1. The source that conceived of our ways of operating matters
A church’s source of order, stability and progress matters. It’s the difference between life and death, and between oneness and division. That is not an exaggeration. Your ways of operating determine what you’re progressing toward.
Throughout the story of Scripture, we’re shown that the world’s system has a source. Just like you see the water flowing in the river and know it came from some source upstream, the world’s system came from somewhere. It’s not just how humans randomly chose to do things after the Fall. There’s a source to it.
Biblical authors reference this source as “the prince of this world” (John 12:31) or “he that is in the world” (I John 4:4). This system is behind every worldly institution we encounter. It’s the source of order, stability and progress for government, education, business, entertainment, the military, and yes, religion. Eliminate them and life falls into chaos – unless it’s replaced by a different Source.
As the world “progresses,” it’s headed somewhere. The source behind it has a goal. That goal is to establish a kingdom that is hostile to God (Revelation 13). That is why it’s called the kingdom of the antichrist.
On the other hand, Jesus came and said he brought a new Kingdom and that it “was not of this world.” (John 18:36). He also has a goal. It’s to establish His Kingdom on earth with His Life as the Source. Just like the enemy is the source of the world’s system, Jesus would be the Source of a new kind of system.
Yes, humans were designed for order, stability and progress. But these emerge differently in God’s Kingdom than they do in the world’s system. We were designed for the Life of Christ to be the Source and sacrificial Love in community to be how they emerge.
2. The world’s system must be taken seriously
The world’s system provides order, stability and progress in a way that can initially seem smarter, safer and more convenient. This is so enticing that any Christian, no matter how seasoned, can be enticed and entrapped by it if they’re not VERY careful. The enemy and the world’s system are not to be taken lightly. If you underestimate them, they’ll get you without you even knowing it.
Things are always progressing in one direction or the other. The world’s system has already been defeated and ultimately doomed, but it’s still being built while progressing toward its final judgment. The Christian should be careful not to be found helping construct what is contrary to the Kingdom.
Therefore, a Kingdom citizen has to take it VERY seriously. A Christian (or a group of Christians) with a nonchalant attitude toward the world’s system will undoubtedly be enticed and entrapped to help in its construction.
3. Salvation is being rescued from the world’s way of doing things
The concept of baptism has morphed into this 2nd step people take sometime after they believe that’s become designed to tell others about their decision and commitment to Him. It’s known as a public display of your trust in Christ.
Now I’m not saying that’s not important. It certainly is, and the baptisms I’ve been to where this is the intent have been beautiful. But what baptism is supposed to represent goes further than that.
Here’s what Watchman Nee says about it in the book Love Not The World…
[Salvation] is concerned not so much with sin and hell, or holiness and heaven, but with something else. Salvation, we shall see, is related to the kosmos, the world. This whole cosmic pattern is peculiarly at odds with God the Father.
He had to rescue us not just from our sin and its consequences, but from the world’s ways of doing things. Nee goes on to point out how the flood narrative about Noah and his family in Genesis was a precursor to this…
The real point for us is that they were the only people to come out from that corrupt system of things, that world under water. Salvation is essentially a present exit from a doomed order which is Satan’s. Speaking figuratively, therefore, when you go through the waters of baptism everything belonging to the former system is cut off by those waters, never to return. You alone emerge.
For you it is a passage into another realm, a world where you will find a dove and the fresh leaves of olive trees. Not only does your own history as a child of Adam end in your baptism; your world also ends there.
Baptism is the acceptance of Jesus’ rescue mission to “drown the world’s system.”
If you were given and received a full and complete gospel of the Kingdom, the world’s ways should make little sense to you anymore. Salvation involves taking the step of leaving the world’s system behind.
4. The world’s system has no future
You can lose interest in the world if you come to clearly see what the world’s future is. When you see something has no future, what’s the point of going on with it? Any plans you have with it aren’t going to last anyway. Continuing to work on its progress is just folly. Your best bet is to work on building something that still has hope for a lasting future.
I’m sure you’ve been in a situation like this. It might have been a job, a relationship, or a project that wasn’t working out. Remember when it dawned on you that whatever it was really had no future? Remember how de-motivated you became?
