Let’s Revise the Popular Phrase “In, but Not of”


by David Mathis | August 29, 2012/DesiringGod BlogPermalink

In, but not of”— if you’ve spent much time Christian circles, you’re probably familiar with this popular phraseIn the world, but not of the world. It captures a truth about Jesus’s followers. There’s a real sense in which we are “in” this world, but not “of” it.

In, but not of. Yes, yes, of course.

But might this punchy phrase be giving the wrong impression about our (co)mission in this world as Christians? The motto could seem to give the drift, We are in this world, alas, but what we really need to do is make sure that we’re not of it.

In this way of configuring things, the starting place is our unfortunate condition of being “in” this world. Sigh. And our mission, it appears, is to not be “of” it. So the force is moving away from the world. “Rats, we’re frustratingly stuck in this ole world, but let’s marshal our best energies to not be of it.” No doubt, it’s an emphasis that’s sometimes needed, but isn’t something essential being downplayed?

We do well to run stuff like this through biblical texts. And on this one in particular, we do well to turn to John 17, where Jesus uses these precise categories of “in the world” and “not of the world.” Let’s look for Jesus’s perspective on this.

Not of This World

On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prays to his Father in John 17:14–19,

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Notice Jesus’ references to his disciples being “not of the world.” Verse 14: “The world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” And there it is again in verse 16: “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

Let’s all agree it’s clear that Jesus does not want his followers to be “of the world.” Amen. He says that he himself is “not of the world,” and his disciples are “not of the world.” Here’s a good impulse in the slogan “in, but not of.”

It’s Going Somewhere

But notice that for Jesus being “not of the world” isn’t the destination in these verses but the starting place. It’s not where things are moving toward, but what they’re moving from. He is not of the world, and he begins by saying that his followers are not of the world. But it’s going somewhere. Jesus is not huddling up the team for another round of kumbaya, but so that we can run the next play and advance the ball down the field.

Enter verse 18: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” And don’t miss the surprising prayer of verse 15: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

Sent into This World

Jesus is not asking his Father for his disciples to be taken out of the world, but he is praying for them as they are “sent into” the world. He begins with them being “not of the world” and prays for them as they are “sent into” the world.

So maybe it would serve us better — at least in light of John 17 — to revise the popular phrase “in, but not of” in this way: “not of, but sent into.” The beginning place is being “not of the world,” and the movement is toward being “sent into” the world. The accent falls on being sent, with a mission, to the world — not being mainly on a mission to disassociate from this world.

Crucified to the World — And Raised to It

Jesus’s assumption in John 17 is that those who have embraced him, and identified with him, are indeed not of the world. And now his summons is our sending — we are sent into the world on mission for gospel advance through disciplemaking.

Jesus’s true followers have not only been crucified to the world, but also raised to new life and sent back in to free others. We’ve been rescued from the darkness and given the Light not merely to flee the darkness, but to guide our steps as we go back in to rescue others.

So let’s revise the popular phrase “in, but not of.” We Christians are not of this world, but sent into it. Not of, but sent into.




By Trisha Wilkerson / TheResurgence.com


The world of Pinterest is an art heaven. Ideas, photos, projects, and creations galore invite you to enter and explore. We peruse the art, drool over the recipes, marvel at handmade gifts, and get inspired by mid-century modern designs.

Beauty is from God because he himself is beautiful. Made in his image, we all long for beauty. A room redecorated with skill and imagination draws us in. As we engage in our culture, we often notice excellence, creativity and beauty all around.

Pinning favorites on Pinterest can be a form of worship. It’s like an art museum displaying what’s in our hearts, what we think is most beautiful.

Sometimes life online seems more fun and beautiful than the life we are in.

At first, Pinterest is blissful. It paints a picture of the “good life,” where our food pantries and closets are perfectly organized and our kids are served the most exciting, healthy, and delicious foods.

All of this can be inspiring and helpful as long as we simply enjoy the art and use it as a resource to generate ideas for reasonable projects to improve our homes and serve our families well. But endless fashion photos and crocheted masterpieces can also generate mile-long lists of “someday” projects that we can feel guilty for never completing. Before long, we’ve created an alternate world for our “best self,” an ideal we’ll never live up to.


Like the Proverbs 31 gal, we are slightly inspired, but more often we are deeply intimidated. Overwhelmed with what is lacking in ourselves, we allow the whispers of condemnation to enter into our minds. As with Pinterest, what could inspire worshipful expression and gratitude drifts from enjoyment to envy. Rather than simple gratitude for beauty, we are tempted to lust for more.

