Why You Will Never Change the World and Why that Does Not Matter
There is an enormous amount of human philosophy from the world that passes for Christian theology. The power of positive thinking is complemented by how to make friends and influence people, coupled with God is only love. Self-help philosophies are rampant. God helps those who help themselves. God wants you to be all you can be. God wants you to be an army of one. You go girl and grab the glory!
The Bible teaches Christians much about our relationship with the world. One thing is sure, you will never change the world, and changing the world is irrelevant, anyway. In fact, changing the world is as worldly a philosophy as they come. Men boast of their endeavors and achievements in changing the world. The pride of life is the prime motivation for men trying to make their names great. They long to be world-changers for their own glory.
Jesus refused to pray for the world (Jn 17:9), which informs us of God’s view of the world. If we look to the end of prophetic Scripture, we see God’s plan for the world, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up (2 Pet 3:10).” So, God has given us a view to the end of our endeavors to change the world. Solomon was right, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Eccl 1:2).”
God has no intention of changing the world, and so Christians should refrain from having this on their agenda. Is there anything new under the sun? Of course not, but consider the illusion of technology, being a catalyst for change. Technology ignores the impact it has on human hearts and minds. Are humans with smart phones any more or less human than humans without them? The heart is still deceitfully wicked (Jer 17:9), and the way of wickedness is made broad when it is banded with a smart phone. Technology has made many people sin faster than ever before (Gen 6:5).
Liberal theology is the front door for the world to come into the church. What most church goers desire is to be friends with the world, and this always leads to peace agreements on some middle ground. “Fifty Shades of Grace” might be the apt title for the book that claims to have found a number of common ground points in which the church and the world can get along. The more worldly the church, the more acceptable it is to the world. Sinners love those who love them (Mt 6:32).
Jesus told His unbelieving brothers, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil (Jn 7:7).” There is nothing that will invite the wrath of the world more than exposing the world’s evils (Eph 5:11). Try these pleasantries: “Abortion is murder;” “Homosexuality is a sin;” “Islam is a false religion;” “Your divorce and remarriage is adultery;” “Your little angel is not innocent;” “Your favorite politician’s platform for change is hopeless;” etc. These are all true statements, but the world hates anyone who speaks the truth. Jesus was the truth (Jn 14:6), and yet, He was despised and rejected of men (Is 53:3).
Jesus warned His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you (Jn 15:18–19).” Does the world hate you? Does the world love you? Did Jesus choose you, or did you choose Jesus?
We have seen why the world hated Jesus, who exposed the world’s twisted works, but are you exposing the truth about the world through your words and works? Jesus came to manifest His Father’s name, to those whom the Father gave to the Son out of the world (Jn 17:6). When a called-out believer in Jesus reveals Yahweh to the world, there is sure to be a conflict. The holiness of God and sinfulness of man are not compatible. The world quickly cancels the messenger of God with its own words. Sometimes it just kills him. Those who manifest the name of the One True God are accused of being self-righteous, even when they speak the truth about Christ’s imputed righteousness in love. The world does not comprehend.
One of the ways the world makes peace with liberal Christians is to entice them to do good works without naming the name of Jesus. If God would have His people do good works, and if the world would have people do good works, then the point of contention is doing something in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. A man is invited to pray before the city council meeting or state assembly, and he is instructed not to pray in the name of Jesus.
It is a win-win for the worldly church when it does good works approved by the world and without the mention of Jesus. Unfortunately, the worldly church is bamboozled by the world in these matters. Jesus manifested the Father’s name, and we should manifest the name of Jesus. Paul wrote, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Col 3:17).”
The apostle John later expounded on this love/hate relationship, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever (1 Jn 2:15–17).”
First, do not love the world. How do we reconcile this with “God so loved the world” (Jn 3:16)? Kosmos (“the world”) has a very broad spectrum of meanings. In the Bible, it can mean the universe, the earth, everyone in the world, Jesus’ disciples, the Gentiles, the evil world system, etc. Unfortunately, the great majority of Christians misinterpret John 3:16 as meaning everyone in the world and at all times.
Revelation 5:9 should always be employed when interpreting John 3:16, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev 5:9).” If John 3:16 is to inform us about salvation, then it cannot be held in isolation from other passages that inform us about salvation. “People from every nation in the world” is the meaning of “the world” in John 3:16.