Did you really want to go on another date with that person that you knew you weren’t going to stick with? Or did you want to spend your time doing something else? Wasn’t it really hard to stay motivated those last two weeks at that job you were leaving? Exactly.
The verdict was delivered at the cross. The fate of the world’s system and the mind behind it has been sealed. It’s already been doomed, and the sealing of its fate is in progress.
The clearer the fate of what the world offers becomes to you, the more your posture and attitude toward it changes. Your choices start to adjust to what you’ve seen. Your soul experiences a release from it that ultimately turns the tables.
You still are in and interacting with the world since we can’t physically escape it in this lifetime. You still have a calling to operate with it. But there’s a transfer of power.
Because your interest has changed, its pull is weaker. Instead of feeling like it’s hard to resist, you find it easier to cast it aside.
Even better, you find that you can now have power over it instead. You start to use the things of the world for building something else. They become your tools for building what has a lasting future.
A good investor doesn’t invest in things guaranteed to fail. If they did, they’d lose everything. Instead, they invest in things they know will hold their value.
The world may look shiny on the outside, but Kingdom citizens can see its true substance and they aren’t interested in buying what it’s offering.
5. There’s no point in trying to change the world’s system
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is regarded by many scholars to be his magnum opus, his best expression of the purpose of God from an eternal perspective. It’s a look from outside of space and time.
In his very opening words, he says this to the believers whose ears it would reach…
…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will… (1:4-5)
This is an absolutely mind-blowing statement. Paul is suggesting that we were adopted before we were born physically in this world. Before we entered the home that we were first born into, we already belonged to a different home. Your birth certificate might say you’re from a country on this planet. But if you’re a part of the same family that Jesus Christ is, then you’re from the place that Jesus Christ is from.
Here’s what Jesus said about that…
“You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.” (John 8:23)
When you’re not from somewhere, your relationship with it is different than if you were from there. Jesus was a foreign citizen bringing a foreign government (God’s Kingdom) to the planet. No wonder He was hated, rejected and killed.
Jesus didn’t change the world’s system. He overcame the world’s system so that people could come out of it and enter a new one. Being adopted by a family from another country means your legal citizenship changes.
Jesus followers walk the same path. They don’t look to change the world. The world has already been overcome and is already doomed. There’s no point in trying to change it. They overcome it and their focus is on helping others overcome it.
Nee called the attempts to mix the world’s system and God’s Kingdom “Christian civilization.” Here’s what he says about it…
Christian civilization is the outcome of an attempt to reconcile the world and Christ. Christian civilization proves that it can mix with the world, and may even be found taking the world’s side in a crisis.
There is one thing, however, that is eternally apart from the world and can never mix with it, and that is the life of Christ. Their natures are mutually antagonistic and cannot be reconciled.
The Kingdom and the world’s system are like oil and water.
6. Natural human life doesn’t have the power to overcome the world’s system
The key is not asking yourself “What would Jesus do?”. It’s not wrong or unhealthy to ask this question. The problem comes not with the asking of the question, but with assuming two things. First, that you actually know what Jesus would do in any given situation. Second, that you actually have the ability to do what Jesus would do in that situation.
If you stepped up to a golf tee and asked yourself “What would Tiger Woods do?,” would that make you all of a sudden knowledgeable of how he would swing? And if you did know, would it make you actually physically able to do it?
The key is not asking yourself what Jesus would do. The key is possessing something that gives you the knowledge and ability to do it.
As is the case with humans throughout the whole biblical story, you can attempt to live in the world by the efforts of your natural human life. But when the world comes to take you down (and it will), that kind of life doesn’t have the qualities within it that overcame. The life of God does.
The reason Jesus didn’t fall to the worldly pressures put on Him when he was in His first body is because He chose not to live by his natural human life, but by the kind of life the Father gave Him.
When offered the whole world, He could turn it down. When disowned by his best friends, He could still carry on His mission. When staring in the face of His own execution, He could still forgive those with the hammer and nails in their hands. We also see His followers that came after Him eventually doing these same kinds of things.
