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Jul 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 28, 2019


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. John 17:14-16

Intro: I have been mulling over something this past school year

Two days a week I drove three of my grandchildren to school
– two of them attend school in what I refer to as a new suburbia
• the residents are almost exclusively young families
◦ everything is new – new expensive houses and condos
◦ and new apartments, a few of which are low-rent properties
• none of the houses, condos or apartments have much yard space
– there’s an obvious cultural distinction of two classes in new suburbia
• the basis for it is monetary – those with affluence put it on display
◦ the vehicles in line to drop off kids tell a story
◦ some drive the “family car” or truck, others drive expensive SUVs
• this is elementary school!
◦ yet kids coast in on electric bikes or mini-scooters
◦ or parents bring them in over-priced golf-carts

The late Christopher Lasch, a notable historian and social critic,
– observed a change in the way industrial tycoons viewed the masses
• their shift in thinking turned North American society a new direction
◦ it went from being a culture of producers to a culture of consumers
• but now they faced a new challenge
◦ to convince people they had needs they had never been aware of
◦ a product that would create the “illusion of prosperity and well-being”
Lasch described a form of advertising that “creates or exacerbates new forms of unhappiness—personal insecurity, status anxiety, anxiety in parents about their ability to satisfy the needs of the young. Do you look dowdy next to your neighbors? Do you own a car inferior to theirs? Are your children as healthy? as popular? doing as well in school? Advertising institutionalizes envy and its attendant anxiety.”

So–the question we will think about today is:

What has the world written into our brains’ owner’s manual?

When Jesus prayed for his disciples, hours before going to cross,
– he knew they would live with a specific and unavoidable tension
• he was leaving them in the world, but they were not of it
• and their lives in the world would not be easy
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you (Jn. 15:18)
. . . whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God (Jn. 16:2)
In the world you will have tribulation (Jn. 16:33)
– but Jesus did not pray that God would take them out of world
• only that he would keep them from evil and set them apart
• although they would be in the world, they would not be of it

By “world,” Jesus did not mean the planet, or culture, or society
– it might make more sense if we used a term like world-spirit
• Jesus had referred to Satan as the ruler of this world
• he was talking about a certain, diabolical influence
– from the Garden of Eden, to Job, Jesus’ temptations, to Paul’s letters,
• we see that the devil plays head-games
• evil has always been a factor in influencing human minds
◦ even entire societies and nations

The Scriptures teach us to critique culture and critique ourselves

The Bible is aware of the persuasive and seductive powers of the world-spirit

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 the 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 (1 Jn. 2:15-17)

– the world-spirit plays on our vulnerabilities
• taps into our insecurity, uncertainty, and unmet needs
◦ it creates the illusion that it has the answers–for a price
• of course, it cannot provide real answers
◦ if industries did that, they would cut their own throats
– world-spirit tells us,
You must be a certain kind of person, rise to a specific level of monetary power or social approval to count for anything. Your status in the world depends on your conformity to its values. If you fail to achieve that status, you must accept your lowly place in society. You will be an outcast.

Mean bosses and supervisors demonstrate the world-spirit
– they can make you feel like nothing
• especially when the pay and power differential is significant

I usually catch myself when I make snap judgments regarding a person, based on their appearance or one statement or action. When I do catch myself, I immediately admit that I know nothing about them and I am in no place to think badly of them. Then I ask God for forgiveness and the wisdom and compassion to do better.
One day I walked Kona, our yellow lab along a trail that borders a golf course. I spotted four men who were waiting to tee off. One of them in particular stood out. It was the set of his face, his bearing and mannerisms, and seeing him I immediately shuddered. I said to myself, “I’m glad I don’t work for that guy!” He looked like the kind of person who could make you feel like nothing. But then I went through my ritual of confessing and praying for forgiveness and wisdom. What did I know?
Later, as Kona and I made our way back to where I had parked, the same guy went past us in a golf cart. I’m familiar enough with the trail and course to know he had missed his turn, so when he drove by us, I said, “You missed your turn.” Without turning toward me, he just shouted over his shoulder in a gruff voice, “I did not!”
Then I got a really big smile on my face, and said to myself, “Now I’m really glad I don’t work for that guy!” Also, I knew we would see him again as he came back to where he should have turned.
Sure enough, up ahead I saw him blocking the trail, trying to make an Austin Power’s twenty-point-turn to circle back. But then he surprised me. When we drew up close to his cart, he nodded to me and told his partners, “I owe that guy an apology.” So people can surprise you–sometimes in a good way. (But I’m still glad he’s not my boss.)

