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.

 

Curiosity Kills Your Soul

 

By Matthew Wireman

“Men must not be too curious in prying into the weaknesses of others. We should labour rather to see what they have that is for eternity, to incline our heart to love them, than into that weakness which the Spirit of God will in time consume, to estrange us. Some think it strength of grace to endure nothing in the weaker, whereas the strongest are readiest to bear with the infirmities of the weak” (Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed, 33).

I have been reading Sibbes’ work on the mercy of Christ toward us. The book is an extended meditation on Isaiah 42.1-3. I have been reading it in my personal devotions, and I have been reminded by Christ’s persevering patience with me. How often have I been a smoking flax–a reed that does not give off heat nor light–yet the Lord does not view such paltry devotion as condemnable. Rather, he condescends and fans into flame that smoldering wick so that I can enjoy him more. What may seem like an endless cycle of failed attempts, he views the good.

Sibbes, here, challenges us to reflect the same merciful inclination in our dealings with others. How quick am I to write off someone who rubs me the wrong way. How sure I am that this person is weak in faith and in need of rebuke. How dead set on dealing out justice am I that I cannot see God’s mercy on display in my brother.

I am a curious fellow. Yet, Sibbes challenges the assumption that curiosity–the need to know the intricacies of someone’s sin or weaknesses–is not altogether noble. Rather, curiosity bends toward an inclination to judging again the one whom God has pronounced “not guilty” in his tribunal. The need to gather all pertinent information stems from a desire to sit in the dock and pronounce on others what I would not dare they know or pronounce on me.

Our tendency should be towards wanting to see the good in others, not digging up graves that have been long-sealed when this brother put his faith in the Christ.

“What about leaders?” someone may ask. “Aren’t they held to a different standard?” Surely the pastor will be held to a stricter judgment, that’s why he shouldn’t be too quick to assume the office (James 3.1). Yet, the judgment James speaks about is the Final Judgment performed by the Triune God. This is not an earthly tribunal, nor is it an ad hoc court set up in the figment of our own minds. Rather, God pleads with us to exercise judgment with mercy (James 2.13).

Surely, a leader who sins repeatedly must be rebuked. A leader who is unrepentant must be ousted. But the leader who sins, and seeks forgiveness, should be forgiven. We should not exact perfection, nor should we use a canon distinct from our own lives.

I fear that those who so quickly give in to curiosity will find that the proclivity toward mercy will show that they had not received mercy. Those who so quickly write off Scripture’s admonition to cover over sin with love will grope for this kindness and find it wanting toward them.

May we be quick to forgive and slow to condemn. May we entrust right judgment to God. And as we find ourselves in the already-not yet, may we admonish the unrepentant. As we live in the time between the times, may we proactively and persistently give mercy. A mercy that is imperfect, but perpetual. To the degree that we have received mercy, may we give such beautiful and resplendent mercy.

Getting To Know You – Wesley Sweigart

The Getting to Know You series is a series that we will be starting on the blog to help the church get to know our faithful interns that support M28, the college ministry here at CrossWay. On our first post, we have the privilege to introduce you to Wesley Sweigart.

Who I am

Hello, my name is Wesley Sweigart. I’m here today to say a bit about how I got to where I am and where I’m going from there. I am a Charlottean, born and raised, and I have been a part of CrossWay my entire life. I’ve been blessed to be a part of Mission28 the past two years, and have helped serve on the Leadership Team over the past year. It has been encouraging to see all that God has done through this ministry, from people committing or recommitting their lives to Christ, to those who realize a new depth in their relationship with their heavenly Father. I’m currently in the middle of my college career, but I’m taking a year off to focus on evangelism at UNCC, and I couldn’t be more excited about this new period of my life.

What I’m doing

This year, I have the opportunity to serve with Mission28 as a full-time intern. I will be on campus reaching out to students as well as helping with ministry administration, planning, and coordination. I’m so excited to see what God has in store for us this year at M28.

Please join me in praying

1)    That I would receive support for this year. It is my hope that I would be able to raise all the funds that I need for this year so I can have my focus fully on the mission at UNCC.

2)    That the Lord of the Harvest would send out workers. There are multitudes of lost souls at UNCC, and there is a need for students with a heart heavy for the lost, who will go out and share the gospel. The Lord will build his church.

 

Change is possible!

By Jeremy Oddy

Consider reading over the quote below for encouragement.  Read each line carefully and slowly and meditate over each principle as your heart becomes full of the love of Christ in what he has done for you, doing in you, and will do for you.  And know this, he is doing the same thing in your spouse, friend, child, and anyone else who is in Christ.