The world constantly applies pressure on you to be involved with it by thinking and behaving according to its standards. The only thing that will keep you from succumbing to this is choosing to live by the kind of life that Christ lived by. The more intense the pressure, the more transformed you have to have been by the life of Christ that indwells you.
How much of a threat the world is to you is proportional to how much of your soul the Spirit possesses. Because they’re like oil and water, the life of the Spirit is a buffer against the world. They don’t mix.
This is why the biblical story doesn’t suggest avoiding the world. Some people that become Jesus followers are taught that because they’ve been saved from the world that they now should distance themselves from it. But this isn’t the testimony of Christ or His first followers.
Instead, their mission was to start little colonies of new kinds of humans right in the midst of it.
You’re not saved by Christ to forget about the world. You’re saved from the world to intrude on its agenda by self-sacrificial Love for God and others (the expression of divine life).
You’re not to leave it behind. You’re to create more colonies of heaven that will take back territory for the world’s true King.
There are two things that the enemy would prefer that you do…
- Be involved in the world
- Completely ignore the world
New humans are in the world, but not involved in the world. They interact with the world, but operate apart from and completely different than the world.
7. The Christian life is detachment from the control of the world’s system
Instead of worrying about worldly survival and obtaining things in the world that seem like they’ll provide a better life, Jesus says…
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you. (Matthew 6:33)
Now this doesn’t mean you don’t eat and drink and wear clothes (please do!) :). It also doesn’t mean you stop making money. It means those things are secondary instead of primary. It means you make decisions about what to do with your time, money and energy based on Kingdom business and then accept the provision of survival needs in light of where that puts you.
Worry is simply power over your attention and pursuits. To not worry about these things means they’ve been stripped of the power to lure you into decisions that don’t serve the Kingdom’s purposes first. It means YOU have power over THEM.
How can you tell if you’re succumbing to the power behind the world’s system as an individual or as a church? You will feel a certain attachment that presses on you and weighs you down about life’s cares.
Here’s what Nee says…
The Lord is warning us to beware lest we be unduly pressed with this life’s cares, that is to say, with anxieties regarding quite ordinary matters such as food and dress which belong to our present existence on the earth. For it is always a matter of where the heart is.
We are not to carry a burden regarding them that would weigh us down. We are to be in a true sense detached in spirit from our goods in the house or in the field (Luke 17:31).
The source of this is supernatural. He also says…
These things are not in themselves wrong; the wrong lies in the spiritual force behind them, which, through their medium, presses relentlessly upon us.
Oh, that we might awake to the fact that whereas these things are so common and so simple, they are yet being used by Satan to ensnare God’s children into the great net of his world order.
What must be avoided is not the things of the world. You must avoid the power that lures you into being controlled by them.
Seeking first the Kingdom of God is running every decision you make with your time, money and energy through the filter of how it will first accomplish the Lord’s purposes, second your Jesus community’s purposes, and third your individual purpose within and in support of those higher purposes.
8. The world’s system is only overcome through one-anothering relationships
One of the biggest mistakes that gets repeated over and over and over and over again in churches all around the world is violating God’s relational design of mutuality. Whether it’s marriage, family, friends or acquaintances; from Genesis to Revelation God has made it clear that he created humans for co-equal partnership with one another.
As soon as this design is violated, seeds of unhealthiness are planted and given the perfect environment to sprout. When you’re in this situation (I have been numerous times), it may take you a while to realize and/or feel the effects of it. But you will eventually.
I go very in-depth about this subject in the series of posts I call Servants & Slaves. Go there to dive deeper.
The pattern you see happen is people abandon mutually submissive relationships because they think they’ve attained some kind of level where they don’t need other people as much as other people need them.
They get it in their heads and hearts that they’re in some kind of special class of Christian, that they’ve been called out as a part of some kind of chosen few to supply more of the Lord to others than is supplied to them.
But the Lord simply said to all of his disciples…
Wash one another’s feet. (John 13:13-15)
Violating this design for life together comes with all-to-familiar consequences, no matter who the participants are and how transformed you might perceive them to be.
