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Bible verses about Worldliness
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Christmas is a vivid illustration of the world's power of attraction. It plays upon all of a person's senses with pleasant music, lights, colors, foods, clothes, gifts, and parties. Though it is a very attractive trap, it nonetheless ensnares the person into destruction. By itself, it does not destroy the person—it is the snare, the trap!

Anyone who has ever hunted a wild animal like a deer knows one cannot bag his prey by blundering through the woods making noise and leaving his scent everywhere. Instead, a hunter makes himself as invisible as possible so that the deer wanders under his stand where he can shoot it. The same holds true with trapping smaller animals. A successful trapper makes a trap that will entice the animal in without letting it know that it will be caught.

Christmas is a well-laid trap. In celebrating it, the people of the land honor, worship, and glorify a god, but not the God of the Bible. It is appealing and attractive with all the ornamentation and catchy music. There is also an appealing baby, born to be the King of kings, and his lovely mother radiant in her motherhood. In addition, what could be better than giving gifts? Certainly giving is Christian. And what about decorating evergreen trees, hanging mistletoe and holly boughs, caroling, stuffing stockings, and burning Yule logs? Everything just seems to go so well together. Nevertheless, it is a trap because it is not true.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption


 

Worldliness: "the love of beauty—that which one finds attractive, appealing, or desirable—without a corresponding love of righteousness." The product of worldliness is that, rather than "tend and keep" as he was commanded by God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15), man will "use and abuse." Undoubtedly, Eden was gorgeous, the best and most magnificent environment anyone on earth has ever lived in. What did Adam and Eve do? They used and abused it until God was forced to banish them from it, placing cherubim with flaming swords to guard against their return (Genesis 3:24).

The general record of mankind is that wherever he has put his hand, man has not beautified but used and abused the earth. God is more concerned about man's spiritual beautification than He is about the physical earth, but He warns very clearly in Revelation 11:18 that He will "destroy those who destroy the earth." Man does not have the right concept of beauty. He has the wrong standards and ideals because Babylon impressed itself upon him. He uses and abuses virtually everything, and the results show everywhere on earth. This approach to life manifests Babylon's way and illustrates why God commands His people to come out of it.

God is most concerned about how we act toward other people, how we work within our relationships with our mates, our neighbors, and above all, our God. Do we use and abuse our relationships with God and other people? Do we do everything in our power to dress and keep? Do we have a love of beauty along with a love of righteousness? Although righteousness is indeed the keeping of God's commandments, God requires more of us in our lives. Unless we love the beauty of holiness, we will never become holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:13-16). The love of beauty must be encased in a love of righteousness.

The way of the world is 180 degrees removed from the love of beauty and righteousness. In I John 2, the apostle addresses this way of the world within the subject of love. Though keeping the commandments defines love, it includes a great deal more than that. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . ." (John 3:16). Jesus did not avoid suffering because suffering is an act of love. He loved beauty and righteousness so much that He was willing to follow the commands of God right to the cross. Beauty sustained Him, the beauty of holiness, the beauty of helping multitudes of sons and daughters to inherit the Kingdom of God.

Babylon would not do that. Those impressed by the way of Babylon will love beauty as much as we do, but they will not mix it with a love of righteousness. They will not "tend and keep" fellow man and God. The ever-repeating result is warfare on the field of battle, in the family, in the workplace, in society.

The reason for the state of this evil world is the lack of the love of beauty and the love of righteousness. It is simply a lack of the love of God. The love of God is a choice that is open to all Christians. If one does not choose to love, the only alternative is selfishness—self-concern. A selfish person will abuse. That is the worldly system. Worldliness is nothing more than self-centeredness. An individual chooses to be self-centered or show outgoing love—to be worldly or godly.

Laodiceanism is the most subtle form of self-centeredness or worldliness. It is so subtle that it escapes the detection of those who should be most able to see it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

The Laodicean is not indifferent to making money or making his way in the world. He is not indifferent to improving himself through education or experience. Spending huge amounts of his time and energy pursuing his own interests, his problem is that he chooses the wrong priorities in life. He spends most of his time and energy achieving the wrong goals.

This pursuit of wrong goals restates the actual sin the Laodicean commits: idolatry, placing something above God in one's life. How? He serves himself within the church as if he did it for God. Perhaps he is involved in the work of God but only halfheartedly. Though probably attending Sabbath services faithfully, he is not personally involved with God on a day-to-day basis. He may serve within the church to be recognized, respected, maybe even ordained, forgetting that God called him to be a faithful and true witness of Him. Because he pays attention to the wrong things, his witness suffers terribly. Expending so much energy and enthusiasm in pursuing his own interests, he shows little or no interest in God or His goals. He is indifferent and lukewarm toward his relationship with God.

Because he has had such great success in amassing wealth, the Laodicean judges himself to be self-sufficient, which reveals that his faith is in what he can see, whether his own abilities or his wealth. He is not living by faith, but by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). To put more money in his pocket, he can become energetic, hard-working, and fervent, but he cannot seem to arouse himself about the things of God, which he cannot see. Such an attitude will incur the wrath of God every time!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

History documents the wild debauchery of Rome before its inglorious fall. The depths of its perversions and excesses make fascinating and disgusting reading, yet we need to consider it in terms of the present condition of America and Canada. We may not allow our sporting events to become as violent as gladiatorial contests, but our emphasis on sports and entertainment is reminiscent of Rome's. The condition of America's heart and mind is displayed in our raunchy and violent movies and music. The United States is being set up to collapse!

Much in the world remains attractive and appealing. If there is not a corresponding love of righteousness, those beautiful things can draw a Christian into Babylon's seductive trap, where the spiritual intellect becomes dulled and Laodiceans are produced. Only a love of righteousness will prevent a Christian from allowing his heart and mind to fall into Laodiceanism. If a Christian in ancient Rome did not have his heart anchored in a love of righteousness, Rome's debauchery, presented in an alluring package, would have gradually become acceptable in his own life. Without it, the Roman Christian would have had no protection from the deceptive charm of the world or the resistance to it that he would need to avoid its Laodicean results.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

The six parables of the Olivet Prophecy can be summarized in the following six principles:

  1. Though not knowing the day or hour of Christ's return, we can know the signs.
  2. God requires us to live in expectation with vigilance and constant watchfulness.
  3. God requires faithfulness to duty and wisdom in dealing with our fellow man.
  4. God requires preparedness through spiritual development, working on our relationship with Him, and increasing the Holy Spirit.
  5. God requires us to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18).
  6. Christ will judge us by how we treat Him and our brethren. We cannot fool the King—He can discern true love from false love. Nobody will pass under the rod through hypocrisy.

Jesus understood what the end time would be like, and thus He gave commensurate instruction on how to overcome it and how not to be drawn into this world's distractions. A Christian cannot afford to succumb to these pressure-packed, enervating, and distracting times that we live in. These God-given principles apply to a multitude of specific circumstances: how we conduct our marriages and careers, how we rear our children, how we run our homes, how we drive a car, how we dress, how we talk, how we entertain ourselves. In every case—always—the Kingdom of God covers all parts of our lives. It covers everything all the time for those who are called in this age.

We look to the future, but we live in the present. Are we living by what we believe? Are we truly living by faith? We look for a city whose builder is God, and as His representatives we witness for Him in the way we live our lives. The Laodicean is distracted—he is living by what he sees—and is useless to Christ because he is not a faithful and true witness. The righteous live by faith not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). And so we must live and grow as the return of Christ nears day by day.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

We are privileged to live when events—far beyond even nations to control and of vast importance to the outworking of God's purpose—are being maneuvered into position. Most assuredly, God is deeply involved. His dominion is over all creation, but for the present time He has appointed Satan and his demons, the principalities and powers of this age, to rule over earth (Ephesians 6:12).

As we approach Christ's return, Satan has designed ways of life that are fast-paced, spiced by a complicated array of sense-appealing entertainments, fashions, and gadgets, and filled with a confusing mix of educational, economic, religious, and political systems. These lifestyles are in a constant whirl and lived on the edge of disaster. No one has time any more to meditate on how to gain control over his life.

Are we also allowing ourselves to be swept along on the crest of this surging tide of worldliness? Perhaps this is why Satan has created such a system.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control


 

The church did not literally go to sleep, but it was asleep spiritually. Here is what "sleep" indicates metaphorically: When we are asleep, what are we paying attention to? Nothing. If we are in a sound sleep, our minds are "dead to the world." We are not aware of anything that is going on, even of the passage of time.

We may have a dream or two, but that does not count. Usually, we pay such little attention when we wake up in the morning that we fail to remember what we dreamed, unless it is especially vivid. Still, the idea is this: that sleep indicates insensitivity to responsibility. If we were awake, we would pay attention to our responsibilities. We would do our work around the house or go earn our money at the office. But if we are asleep, we are insensitive to what is happening.

That is what occurred to the church. It was not literally asleep, but it became insensitive to its relationship with Jesus Christ. It became insensitive to its spiritual responsibilities. This do not mean that church members were out freely breaking the laws of God, but the relationship was still nonetheless deteriorating because of that lack of attention.

Another aspect of this is also very important: As the pressure increases from this world, it brings stress with it. From studying people closely, psychologists know that those who face frequent, stressful hardship become apathetic. In other words, a person reaches the point where finally he just rolls over, plays dead, and says, "Who cares?"

