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.




Brad House » Mission Church Evangelism Community

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


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.


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.


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.

Men, Leadership & Responsibility

Author: Jeff Wall 

My dad left our family when I was one. Like many men, his identity was wrapped up in his work, and I think his voluntary slavery to alcohol medicated his fear of failure.  He lived in a van down by the river. Over the years I tried to visit occasionally, but stomaching the filth and squalor he chose to live in made the visits infrequent and brief.

I wanted so much to know him and I didn’t. I wanted so much for him to be released from his bondage and experience a life of freedom and health. I yearned for a meaningful conversation with him and it started when on the phone I told him I loved him.

Yearning for more spiritual dialogue with him on a visit, I clumsily blurted out “I forgive you, Dad”. He gave me a quizzical look and asked “For what?”  “For leaving your family,” I replied. In true Adam-like fashion he wanted me to know my mother was to blame.

It seems that all of us fall into that same pattern to varying degrees.  We tend to place blame rather than take responsibility, myself included.

Quoting John Maxwell, my friend often says, “everything rises and falls on leadership” and “leadership takes responsibility.”  If leadership is truly about influence and not just position, then all of us are leaders because we all have influence.  But ineffective leaders make a habit of blaming others while effective leaders are ones who take responsibility.

Men who take responsibility for their families inspire me.  It’s no small thing to accept the responsibility to lead a family spiritually, love your wife like Jesus loved the church, provide, protect, nurture and much, much more that the Bible calls us to.  I believe when we begin to understand the weight of all that responsibility, we will be driven to desperate humility and dependence on our Father in heaven.  Without his help it’s impossible.

Jesus, my hero, accepted responsibility.  He took on himself all of the blame we rightly deserved.   And when the weight of that responsibility became unbearable, it drove Jesus to the Father to plead for help. His flesh fought him but through his dependence on the Father he endured and traded his righteousness for our sin. It’s only because he took responsibility for our failings that empowered by his strength working through us we can lead by taking up responsibility for others.

Our Father in heaven is a good father. He gives grace to the humble and doesn’t give us a stone when we ask him for bread. May we as men accept the responsibility of leadership and may the weight of that burden cause us to cry out to the Father for help.

The Gift Of Self-Forgetfulness


“Many pulpits across the land consistently preach the Christian and not the Christ.” Todd Wilken

As I said in Ed Stetzer’s interview of me a couple weeks ago, the way many of us think about sanctification is, well…not very sanctified. In fact, it’s terribly narcissistic. We spend too much time thinking about how we’re doing, if we’re growing, whether we’re doing it right or not. We spend too much time pondering our spiritual failures and brooding over our spiritual successes. Somewhere along the way we’ve come to believe that the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian.

Reflecting this common assumption, someone who was frustrated with something I had written said to me not long ago, “Don’t you know that the focus of the New Testament is the personal holiness of the Christian?” What? Seriously? I heard Mr. Miyagi’s voice in my head, “Breathe in, breathe out; breathe in, breathe out.” The truth is, we spend way too much time thinking about ourselves, and we justify this spiritualized navel-gazing by reasoning that this is what God wants us to be doing.

I’ve said this before but let me say it again: there is nothing in the gospel or about the gospel that encourages me to focus on me. Nothing! It’s never honoring to God when we take our eyes off of Christ “the author and finisher of our faith” and center our eyes on ourselves. Never! In fact, the whole point of the gospel is to get us out of ourselves and to “fix our eyes on Christ” (Hebrews 12:2). The truest measure of Christian growth, therefore, is when we stop spiritually rationalizing the reasons why we’re taking our eyes off of Jesus to focus on ourselves.

The biggest difference between the practical effect of sin and the practical effect of the gospel is that sin turns us inward and the gospel turns us outward. Martin Luther picked up on this problem in the Reformation, arguing that sin actually bends or curves us in on ourselves (homo incurvatus in se). Any version of “the gospel”, therefore, that encourages you to think about yourself is detrimental to your faith-whether it’s your failures or your successes; your good works or your bad works; your strengths or your weaknesses; your obedience or your disobedience.

Ironically, what I’ve discovered is that the more I focus on my need to get better the worse I actually get–I become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with my performance over Christ’s performance for me actually hinders my growth because it makes me increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective–the exactopposite of how the Bible describes what it means to be sanctified. Sanctification is forgetting about yourself. “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30) properly describes the painful sanctification process. “Decreasing” is impossible for the one who keeps thinking about himself. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis reminded us that we’ll know a truly humble man when we meet him because “He will not be thinking about humility: he will not, in fact, be thinking about himself at all.” When we spend more time thinking about ourselves and how we’re doing then we do about Jesus and what he’s done, we shrink. As J.C. Kromsigt said, “The good seed cannot flourish when it is repeatedly dug up for the purpose of examining its growth.”

