Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19).
These verses strike at the very heart of why we are hated. When we were saved, we got “out of the world.” And we accepted our mission to insist that others also “get out of the world.”
“I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).
“Ye are not of the world . . . therefore [because of this], the world hateth you” (John 15:19). Christ is saying, in essence, “The world hates you because I called you out of your condition. And that means I called you out of their fellowship. Yet, I didn’t just call you out. I then sent you to call everyone else out.”
The Protestant antichrist spirit works to hinder this separation of Christians from the world. It makes it seem possible for believers to stay in the world and still regard themselves as Christians.
You may ask, “What exactly does Jesus mean when he says ‘the world’?”
He isn’t just speaking of ungodly lusts, pleasure madness, pornography or adultery. No, “the world” Christ refers to isn’t some list of evil practices. That’s only a part of it.
“The world” that Jesus speaks of is an unwillingness to surrender to His lordship. In short, worldliness is any attempt to co-mingle Christ with self-will.
You see, when we surrender to the lordship of Christ, we cleave to Jesus. And we’re led by the Holy Spirit, step by step, into a walk of purity and uprightness. We begin to appreciate godly reproof.
I can’t speak for other pastors; I can only speak what I know. And for fifty years now, I’ve preached to some of the hardest, most wicked sinners on earth: drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes. Yet, I tell you, these sinners are much less resistant to gospel truth than many who sit in church pews and are blinded to their condition.
Thousands of people who attend church regularly across America are more hardened than anyone on the streets. And no smooth, soft-spoken, half-truth gospel is going to break down the walls of their wickedness.
Saul of Tarsus was just such a hardened religious man. A Pharisee among Pharisees, an upright figure in a highly religious society, Saul had it all together. So, did Jesus come to this man taking a poll, asking what he’d like to see in a synagogue service?
No! Saul was struck to the ground by a blinding light, a full blast of the presence of Christ. It was a piercing, confrontational meeting that exposed Saul’s heart, pinpointing his sin (see Acts 9:1-9).
As a minister of the gospel of Christ, I am to do likewise. It’s my business to convince men and women of their sin. I’m to warn them of the danger that awaits them if they continue their way of living. And no amount of flattery, or subtlety, or getting them to like me will change their condition.
In plain terms, I am called to lead people to forsake everything to follow a Christ whom they find unattractive. Only the Holy Ghost in me can accomplish that. “For I have not shunned (held back from) to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
Don’t mistake what I’m saying here. I preach the mercy, grace and love of Christ to all people. And I do it through tears. But the only thing that’s going to pierce the walls erected by hardened people is a blast of the presence of Jesus. And that has to come out of the mouths of contrite, praying pastors and parishioners.
A church that’s accepted and approved by the world is a contradiction in terms because it is an impossibility. According to Jesus, any church that is loved by the world is of the world, and not of Christ.
“If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).
My life has been greatly influenced by the writings of George Bowen, a Presbyterian missionary who labored in India from 1848 to 1888. Bowen gave up all his missionary support to move into a slum and live as the natives there did. He led a frugal existence, in near poverty. Yet, because of that choice, he left behind a testimony of the true power of living in Christ.
This godly man warned of an antichrist spirit to come which he identified as being “the spirit of modern society.” According to Bowen, this spirit would infiltrate the Protestant church with the mindset, methods and morals of the larger society.
The antichrist spirit would continue its influence until society and church couldn’t be differentiated. Over time, the world would lose its hatred for Christ’s Church and true believers. It would stop its persecution, and the Church would be loved and accepted by the world. Once that happened, Bowen wrote, this antichrist spirit would have taken the throne.
Several years ago, as the doors to Iraq were about to be opened to Christian relief organizations, The New York Times ran a derogatory article. That is to be expected from a liberal, secular press. They might applaud the distribution of food in Iraq, but certainly not the preaching of Christ.
The article quoted a Protestant scholar who was critical of the whole effort. He completely denounced it, saying the church should mind its own business; he seemed actually embarrassed that the church would be evangelizing. Now that is a worldly mindset!
The closer we get to the mission of Christ—to preaching the gospel that He has ordained—the more we will be despised by the world.
Abraham did amazing exploits as God led him into the fullness of his blessing. Later, though, when circumstances turned bad, Abraham lost his focus on God’s glory. He turned instead to his own resources: “Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe” (Genesis 12:10).
The story makes clear that Egypt was the last place Abraham should have gone. Along the way he put his wife in jeopardy; he lost her to a hostile king for a season, and he lied and manipulated things to save himself. This man had trusted God wholly up to that point. Why didn’t he trust God to see him through his difficulty?
Maybe similar things happen in your crises. When life gets hard—in your finances, your health, your family—do you keep your eyes fixed on God’s glory through it all? If you’ve ever “gone to Egypt” for help in such times, you know how lifeless an effort it can be. Often it complicates the problem, adding shame and despair.
My point is this: Our separateness from the world doesn’t happen through our efforts or abilities. It happens through a revelation of God—and His glory remains with us even in our hard times. Consider the prophet Isaiah. When he entered the temple, he saw the glory of God: “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1). That holy sight sent Isaiah face down on the floor in humble awe: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (6:5).
At that moment Isaiah recognized God’s separateness. The Lord told him, “I have separated you for My holy purposes. I am sending you to preach My Word to a corrupt people. They will resist you, but you’ll be able to endure it because you have seen My glory. When they turn on you, you won’t have to ‘go to Egypt,’ because you’ve seen the nature of the God who has called you.”
God will never refuse a sincere heart that comes back to Him to rebuild an area of his spiritual life that has been broken down! I want to share a promise with you. Believe it. Meditate on it. Hold it tight and oh-so-close to your heart. Promises are love letters from God, destined for you, written with you in mind on the pages of His faithfulness with the ink of His blood offered for you.
“There is none like our God who rides the heaven to help you and in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:26-27).
When you have made your worst mistakes and the storms of life are raging; when you are so ashamed of yourself you want to disappear; when you have fallen so low and you look down, underneath it all you will always find the everlasting arms. When you give up on yourself and your closest friends can’t believe what you’ve done; when everyone has left you and you can’t even look up, underneath the entire mess you will find His everlasting arms. When it takes everything you have just to pick up the first and smallest stone to rebuild your altar, and your attempt at a comeback with God and His calling on your life seems so futile, ridiculous and really hopeless, you will always hear His voice speak these words to you and for you, “A bruised reed He will not throw away and a smoking flax He will not quench. He will not fail, nor be discouraged till He has established His kingdom.” (Isa 42:3-4).
When our faith is strong and our altar is straight, and we are standing tall before God with all the passion of our commitment, and with our eyes looking high to the heaven, at such times it is not hard to believe that His arms can carry us. We experience moments of grace and amazing answers to prayer, and His presence is so near and so real. We accomplish exploits that surprise us and fill us with wonder and passionate worship. His face is so near we feel we could just touch Him; His word is sweet and moves us.
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.