ and judges you accordingly.
You aren’t hid in Christ because you are righteous – nobody is. You aren’t even hid in Christ because you try to be righteous. You are hid in Christ because all your works are as filthy rags before the Lord. (Isaiah 64:6)
The sinning Christian loses irreplaceable opportunities to lead others to Christ. (Ephesians 5:14-17) The sinning Christian will suffer loss at the Bema Seat. (1st Corinthians 3:11-13) The sinning Christian will be chastened by the Father. (Hebrews 12)
And the sinning Christian can render himself so useless to the Lord that the Lord will take him home prematurely.
“…There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1st John 5:16)
But what the sinning Christian cannot do is “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” Because “by ONE offering He hath perfect forever them that are sanctified.”
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on October 24, 2006.