How does one love the world system in disobedience to God? Men of the world love the things of the world, the pleasures of the world, the security and comforts of the world, the philosophies of men, the deceitfulness of riches, and take pride in it all. We learn from Paul, “Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica (2 Tim 4:10).”
The world competes with God for the affections of people. Just as Paul discerned Demas’ defection, we must discern where the heart and treasure of every man is invested. What a man loves is on his mind, in his heart, and on his lips. His actions confirm his words. You cannot love God and the world.
Most Christians avoid self-assessment with the standard of Jesus and Paul in view. They also avoid the historical testimony of the lives of Christian divines. “I am not a Wesley nor a Whitefield, let alone Aquinas or Augustine,” is one’s humble confession. Why not? Is it because you prefer the good life in this world? Jesus said, “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal (Jn 12:25).” How do you lose your life in this world?
Christians are instructed to seek first the kingdom of God (Mt 6:33), and to set their minds on God’s interests (Mt 16:23). We are to set our minds on things above (Col 3:2), on the things of the Spirit (Rom 8:6). So, what are these things pertaining to God’s interests and kingdom?
Primary is God’s interest in changing the hearts of His people. He is transferring slaves to sin into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Rom 6:6; Col 1:13). He is removing hearts of stone and transplanting hearts of flesh (Ezek 36:26). God is writing His law upon our hearts (Heb 8:10). His will is for our sanctification (1 Thess 4:3). He is gathering into one new nation, a redeemed people for Himself (Ps 102:21–22; Tit 2:14). It was for these elect ones that the apostle Paul suffered so such (2 Tim 2:10).
Second, if you love the world, you do not love God. Jesus and John are very clear in their wording. We are to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. We love God because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:19), and our love for Him and others is our response to being loved by Him (1 Jn 3:16–17). Notice a distinction, we are not to love the world, but we are to love people: one another, neighbors, and enemies. How do Christians love best?
If we say we love God, we should be our brother’s keeper and open our hearts to meet needs (1 Jn 3:17). What is the greatest human need? It is the need for God’s salvation. How is a person saved? The Word of God is preached to all the world (Mt 24:14), all creation (Mk 16:15). God gives a person faith (Gal 3:22; Phil 1:29), as she receives the Word and the indwelling Spirit (Jn 6:63; Jn 14:17; Rom 10:17).
Imagine your neighbor in hell. You mowed his lawn, washed his car, lent him your power tools, watched his pets, went to the ball game with him, visited him in the hospital, but never did you share the love of Christ. Why did you close your heart to him? How could he hear without a preacher, and you said he was your friend?
The world says there is no eternal punishment in hell. The world says there is no such thing as sin. The world implies everyone goes to heaven when they die. So, you gave your neighbor a cup of cold water, but you refused him the water of life. Why? It is because the world hates you when you mention Jesus. John wrote, “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you (1 Jn 3:13).” If the world does not hate you, then you have a far greater problem than if it does hate you.
If you love the Father, you must love His Son. If you love the Son, you must obey His commandments: Go; preach Christ; teach obedience; make disciples of Jesus; seek the kingdom; pursue peace; and put on love. The more we know the Word of God, the more familiar these and many more commandments are to us.
God does not need you to change the world. The fallen world has always been against God, and it will be against God until the end of this present evil age (Gal 1:4). God is not changing the world, but He is changing people and their hearts. It is enough for you to be brought into conformity with Christ’s person and work (Rom 8:29). Therefore, pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Subject yourself to God’s providence and His leading you each day on the narrow way (Mt 7:13–14; Jas 4:7). It is a difficult path of suffering (1 Pet 2:21), as you take up your cross and follow Him (Mt 10:38; 16:24). Sow the seed of the Word (Mt 13:18–23), as you journey along hedges and highways (Lk 14:23) and watch as God gives the increase.
The laborers are few (Lk 10:2), so do not be discouraged, do not grow weary in doing good (2 Thess 3:13). In doing these things, you are a faithful laborer in the kingdom harvest. You are in the business of bearing witness to the change of hearts, and that matters since the world will not change until the very last day. On that day, it will be God who changes it.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 9, 2021