When our hearts are content, we can enjoy creating beauty, appreciating new and fun ideas, and undertaking creative projects without them taking over our lives. A heart like this can enjoy Pinterest with joy and without the pressure to keep up. We can save that new project idea for the right time, and in the meantime feel satisfied. If nothing else, we’ve had fun appreciating someone else’s creativity.

God is the author of art, and his masterpieces are breathtaking.

When are hearts are covetous, rather than content, we see someone else’s home, food, and clothes and feel shame and jealousy for what is lacking in our own selves and lives. Comparison and bitterness fuel the heart to copycat and catch up. We might even believe the lie that people’s judgments of our home, fashion, meals, or appearance matter. If only we could do “that” project, someone will be impressed. It also presents yet another form for escape from our individual realities. Sometimes life online seems more fun and beautiful than the life we are in.

I have heard some women say that they feel horrible for not making gourmet dinners or handmade birthday party invitations that they see online. And, others feel depressed when they compare their clothes or living rooms to those of the Pinterest princesses. For me, I have felt that sneaky whisper of covetousness when a photo captures my decorating dreams.

Are you trying to live up to some man-made or self-made standard? We have to fight to remember who we are in Christ when these temptations certainly come.


Pinterest is new and exciting, but the heart experiences are as old as the hills. Imagine those ancient women who read Proverbs 31or Titus 2, or any other biblical woman description. Surely their hearts were tempted to envy too and to believe lies about who they were. I can just hear the women saying, “That Proverbs 31 lady, she is impossible. I’ll never be like her.” We might as well say, “That Pinterest lady. My home will never be as beautiful or as organized.” We can, because of grace, fight temptation and not give in to envy and covetousness when we see beauty. God lovingly reminds us that we are not defined by appearances but by his Son, which is far more glorious. The Spirit prompts gratitude and worship as we enjoy Jesus.


God is the author of art, and his masterpieces are breathtaking. All art invites us to worship Christ. From enjoying nature to music, we stand in awe of his creation. Created by him, we create beauty with him. We are given beauty all around us to enjoy and inspire us to see him in it. Let’s put away envy and instead enjoy his beauty.

Salt & Light Are More Than Simply Agents of Survival


You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

From John Stott’s article “Four Ways Christians Can Influence the World“:

In both these metaphors of the salt and the light, Jesus teaches about the responsibility of Christians in a non-Christian, or sub-Christian, or post-Christian society. He emphasizes the difference between Christians and non-Christians, between the church and the world, and he emphasizes the influences Christians ought to have on the non-Christian environment. The distinction between the two is clear.

The world, he says, is like rotting meat. But you are to be the world’s salt.

The world is like a dark night, but you are to be the world’s light.

This is the fundamental difference between the Christian and the non-Christian, the church and the world.

Then he goes on from the distinction to the influence.

Like salt in putrefying meat, Christians are to hinder social decay.

Like light in the prevailing darkness, Christians are to illumine society and show it a better way.

It’s very important to grasp these two stages in the teaching of Jesus. Most Christians accept that there is a distinction between the Christian and the non-Christian, between the church and the world. God’s new society, the church, is as different from the old society as salt from rotting meat and as light from darkness.

But there are too many people who stop there; too many people whose whole preoccupation is with survival—that is, maintaining the distinction.

The salt must retain its saltiness, they say. It must not become contaminated.

The light must retain its brightness. It must not be smothered by the darkness.

That is true. But that is merely survival. Salt and light are not just a bit different from their environment. They are to have a powerful influence on their environment.

The salt is to be rubbed into the meat in order to stop the rot.

The light is to shine into the darkness. It is to be set upon a lamp stand, and it is to give light to the environment.

That is an influence on the environment quite different from mere survival.

Has God Done Enough For This World?

FROM Nathan W. Bingham Sep 08, 2011

Our culture gets angry when Christians say that Jesus is the only way to God. In their minds a loving God would have surely provided a banquet of ways to come to Him so that the whole world could feast upon His mercy. Jesus is simply too narrow of a message. If Jesus is all God has provided this world, then He hasn’t done enough.

How would you respond to such attitudes?

In R.C. Sproul’s commentary on John he offers a heart-warming biblical response. As he puts the gospel into perspective, he shows that it’s actually the wrong question to ask, “Why is there only one way to God?” The real question is, “Why is there even one way?”