With that in mind, it is no wonder that Jesus says in Matthew 24:13, "He that endures to the end, the same will be saved." The end time will be stressful, whether or not we are being directly affected physically. The spirit of the age, the zeitgeist, will impact upon our minds, and it will tend to make us feel tired, weary of the whole thing, wishing that God would hurry up and get it over with.

That is, of course, understandable. It also helps us to understand why the Bible says some of the things it does regarding the church at the end time. A large portion of the church will be lulled into worldliness through being more concerned with ordinary, self-centered, secular pursuits than with the spiritual work of God. Jesus' warning in Luke 21:34-36—"take heed to yourselves" and "watch . . . and pray always"—is absolutely essential.


 

Laodiceanism is a form of idolatry. It is a kind of worldliness in which God is gradually pushed off into a small corner of a person's life, and in the meantime, the Laodicean's faith, his trust, is subtly shifted toward materialism. Faith gradually shifts to created things, even though God is acknowledged. That acknowledgement is something that we have to understand: A Laodicean is not outwardly anti-God. He is in all likelihood attending church services regularly and unbeknownst to him, he does not know that his faith has shifted to materialism.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian and the World (Part 8)


 

Genesis 3:6

Worldliness has been described as the love of beauty without a corresponding love of righteousness. This is correct, and comes right out of the “original sin” story that is told in Genesis 3:6.

Eve saw that the fruit was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and something to be desired. These three references concern the appeal of beauty. Unfortunately, as the record clearly shows, Adam and Eve did not love righteousness. Also contained in this sin are inferences of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:15-17).

The love of beauty and the pulls of temptation are inextricably entwined. People do not ordinarily desire ugly things. We have been made by Almighty God to love beauty and to seek it out even though no one's notion of beauty is exactly the same.

Beauty is being used in a very broad sense, simply as a term for things that are appealing and have the power to create desire within us. Thus, we desire things we deem beautiful, but the problem is that we do not have a corresponding love of righteousness, like Adam and Eve. We will break the laws of God in order to have what we consider beautiful. Sometimes people commit vicious evils to have what they find appealing and beautiful at the time.

Beauty is what is delightful to the senses, gratifying, and evokes admiration and excitement within a person. Therein lies its danger, and it does not matter what one finds delight in.

The result of having a love of beauty without a corresponding love of righteousness is, rather than dressing and keeping as we are commanded to do in Genesis 2, that we use and abuse. Unfortunately, much of this abuse is to our own body.

Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, the most beautiful spot on earth, because they did not love righteousness. This is a seriously simple, powerful lesson! The beauty was there to behold, even the beauty of the forbidden fruit, luring them. Did God put it there to tempt them into sin? No! He put it there for them to admire and bring glory to the Creator God in their rightful use of it. Instead, they abused their privilege because they did not love righteousness, and the beauty was taken away from them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism


 

Genesis 14:12

Step by step, Abram lived a godly life, and God chose him. Abram separated himself from the people of the land. But by chapter 14, we find Lot living in the city. Lot also lived his life by faith, but even though he was converted and knew the work of God, he chose to mix with the people of the land, being sucked right into their midst. When he decided to move, Lot may have not intended to be in the city, but on its outskirts. Nevertheless, he eventually ended up in the city.

It is not known why he moved. Perhaps Lot's wife was the cause, or possible his daughters, interested in marrying. Maybe it was Lot's idea, thinking business would be better in the city.

Lot's actions are in contrast to Moses'. Moses deliberately chose to turn his back on the world, while Lot deliberately chose to go toward the world. Consequently, Lot's association with the world wore down his spirituality and resistance, until his spiritual discernment was so weak that he did not really know the difference between right and wrong. He did not know what he wanted and lingered in the city just before it was to be destroyed. There is no surer way to go backward in one's spirituality, to blunt one's feelings and knowledge of sin, to dull spiritual discernment, than by mingling with the world.

David boasted in prosperity in Psalm 30:6-7, writing, "I shall never be moved." Lot's actions say the same, "It will not hurt for me to go down there. I shall never be moved." But Paul said, "Let those who think they stand take heed less they fall" (I Corinthians 10:12). Lot crashed. In his lack of faith and spiritual pride, he felt he could stand strong against the spiritual onslaught of the world. Lot became hesitating and undecided, a procrastinating man in the day of his trial because of the slow deterioration of his spiritual frame.

It could be reasoned that Lot did make it into the Kingdom of God. God does, after this, call him righteous. But God wants us to understand that, though we may forsake Him, and though He is magnanimous, merciful, forgiving, and full of grace, life could have been so much better.

It could have been so much better for Lot and his family. The Bible shows, especially in Genesis 19, that his voice carried no weight at all in the city of Sodom. No one listened to him. Not even his family listened to him. His family showed him little or no respect, even mocking him and showing contempt.

Why? This happens to anyone like Lot. They are eventually despised because their friends and relatives cannot deal with their insincerity. They would say, "Surely if he believed what he professes to believe, he would not do as he does."

Furthermore, there is a significant, meaningful omission in the Old Testament. The Old Testament writers have a pattern of telling what happened to a person at his death, but it says absolutely nothing about Lot. He just disappears from the scene, in a painful silence. This omission is the Bible's admission that this godly, righteous man had no impact.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 3)


 

Genesis 19:14

Do we live in a spiritual Sodom and Gomorrah? Is the end coming? Is Christ returning? Is the Kingdom of God fairly close? Are we lingering in the worldliness that surrounds us? It will take faith to walk away. Lot believed to such depth that he urged his sons-in-law, and yet he lingered. Lot knew the angels were there, standing by and waiting for him and his family. Even they tried to hasten him out, and yet Lot lingered.

He was slow when he should have been quick. He was backward when he should have been forward. He was trifling when he should have been hasty. He was cold when he should have been hot. He was loitering when he should have been hurrying. We might say today, "Was this man out of it, or what?" In a major sense, he was, yet he was a converted man.

The world around us is smoldering embers that will soon burst into the flames of the greatest tribulation that has ever hit the entirety of the earth. Unfortunately, many linger while the world is getting ready to burn. Lot is an example of a true Christian, who appears to know far more than he lives up to; he can see and understand far more than he practices.

Such people are thrilled to hear good, sound preaching. They believe in the doctrines of God, and yet they are constantly doing things that disappoint others around them. They believe in the Kingdom of God, and even seem to yearn for it. They hate Satan, believe in the Lake of Fire, yet it seems as if they do things to tempt Satan into testing them, putting the screws to them. They believe that time is short, but they act as though they wish it were long. They know that holiness is a beautiful thing—they like to read about it in books and love to see it in others—but they have the notion that it is impossible for them to be that holy and spiritual.

Lot represents those who dread personal sacrifice and shrink from self-denial. They have a horror of being considered narrow-minded, and so they tend to go to the opposite extreme, becoming so tolerant that they try to please everybody. They forget that they should first please God. These people are trying to keep up with the world. They are ingenious at discovering reasons for not separating from it, giving themselves all kinds of justifications for attending questionable amusements; wild, violent, sexual movies; or holding on to questionable relationships. They persuade themselves that it does good to mix a little with the world.

They cannot find it in themselves to do battle with their besetting sin, whether it be laziness, a bad temper, pride, excessive self-concern, vanity, or impatience. They allow it to remain in their mind, justifying it by thinking, "Well, that's just the way I am. My daddy before me was the same way, and that's the way mama was, and I guess that's the way I'll always be." They are lingering while the world is beginning to burn. These people are not really happy, for they know too much and are conscience-stricken. They are not really committed and they know it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 3)


 

Genesis 19:16

"Lot lingered." This statement does not describe his whole life, of course, but it seems to catch the essence of a dominant characteristic. He was not really focused on the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). Lot was not focused as his uncle, Abraham, was. If a person who was truly focused on the Kingdom of God yet who lived in Sodom had two angels come to saying, "Get out!" would he flee or would he linger? This tells us something about Lot: He was a man who was distracted by other interests that caught his eye and thus his attention.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 3)


 

Genesis 19:26

Her sin appears to some to be trifling: She "looked back." What she did may seem to be of little consequence, but it reveals a great deal about her character. She directly disobeyed the clear command of God's messenger given just a few verses before. I Samuel 15:22-23 says that "to obey is better than sacrifice, and . . . rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft." She rebelled.

It is a solemn and a fearful thing for one to die quietly in his bed. But to die suddenly in a moment, in the very act of a sin, by God's direct imposition is dreadful indeed. Jesus warns, "Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32). He did not say, "Remember Korah, Dathan, and Abiram." They also died suddenly. He did not say, "Remember Nadab and Abihu," who were burned by the fire of God. He did not say, "Remember Uzzah," whom God struck dead in a moment. He said, "Remember Lot's wife," for it has particular application to those who are living at the time of the end, who are facing the destruction of the very society, the very nation, in which they live. They will be living amidst the greatest contagion of worldliness that has ever existed on the earth since the time of Noah. Remember Lot's wife.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 4)


 

Genesis 19:26

Lot's wife did not merely look back—she dragged her heels from Sodom to Zoar, dawdling and wasting time. By conducting herself in this way, she gave unmistakable evidence that her heart did not believe what the angel had said to her—God would not really destroy all of their possessions. So she reluctantly left Sodom because she loved the world, not having the faith.

This has two direct applications to our lives. In Luke 17:32, Jesus said, "Remember Lot's wife." He says that she sought to save her life but lost it. The first lesson is that when the time comes to flee, flee! Do not look back. This is corroborated by Matthew 24:17 and Mark 13:15, in Jesus' Olivet prophecy. He said, “Let him who is on the housetop not come down.” Jesus meant, “Get out of the city. Flee. Do not look back. Do not get any of your possessions. Leave!”

