The notion that we must win the world's esteem before the gospel can do its work is, I'm convinced, a spiritually crippling error that underlies most of the trends currently vying for widespread acceptance within the so-called evangelical movement. In reality, for three decades or longer the broad movement has been softening its commitment to (and in many cases totally abandoning) the two most important evangelical convictions—sola Scriptura and sola fide.
From VOICE, July/Aug 2015. Used with permission.
My frequent travels take me to some unusual places, but one that always catches my attention is in central Indiana. There, alongside Interstate 65, is a billboard proclaiming the “Birthplace of Cool.”
James Dean was born in Fairmount, Indiana, in 1931. But it wasn’t until 1955, when his movie “Rebel Without a Cause” was released, that cool was truly born. When that film hit the theaters, youth culture exploded into middle-class white America and so did the concept of cool.
James Dean was edgy, rebellious, a misunderstood loner. He played by no one’s rules but his own. And following this most cool cultural icon came many others for my generation, especially in music. Elvis pushed trans-generational, wholesome pop singers like Perry Como and Pat Boone off the scene much to the delight of his fans. Then rockers joined Elvis and everything exploded as my generation came of age: sex, drugs and rock and roll ruled the 1960s.
What is a definition of the term “the world” or “worldliness?” Romans 12:2 says, “Be not conformed to this world.” That passage of Scripture really describes the whole matter. In 1 John 2:15 we find, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” In both passages, God is saying there is something out there which we as Christians are not to love. A true Christian is contrary to it. We are not to love the world because we are contrary to it.
Different words are translated “world” in the New Testament. One word refers to the inhabited earth. Another refers to an age or time and it can have a wicked connotation. A third word is the one which is most frequently used. It is the Greek word kosmos.
The world (kosmos) is that system organized by God’s enemy Satan. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer in his theology defined the world as “civilization now functioning apart from God” (Systematic Theology, Vol. II. Dallas Seminary Press, 1971; 77). The unseen powers of spiritual evil, which have Satan as their head, are organized on a vast scale with great efficiency (Ephesians 6:12). This evil organization dominates the lives of unredeemed humanity, and Satan rules this kingdom in opposition to God and everything devoted to God and everyone dedicated to God. As Dr. Chafer expressed it, this civilization is dominated by Satan, functions apart from God, does not recognize God, and has a philosophy of independence (Chafer, 76-90). People of this world’s system say: “I have a right to go my own way, do my own thing, be what I want to be. I don’t owe God anything, I owe no allegiance to anyone.” That is the philosophy of Satan and the world. It is this world system which God says “do not love it, do not be conformed to it.” And so essentially we as Christians are to have no association with the world’s philosophies, ideas, pollutions, or system—because this world is functioning apart from God and in opposition to Him.