But what about those passages which seem to encourage us to “examine ourselves”? Isn’t there a proper time and place for self-evaluation?


In fact, this is what the law of God (not the gospel of God) does. The law forces us to look inside ourselves so we can clearly see that what we need most has happened outside ourselves. This is what Paul means in 2 Corinthians 13:5 when he says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” In other words, the goal of self-examination is not to discover my worthiness, strength, or sufficiency. The goal is to discover my unworthiness and Christ’s worthiness; my weakness and Christ’s strength; my deficiency and Christ’s sufficiency. Confidence in my transformation is not the source of my assurance and growth. Confidence in Christ’s substitution is. As Matt Richard has rightly noted, “Looking to self for assurance shifts the foundation from Jesus to us.” Christian growth is defined in the Bible as movement in the exact opposite direction (how do we keep missing this obvious point ??). By his Spirit, Christ’s continuing subjective work inside me consists of him driving me back constantly to his completed objective work outside me (John 15:26). “True faith”, said Sinclair Ferguson, “gets a man out of himself and into Christ.”

Oswald Bayer makes the great point that, far from being a “deadening of self”,  forgetting yourself leads to life and freedom:

Those who are born anew are no longer entangled with themselves. They are solidly freed from this entanglement, from the self-reflection that always seeks what belongs to itself. This is not a deadening of self. It does not flee from thought and responsibility. No, it is the gift of self-forgetfulness. The passive righteousness of faith tells us: You do not concern yourself at all! In that God does what is decisive in us, we may live outside ourselves and solely in him. Thus, we are hidden from ourselves, and removed from the judgment of others or the judgment of ourselves about ourselves as a final judgment. “Who am I?” Such self-reflection never finds peace in itself.

Contrary to what we have typically heard (and been enslaved by), Christian growth is not becoming stronger and stronger, more and more competent. Christian growth and progress is marked by a growing realization of just how weak and incompetent we are and how strong and competent Jesus continues to be for us. Spiritual maturity is not marked by our growing, independent fitness. Rather, it’s marked by our growing dependence on Christ’s fitness for us. Remember, the Apostle Paul (who was more spiritually mature and “sanctified” than all of us put together) referred to himself as the “least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8) and the “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15)at the end of his life. For Paul, spiritual growth is realizing how utterly dependent we are on Christ’s cross and mercy. It’s not arriving at some point where we need Jesus less because we’re getting better and better. It was, paradoxically, Paul’s ability to freely admit his lack of sanctification which demonstrated just how sanctified he was.

This is the point: When we stop narcissistically focusing on our need to get better, that is what it means to get better. When we stop obsessing over our need to improve, that is what it means to improve!

Thankfully, the focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. The gospel frees us from ourselves. It announces that this whole thing is about Jesus and dependent on Jesus. The good news is the announcement of his victory for us, not our “victorious Christian life.” The gospel declares that God’s final word over Christian’s has already been spoken: “Paid in full.” Therefore, Christians can now live in a posture of perpetual confidence “that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

I love the story of the old pastor who, on his deathbed, told his wife that he was certain he was going to heaven because he couldn’t remember one truly good work he had ever done.

He got it.

Blessed self-forgetfulness!

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand: How to Help Others Change

August 7 – November 13 

(13 meetings; no class on Sep. 4 and Oct. 30) 

Tuesday evenings, 7:00-9:00

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (IRH) by Paul Tripp is a companion course to How People Change, a course on personal growth we offer every spring. IRH is a 12-lesson, comprehensive, hands-on overview of the process of biblical change that will equip Christians for personal ministry, to better care, counsel, and disciple others.  In short, this class is a practical theology of care and discipleship.

The course has been designed to teach people:

  • How God changes hearts and lives.
  • How they can be instruments of change in his redemptive hands.

The course will include small group participation to help facilitate discussion and application of the material.

  • Registration ends on August 1.
  • Please purchase your Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand workbook at the bookstore for $20.
  • Free childcare will be provided.

If you have any questions, please contact Jeremy Oddy at jeremy.oddy@crosswaync.org.

The Gospel & Irregular Rhythms of Life

Author: Mike Sandefur

We often talk about how our gospel identities as family, missionary and servant are lived out in the everyday rhythms of life. But for many of us life is full of irregular rhythms. We may have complicated work schedules, kids activities, or any number of other things that rise up as barriers to what we perceive as regularity. My wife and I both work full-time but on very different schedules. I work days while she works nights. The only common day off we have is every other Saturday. Between work and our weekly MC dinner we only have three free evening each week and those get taken up by kids events, DNA, date night, etc. At times this can lead to a sense of frustration because it feels like we can’t do what we want to do or what we’re expected to do.

Because of the work of Christ we have nothing to prove.