This is not to minimize the gut-wrenching choices that this requires of us. Scripture implies that when this occurs, our family might be spread all over the city, county, state, nation, or globe. Will we have the faith to leave the city, not just without our material possessions, but without our children? Are we going to trust God that He will protect them and get them out, too? Though this is not easy, the word of our Lord says, “Remember Lot's wife.”

The second lesson is that saving one's life also pertains to one's way of life and manner of living. It includes one's hopes, dreams, aspirations, traditions, attitudes, and relationships. All of these have come from this world, which forms and makes us what we are, often in opposition to God (Romans 8:7). This is why John warns in I John 2:15 to “love not the world.” The world is cosmos, a system apart from God, being organized and regulated upon false principles and false values. It has made us what we are before God calls us, requiring our repentance and conversion.

Like science, conversion tells us there cannot be a vacuum in life. When we are swept clean by God's forgiveness and His Holy Spirit, something must be done to keep it clean, holy, and separated from the world. No man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), and therefore, loyalty cannot be given with neutrality. It will either be God or the world.

The way to God was open to Lot's wife because of her husband's conversion (I Corinthians 7:13-14). The problem was that she failed to take advantage of all the privileges that were given to her. She dropped the ball. The lesson is to whom much is given, much is required.

We must remember Lot's wife, for never has so much opportunity been given to really know God through His Word than has been given to the end-time church. Yet, when Christ asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8). The question requires each of us to answer individually. Will He find faith in us?

He will find faith if we take seriously His admonition to remember Lot's wife, who was totally unprepared because she had no faith. We need to be working diligently to build our faith in God by yielding to Him in loyalty in every opportunity life presents.

Remember Lot's wife.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 4)


 

Exodus 32:1-6

In Exodus 32:1-6 is an example of what happens when a leader goes away and does not return within the expected time. It provides a clear-cut example of what was happening to the Ephesian church (Revelation 2:4-5).

Moses went up Mount Sinai; Christ went up to Mount Zion in heaven. "What has become of him?" the people asked. "We do not know what has happened to him! He is up there. He is supposed to return, but He has not returned according to our expectations."

What do the Israelites decide to do? They began looking to the world for a solution, in this case to Egypt. In the Ephesians' case, it was the world around Ephesus, the world of Asia Minor. They looked to the culture to gratify them, and they began to drift in that direction.

Moses' return was delayed longer than the people thought that he should have been gone, so their affections pulled their attention elsewhere. The same happened to the Ephesians, only it took a lot longer because of the Spirit of God in them. The people in Exodus did not have the Spirit of God, yet the people in Ephesus—in the church—did have God's Spirit, so what took place very quickly in the book of Exodus was dragged out over a much longer period in the first-century church. The Ephesian's affections were taking them back into the world, and they began to follow the world's ways once again.

John W. Ritenbaugh
How to Know We Love Christ


 

Deuteronomy 12:29-31

Is it any wonder when the clergy—supposedly the guardians of religious purity—think so liberally, that the laity acts the way it does? The clergy shrug off the paganism in Christmas, claiming that it is harmless. Is it? Does it really make any difference whether we celebrate Christmas?

It certainly matters to God, the Lawgiver! It was because of these heathen practices that God drove out the inhabitants of the land. He did not—and does not—want His people to get caught in the process of judgment and punishment that results from broken law!

Notice that God says "that you are not ensnared." In the Bible, a snare is a figurative expression of destruction through deception. The snare itself does not destroy, but it leads to destruction. The Israelites heard these words in the last months before going into the Promised Land. God had set the land aside for them, but the people who inhabited it were still there. It was a ready-made nation for their use. The towns, fortifications, houses, farms, businesses—everything was ready for them to take over.

We too were born into an ready-made society. The world was already here when we came into it, and because we had no alternative, we accepted it without resistance. We absorbed the culture because our parents taught it to us. However, with our calling God now has us moving in the other direction, away from this world. We must reject the false practices of those who have inhabited the land before us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption


 

Deuteronomy 12:29-32

We must carefully evaluate the world's dangers because it has been—in the past, before conversion—the primary shaper of our sinful attitudes and characters. So powerful are the world's evil characteristics that Israelite history reveals that they were drawn into the most perverse and despicable heathen practices. The biblical record proves how easy it is for an individual to return to the old ways and how difficult it is to overcome them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)


 

Deuteronomy 30:19

God wants us to be fulfilled in life by following His way ("choose life," He says in Deuteronomy 30:19). He tells us what not to eat and warns us against gluttony and overdrinking. He tells us when and where to worship and who to fellowship with. His law even covers clothing, strongly urging modesty. Its principles reach into every aspect of life. Israel has been unfaithful to things similar to this and many more.

God's way is alluringly confronted and challenged on every side by what the New Testament calls the "world" (Greek cosmos). Cosmos means an organized system, but one opposed to the way of God's commandment. Babylon, meaning "confusion"—confusion regarding a way of life—is the Bible's code name for that system. God charges us in Revelation 18:4 to come out of that confused system, and the only way we can do that is to quit practicing Babylon's ways of doing things in the worship of its gods.

Israel, however, lives for the moment and for as much immediate gratification as possible. As a whole, she does not believe God and is afraid to pay the costs to break away and be peculiar or distinctive in a right way. She finds it easier to be like everyone else and be willingly accepted on the world's terms rather than her Husband's.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Six): The Woman's Character


 

Isaiah 52:10-11

Looking at this in its context, we see that it is speaking first of the exodus of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon, but it is also a prophecy, speaking of a future exodus from a future captivity—from the Babylon that is now forming in this present age. This is very timely for us.

While the Jews were in their seventy years of captivity in ancient Babylon, they did not have the freedom or opportunity to maintain either ritual or spiritual cleanliness, as they would have had in their homeland. About 300 years later, the celebration of Hanukkah—meaning "dedication"—arose from the Jews' attempts to cleanse the worship of God following Antiochus Epiphanes and the Greek army's defilement of the Temple during warfare.

These verses are an urgent command, reminding them of their responsibility to cast off personal defilement of any paganism (or, as we would say today, any worldliness) picked up during their captivity. This had to be done to restore the true worship of the true God when they returned to Jerusalem.

The Living Bible translates verse 11 as follows:

Go now, leave your bonds and slavery. Put Babylon and all it represents far behind you—it is unclean to you. You are the holy people of the LORD; purify yourselves, all you who carry home the vessels of the LORD. (Emphasis ours.)

Their responsibility is clear. Who would be carrying the holy vessels? The priests. We need to note this inference since the whole church is a priesthood, and is so designated in I Peter.

John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part 2)


 

Isaiah 55:8-9

When we do not think like God, we are not in His image. We cannot say as Jesus did, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). God, in His wisdom, has willed that we grow in His image through exercising faith in what He says, buttressed by what He reveals of Himself in His creation.

The fundamental difference between the person of faith and the unbeliever is revealed by the way they judge things. The unbeliever, of the world, judges things by worldly standards, by his senses, and by time. The person learning to think like God brings God into everything, viewing things from His perspective, by His values. He ascertains how the activity, event, or thing looks in terms of eternity. He seriously meditates on God's sovereignty over all things. At times, doing this puts the screws to his trust because the Bible says that God's judgments are "unsearchable . . . and his ways past finding out" (Romans 11:33). Faith holds a person steady.

Because we often do not think like Him, and because we do not have His perfect perspective, we often do not exactly know what God is doing. Only in hindsight do we understand what is occurring in our personal life, to the church, or in the world in the outworking of prophecy. So we must trust Him, and in the meantime weigh what is happening and its possible outcome.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Ezekiel 22:25-30

Do we have a wall to keep the enemies of God's way out of our lives and homes? Have we set boundaries against the world, or have we torn down the wall? If we have a wall, are we leaving the gates open and unguarded? Are we willing to fight to defend our families and our church? Or do we just let the enemy stream in unchallenged? Are we willing to stand up to the world?

This particular wall is not one of brick and stone, but a spiritual wall anchored by God, designed to keep spiritual problems out. I Timothy 5:8 says that if we fail to provide for the needs of our loved ones—both physically and spiritually—we are worse than an unbeliever! Have we done anything to protect our families—or has worldliness hurdled our puny walls, totally pervading every aspect of our lives?

Satan hates walls. "Let's all be one happy family," he whispers in our ears. "Walls are for the immature. You're spiritually mature now, so you can handle immorality without a problem." Do not fall for this line.

God Himself teaches us through His example to erect impregnable bulwarks against Satan. He placed cherubim with flaming swords at the entrance to the Garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24), and even New Jerusalem will have towering walls and gates (Revelation 21:12, 14). In type, the church is to be a wall (Song of Songs 8:10), within which peace dwells and righteousness flourishes.

God supplies this spiritual wall to those who seek His Way, His providence, and His will. The work of rebuilding our personal wall is the effort we put into seeking a strong relationship with Him, and He then provides the defenses for us. God becomes our wall.

God puts a wall around His people to keep Satan at bay, as in the example of Job. Satan complains, "Have You not made a hedge [wall] around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side?" (Job 1:10). Only after God removed the wall could Satan attack Job—and he wasted no time doing so! Surely, we see the lesson in this.

If we reject God, break down the wall or neglect our relationship with Him, what happens? "[W]hoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a serpent" (Ecclesiastes 10:8). The Bible depicts Satan as a serpent. Many of our brethren have allowed their walls to crumble, and Satan has struck.