Through the media, mentors and life experience,
– the world-spirit has written its values into our brains
• so if our realtor shows up in a clunker, our or lawyer in a cheap suit,
◦ we wonder, “Can this person be any good at their profession?”
• then we also feel judged in our old, beat-up car
◦ or wearing our thrift-store outfit

One other thought: the “world” that hated Jesus was a religious system
– certain denominations and their disciples try to sell their brands
• they may try to create discontent with what your church offers,
◦ or to make you feel guilty, or think you’ve been misled
• if you let them, they’ll lay a terrible burden on you
◦ their requirements and regulations, doctrines and traditions
– Paul fought hard against this in his letters
(see especially his letter to the Galatians and Colossians ch. 2)
• If we know what we already have in Jesus,
◦ we are immune to their manipulations

We cannot trust the world-spirit to tell us who we are

It knows nothing of the true self–and glamorizes the false self
– the world will tell you, you’re nothing without the latest technology,
• or if you don’t drive new model car, or don’t have enough education

Former president of Grey Advertising, Nancy Shalek said, “Advertising at its best is making people feel that without their product, you’re a loser. Kids are very sensitive to that . . . You open up emotional vulnerabilities, and it’s very easy to do with kids because they’re the most emotionally vulnerable.”
Johann Hari observes, “When they talk among themselves, advertising people have been admitting since the 1920s that their job is to make people feel inadequate–and then offer their product as the solution to the sense of inadequacy.”

– how well does the world resolve the negative feelings they create?
Psychologist, Tim Kasser’s research found that “materialistic people, who think happiness comes from accumulating stuff and superior status, had much higher levels of depression and anxiety.” Johann Hari adds, “What you really need are connections. But what you are told you need, in our culture, is stuff and a superior status, and in the gap between those two signals–from yourself and from society–depression and anxiety will grow as your real needs go unmet.”
• of course, we learned this already from Ecclesiastes
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is [emptiness] (Ecc. 5:10)
• the world-spirit does not keep its promises – it is bankrupt
◦ we do not want to leave our hearts in its hands

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on (Mt. 6:19-34)

Conclusion: I spent Friday with my grandson, Calum

He wanted me to watch a television program with him
– I explained to him that if we watched a cartoon show,
• what we watched would be from someone else’s imagination
• but if we just played together, we could use our own imaginations
◦ fortunately, that appealed to him, and that is what we did
– it turns out, Calum did not enjoy grandpa’s imagination as much as his own
• so I let him do all the heavy lifting
• but when I wanted to take a break, he said,
“C’mon, Grandpa, let’s use our imaginations!”

I am asking you to use your childhood imagination
to envision a different world,
a world that could really exist,
but must begin with someone who imagines it is possible
Then write that world into your brain’s owner’s manual

Paul makes an interesting statement regarding the world-spirit
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal. 6:14)
– Jon Kabat-Zinn talks about stopping
• that is, to take a time-out occasionally in your ordinary day,
• to cultivate mindful awareness
Kabat-Zinn, “To take a few moments to ‘die on purpose’ to the rush of time while you are still living, you free yourself to have time for the present. By ‘dying’ now in this way, you actually become more alive now.”
– that is the sort of dying to the world we need to practice
• to liberate ourselves from its pervasive influence
• this is how we allow ourselves to hear the warnings of awareness
◦ when we’re being manipulated, following herd, or walking into danger

The dead-to-the-world silence we cultivate is:
Surrender – we silence our griping and our cravings
(Paradoxically) Revolt – a rejection of the world’s twisted values
Space – removing our hearts and minds every thought and feeling
that is not God
Allowing him to enter the room within us that is already his

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