What In The World Can I Do?

Bible Book: 1 John  2 : 18-29
Subject: Faithfulness; Worldliness
Series: God's Dear Children
Introduction

Last week we looked at the enemies that assail our souls: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. We learned that worldliness is a problem for the Christian and that we are not to love the world neither the things that are in the world. We learned that the word “world” does not mean the physical world, nor does it speak of the people of the world, but rather it speaks of the satanic system and arrangement in this world which is opposed to God and seeks to blind people to His Son, Jesus Christ. This week I want us to see just how we are to defend ourselves against the world – in fact, we need to see how to go on the offense. After all, Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church.

First of all, we need to remember that God loved the world and gave His Son so that those who believe can have eternal life. Jesus came into the world, but though Jesus was in the world, He was not of the world. Likewise, Christians are to be in the world but not of it. A ship must be in the water, but it is dangerous to have the water in the ship. Christians must be in the world but must not have the world in us.

What is our defense against the world – and worldliness? What in the world can I do to keep the world from destroying my testimony and joy? John continues along these very lines in the passage under consideration this morning. In this passage, we discover 4 things we can do in this world to make a difference. What in the world can I do? Let’s look at these 4 things that are available and necessary in the lives of God’s dear children.

I. You Can Fight - There is an Antichrist

The Christian life is not a play ground but a battle ground. Look at what Paul said in Ephesians 6:10ff. In this passage Paul speaks about putting on the full armor of God. You don’t need armor unless there is an enemy, and believe me, we have an enemy.

John mentions that there is an antichrist who is coming. Look at 2 Thessalonians 2:3ff. We are told that there are antichrists, plural, already at work in the world. In other words, Satan has his minions at work in the world right now, and one day he will send his personal emissary to lead multitudes away to destruction.

Please note that the devil is always producing a counterfeit to that which is divinely real. Let me give you an up-to-date example. Sex is God’s gift to humanity and it is meant for procreation and joy in marriage. Satan, on the other hand, seeks to convince us that God is withholding something from us by denying sexual activity outside marriage. That is just the type or scheme he used on Eve in the Garden of Eden. He told her that God was keeping the one tree from her because He did not want Eve to become a “god.” Mankind has fallen for this kind of trick over and over. Satan tries to counterfeit everything God does and everything God is. In fact, just as the Godhead is made up of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; so, Satan has his own counterfeit trinity: The dragon, the beast and the false prophet, as presented in the Book of Revelation.

The point here is that Satan has his workers in this world and God has His servants – called Christians. This is a battle! This is a war. Christian, you must not be a Benedict Arnold in the Army of God. You must fight the just cause of God. You must stand true to your Lord!

Now some Christians resist the use of military language when discussing the Christian life. They don’t like to think of themselves as Christian soldiers. That is easy to understand when one sees the horrors of war and the misuse of military action in the name of religion. For example, the Islamic faith often embraces violence and military action in order to carry out the will of Allah. But the use of military language to a Christian has nothing to do with military action but has everything to do with spiritual war. This is not a physical battle in which we are engaged, but a spiritual one. I do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in high places. We don’t hate people – we must love people as Jesus loves them and seeks to save them. So, please don’t see this battle as against “people.” It is a spiritual war and we are to wear the Christian armor if we are to fight the good fight.

With this is mind, please know that there is something you can do to overcome worldliness. You can fight the good fight of the faith! You can put on the armor of God and take a stand.

Several years ago I read a story about a boy named Mark. He was very poor at spelling, so whenever he had a test he was usually stumped by the difficult words. During one quiz, Mark "heard" the tempter whisper softly, "Look at Jane's paper. She's an A student; she always spells her words correctly." Mark yielded to the suggestion and copied several words. The teacher noticed his actions, but said nothing. She was surprised and disappointed, for she had always thought of Mark as an honest boy. When it came time to collect the test, she observed that he was having an inner struggle. After bowing his head, he suddenly tore up his test. Although at first he had given in to the temptation, he actually overcame it because he decided to take a zero rather than be dishonest. Calling him to her desk, the teacher said, "I was watching you, Mark, and I want you to know I'm very proud of you for what you did just now. You passed a much greater exam than your spelling test!" Satan does tempt us, but we can be victorious by trusting and obeying God. He will help us overcome when we put on the spiritual armor and defend against the enemy.

There are times in the Christian's life when the mind becomes a fierce battleground. Dark thoughts, as if from the evil one himself, attack the soul, making us feel as if we are beyond the help of the Lord. Listen to what the Psalmist penned in Psalm 119:11-16:

11 Your word I have hidden in my heart,

That I might not sin against You.