Sometimes God Himself tears down our walls because of our sins (Isaiah 5:4-5). As Paul puts it, He delivers us to Satan for the destruction of our flesh in the hope we will repent (I Corinthians 5:5). The surest way to restore the wall is through sincere and complete repentance. Playing at the repair job, daubing bits of untempered mortar here and there, will only increase God's wrath (Ezekiel 13:8-16). Such a wall, lacking God, gives the impression of security but crumbles at the smallest enemy strike. We must be totally committed to restoring our neglected relationship with God, thus restoring God's presence as the wall.

Staff
Rebuilding the Wall


 

Hosea 4:11-12

Undoubtedly, the Israelites of Hosea's day were literally getting drunk and involved in harlotry, but for us today the application is spiritual. At the end time, God predicts, His people will be deceived by a force near demoniacal in its deceptive power. Because of their closeness to the world, they will share the great harlot's attitude, "drunk with the wine of her fornication" (Revelation 17:2).

Hosea's word-picture illustrates the effect a drug like alcohol has on a person's mind. Under the influence of alcohol, one's reactions slow, even though the person thinks he has better control. Most fatal accidents in the United States involve automobiles and roughly half of them occur with at least one driver under the influence. In driving while intoxicated, one's ability to make right decisions is severely hampered. Alcohol obscures judgment. When one cannot think clearly, a sound judgment is nearly impossible.

Linked to this inability to make sound judgments is the destruction of inhibitions, modesty and restraint. In addition, alcohol produces a false sense of security and confidence, so people do silly and senseless things while drunk and regret them along with their hangovers.

The same process occurs to a person drunk with the wine of the wrath of this spiritual prostitute. The attitude of this world deprives people of their spiritual judgment and removes their spiritual inhibitions. Their resistance to evil weakens, and they will begin to do things that they vowed they would never do. Like a drunken man's fidelity to his wife is destroyed by wine, so is a Christian's loyalty to God when he imbibes of this world's attitudes. His judgment is shattered.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Amos 6:4-6

What a picture of excess and uselessness! Like Babylon, these people live in indolent luxury, surrounding themselves with the latest creature comforts, overindulging in rich and expensive food and drink. A glass or a cup is not enough for them—they must drink wine from bowls to satisfy their addictions! They sing songs that mean nothing, but in their hearts they think their songs and music equal to David's! Life is a party! And all they have to show for their lives is a lack of judgment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Amos 6:4-6

Amos 6:4-6 mentions feasting, indulging in artificial stimulation, listening to unusual music, and taking excessive and vain measures in personal hygiene. The single idea behind these illustrations is that the excesses of powerful Israelites were possible because of their oppression of the weak and poor.

By contrast, verses 9-10 show ten common Israelites huddled together in one house in fear of the war-induced plagues. People will die so rapidly that the survivors, looking out for themselves, will not take the time to bury the bodies of their own families but burn them in huge funeral pyres. These survivors will eventually recognize that God has dissociated Himself from them, and they will consider it an evil thing even to mention His name! How very bitter! And how very far from God!

The people, whether rich and indulgent or poor and deprived, were self-concerned. Throughout chapter six, Amos balances complacency and disaster, boasting and fear, showing that they result from rejecting God and idolizing self. Inevitably, God will send judgment upon Israel.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Haggai 2:11-14

To both questions the priests give a correct answer. Using the laws of clean and unclean, God points out a principle that applies to Christians today. Very simply, God says that it is impossible for God's holiness, in us because of our relationship with Him and the indwelling of His Spirit, to pass from us to the world. In other words, if a holy thing touches a profane thing, the profane item does not become holy.

On the other hand, the attitude of the world, if it comes in contact with His people, can pass from the world into us. Using the above wording, if a profane thing touches a holy thing, the holy item is contaminated. The spiritual principle for today's Christian is obvious: The world will contaminate your holiness, if you are not on guard against it.

Reading these verses from The Living Bible makes God's meaning very clear. Though it is not an exact translation, but a thought-for-thought paraphrase, the point is correct.

Ask the priests this question about the law: "If one of you is carrying a holy sacrifice in his robes, and happens to brush against some bread or wine or meat, will it too become holy?" "No," the priests replied. "Holiness does not pass to other things that way." Then Haggai asked, "But if someone touches a dead person, and so becomes ceremonially impure, and then brushes against something, does it become contaminated?" And the priests answered, "Yes." Haggai then made his meaning clear. "You people," he said (speaking for the Lord), "were contaminating your sacrifices by living with selfish attitudes and evil hearts—and not only your sacrifices, but everything else that you did as a 'service' to me." (Haggai 2:11-14)

The people, having absorbed the prevalent attitude of the world, became infected by it. As we have seen repeatedly, their relationship with God quickly deteriorated into estrangement—just as the Laodicean's does.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 7:11

This scripture succinctly state how God perceives all the world and its inhabitants, regardless of one's particular environmental factors. The context of Matthew 7 gives no indication that the people who comprised Jesus' audience were particularly evil; they were just normal human beings. Yet, compared to God's standards for His people, their natural self-centeredness was stressful, disruptive, destructive, and calamitous—not beneficial to any concerned. In a word, they were evil.

The people to whom Jesus spoke were normal, worldly people. They would not have considered themselves evil, but they were, as God judged them. So are we also evil unless we have been justified and are under the blood of Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)


 

Matthew 13:7

The thorny ground represents those who are consumed by the cares and anxieties of this physical life and the deceitful enticements of wealth. The constant pressures of ordinary life—providing for our needs, education, employment, social duties, etc.—can be distracting, causing us to ignore God and Christian growth.

The desire for wealth magnifies this distraction (I Timothy 6:7-11). Wealth is enticing but never yields the expected rewards; it promises to make us happy but, when gained, does not. Further, in pursuing wealth, we are tempted to be dishonest, cheat, oppress, and take advantage of others.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Sower


 

Matthew 13:7-8

The thorny ground symbolizes those who become consumed by the anxieties of this physical life and the deceitful enticement of wealth. The constant pressures of everyday life?providing sustenance, maintaining employment, seeking education, performing social duties, etc.?can be distracting, causing Christians to ignore God and spiritual growth.

The desire for wealth magnifies this distraction. It is enticing but yields the expected rewards: It promises to make us happy, but when gained, leaves us spiritually empty (I Timothy 6:7-10). The temptation and pursuit of wealth produces bad fruit: dishonesty, stealing, oppression of the poor, and taking advantage of others.

The good ground corresponds to those whose hearts and minds are softened by God's calling and receive it genuinely. They are a rich and fine soil?a mind that submits itself to the full influence of God's truth (Acts 22:14; Ephesians 4:1-6). The called of God not only accept His Word?the message of Jesus Christ?as rich soil accepts a seed for growth, they also bear much fruit (John 15:5, 8).

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part Two): The Parable of the Sower


 

Matthew 24:36-39

The thrust of Jesus' message is clear beyond question. He is concerned that when He returns, people will be so focused on—and thus distracted by—the secular concerns of life that they will be unprepared for the climactic events of His return. His concern is enhanced by three parables that follow this section, each dealing with the state of urgency and readiness we need to have as that time approaches.

Why would a Christian not be prepared as the end nears, when we should know full well that we are close? The answer is fairly obvious. Those caught in this "pre-flood syndrome" have their minds on something else.

The Parable of the Sower and the Seed addresses this clearly: "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world . . . choke the word" (Matthew 13:22). "The cares of this world" catch the people's attention as the "flood" begins and contribute to their deterioration.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Flood Is Upon Us!


 

Matthew 24:37

Some feel we have reached a time in history that parallels the period just before the Flood. God recorded what conditions were like as Noah was building the ark: "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). What a horrifying thought! What danger and oppression must have lurked at every turn!

Yet Jesus predicts in a prophecy regarding the time of the end—the time we live in today, "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." In a larger, more general context, Jesus meant that, despite the dangerous, portentous events occurring all around them, people will be going about their normal routines without seriously considering the meaning of these events (Matthew 24:38-39). They will not take the time to wonder if these cataclysmic events are affecting them personally.

How about you? Even though we are living in momentous times, we are easily distracted from their importance by our high standard of living and convenient access to just about anything we desire. The nations of western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States are, for the most part, wallowing in unprecedented technological luxury. Much to our spiritual detriment, our lives are caught up in our possessions and keeping our noses above water economically.

But we must not allow this to happen any longer! Time and prophecy are relentlessly marching on. The book of Amos records an almost exact parallel account to what is happening in our day. It chronicles the social, political, economic, military, and religious conditions and attitudes prevalent in ancient Israel in about 760 BC. This was about forty years before Assyria invaded and completely devastated the nation. So awesome was Israel's defeat that, as far as the world is concerned, her people disappeared from history! They are known as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel today.

Amos is not a happy book to read. It does not contain the encouraging, soaring, and hope-inspiring prophecies of Isaiah. No, Amos speaks of almost unending gloom and doom. This presents an interesting contrast when seen against Israel's surging power, wealth, and influence. During the days of Amos' ministry, the nation was undergoing a burst of prosperity second only to Solomon's time. On the surface, it appeared that Israel's prosperity indicated God's pleasure, but Amos' words prove beyond any doubt that God was not pleased at all! He was deadly serious! If the people would not repent, they were doomed!

The Israelites did not repent. They suffered war, famine, pestilence, and captivity as a result. Tens of thousands died. They learned the hard way that God means exactly what He says through His prophets (Amos 3:7).

