How to keep faith in the ungodly world?

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Quite some believers struggle with ‘the world’. Often in a love-hate relationship. There are also some who do not see ‘the world’ as a threat. What is written about it in the Bible?

This article is not about ‘the world’ in the general, neutral sense, but what within Creation is resistant against God. So, it addresses ‘the world’ in a specific, negative sense. What does that mean for believers who have to live their whole lives in ‘the world’? To escape from it or keeping clear of it seems difficult (1 Cor 15:33) or even impossible. ‘The world’ in that negative sense is mentioned explicitly in the New Testament (NT), like in John 17:16. Therefore it seems a typical Christian issue. However, it is already mentioned in the Old Testament (OT) as well.

God’s judgment of the world
In the OT it is stated that God will judge ‘the world’ (Ps. 9:9; 96:13; 98:9; Is. 13:11). Israelites have interpreted this above all in a nationalistic sense: God will punish ‘the world’ (that which is outside of Israel) for all its injustice against Israel. This is certainly true, but this is however a rather minimalistic interpretation. If His punishment leads to the destruction of ‘the world’ in the end of time then that goes far beyond any nationalistic purpose (Ps. 102:27). The punishments of God of ‘the world’ mentioned in the Bible, especially in the OT, were happening shortly after the time they were announced or not long thereafter. They happened for the benefit of the generation addressed or the immediate generations following it. These punishments have taken place in history.

Hostile to God
In the NT the negative view on ‘the world’ is even more increased, and addresses most of all paganism: the whole of religions or mindsets which are hostile to God (and His will) and His people. According to these Bible announcements ‘the world’ will more and more take the shape of one world-system in which there can be no place for the separate people of God. But according to the Bible this world-system will prove to have a worsening weakness (internal instability): hardness of iron mixed with the frailty of loam (Dan. 2:33). It will increasingly represent the character of satan and turn more and more against the Messiah. It will bring firth its own messiah (1 Jh 2:22).

Characteristics of the world
In the Bible all kinds of characteristics are mentioned, like (Mt 13:22; 1 Jh 2:16):
• Idolatry, as sports glorify human strength and becoming winners
• Adultery, like revealing one’s inner-self at social media
• Being concerned about ‘the world’, like climate activism
• Being consumed by the wealth of ‘the world’, like in the stock markets
• Seduction, like becoming addicted to over-consummation
• Loosing self-control, like lawlessness (vandalism)

For the most part these can be summarized as selfishness (only wanting to do what is pleasing to oneself).

Dual attitude
The Biblical attitude towards ‘the world’ is two-sided. On the one hand ‘the world’ is portrayed as the camp of the enemy (Jh 15:19), and on the other the believers are cautioned not to wholly and consistently go against ‘the world’ or to try to depart from ‘the world’ (Jh 17:15). However, many think they should. But ‘the world’ is much mightier than the people of God. Still, believers are commanded to not willingly succumb to ‘the world’ (Jm 1:27). In the Bible instructions are written down on how to deal with ‘the world’. God promised to assist through the mediation of the Lord Jesus (Mt 28:20; Col 3:17).

More importantly, God has called the believers to work for Him in ‘the world’ (Mt 5:14; 10:16; Jh 17:18). According to what is written in the Bible ‘the world’ is to be seen as their work environment and the place of the fulfilment of their calling (Mt 13:38). Believers who estrange themselves from ‘the world’ miss out on their calling. According to the Bible account ‘the world’ will ultimately be owned by the believers (Is 45:23). With that in view there is no need to fear ‘the world’ (Jh 16:33). It is the world which has good reason to fear the believers.

The ’inner’ world
Especially in the NT great emphases is put on ‘worldliness’. Christians commonly interpret this as something which exists only ‘outside’ their community. That is understandable, since the people of God should only be ruled by the persuasion of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 5:13; Fil 2:5; Col 4:5). However, this interpretation is superficial, because according to what is written in the Bible every human is born with ‘worldliness’ (Rm 3:12).

The Lord Jesus has accomplished the conditions to become released of it and since the accomplishment He intermediates continuously by God to sustain reconciliation. Also, the Holy Spirit wants their sanctification. But the believers themselves are also responsible for it. The complete redemption of worldliness of the human body however is yet to come (Rm 8:23). This will only just happen with the arrival of the new Creation (Is 65:17; Fil. 3:21). Until then, there will remain a struggle of faith.

Fall of ‘the world’
Satan and his demons make use of ‘the world’ to keep humans, but also the whole of Creation, from doing God’s will or to make believers fall away from their dedication to God (2 Tim. 4:10). ‘The world’ however isn’t owned by its occupiers, but is owned by God. He allows Creation to be corrupted by the power satan has on it. Humans serve ‘the world’ willingly or unknowingly. God will let this go on and increase until the end of time. Therefore, His coming complete destruction of ‘the world’ will be a righteous act.