Suppose there actually is a God in heaven, and suppose this God created the world and everything in it. Suppose that, in the process of making myriad species of birds, fish, and animals, He formed human beings in His image and gave them the most exalted position in all of creation. Suppose He said, “You will be holy, even as I am holy,” and gave them only one command to obey—but fifteen minutes after He made them, these human beings revolted against Him by doing the very thing he had commanded them not to do. Suppose God then said, “I’m going to provide a way for you to escape My judgment,” and He then called Abraham out of paganism, brought him to Himself, and said, “I’m going to make you the father of a great nation.” Suppose that He blessed all the descendants of Abraham, expanded them into a whole nation, and said, “Through this nation I’m going to bless the whole world”—but this nation repeatedly turned against Him. Suppose God sent prophets to these people to tell them to come back to Him, just as an unfaithful spouse returns to his or her partner—but the people killed the prophets. Suppose God finally said, “I love you so much, even though you are a stiff-necked people, that I’m going to send My eternal, only begotten Son to you”—but the people rose up against His Son and crucified Him. Suppose that God loved the people enough in all of this that while they were in the very act of killing His Son, He transferred the sins of His people to His Son and said: “If you’ll put your trust in Him, if you’ll confess your sins and believe in Him, if you’ll turn your gaze upon Jesus, you will not experience death. I’m going to give you eternal life with no pain, no tears, no evil, and no darkness.” If God were to do all that, would you have the insolence to say to Him, “God, You haven’t done enough for this world that hates You”?

How humbling it is to consider the great love and mercy of our God. All praise to the One who has not only done enough for this world, but has done immeasurably more than we deserve.

Three Speed Transmisssion


Greg Gilbert:

Our  generation tends  to think  about  motivation in two speeds and two speeds  only—there are things  that  are of the utmost  importance, and  things  that  are of no importance. There’s  no in-between. That’s one  of the  reasons  this whole conversation about  the mission of the church is so difficult. The minute you start arguing  that  good  works are not of the utmost importance, people accuse you of saying that they are of no importance at all. The thinking seems to be that good works have to be motivated by the highest imaginable reasons—We’re building for the kingdom! We’re doing the gospel! We’re joining God in his mission! We’re spreading shalom!—or else people will think they’re not important at all.

We need  another speed. We need  a speed that’s somewhere between of the utmost importance and of no importance. Something like really, really important might  do the  trick. The  fact is, we as Christians have a lot of things on our plate. There are many things that the Lord calls us to do that are not of the utmost importance, in the  sense that  they are earth-shattering, kingdom-building, eternity-making things. And yet they are really, really important, and  we are called to be faithful  in doing  them.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we already have this speed, and we use it all the time. Think  about  our  marriages, for example. Our  marriages are not  going  to make  it into  eternity; they’re  not  of the utmost importance(Matt. 22:30). And yet they are really, really important, and  we give much  of our  lives and  our  love and  our  energy  to them. We don’t default  to saying that because they’re not of the utmost  importance, they must be of no importance at all.

So why must those  be our  only two options  when it comes to good works and social ministry and culture building and our occupations and all the rest? Why can’t we be content with saying simply that we do those things, and we do them  well, out of love for people and  obedience and  love to God? It seems to us that such an understanding, such a set of motivations, would not only be more  faithful to Scripture, but also be better at motivating good  works for the long haul because  we won’t be discouraged from doing  them  even when our cities don’t change over a decade or two. We will be sufficiently motivated by loving God, loving people, and being  ”faithfully present”  as we wait on the Lord Jesus to return. (What is the Mission of the Church?, 230-231)

What Stephen Hawking doesn’t understand about heaven

N.T. WRIGHT  | MAY 16, 2011 4:15 PM

It’s depressing to see Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds in his field, trying to speak as an expert on things he sadly seems to know rather less about than many averagely intelligent Christians. Of course there are people who think of ‘heaven’ as a kind of pie-in-the-sky dream of an afterlife to make the thought of dying less awful. No doubt that’s a problem as old as the human race. But in the Bible ‘heaven’ isn’t ‘the place where people go when they die.’ In the Bible heaven is God’s space while earth (or, if you like, ‘the cosmos’ or ‘creation’) is our space. And the Bible makes it clear that the two overlap and interlock. For the ancient Jews, the place where this happened was the temple; for the Christians, the place where this happened was Jesus himself, and then, astonishingly, the persons of Christians because they, too, were ‘temples’ of God’s own spirit.