Though Amos describes what was literally happening in ancient Israel, God intended the message for us, the physical and/or spiritual descendants of Israel. It was written to stir us to action, seeing that the times indicate Jesus Christ will return soon.

Amos clearly shows that our nations are headed along the same path to destruction as ancient Israel. There is still hope that we will turn around and avoid the wrath of God, but as each day passes, it becomes more unlikely. We have many lessons to learn, and we seem determined to learn them the hard way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Luke 9:62

This "looking back" is not merely reflecting to evaluate the progress made since one decided to leave the world. Instead, it is like Lot's wife, who looked back with a degree of longing to return to what she had left. Her life was literally on the line, and rather than being fully engaged in surviving, she placed a higher priority on life's lesser matters than on the greater one of preserving her life through God's gift of protection.

She looked back, revealing her heart still to be in Sodom, a type of the world. Her action indicates regret for having left. Success in God's way requires following an awesome vision of future glory with devoted conviction. Abraham is a primary example: He looked for a city built by God, apparently leaving his homeland without ever looking back (Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16).

Once we commit to Christianity, God's calling becomes our vocation, which requires our concentrated attention going forward. A vocation is a person's regular occupation. What happens when a Christian looks back with a measure of longing is similar to someone talking on a cell phone while driving his car. He frequently drifts all over the road, swerving this way and that because, at best, his attention is split between conflicting priorities. He is setting himself up for trouble, and all too frequently, an accident occurs. A Christian cannot make a beeline for the Kingdom with his attention diverted elsewhere. We are not to be anything but altogether followers of the Son of God. The stakes are that high, for the fulfillment of His promise is so great.

Dramatic, sudden death, as happened to Lot's wife, will not likely happen to us if we gaze yearningly behind us. For this reason, a person who has begun to fall away will most likely take the second step backwards with hardly a pause. Hebrews 10:39 says, "But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." Almost invariably, longing for the old life is followed by gradually and increasingly believing that God's requirements are too exacting and difficult.

In Jesus' parable in Luke 19:11-27, did not the man given one mina complain something similar to this when asked what he had gained with it? "Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow" (verses 20-21).

We must be prepared to put God first in all things. There will be times when this will be exceedingly difficult, especially if the surrender of a thing involves the sacrifice of someone or something deeply loved or desired. It can happen, but such occasions are quite rare.

It has been said that he who is unwilling to sacrifice everything for the cause of God is really willing to sacrifice nothing. Drawing back happens despite God's promise that every trial is measured to the exact specifications needed by the individual Christian. In I Corinthians 10:13, God promises to provide relief from every problem: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." The word-picture in Hebrews 10:39 portrays a person shrinking back from following through on the demands of faith. He is looking for an easy way out of some distasteful thing he does not wish to face. This eventually happens to us all.

A major appeal of the world's way is that it seems to be broader and easier. As Jesus says in Matthew 7:13, the easier, broader way it probably is - for a while. That deceptively effortless way draws the person ever-further from salvation, and he grows steadily weaker as he loses contact with God. The one who apostatizes thus permits himself to be drawn back.

The third step is taken when a person actually turns away. John 6:65-66 records such an occasion in Jesus' ministry: "And He said, 'Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.' From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more." In this poignant scene, Jesus watched people who may have been friends leave His entourage because they could not comprehend His teaching. He undoubtedly had spoken of things of an order far higher than they were accustomed to hearing, but rather than patiently facing it, as the apostles did, they simply gave up, proving themselves unfit for the Kingdom of God. Their loyalty could not stand the strain of what may have been merely a temporary misunderstanding. They had been followers, but apparently, they were seeking for something else.

By this stage, it is still not too late for a person to grab hold of himself and move forward, but the world's appeal has become almost overpowering. Spiritual decline has reached the tipping point, and he is in serious peril.

The fourth and final step backward is illustrated by Isaiah in the Old Testament: "But the word of the LORD was to them, 'Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.' That they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught" (Isaiah 28:13).

In examining the context carefully, we see that the people being described have reached the critical point where God's Word is falling on deaf ears. It is to them just jumbled noise. In New Testament terms, they had backslid beyond the reach of repentance and forgiveness. Here, the apostate reaches the point of no return; he has earned the Lake of Fire.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Power: Our Shield Against Apostasy


 

Luke 14:18

This excuse raises some questions: Would a Jew buy land sight-unseen? If he had, how could he see what it was like in the dark? Could he not wait until morning to inspect it? Most likely, the man had seen it before buying it, but he was more concerned about his investment than in an invitation to supper. He represents those whose possessions require all their attention. He allows his physical wealth to rob him of spiritual wealth (James 5:1-3; Matthew 6:19-21). People sometimes plead that they must neglect obedience to God, justifying themselves as so pressed by the affairs of the world that they cannot find time to pray, read the Scriptures, or worship God (Matthew 13:22). This kind of thinking reveals spiritual blindness. God does not allow any excuse for neglecting His way of life, commanding us to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Great Supper


 

Luke 15:13

The far country symbolizes forgetfulness of God (Deuteronomy 8:11, 14, 19), the condition Paul describes as "alienated from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:17-19). All the dissatisfied young man wants to do is to satisfy his senses and desires. After disillusionment, destitution, and degradation, the prodigal, feeling no longer worthy to be called a son, decides to ask his father to make him one of his servants.

The far country is the place people go to remove themselves as far from God the Father as possible. It represents the world, the place where evil flourishes, where it is the norm, popular, and acceptable. In it, the perversions of society—lying, adultery, abortion, homosexuality, and many others—are tolerated and even celebrated (I John 2:15-17).

The far country signifies the abode of the ungodly, those with whom the prodigal son feels most comfortable. The righteous cause him discomfort because he cannot over-drink, smoke, cuss, or tell dirty jokes when he is with them. The godly stifle him because he feels pressured to produce the fruit of self-control. The far country is the state of mind that is enmity toward God (Romans 8:7).

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Luke 15 (Part Three)


 

Luke 17:32

Just before Lot's wife reached her place of safety—though she had made some effort to escape the impending disaster—Lot's wife disobeyed the angel's command and looked back. "She became a pillar of salt" (Genesis 19:26).

Why did she look back? The context does not specifically give a reason, but she probably had an inordinate love for the world and the material things she had in Sodom. Obviously, Lot was a wealthy man who had enough livestock and servants to cause a problem while he lived with Abraham (Genesis 13:5-7). He and his wife may have had a palatial house with many fine furnishings, servants to do her bidding, fine clothes, sumptuous food, and frequent entertainment.

Also, Lot had achieved prominence among the citizens of Sodom beyond his wealth. Genesis 19:1 shows him sitting in the gate of the city, a place usually reserved for the elders and judges. Lot's wife may have been reconsidering her decision to forsake the privileges of her high social status and her prominent friends.

Maybe she just loved the ways of this world more than God. John writes:

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 lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (I John 2:15-17)

There may be more to it, however, than we have thought. Most people assume that Lot had only two daughters, but this is not the case. He says to the Sodomites, "See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man" (Genesis 19:8). He had two unmarried daughters. Later, in verse 14, he "spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters," meaning he had other married daughters who were not virgins. Finally, the angels tell him, "Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here" (verse 15), implying he had daughters elsewhere.

Since Lot and his wife had more than two daughters, they left more than just material possessions in the city. When God rained down fire and brimstone upon Sodom, their married daughters and sons-in-law—and possibly grandchildren—perished with the rest of the city's populace. What a poignant and tragic test of their faith!

Thus, when Lot's wife fled for little Zoar, her wealth, her house, and her social circle were not the only things on her mind. Those concerns were insignificant beside the certain death of her flesh and blood. Perhaps she did not believe that God would follow through on His threat. As a loving mother, her emotions for her doomed family in the city clouded her ability to make proper decisions.

Jesus makes a pertinent comment in this regard in Matthew 10:37-39:

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Though it goes against our human nature, God requires us to have more allegiance to Him than to the members of our own families. For His disciples, leaving family members behind to do God's will may be the most common hardship that they have to face as they come out of this world (Revelation 18:4). Perhaps this is why He reminds us to "remember Lot's wife." The day may soon come when we will have to heed God's warnings without hesitation to flee again.

"In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back" (Luke 17:31). When God commands His elect to flee to a place of safety, many of us will be required to entrust family members to God's mercy. Without doubt, this will be one of the greatest tests of our spiritual lives. We will know that before us lie life and hope and behind us death and destruction, just as Lot and his family experienced in fleeing Sodom.

Ted E. Bowling
Remember Lot's Wife


 

Luke 21:34

Of itself, having a party is not wrong. But what happens when Babylon reaches the apex of its influence on men's lives? People fall into dissipation, into abuse of their God-given responsibilities. Christ worries that although we intellectually say the world is full of self-centeredness and excess, we will still find it attractive. Thus, He warns us to be careful because, if not, the consequence is that the Day will come on us unexpectedly. This is sobering!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Romans 1:18-20

In Romans 1:18-20, Paul asserts that things involving God's existence, power, and nature are clearly seen, but mankind suppresses the truth. What God wants man to know, man willingly ignores and suppresses through the addition of beliefs, customs, and traditions that cloak the truth. The truth is still there, hidden behind a screen of falsehoods that most never attempt to remove.