In fact, the more seasoned as a Christian you are, the more you need this mutual foot-washing to be a part of daily life. As you advance more in Christ-like character and commitment to the Kingdom, the more conflict the world will bring upon you (2 Timothy 3:12) and the more you’ll feel the residue it leaves on you as you interact with it.
It doesn’t matter how transformed you think you’ve become. Being touched by the world is going to happen repeatedly as part of life. The nature of how the world will touch you will surely change as you grow in Christ, but you’ll never get to a spiritual level in this life that will keep this from happening.
This is why ministry in the body of Christ is never portrayed as anything but mutual by Christ Himself and those who laid the foundation for what the Church is by His Spirit inside of them.
So you can see each person has both the role to wash and be washed. The family of God was designed to operate by this one-anothering. Any relational environment that doesn’t feel like this is being built on the wrong foundation and, in my opinion, should be abandoned as quickly as possible.
One-anothering relationships exhibit what it means for Christ to practically be the foundation of life together. It’s a commitment to this first and foremost that makes a group of people the most powerful to provide consistent and continual cleansing after being touched by the world.
Creating an environment that has overcome the world takes the kind of unity that is only brought about by the foundational posture and attitude of mutual foot washing. This is the secret weapon of divine life that has the power to cleanse us from the effects of the world’s system we experience in this life.
No one ever gets to a spiritual level in this life where they don’t need it.
9. The world’s system is Satan’s masterpiece
Take a look at what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10…
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Before Michelangelo conceived of what he would do with the Sistine Chapel or da Vinci thought about the Mona Lisa, God conceived of and then created the greatest masterpiece of all.
It’s not sun, moon, stars and planets. It’s not the earth or your human body. It’s His Bride, His Temple, His Body, His Family of which you are a part.
Everything He’s done and is doing is in service to His ultimate purpose of completing His masterpiece. It’s been completed and is being completed.
It’s important to note Paul’s clear communication here that WE are His masterpiece. While each of us individually are His image, God’s ultimate Masterpiece is a corporate community of His images created for His presence to dwell in and through.
But it’s also important to note that God has an enemy that also took advantage of the opportunity humans gave him to start and continue to create his own masterpiece to oppose God’s.
Nee says this…
“The world” is Satan’s masterpiece, and we have thought of him as directing all his strength and ingenuity into causing it to flourish. To what end? Surely to capture men’s allegiance and draw them to himself. He has one object: to establish his own dominion in human hearts worldwide.
Satan’s masterpiece is the system his mind conceived for how humans would create order, stability and progress. It’s behind every human institution, and it’s more dangerous to our health than we’ll maybe ever fully realize.
10. The overthrow of the world’s system is what God needs from every church
The story is primarily about what we were created to do, yet failed to do. We were created to rule created things (except other humans). The first human (he + she) failed to do that. But then God supplied One New Human (Christ + the Church) that didn’t and won’t fail. (I Cor. 15:45-48).
It was the restoration of the dominion mandate of humans that was the point of it all. There was power that was lost. It was the power to subdue and use created things for what they were originally designed for.
The One New Human accomplished, is accomplishing and will accomplish that because the power to do it is possessed once again.
This overthrow of Satan’s power on the earth is what God needs from every church. It’s what brings His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. It won’t happen without humans.
Nee says this…
God has not abandoned His goal. It was not for man’s redemption alone that He died but for that of the whole creation, and going back further, for the recovery of the Father’s purpose in the complete overturning of the Satanic world order. The church has a definite responsibility before God to register the victory of Christ in the devil’s territory.
If there is to be a testimony to the principalities and powers, if the impact of Christ’s sovereignty through his cross is to be registered in the spiritual realm, it can only be as the judicial foothold in our hearts of the “pretender” in the race is met and, by the same cross, removed and repudiated.
Dealing with principalities and powers is the major leagues my friend. Their power isn’t overthrown by just anybody.
The questions a church can ask itself is…what is the value we’re placing on what God needs us to do for His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven? Is the price that has to be paid worth it to us? Are we paying it? What would principalities and powers say about what we’re doing?