12 Blessed are You, O Lord !

Teach me Your statutes.

13 With my lips I have declared

All the judgments of Your mouth.

14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,

As much as in all riches.

15 I will meditate on Your precepts,

And contemplate Your ways.

16 I will delight myself in Your statutes;

I will not forget Your word. (NKJV)

If we keep God’s Word in our hearts, we can overcome the enemy. Sometimes we can silence the enemy by remembering and recalling to ourselves the promises and assurances found in the Word of God. We can be still and know that He is God and His Word is true! But at other times we must take action. Someone has said, "It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting." We must fight the battle and counter the enemy by combining faith in God, trust in His Word and add constructive efforts.

Martin Luther made this observation: "When I am assailed with heavy tribulation, I rush out among my pigs rather than remain alone by myself. The human heart, unless it is occupied with some employment, leaves space for the devil, who wiggles himself in and brings with him a whole host of evil thoughts, temptations, and tribulations which grind out the heart."

Several years ago, the U.S. Secret Service observed that a high-ranking government official seemed to be the "least protected" of the cabinet members. So four glass security doors were installed in the official's Washington suite, at the cost of $58,000. They were in addition to a pair of huge thick wooden doors that, according to one observer, 'the crusaders couldn't have broken down.'

Later when an official who monitors spending checked out the results, he noted that the new security doors were 'always open and unguarded.' Their security value was voided. There is a spiritual parallel here. God has provided all the armor we need to face every kind of test and temptation. For example, Scripture speaks of the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of the hope of salvation. But remember, these resources of God are not automatic; they must be used to be useful. That is why Paul tells us to “put on” the armor of God.

"During the War Between the States," writes Gary Redding, "a Union solder from Ohio was shot in the arm during of the battle of Shiloh. His captain saw he was wounded and barked an order: 'Gimme your gun, private, and get to the rear!' The private handed over his rifle and ran toward the north, seeking safety. But after covering two or three hundred yards, he came upon another skirmish. Then he ran to the east and into another part of the battle. Then he ran west but encountered more fighting there. "Finally, he ran back to the front lines, shouting: 'Gimme back my gun, cap'n. There ain't no rear to this battle!" When it comes to spiritual warfare, "there ain't no rear "! [Preaching, Apr/May, 1990.]

Every Christian in is this battle. There is no rear territory. You are either in “drive” or “reverse,” there is no “neutral” gear in the Christian life. If you sit down in this battle, you are actually aiding the enemy!

This story is told by Leroy Eims about the time when he was serving in the Marines in the South Pacific during World War II: "Shortly after we hit the beach, our armored amphibious tank took two artillery shells broadside. We immediately evacuated our disabled vehicle and darted from hole to hole toward the enemy airstrip, which we were to take.

"The sergeant began to check on us to make sure that we were OK. He crawled over to me and asked, `You all right, Eims?' "I answered, `Yeah, I'm OK, Sarge.' "He looked at me and asked, `Eims, where is your helmet?' "I felt the top of my head and answered, `Must be in the tank, Sarge.' "`Where's your duty belt?' Our duty belts carried ammunition for our rifles, a canteen of water, and a bayonet. "`Must be in the tank, Sarge.' "`As a matter of fact, Eims, where's your rifle?' He looked at me with disgust and pity. Because of our hasty departure from the amphibious tank, I was dressed about the same way that I would be dressed for a game of volleyball. And there I was, hopping from hole to hole, from tree to tree!

"As I view the contemporary Christian scene, I see that all too many Christians have not armed themselves for battle." [Decision, Oct 1995. Page 14.]

Are you wearing the armor of God? Are you in the fight or abetting the enemy? We are in one position or the other. We can fight - that is something we can do in this world. When you hear a Christian say, "Things are so bad. What in the world can we do?" Remind them that we can stand with the Lord and put on the armor of God.

II. You Can Be Filled - There is an Anointing

The anointing mentioned here has to do with the power of the Spirit to do in and through us what we cannot do in our own strength. A.W. Tozer said, “Every Christian has the Spirit, but the Spirit does not have every Christian.” Simply put, Tozer was reminding us that the Christian must be filled with the Spirit of God. The Spirit is not just to be present in us, rather He must have preeminence in us! Only then can we do divine work.

The Spirit alone, for example, can show us the truth. This is what Jesus told us, as recorded in John 16:13-14, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (NKJV)

It is said that a certain guide lived in the deserts of Arabia who never lost his way. He carried with him a homing pigeon with a very fine cord attached to one of its legs. When in doubt as to which path to take, he threw the bird into the air. The pigeon quickly strained at the cord to fly in the direction of home, and thus led the guide accurately to his goal. Because of this unique practice he was known as "the dove man." We need the Dove of the Spirit to guide us so that we do not get lost in the desert of this world.

