Aligning with Jesus means standing against the world. In (1 Peter 1.16-17 NLT), Peter quotes from the Old Testament … “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’ Then he adds, “So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as ‘foreigners in the land’.”
He is not speaking about the fear of men, but the fear of God. Notice how believers are described — “foreigners in the land.” Once you set your life to follow Jesus, you are moving against the grain of the culture around you.
The Bible uses the term “world” in three different ways. Sometimes the “world” is in reference to the physical planet, (Hebrews 1.2 ESV). Other times the “world” refers to the people who live on Earth. For example, in (John 3.16 ESV), “For God so loved the world,” the word “world” refers to people, not the planet. Other times, “world” refers to the wayward and wicked culture that is against God. This “world” is what you are up against. This is the culture that hates Jesus, hates the gospel, loves sin and despises anyone who lives for truth.
On the night before His death, Jesus warned His followers that love for God ensures hatred from the world; “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you; ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well,” (John 15.18-23 NIV).
If you have ever visited a water park, you are familiar with the “lazy river.” It’s a slow-moving stream that encircles the park. People usually lie on their raft and let the gentle current move them downstream. In fact, the current is so light you may not think there is much current at all. But if you get off your inflatable and actually stand in the “lazy river”, you will soon realize that the current is really strong and you have to fight to move against it. Our culture is a current. It is a current of values, thoughts, ideas and standards pushed out into the “mainstream” through media, education, business and rhetoric. Many of the values are directly opposed to God’s values, and the one who chooses to follow Jesus is the person getting off the inflatable and walking steadily upstream against the current.
Jesus told His men, “Don’t be surprised if this world hates you; it hated me.” He was saying, “Don’t be caught off guard if it’s hard to fight the flow; it was hard for me too.” That’s why Peter called us “foreigners in the land.” Our citizenship is not in this world. The Apostle Paul said, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 3.20 NIV), and we look forward to “a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands,” (2 Corinthians 5.1 NIV).
Hebrews 11.10 (NLT) says, “Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” You should not expect to enjoy the applause of men if you are living for the applause of heaven, but the difference Jesus has made in you is what makes you attractive to those who are looking for hope. Your love for Jesus and your obedience to Him are light in a dark world as you hold out the gospel.
Paul said, “Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people,” (Philippians 2.15 NLT). Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven,” (Matthew 5.16 NIV).
No, you are not of this world, but you are in this world to courageously offer hope. As you obey and follow Jesus, you are letting your light shine.
Written by Craig Etheredge