Theologians call this process syncretism. According to Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, it is "the combination of different forms of belief or practice." Syncretism could possibly describe other fields, like philosophy, but scholars use it almost exclusively in religious contexts. Syncretize, the verb form of the word, is very revealing. It means "to attempt to unite and harmonize especially without critical examination or logical unity." In other words, those who syncretize will frequently attach one belief or practice to their religion without trying to ascertain whether it is proper to do so.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption


 

Romans 8:7

The carnal mind is hostile to God and subsequently to one's neighbor. Because Satan's spirit is hostile to law, all who bear his image are hostile to law, breaking laws, taking advantage of each other. They are self-centered just like Satan, interested only in the protection and the increase of themselves.

Here is the basic drive of that spirit, its heart and core: overweening pride. Remember, Satan is "the king of pride." Overweening pride reveals itself in hostility, animosity, hatred, malice, deceit, anger, cunning, competition, resentment, bitterness, self-pity, and intellectual vanity. Every one of these attributes divides people against each other.

Consider how that spirit divided the Jews from Jesus. That spirit eventually led them to divide to the ultimate: They murdered Him. They took His life, defending themselves from the truth that He was preaching to them. The animosity, the hostility to God has never been shown more clearly in the Jews' relationship with Jesus Christ. What God tells us is we have the same spirit as those people. We have been marked.

This is only a partial list of this mark, a partial list of the spirit that emanates from Satan. All we have to do to add to the list is to think of those attitudes that drove Satan to persuade one-third of the angels, organize them, and then lead them into war against God, and we will discover the elements of that spirit emanating from the Beast and marking men.

Have we ever felt any of these attitudes toward some of our brethren in the church? Perhaps so strong that we do not want to be around them, so we do what we can to divide from them because they actually become repulsive to us? We become convinced that they are evil, unconverted, that we cannot control them so that they will do or be what we want them to do or be. When this happens, the mark—the spirit of this world—worldliness—might just be gaining the upper hand in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Spiritual Mark of the Beast


 

Romans 12:2

The Phillips translation says, "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould," a vivid picture and excellent interpretation of what Paul really meant. If one is not alert and resisting its temptations, the world has the power to form and shape a person. It must be resisted!

In the previous verse, Paul says we need to sacrifice ourselves and strongly implies that such sacrifice involves pain. Babylon avoids suffering at all costs (Revelation 18:7)! If we fail to sacrifice ourselves, the world will have free sway and squeeze us into its mold. The world has an influence on the mind (called "the heart" in the Bible), on our emotions, and on our attitudes, and this influence ultimately shows in our conduct. Conduct begins with our attitudes, with our points of view, with our values, standards, and ideals. If those values, standards, and ideals contradict the way of God, we cannot resist the world's constant pressure to squeeze us into its mold.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Romans 12:2

After being willing to sacrifice (verse 1), the next step to unity is throwing off the world, human nature, and inferior way of life that we have learned in this world. We could also say we must get rid of the old man and put on Christ, the new man (Romans 13:14; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). Paul later says we have to transform and renew our way of life and our thinking processes (II Corinthians 3:18; 4:16; Ephesians 4:23), and by doing so, we approve and are convicted by God's will. Only by going through this process do we finally get thoroughly in our minds and hearts what God wants us to do to live God's eternal way of life. If we never start walking that walk, we will never prove it, and thus we will never be unified.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

2 Corinthians 5:14-18

Paul uses very strong language here. Not one part of this system will be carried over into the World Tomorrow! The whole thing is unclean, something that contaminates and defiles, rendering unholy those who are touched by it (Haggai 2:10-14). The world is most dangerous to a Christian when it is not persecuting them. It seems friendly, tolerant, even producing good, but God says even then it is still unclean. It is God's judgment that counts.

John W. Ritenbaugh
This Is Not God's World


 

Galatians 1:4

We easily recognize that Christ died for our sins. But why? ". . . that He might deliver us from this present evil age."

The word translated "deliver" does not just mean being delivered from bondage, the way the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt. It means instead, "rescued from the power of." The meaning "delivery away from" may be implied, but that is not the primary meaning here. The power of this present evil world lies in its ability and power to make an impression upon us or make us conform to its ways.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 5:10, "I didn't mean that you should go out of the world, but rather that you should not fellowship with one who is a brother and who has this sin." He is not talking about leaving a place but about being rescued from the power of this world to impress its ideas, manners, ways, customs, and traditions upon us. Paul reiterates this in Romans 12:2: "Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold" (Phillips). That is what we have been delivered from—not God's law, but the power of the world to squeeze us into its mold.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Childrearing (Part 3)


 

Galatians 1:4

Much of the controversy involved in this letter has to do with Gnostic Judaism, which was not the system that God gave to Moses. Judaism was the national religion of the Jews during Christ's and Paul's time, but it had only a very loose basis on the law of the Old Covenant.

Paul refers to the sacrifice of Christ here as a reminder that He fulfilled the sacrificial law—in living a sinless life and then willingly laying it down, He fulfilled the requirements of every sacrificial ordinance, such that the "blood of bulls and goats" was no longer required in a physical sense. Fulfillment does not equal absolution, however; James 2:8 shows that when we "fulfill" the royal law according to Scripture, we are doing what is right, and there is no way to stretch this into saying that we each individually do away with the law. In Matthew 5:17, Christ shows that fulfilling is the opposite of destroying. Christ's fulfilling of the Law and the Prophets is to be an example for us to follow (Galatians 6:2; Colossians 1:25; II Thessalonians 1:11; James 2:8).

The "world" being referred to here is the Greek aion and means "age"—a time period. The "present evil world" or "present evil age" which we need to be delivered from by God could be a reference to the strong influence the Jews had on the Galatians, as well as the Jews' wish to bind them (the Galatians) to the traditions and ordinances they had added to God's instruction, which He calls "burdens" elsewhere (Matthew 23:4; Acts 15:10).

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:4

There were a number of accepted belief systems in the area of Palestine and the wider Roman Empire at the time this was written, such as Gnosticism and Judaism, but it is certain that God's truth was never popular or widely accepted. It is practically a foregone conclusion that someone practicing the truth will be persecuted for it to one degree or another (Matthew 13:21; Romans 8:35-36; Galatians 5:11; II Timothy 3:12; I Peter 2:19-21). In fact, the churches of Galatia (in what is now Turkey) may have been forewarned about this by Paul when he was teaching in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (all on the south-eastern border of Galatia) as recorded in Acts 14:20-22. Christians are called to be separate from this world and its ways, and when the world recognizes this difference, it lashes out.

From Paul's writing, it seems that the Galatians had the proper foundation at one time, and they really did understand the truth at the beginning of their spiritual lives. This would have been the time when they were actively standing up for the truth, and a great contrast would have been evident between the Galatians and the general population. This is when they would have suffered—in the internal struggle of having to give up their former conduct, or with the external struggle of not fitting in with the rest of society.

As the Galatians began to slide into apostasy, they would no longer have been so repulsive to the people around them, and the suffering and persecution would have begun to lessen. The world would have started to recognize itself in them again (see John 15:19).

In essence, Paul is asking them if they are just going to throw away all that they had learned, especially what they had learned through adversity. With this question he is pointing out that, if they fall away, everything they had been through, both good and bad, would have been in vain in the sense that there would be no future profit from it. They would have received the maximum benefit from it already. This relates to Romans 8:28, where we are promised that all that we suffer will be redeemed for those who meet the requirements listed—those who are called according to His purpose, which the Galatian Christians were, and those who love God, which the Galatians were not doing in that they were relegating Christ's sacrifice for sin as meaningless.

David C. Grabbe


 

Ephesians 2:2

In Ephesians 2:2, Paul writes of "the course of this world." The Greek word kosmos, translated into the English word "world," essentially means an "orderly system." To human eyes beholding all the activity throughout the earth, the world looks anything but orderly. It looks confusing, to say the least. However, that conclusion depends on one's perspective.

What is going on to discerning eyes, the eyes of one to whom God has revealed Himself, is an orderly system of deception cloaked by restless activity among humans involved in constant wars, thousands of religions, evil conduct, corrupting entertainments, and other distracting, time-wasting business and social vanities. All of this restless activity is in reality nothing but a smokescreen hiding a sinister influence from discovery.

Notice something to which we generally do not pay much attention. The word "world" appears as the object of the preposition "of." This prepositional phrase modifies "course," showing us that Paul is speaking of a specific "course" available to us to choose from among others. The Greek word translated "course," aion, is especially interesting. At first, it indicates "an age," "an indefinite period of time," and by extension, "perpetuity."

However, Vine's Dictionary of New Testament Words provides an interesting alternative, saying that it also means, "Time viewed in relation to what takes place during that period" (emphasis added). Aion, then, does not have to mean simply "time" in some form: Vine shows that it is correctly translated "place" in Hebrews 5:6. Other commentators go into greater detail, but we will quote only two highly respected ones that other commentators frequently cite as authorities.

First, Richard C. Trench is a resource virtually every commentator eventually quotes on the definitions of biblical words. He defines aion as:

. . . all that floating mass of thought, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims and aspirations at any time current in the world, which is impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitutes a most real and effective power, being our moral or immoral atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale, again inevitably exhale.

Aion, translated as "course" in Ephesians 2:2, is the vague, ever-present immaterial realm that we are surrounded by and live in. It is interesting that Trench ties his definition to air, in that, even as we unconsciously breathe air in and out to sustain life, the course of the world is every bit as necessary to carnal life and is affecting us invisibly and constantly.

Second, Johann A. Bengel adds that aion is ". . . the subtle informing spirit of the Kosmos, or world of men who are living alienated and apart from God." This is what Germans termed zeitgeist, the spirit of the age—the "informing spirit"! The term "spirit" is used to indicate the invisible, immaterial influence whose characteristics are absorbed and then manifested in the attitudes and conduct of the general population of a given people.