Hawking is working with a very low-grade and sub-biblical view of ‘going to heaven.’ Of course, if faced with the fully Christian two-stage view of what happens after death — first, a time ‘with Christ’ in ‘heaven’ or ‘paradise,’and then, when God renews the whole creation, bodily resurrection — he would no doubt dismiss that as incredible. But I wonder if he has ever even stopped to look properly, with his high-octane intellect, at the evidence for Jesus and the resurrection? I doubt it — most people in England haven’t. Until he has, his opinion about all this is worth about the same as mine on nuclear physics, i.e. not much.

As for the creation being self-caused: I wonder if he realises that he is simply repeating a version of ancient Epicureanism? i.e. the gods are out of the picture, a long way away, so the world/human life/etc has to get on under its own steam. This is hardly a ‘conclusion’ from his study of the evidence; it’s simply a well known worldview shared by most post-Enlightenment westerners. It is the worldview which enables secular democracy to consider itself an absolute, despite its numerous and rather obvious failings right now. The depressing thing is that Hawking doesn’t seem to realize this and so hasn’t even stopped to think that there might be quite sophisticated critiques of Epicureanism, ancient and modern, which he should work through. Not least the Christian one, which again focusses on Jesus.

Of course, the old set-up of the ‘science and religion’ debate was itself deeply influenced by this same worldview, and needs realigning. In fact, the ancient Christians would have been shocked to see their worldview labelled as a ‘religion.’ It was a philosophy, a politics, a culture, a vocation… the category of ‘religion’ is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Not Separate, But Unequal

from Kevin DeYoung by Kevin DeYoung


Every first semester theology student knows the difference between general revelation and special revelation. God reveals himself to us in two ways–by the creation we can see with our eyes and by the words written down for our hearing in Scripture. Or to put things more precisely: general revelation is God’s self-disclosure through the created world; special revelation is God’s self-disclosure through the spoken word of an apostle or prophet, or their words inscripturated in the Bible. Both means of revelation are important, and both are taught in Scripture

Though I believe everything in the previous paragraph, I confess I get nervous nowadays when Christians start talking about the “Two Books” of God’s revelation. It’s true that we know God by God’s works and God’s word. But from this it does not follow that science and the Bible are equal sources of authority. Of course, it’s a truism that “all truth is God’s truth” so that in the end there is no real conflict between the Bible and science. The same could be said for sociology or economics or horticulture or history. Whatever is true will not be contradicted by the Truth. But nothing is infallibly true like the word of God.

Some Christians are too quick to reinterpret the Bible when it seems to contradict “the clear findings of science.” We’ve misread the Bible before, they will say. To which we might respond, “Yes, and we’ve misread science too.” I’m not trying to weigh in on any particular scientific debate with this post. I sympathize with Christians who struggle to reconcile what they hear from scientists and what they see in the Bible about a particular issue. We should not be quick to dismiss these questions. It is possible to read the Bible wrongly. It is possible for the Church to miss the mark for a long time. But every Christian should agree that if the Bible teaches one thing and scientific consensus teaches something else, we will not ditch the Bible or change the Bible for science. The Two Books are not separate, but they are unequal.

The Belgic Confession provides a standard definition of general and special revelation.

We know him [God] by two means:

First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since the universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are a letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God; his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.

All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.

Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own. (Article 2)

Notice that the difference between general and special revelation. The former gives us a sense of God’s power and divine nature so that we are left without excuse. The latter reveals God “more openly” so that we might be saved. The doctrine of general and special revelation was never meant to make the Bible bow to science. The heavens declare the glory of God, but the law of the Lord is perfect and the testimony of the Lord is sure (Psalm 19:1; 7). Jesus can illustrate with the lilies of the field, but “it is written” can conquer the devil.

I am not for a moment arguing for obscurantism when it comes to the hard questions of faith and science. Pastors who haven’t had a science class since the tenth grade are often too quick to dismiss the tough issues raised by geology, biology, and genetics. What I am saying is that the Christian must believe everything the Bible teaches no matter who says it can’t be so. General revelation can show us there is a God and convict those who don’t worship him rightly. But special revelation speaks more clearly, more openly, and more authoritatively. Let’s be open to correcting errant interpretations or traditions, but let us never change a jot or tittle of the Good Book because the book of nature seems to suggest we should. Let God be true though every one were a liar (Rom. 3:4).

For more reading on the interplay between faith and science, you may want to check out: Redeeming Science by Vern Poythress and Science and Faith by C. John Collins.