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.

 

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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.

 

The Gift Of Self-Forgetfulness

TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN|

“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?

Yes.

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!

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.”

If you are “in Christ,” be very encouraged!

By Jeremy Oddy

A good friend of mine recently pointed out to me an excellent article by John Piper.  I encourage you to read the whole thing here.  What I want to point out in this article is what it means to be “in Christ,” if you are a true disciple of Jesus Christ.  Piper inserted the name “Carl” in the list below.  I took out “Carl” (sorry Carl) and inserted a blank and made some minor changes, so that you can insert your name, or someone else’s name, as a way or tool to help each other remember and be amazed of what it means to be “in Christ.”

Piper writes, “Being in Christ is a stupendous reality. It is breathtaking what it means to be in Christ. United to Christ. Bound to Christ. This is the phrase in the text that changes everything.”  Piper is referring to 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18.  See the list below on what it means for you to be in Christ Jesus:

  • In Christ Jesus, ________ is given grace before the world was created. 2 Timothy 1:9: “He gave us grace in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”
  • In Christ Jesus, ________ is chosen by God before creation. Ephesians 1:4: “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.”
  • In Christ Jesus, ________ is loved by God with an inseparable love. Romans 8:38–39: “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  • In Christ Jesus, ________ is redeemed and forgiven for all his or her sins. Ephesians 1:7: “In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.”
  • In Christ Jesus, ________ is justified before God and the righteousness of God in Christ is imputed to him. 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
  • In Christ Jesus, ________ became a new creation and a son or daughter of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Galatians 3:26: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”
  • In Christ Jesus, ________ is seated in the heavenly place even while he or she lives on earth. Ephesians 2:6: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
  • In Christ Jesus, all the promises of God are Yes for ________. 2 Corinthians 1:20: “All the promises of God find their Yes in Christ.”
  • In Christ Jesus, ________ is being sanctified and made holy. 1 Corinthians 1:2: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus.
  • In Christ Jesus, everything ________ really needs is supplied. Philippians 4:19: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
  • In Christ Jesus, the peace of God guards the heart and mind of ________. Philippians 4:7: “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
  • In Christ Jesus, ________ has eternal life. Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  • And in Christ Jesus, ________ will be raised from the dead at the coming of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” All those united to Adam in the first humanity die. All those united to Christ in the new humanity rise to live again.

If you want encouragement as a disciple of Jesus Christ, read this list with your name inserted over and over until your faith increases with this amazing truth and reality: you are in Christ!