An American commentator, Kenneth Wuest, is very helpful at this juncture:

To distinguish between aion and kosmos, kosmos gives the over-all picture of mankind alienated from God during all of history, and aion represents any distinct age or period of human history as marked out from another by particular characteristics.

Course in Roget's International Thesaurus, under the heading "tendency," has such synonyms as "thoughts," "zeitgeist," "spirit," "disposition," "character," "nature," "makeup," "bent," "slant," "frame of mind," "attitude," "inclination," "mind-set," "drift," "perspective," and many more. It may be easier to understand "course of this world" by rephrasing it into statements such as, "according to the disposition of this world"; "according to the character of this world"; "according to the nature of this world"; "according to the makeup of this world"; "according to the mindset, drift, or perspective of this world."

This is the spirit from which we must be converted. It is the unseen foundation and fountain of our pre-conversion conduct, and it is the same spirit still motivating us when we act carnally or in the flesh. Despite conversion, it remains within us, compressed like a spring that is ready to jump into action and influence our conduct.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part One)


 

Colossians 2:18-19

In these verses, Paul again warns the Colossians that they should not allow the pressures of the society in which they lived have any influence on their beliefs or practices and repeats his exhortation for them to look to the church alone for their spiritual nourishment and growth.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Are the Sabbath and Holy Days Done Away?


 

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Self-centeredness will produce the crisis at the close of this age. Its evils will reach a climax that can be compared to the time just before the Flood or to Sodom and Gomorrah. Self-centeredness, everyone having his own perception of beauty and pursuing it to the nth degree, is the driving force behind the perilous time of the end. It will be a time that fits the description in Judges 21:25 when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes." During the period of the judges no one could provide central leadership because people said, "This is what I believe; this is what I'm going to follow."

So it will be at the end. People will abuse one another to possess the things they hold to be beautiful, like money or power. "[Men will be] . . . lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good" (II Timothy 3:2-3).

The concept of "men will be lovers of themselves" (verse 2) continues in verse 5: "[H]aving a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" Verse 7 identifies them further: these people are "always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

Within God's warning of what it will be like at the end, He lists the traits that Christians must fight against when self-centeredness reaches its peak. But the Laodicean does not resist as he should, and that is his problem! Though converted, he has an attitude of self-centeredness, strong enough that his mind is diverted from more important spiritual concerns!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

2 Timothy 4:3-5

We see here indications of the influence of the world, the influence of the Babylonian mystery religion, surrounding Christians wherever they might live. It gradually wears them down simply by its presence as well as by occasional, open persecution against Christians. These Christians were gradually weakening rather than growing, and beginning to feel that the best thing to do was to give in—inch by inch—to what was happening. They were beginning to request of the ministry teachings that were deviating from the truth that the apostles had given them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)


 

Titus 2:13

The thrust of Paul's exhortation is to encourage us to quit looking back with longing to the world and our former lives and to live in the present with our minds focused with eager and active expectation on our Savior's return. If we are doing these things, we are preparing for that future great event. Eagerly anticipating the imminent fulfillment of our earnest desire for Christ's return motivates us to modify our conduct in the present evil world.

If we do not have this glorious hope in us, we will very likely just drift around, squandering our time in useless, trivial, but perhaps exciting carnal pursuits. We will fail to use the grace of God toward growing in His image and producing fruit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

James 4:4

To have a warm, familiar attitude with this world is to be on good terms with God's enemy. What does it mean, in more practical terms, to be a friend of the world? It is to adopt the world's set of values and wants, to desire what the world wants instead of choosing according to divine standards or divine truths.

In other words, if a person does that, he has actually made himself subject to Satan because Satan is the god of this world! That is a choice that we want to avoid. The worldly person will almost invariably choose to satisfy himself and take action on his desire, which eventually produces confusion, division, and war. It cannot be otherwise because the spirit of the world is the spirit of Satan, and laws are at work that will produce what they are designed to produce.

That was the problem in the congregation to which James wrote. If another apostle had been writing it, such as the apostle Paul did in I Corinthians 3, he would say, "You are yet carnal." These were converted people but still carnal, and they were showing it through their choices. It was not that they did not have the Spirit of God but that they were still so weak spiritually. They were choosing to fall back on what they had in the way of character, understanding, knowledge, and vision from the world, and by this, they showed that Satan was still dominating their lives.

This is understandable because Satan is a wily and powerful adversary—but he can be overcome and defeated. Christ did it, and we can too because Christ is in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 5)


 

James 4:4

A series of scriptures will highlight the world's danger to us. The apostle James writes: "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). This epistle is written to a Christian congregation. Even as the Old Testament shows Israel to be a spiritual adulteress to God through the people's disobedience following the making of the Old Covenant, so are Christians—as part of the bride of Christ, having made the New Covenant—spiritual adulterers when they unfaithfully disobey.

James is not saying these people are lost. He is warning them that they are heading in that direction because they were backsliding, having already been unfaithful. The unstated, yet clear cause of their being drawn back is the world, as if it were the seductive temptress of Proverbs 7.

James' counsel is that we cannot straddle the fence between God and the world. He is expounding the "no man can serve two masters" principle. These two relationships—God and the world—frame a black-and-white issue; this war has no neutral zone. A person cannot pursue his self-centered, worldly ambitions and still remain loyal to God.

The apostle uses the word philos, indicating something dear, which the New King James Version translates as "friend." He is stressing an affectionate, emotional attachment. Interestingly, The New Testament in Modern English by J.B. Phillips (1959) renders the warning as, "You are like unfaithful wives, flirting with the glamour of this world, and never realizing that to be the world's lover means becoming the enemy of God!" Seen this way, James describes them as silly, immature children, thoughtlessly gambling away their futures in the Kingdom of God.

I John 2:15 adds a refinement to James' warning: "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." The Greek word translated as "love" is agapao, which suggests a reasoned, determined love. Thus, John's counsel stresses willfulness rather than mere affectionate attachment. In comparison, one could even describe philos as an unbidden "puppy love," but agapao—never.

John is saying that we should not have intimate fellowship combined with loyal devotion to the world. Our relationship to it must be a more distant, hands-off one. We certainly must live and do business within it, but we have to fight to keep it from becoming the focus of our way of life. The spiritual reality is that, as we might say today, "The world stands ready to eat us alive." It chews Christians up and spits them out. If permitted, it can trash spiritual realities that may once have been cherished hopes and dreams.

Galatians 6:14 provides another guiding principle to hold dear: "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." This is an example of Paul's spiritual outlook and maturity regarding his relationship with the world. As far as any relationship between him and the world is concerned, the world is dead and crucified, and so is he to it. It is vivid imagery. How much willful devotion can a person have in a relationship going nowhere because both parties are "dead" to each other?

John 15:18-23 adds more about why the world is dangerous to a Christian:

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, "A servant is not greater than his master." If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also.

This is the fruit of the carnal mind's persistently disobedient attitude shown in Romans 8:7. The whole worldly system is anti-God. Even though the Christian world patronizes Him, in reality, it hates Jesus Christ, and therefore it hates those who truly follow Him. There is a simple reason why this continual reality exists.

Paul had renounced the whole worldly system. It no longer had any appeal to him; he was, in effect, dead in relation to it. However, the world's pressure never ends, which Paul notes in Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world." The Greek more correctly reads, "Stop allowing yourself to be fashioned to the pattern of this age," or as the J.B. Phillips translation puts it, "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold."

This is the danger we face when we allow the world to become too important. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. The world subtly but inexorably manipulates us into conformity with its thinking, its value systems, and therefore its attitudes and conduct. If we are alert and truly guarding against an invasion of worldly attitudes and practices, we will soon be able to notice when others relapse into following the course of the world.

The persistent influence of the world is a reality because Satan, the god of this world, is its driving force (II Corinthians 4:4). The world is Satan's medium, through which he broadcasts his propaganda and disinformation. By confusing people about what to believe, he intends to manipulate humanity. Satan's pitch to mankind is aimed directly at exciting human nature's self-indulgent cravings.

Due to this Satanic effort, even though we are converted, we are apt to become misinformed, lackadaisical, disinterested, and discouraged. We must be aware of it and absolutely resist it. The apostles' advice about avoiding intimacy with the world is a form of the proverb, "Evil company corrupts good habits" (I Corinthians 15:33). Friendship with the world corrupts.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)


 

2 Peter 2:10-11

False prophets "walk according to the flesh"; their minds are primarily on physical things rather than the true things of God. God is not in all their thoughts (Psalm 10:4). They also despise authority—other than their own—and apparently think themselves superior even to God's angels. They are presumptuous and self-willed, acting out of the dictates of their own hearts (or the influence of a demon) rather than following God with humility and trusting Him to bring His will to pass.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?


 

1 John 2:15-17

I John 2:15-17 warns us that there is a profound gulf between the Father and the world, and that a Christian is faced with making a choice between them. Spiritually, morally, and ethically, Christianity does not allow for neutrality. God is bringing us into a position where we recognize truth, admit it is true, and make it a part of our lives.

We are learning a new way of life, so He does not want us to be ensnared by the attractiveness of many things that are in the world. We cannot presume that because something appears to be harmless, it would be fine to do "just this one time." Therefore, we have to learn to resist the urge to think and conduct our lives as the world does.