F. B. Meyer discovered that opening up his entire life to the Spirit was the secret to freedom from a sin he couldn't conquer. After a long battle with that sin, he knelt by his bed, held open his outstretched hands, and prayed, "Lord, here are the keys of my life. Take them and unlock every door. Fill every room! Make me willing, dear Lord, to let You occupy every room and free me from every cherished sin." Once he gave the Spirit complete access to his life, the sin was defeated. Have you let the Holy Spirit have the keys to all the rooms of your life? If you want to have victory, you must give Him "the run of the house."

In Classic Christianity, pages 62-63, published by Harvest House in 1989, Bob George gives us a good example. “We need to be aware that the Spirit is pure. He will not fill a dirty vessel. Worldliness keeps us from being filled with His power and presence. The process of canning is an excellent illustration of the gospel. Let's say that you are going to preserve some peaches. What is first thing you have to do? Sterilize the jars. Why the process of sterilization? So that the contents of the jars (the peaches) will be preserved from spoiling. You've never seen anyone decorate their kitchen with a sterile jar collection. No, the only reason to sterilize jars is because you intend to put something in them. We would never expect to find a person involved in only half the process of canning, just cleansing jars. But we have done this exact thing with the gospel we have separated God's sterilization process--the cross--from His filling process--Christ coming to live in us through His resurrection! The Christian world, to a large extent, has been guilty of teaching half a gospel--that is the cross of Christ which brought us forgiveness of sins. But by separating forgiveness of sins from the message of receiving the life of Christ, we have not only missed out on experiencing life, but we have lost sight of the purpose of forgiveness in the first place. The reason that God had to deal once and for all with the sin issue was so that we could be filled with Christ 'without spoiling. As a matter of fact, there is one final part of the canning process. After sterilizing the jars and filling them with fruit, the jars are sealed. Sealing keeps the good things inside and the bad things that would spoil the contents outside. Cleansing, filling, and sealing: a wonderful picture of salvation

Another writer said it like this, “When the Spirit of God fills us, we become less critical and more open to being touched, purified, blessed and led by the Lord. All of you know Mr. Rogers of children’s television. Some of you may not know that he is an ordained minister. He says, "I remember so keenly one of the times I learned how individually the Spirit can work. It was years ago, and my wife and I were worshiping in a little church with friends of ours, another husband and wife. We were on vacation, and I was in the middle of my homiletics course at the time. During the sermon I kept ticking off every mistake I thought the preacher, who must have been 80 years old, was making. When this interminable sermon finally ended, I turned to my friend intending to say something critical about the sermon. I stopped myself when I saw the tears running down her face. She whispered to me, 'He said exactly what I needed to hear. That was really a seminal experience for me. I was judging and she was needing, and the Holy Spirit responded to need, not to judgment.’” [Christian Century, Apr 13, 1994. Page 383.]

Are you filled with God's Spirit? I assure you that we cannot win the battle in our own strength. There must be a yielding of our entire lives to God so that He can empower us with His Spirit to do that which only He can do.

III. You Can Be Firm - There is an Abiding

If we would fight the good fight of the faith, and if we would be filled with the Spirit, we must abide in Christ. Abiding means to stick like glue. An old seaman said, "In fierce storms we can do but one thing. There is only one way [to survive]; we must put the ship in a certain position and keep her there." Commenting on this idea, Richard Fuller wrote, "This, Christian, is what you must do. Sometimes, like Paul, you can see neither sun nor stars, and no small tempest lies on you. Reason cannot help you. Past experiences give you no light. Only a single course is left. You must put your soul in one position and keep it there. You must stay upon the Lord; and, come what may-- winds, waves, cross seas, thunder, lightning, frowning rocks, roaring breakers--no matter what, you must lash yourself to the helm and hold fast your confidence in God's faithfulness and His everlasting love in Christ Jesus."

Private Raymond Cote was in Germany with the 12th Infantry after World War II. During maneuvers, he was put on sentry duty to guard some pontoons on the banks of the Rhine. Because of an oversight, he was not relieved for six days. He knew the general order that states: "To quit my post only when properly relieved." So he stayed on duty day and night even when it rained heavily. Sympathetic farmers gave him food and milk. When he finally was relieved and got back to his outfit, his commanding officer praised his "strong sense of duty," but some of his buddies wisecracked that Cote "had a hole in his head."