Paul Tripp writes:

Change is possible because the King has come!  In all of this, God’s ultimate goal is his own glory. Christ came to restore people to the purpose they were made for: to live every aspect of their lives in worshipful, obedient submission to him.  He accomplishes this by breathing life into dead hearts so that we grasp our need for him.  He lives sinlessly, keeping the law on our behalf.  He lays down his life as a penalty for sin, so that we can be fully forgiven.  He adopts us into his family, giving us all the rights and privileges of his children.  He daily conforms us to his own image.  He enables us by his grace to do what is right.  His Spirit lives inside us, convicting of sin, illuminining truth, and giving us the power to obey.  He places us in the body of Christ where we can learn and grow.  He rules over every event for his glory and our good.  He makes us the objects of his eternal, redemptive love. The Bible calls this change redemption.  We are not only changed, we are restored to God.  This is what makes all other change possible (Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand, 6-7).

Praise God!  We are a blessed people indeed!  So, we know that this is all true.  However, we can sometimes forget or not believe one or a few of these truths in our own lives.  Talk to a friend or your spouse about some of these truths that you tend to forget or not believe at times.  Ask God for help, because all of our hope is based on a Person, not on our (or someone else’s) performance or a principle.

HOW MISSION SANCTIFIES

 

by David Mathis | July 25, 2012

Not only does God‘s work in us (sanctification) help his work through us (mission), but it works the other way too. Engaging in God’s mission can jumpstart our sanctification as well.

In this brief video, pastor Darrin Patrick explains the importance of living the Christian life among the lost for our own sanctification. Sometimes we don’t see how much we need Jesus, he says, until we’re deeply involved with people who don’t know him. There’s something about being around broken people that helps you draw near to God.

 

OWNERSHIP AS SACRIFICE

Brad House » Mission Church Evangelism Community

Does our community own the mission of God for our church, or do we just agree with it?

THE INSUFFICIENCY OF MERE AGREEMENT

Agreement simply means that people like the idea of the mission and are excited about someone at the church carrying it out. They may not, and probably don’t, see themselves as the church, or at least not the part of the church that lives out the mission.

This manifests in casual attendance and participation in programs and events that serve their needs but don’t require anything of them. Agreement can even involve serving in various ministries if the bar is low enough—but if the mission is not owned, if it is not internalized within the people, then they will not take risks for the sake of the gospel. They won’t risk comfort, time, money, or self-interest for the mission to see Jesus glorified.

OWNERSHIP AS SACRIFICE

Our churches are filled with people who agree with the mission but do not own it. Ownership is marked by joy-filled sacrifice that sees kingdom work as a “get to” because of what Christ has done, rather than a “got to” out of Christian duty.

Ownership looks like people serving the church and the city with a passion for the gospel. It looks like people cheerfully and sacrificially giving out of love for Jesus to see the work of the gospel move forward. Ownership looks like people participating in the messiness of community and being inconvenienced for the sake of another’s sanctification.

OWN THE PROCLAMATION

If we want to be a missional church that sees the lives in our cities transformed by the gospel, we must foster a holy discontentment with the status quo and resist apathy toward God’s mission. Compelled by the grace of God manifested in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection, we can take ownership of proclaiming the truth of the gospel and living it out in community.

Three Ways To Live

You might think that the Gospel is primarily the “beginning” of salvation, how we get saved. But, the Gospel is really about all of life. The Gospel is the answer to all of our sin problems.

When most of us think of the fact that God Himself has come to rescue sinners through the Person and Work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, we think primarily of the characteristic “sinner,” the person who rebels against God and His ways. We formulate the idea that there are “two ways to live.” There’s even a well-known tract by that very name.

We think of the younger brother in the parable of the Prodigal Sons, who wants things from the father but through rebellion. But as Tim Keller has helpfull pointed out over and over again, there are actually three ways to live and two ways to rebel against God:

 The older brother in the parable wants “things” from the Father but he does not rebel, he obeys. When the father welcomes back the younger brother, he points out that he has obeyed all along but never received anything from the father.

Both the younger and older brothers want the father only for what they can get from him but they show us that there are actually two ways to run from God: outright rebellion and religion.

But the Gospel cuts right through the middle of these two rebellions. Rebellion will never satisfy us and we can never earn God’s favor.

Thank God that Jesus not only lived the life we couldn’t but paid the penalty we should have, freeing us from slavery to sin, in all its forms.