So how do we make sense of the irregularity? First let me address the frustration. Because of the work of Christ we have nothing to prove. There is nothing we can do that will make him love us more. There is nothing we can do or fail to do that is going to screw up his plan. And for many, understanding that very sovereignty is what is missing. Do you believe that God is in control even over the irregular craziness of your life? Failure to believe that puts all the pressure to make sense of life and get things done squarely on our shoulders. That is a hard place to be because we simply cannot do it. Peace and understanding only come from trusting him to make it clear. Our starting point must be prayer and confession.—asking God to show us where he’s at work in our lives and being honest about the ways we’ve tried to do it ourselves.

With that heart and attitude I can then begin to look at opportunities and rhythms in my own life. Tim Chester put together a basic set of questions that I’ve found very helpful. He simply asks, “What are the things you do everyday, every week, and every month?” Once that list is down on paper there are three additional questions.

  1. For any of these things how can I involve someone from my Missional Community?
  2. How could I involve an unbelieving friend or neighbor?
  3. How can I involve a gospel conversation?

What is valuable about all these questions is that it helps focus on the things I’m already doing instead of trying to come up with additional things to add into what is already a tough schedule.

Sometimes the challenge to spend time with others regularly has to do with their irregular schedules. Let’s face it we’re not the only ones with challenging life schedules. Again, pray for insight. Keep your eyes open and listen with open ears. We’re not talking about being a gospel stalker but just using basic observations as the Holy Spirit gives us understanding. Once you have a general idea of their rhythms of life, be willing to sacrifice some comfort to match even a small part of their schedule. It can feel really awkward at first but the dividends are well worth it.

Finally, we need to be aware of the most irregular rhythm of all. The Northwest rhythm of weather is so unpredictable and yet it impacts a lot of our lives. Going to the old Boy Scout mottobe prepared” is important here. Why? Because when the weather is good, regardless of the time of day, people get outside. And we need to be prepared to use every last minute of that time to bless others, to get to know them better, to eat together. How that looks is dependent on your neighbors and friends. In my neighborhood that means everyone is out talking at this retaining wall next door till 2am after grilling some food.

Through it all, remember God loves you—he gave everything for you. If we’re not praying for wisdom and guidance in this and relying on our own efforts, frustration is guaranteed. That does not mean that trusting this to God and letting the Spirit guide us and empower us will make things easy. Satan uses our busyness to derail our obedience. One of the most important things you can pray about is for God to reveal things you need to drop from your schedule. To do that takes trust and a willingness to let go of things we may see as important. But in the end it’s worth it—the amazing thing about living in Jesus’ ways is that not only is it for his glory, it is always also for our good.

Who am I?

By Jeremy Oddy

Have you ever asked yourself that question?  I encourage you to ask that question right now.  What answers do you come up with?  Do the answers encourage  or discourage you?  Do your answers promote humility or pride?  Do your answers describe what you do instead of who you are?  If you are a Christian, I would like to provide some answers to that question: “Who am I?”  Thanks to wonderful, proven, godly authors, I will be relying on the wisdom of Jerry Bridges from his newest book that I’m currently reading, Who Am I? Identity in Christ.  Below is a list of answers from his book that describes who a Christian is; therefore, who you are, if you are indeed in Christ.

  • I am a creature, created in the image of God, fully dependent on him and fully accountable to him.
  • By the work of God, I am no longer in Adam: I am in Christ, through a union that is both living and representative.
  • I am justified, I am righteous before God, because God has charged my sin to Christ and credited to me his perfect righteousness.
  • I am an adopted son, or daughter, of God. I’m a child of the King. I have the privilege in this life of an intimate father-child relationship with him, and I look forward with expectant hope to an eternal inheritance that is far more glorious than anything I can imagine.
  • I am a new creation, with a new heart, a new spirit, and a new identity before God. Having been delivered from the dominion of sin and united to Christ, I am always able to resist temptation. When I do sin, I am always welcome at the cross, for all my sins have been forgiven in Jesus.
  • I am a saint: I do not belong to myself, but to God. I have been purchased and declared holy by God, and set apart for God. Thus, God is ever at work to cause me to grow in spiritual maturity, a process in which he calls me to cooperate, in every way, out of gratitude for his mercy.
  • I am a servant of Jesus Christ. By God’s grace, I serve him by serving others in the particular role or roles to which, in his providential wisdom, he has called me.
  • In this life I am and always will be imperfect, a saved sinner, seeking to grow in holiness and relating to God on the basis of grace that is mine because I am…in Christ!

As you can see, the answers to the question “Who am I?” have nothing to do with our achievements, our failures, or the evaluation of others, but only in Christ alone.  To conclude, let’s hear from Bridges one more time.  He writes, “For every look in your daily experience, take two looks at who you are in Christ.”