Followers of Jesus also need a strong determination to carry out faithfully whatever duty the Commanding Officer may assign. It may involve much discomfort, perhaps causing people to regard us as having a hole in the head, but our faithful Commander, whose head was lacerated by a crown of thorns, also had holes in His hands, feet, and side because He did His Father's will.

John stated that some had gone out from them because they did not belong to them. We must have convictions and stick by them. Even the Supreme Court recognizes this issue. Did you know that legally every religious belief can be classified as a preference or a conviction? In a 1972 landmark case (Wisconsin v. Yoder), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the only religious beliefs protected under the First Amendment are convictions and gave clear criteria for distinguishing them from preferences. A belief is merely a person's preference when certain circumstances will motivate him to change it. The strength or intensity with which a belief is held does not keep it from being just a preference. Many Christians have entered the ministry, given huge sums of money, shared their faith with others, taught their children to believe--all on the basis of preference. The distinguishing mark of a preference is that it can be changed. The court noted five factors that are most likely to change a person's preference: peer pressure, the influence of family members, the threat of litigation, the possibility of imprisonment, and the thought of death. If a person feels God is leading him to do something, but can be dissuaded by any of these factors, he didn't have a conviction. What he believed at first was what he preferred, desired, and was determined to do, but it changed. A conviction is a belief that does not change regardless of circumstances. It is not a matter of resolve or dedication, but is God-given firmness of position that does not yield to any of the above factors. Besides that convictions have the following characteristics, as outlined by the court: Predetermined. A conviction is not a spur-of- the-moment decision. It is a premeditated response to a situation that was likely to occur. This means that it doesn't matter whether other people stand with you in the crisis or not. Only conviction can enable you to stand alone. People with preferences will follow the crowd. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to the idol, it wasn't an on-the-spot reaction. They had previously purposed not to defile themselves. There were plenty of other Hebrews in Babylon at the time, but these three men were willing to take a stand by themselves. Non-negotiable. When the three Hebrews were dragged before the angry king, he gave them a second chance, promising to let them off if they would bow this time, but they were adamant about not worshiping a false god regardless of the consequences.

Many modern Christians would have breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Praise God! He has given us a chance to rethink this!" Yet if we are willing even to discuss the possibility of compromising our beliefs, the court would consider this evidence that they're only preferences. Confident. The court said that if you need some indication that you're going to win your case before you are willing to stand for your "convictions," then they are just preferences. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were confident of the Lord's deliverance, but they said they wouldn't change their minds even if He chose not to deliver them. Lived out. A lifestyle that is consistent with professed beliefs is evidence of conviction. Actions show what we really believe. As James says, faith without works is dead. For example, you believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that it's the only source of truth and contains everything you need to deal with life's problems. What do you do about that belief? Have you ever read the entire Bible through even one time? Do you read Scripture daily? Do you read it as much as you read the newspaper? Do you spend more hours watching television than you spend reading the Bible? It is on the basis of questions like these that the court would decided whether your belief in God's Word is a conviction or merely a preference. "Test of belief: conviction vs. preference" by David Gibbs. Pulpit Helps, Aug 1995 (Vol 20, No 8). Pages 26-27. Topic: CONVICTIONS. See also 10511 and 10414.

In what ways have you compromised lately? Has in been in word, deed or thought? We must stand. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6, that having done all, "Stand." Some of us may feel that we do not have the talents and gifts of others, but I assure you that each one of us can at least take a stand for Christ. Many with great gifts have failed God by leaving themselves unguarded. Stand Christian! Stand!

IV. You Can Be Focused - There is an Appearing

One day Jesus is coming again. If I am aware of this, and do not want to be ashamed when He comes, I will be a good soldier of Jesus! John knew that, and he mentioned in our text. When He appears, the great question will be whether we belonged to Him and whether we behaved for Him!

Conclusion

A giant 400-year-old redwood came crashing down one day and no one could figure out why. The tree had survived four centuries of storms, lightning, and earthquakes--what had felled it? On closer inspection, investigators found that tiny beetles had found their way inside its trunk and had begun eating away its life-giving fibers, weakening its mighty bulk from the inside out. In much the same way, the devil tries to bring Christians down through a steady drone of small, seemingly insignificant temptations. While we are fighting and resisting him in one area, he may be setting up house in another area of our lives. Satan will find ways to creep into our lives for the purpose of eroding our foundations until our fibers have become undone and we come crashing down to the ground. Show me a person who has fallen away from their walk with the Lord, and I will show you a person who started making compromises in his or her life long ago." [New Man, Jan/Feb 1995. Page 13.]

We must make a commitment to Fight, to be Filled, to be Firm and to remain Focused. Only in this way can we remain true to our Lord in this world!