We’re beginning a new series called Counterintelligence this week at The Surge. Having spent 10 weeks digging into Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and hearing him invite us into his kingdom, we’re now going to check out that other kingdom that Jesus is looking to draw us from. It’s the kingdom we’re all born into, and because of that, we’ve probably not spent a lot of time thinking about it. It’s similar to how those of us born and raised in the US may have just a little more difficulty passing a US citizenship naturalization test than folks from other countries who have had to study up to pass the thing. So, we’ll spend five weeks doing a little spy work, a little investigation, to see how that kingdom, the world system, functions so that we can navigate through it wisely.
Let’s start with 1 John, chapter 2, verses 15-17.
1 John 2:15-17 - Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
We see several words in Hebrew—in the Old Testament—and Greek—in the New Testament—translated into English as “world.” And those words can refer to the physical planet, the people on the planet, a particular country or land, even an age or era or period of time. Context can help you figure out which it is. However, one particular word, the word in this text in 1 John that is translated “world”, is unique. It’s the Greek word “kosmos,” and it refers to an orderly, arranged system. Kosmos is actually the opposite of chaos—the lack of order. We get our word “cosmetics” from “kosmos,” suggesting that our lady friends are using those products to take faces in chaos and bring order to them.
So, the "world" here is not random or chaotic. There is a system at work here. And if you track the word “kosmos” through the New Testament using a concordance, here’s what you’ll find, and it might surprise you.
Definition of the world system: Kosmos, or the world system, is an orderly, attractive, and influential system headed up by Satan himself for the purpose of blinding the minds of those who do not believe in Jesus Christ and luring those who do away from their calling to serve Christ in the advancement of His Kingdom.
I won’t provide all the references for this conclusion, but I will give you enough to get the gist because this might be totally new to you.
Galatians 1:3-4 - Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.
John 12:31-32 - Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
John 14:29-31 - And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.
Ephesians 2:1-3 - And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
1 John 5:19 - We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
Just to summarize quickly, we are living in what is described as a present evil age; Satan is described in scripture as the prince and power of the air, and Jesus describes him as the ruler of this world system and an enemy He intends to depose; this system is not God neutral, but it wars against God and the people of God; we were once, before we came to Christ, vassals of this world system, whether we knew it or not.
This raises the question: How do we live as Christians in this world system, since we are basically behind enemy lines? We’ll be covering all that over these five weeks, ok, so just hang in there. I think we will have answered most of the questions you might have by the time we wrap the series up.
The 1 John passage we started with mentions 3 things on display in this world system, and we’ll take a look at each of them.
1. The desires of the flesh. This is essentially our natural bent to want to do things that are against the will of God. And sometimes, we’ll think we’re doing the right things, but our natural bent and the world system will have tricked us. This is what Proverbs 13:12 is getting at: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end is the way to death.” We can find out God’s will and truth in scripture, but our own natural bents, when the Spirit of God is not in charge, and the world system will lure us into traps set for us.
2. The desires of the eyes. This is essentially our natural bent, encouraged by the world system, to want to have, or own, or possess something that is against the will of God. We see example of this all throughout scripture. The nation of Israel has a tremendous victory against the city of Jericho, but God told them not to take any spoils from the city. One man, Achan, saw some things he just had to have—desires of the eyes. Bad things ensue. In 2 Kings, the prophet Elisha heals a Syrian commander, Naaman, of leprosy. Naaman wants to pay Elisha for this miraculous healing, but Elisha refuses. Naaman departs, but Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, overheard the offer. So, he sneaks out and catches up to Naaman and accepts gifts from him. Bad things ensue. King David saw something he wanted—Bathsheba, another man’s wife. He took her. Bad things ensue. See any commonalities in the results? Yeah, bad things!!
3. The pride of life. This is essentially our natural bent, encouraged by the world system, to want to be something that is against the will of God. If you reread the account of the fall of man in the first three chapters of Genesis, you will see all three of these elements of the world system on display. We’re told that Eve saw the fruit on the forbidden tree and wanted it—the desires of the eyes; she determined that this fruit was going to be very yummy and wanted to experience the taste—the desires of the flesh; and, finally, she saw that this fruit would make her wise and be like God, knowing good and evil—pride of life.
Now, one thing we have to realize is that the world system is on the move. It is not stagnant. It seeks to move every element of society away from the things of God and away from glorifying God. You listening to music lately? Used to be the lyrics of songs praised God. Now they often praise his enemy. You can’t drive down the road with your window open and not hear profanity-laced music booming from the car next to you. Yeah, we’ve made real strides in music, and there are some incredibly talented people out there. But is music headed toward the things of God, or away from Him?
Medicine. Man, I’m glad I live in a time when medicine is making great strides, but within those strides, there are trends that are evil. We can do heart transplants, but we also perfected the ability to insert implements into a uterus and tear a child limb from limb—and in the vast majority of cases, it’s simply for convenience, not to save the life of the mother. Because of cost, the medical community and insurance companies denied the existence of Lyme Disease for years and allowed victims to suffer, even die, needlessly. Only now that Lyme is reaching epidemic levels are things starting to change. But we’re making progress, aren’t we? Yeah, California, which often leads the way in America’s syncing up with the world system, is making sure you have drugs to kill yourself if you determine the quality of your life is less than you want. Keep watching over the next decade. You ain't seen nothing yet.
How about education? I purchased a copy of the New England first-grade primer, dated 1777. Do you know that back then, children were taught deep things about God in public education? Today, when kids learn the alphabet, it’s A is for apple, B is for Bee, C is for Cat. In 1777, A was for Adam, B was for Bible, C was for Christ. Yeah, education is moving like crazy, but in what direction? Towards God, or away from Him?
If you’ve kept up with The Surge, you know i love reading advice columns. They are a great window into the wisdom of the world system, and I laugh and cry at the same time at what I hear there. A gal writes in that she and her live-in boyfriend are having a huge fight. The topic: He’s not doing his fair share of the dishes. The advice: Well, you two just need to sit down and discuss this. Sounds good. Here’s what you won’t hear in The Washington Post: You ought to break off this relationship. After all, you are living with a guy who is using you for sex without making any kind of commitment to you for life. Why in the world do you think he would be remotely interested in committing to doing your dishes? Another gal writes in, “My parents invite all their children over once a month for dinner.” That sounds pretty nice, right? No, it’s not. “The problem is that my siblings have kids, and the kids are always interrupting the conversations, so I can’t talk about what I want to talk about.” The advice? (I’m not making this up.) “You could just decide not to go these functions.” Oh, that makes sense, because who needs family, and surely no child could benefit from a loving relationship with an aunt or uncle. Seriously, what this gal needed to hear she’ll never hear in The Washington Post: “You know, people who are total narcissists will often be offended that the world does not constantly revolve around them. You are one of those people. How about you try accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior? He’ll help you learn to be generous, and that will make you far happier than you are right now.”
In conclusion, the world system is not neutral. It opposes God, and it opposes Christians, and it will try to lure us into tracking with it rather than tracking with God. And it’s on the move, and it seeks to move every part of society and culture away from glorifying God. You know, don’t you, that movies that would have earned an “R” rating a decade ago, are now “PG-13” or “PG.” And if we’re not careful, we can find that we’ve drifted, sometimes into things that we never thought we’d do, or read, or watch, or listen to just 10 years ago. It might be a good time, as we’re marching through this series, to step back a bit and take stock.
For the complete message, with additional content, pop onto www.thesurge.cc, click on the Media page, current message series, and take in part 1.