"World" in I John 2 is the Greek cosmos, and its basic meaning is "an ordered system." Because of the disparity between God and this world, it cannot possibly be the world for which God gave His only begotten Son. The world He created He called "very good." Nor is He referring to mankind, also part of His creation. He loves people and desires to save them.

Nevertheless, He does not like man's way of life. This ordered, human-centered system is anti-God and anti-Christ, and Satan sits at its head. This system occupies His creation and consists of people that God loves so much that He sent His Son to die for them, but He does not love the system! It produces people that need to be rescued, and it tends to make them worse and worse.

When God speaks of "the world," He is identifying all of man's purposes, pursuits, pleasures, practices, and places where God is not wanted. Much of this world is religious, cultured, refined, and intellectual, but it is still anti-God and anti-Christ.

Through His calling, God puts us into a position where He forces us to choose between disparate ways of life, and both of them are realities. We must choose either the eternal and worthwhile or the temporal and vain. God is not saying that this world is unpleasant, unattractive, or unappealing, but we have to choose between that reality and His. The sum of this passage is that this ordered system—anti-God yet appealing and attractive—has the power to seduce the believer, to ensnare him and turn him from God. We have to be vigilantly on guard against it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption


 

1 John 2:15

This verse begins to explore the connection between Babylon and Laodiceanism. "Do not love the world. . . ." Theologically, that makes sense after understanding what God says in Revelation 18:7 about pride, self-sufficiency, avoidance of suffering, and the like. The apostle John, aware of the nuances of the concept of love, did not use agape here but phileo, which means "have affection for, to cherish, a feeling of warm regard." Agape is a reasoned love, and there need not be any feeling or affection connected with it at all. That kind of love can very easily be done coldly, calculatedly, simply because it is right.

Here in I John 2:15, the apostle says, "Don't have a feeling of warm regard or affection toward the world." Why would he have to say anything like that unless the world was attractive? The world possesses a beauty that, carnally, we find very difficult to resist. Because Laodiceanism springs from this attractiveness, it becomes very critical to a Christian. Many members of God's church find the world irresistible. Somehow or another, many cannot avoid it spiritually.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

1 John 2:15-17

John is not the only apostle who called upon the children of God to keep themselves from being spiritually contaminated by the world. James urges us "to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). The apostle Paul makes a strong appeal in Romans 12:2, saying, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

This world is not God's world! Some have such a difficult time grasping the practical ramifications of this concept, perhaps because we think of God as Creator, Owner, and Ruler and marvel at the staggering beauty of what He has made. In that sense it is His world.

Nonetheless, the systems that operate our cultures are not His. The Greek word translated "world" in I John 2:16 is kosmos, which has a moral connotation and means "the world apart from God." William Barclay in his commentary on this verse writes, "To John the world was nothing other than pagan society with its false values and its false gods" (p. 56).

The world's systems generate and sustain our government and politics, entertainment, fashion, religion, business ethics, medicine and health care, culinary tastes, social programs and institutions, education, science and technology, economics, and use of power. The world's systems have formed much of our belief systems and attitudes, and these in turn have shaped our conduct.

These are the things we must overcome. And this world and its systems are so appealing! But God says not to waste our love on them because they have no future! In fact, this world is so bad that other prophecies show the whole thing will be destroyed and replaced when God invokes the restitution of all things (II Peter 3:10-11; Revelation 21:1).

The basic reason all must be destroyed is because at its very foundation is a destroying and antagonistic spirit, Satan the Devil, the god of this world. Henry David Thoreau grasped an important principle when he stated, "An institution is but the lengthened shadow of one man." As Jesus phrases it, "A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit" (Matthew 7:18). Satan is a destroyer, and his way is at best a bad mixture of good and evil. James confirms this when he asks this rhetorical question, "Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?" (James 3:11).

John W. Ritenbaugh
This Is Not God's World


 

1 John 2:15-17

These verses present a simplified illustration. Mankind is faced with two choices: On the one hand is the way of life that God proscribes for man, and on the other are the physical "benefits" that seem to be his if God is not in the picture. Without a divine Lawgiver in the picture, man would be free to pursue whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it, and to whatever extent.

According to commentator Adam Clarke, the lust of the flesh refers to "sensual and impure desires which seek their gratification in women, strong drink, delicious [foods], and the like." The lust of the eyes indicates "inordinate desires after finery of every kind, gaudy dress, splendid houses, superb furniture, expensive equipage, trappings, and decorations of all sorts." The pride of life implies "hunting after honors, titles, and pedigrees; boasting of ancestry, family connections, great offices, and honorable acquaintance."

The world has these things to offer; they are the glittering gems that seem out of one's reach when constrained by laws and rules. Why should a man let anyone tell him what to do? Why should he be required to abide by laws? Why can he not live by his own rules? They are good enough for him, so they should be good enough for everyone else. These arguments have convinced mankind to reject the Creator God in favor of an ideology that utterly lacks proof but gives a certain peace of mind—that man is in control of his own destiny and that nobody is going to tell him what to do!

David C. Grabbe
What Evolution Really Means


 

1 John 2:16

John uses these three spiritual terms to show that God is not concerned about attractive things, like automobiles or houses or clothing, but a spiritual power the world has that many find attractive. Something about the world is alluring, and most find it difficult to resist.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

1 John 2:16

The apostle John notes three powerful pulls that must be controlled. These, he says, are not of the Father but of the world, therefore they are not part of the standard that we must strive to live according to. If we follow them, we will continue to be conformed to the world.

Our eyes make us the recipients of a multitude of impressions. Many of them can excite us to desire something evil, and if we are complacent, we can be trapped in a sin almost without thinking. That is precisely the problem! We must be thinking to control what we have power and responsibility over and turn from such things as if a hot poker were about to be jabbed into our eyes! When Joseph was about to be lured into sin, he ran, controlling his own part in that unfolding drama (Genesis 39:11-12).

The body and mind possess appetites and needs that can easily lead to sinful excesses if not controlled. They can lead any of us away in a hundred different directions from the supreme devotion to Him that He desires for our good. Note the senseless luxury of this present generation, the exaggerated care of the physical body, and the intemperance in eating and drinking, which are a curse and shame on America! Our culture has molded us to seek ample provision for the flesh and material comforts far beyond our needs, drowning the spirit and producing needless anxieties. We have to learn to subordinate the drive to satisfy these insatiable appetites so they do not master us and lead us into sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control


 

1 John 2:17

God is mostly concerned about the world's ideals, its standards, its concepts of right and wrong. These influence the way we look at everything, and produce inclinations, attitudes, feelings, and the purposes for which we live. In the final tally, the world's standards are short-sighted and selfish—unlike God's, which are eternal and outgoing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

1 John 2:17

If any New Testament verse summarizes the theme of Ecclesiastes, it is I John 2:17. God calls things that are not as though they are. To God, the world is already dead, so He says, "Love not the world, for it is passing away." "Passing away" is a euphemism of dying. To God, the world is a putrefying corpse, but it has not yet been buried. It is a system in the process of self-destructing as a result of the course of vanity and meaningless self-centeredness, and it cannot be any other way because men and demons are operating it.

Think of this in terms of the main conclusion of the book of Ecclesiastes, of the priority that a person ought to set in his life, which is to fear God and keep His commandments.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 1)


 

Revelation 3:14-22

The seventh and last of the attitudes within the church, Laodiceanism is the attitude that dominates the era of the end time. It seems more natural to think that this attitude would be the least likely to dominate in such terrible times—that it ought to be obvious that the return of Christ is near. Though it seems contradictory for the church to become lukewarm during such a stimulating period, Christ prophesies that it will occur. It indicates the power of Babylon! Spiritually, she is so very alluring. To our eyes, the world may look ugly, but its spiritual charm distracts us from more important things. Why does Babylon dominate the church in the end time? It dominates the world, and the Christian permits it to dominate him!

In August 1987, a well-known evangelist in the church of God said, "You would be surprised how often the Work internally mirrors the world externally. I don't think we realize how often this is true." Why? Church members bring the world's ways into the body. Laodiceanism is so subtle that those who seemingly are best-equipped to detect it are blind to it! This is Christ's major concern for these people. It is not only that they are Laodicean, but also that they are blind to their own state!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:14

Jesus Christ calls Himself "the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness. . . ." We say, "Amen," at the end of a prayer. What is "amen"? It affirms that the prayer is true and one agrees with it. Here Jesus is the Amen. Descriptive terms follow it to help us understand—He is a "Faithful and True Witness." Christ is the faithful and true witness of God—His example is an exact representation of what God would be like if He were a man. Already, He is contrasting Himself with the Laodicean and what He finds so distasteful. They are faithless in carrying out their responsibilities to Christ. They are lukewarm—good for nothing but vomiting.

We have been called to be witnesses. Through the prophet Isaiah, God says, "[Y]ou are My witnesses . . . that I am God" (Isaiah 43:12). He has made witnessing our responsibility. We witness with our lives, but the Laodicean fails miserably as a witness because he is so worldly. The only witness Christ gets out of him is that he is worldly, which is spiritually useless.

The illustration described here is as if the Laodiceans were on trial and Christ, the Faithful and True Witness, is testifying against them. As the Source of all creation, He is not fooled by their diplomacy and compromise: He sees their witness is unfaithful and untrue. In fact, the word Laodicea means "judgment of the people," and the entire letter is a study in contrasting judgments, the Laodicean's and God's. The physical man looks at his material and social circumstances and evaluates himself as spiritually sound. On the other hand, the spiritual God looks at the same person and sees spiritual poverty.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:14-22

Laodiceanism is nothing more than a virulent form of worldliness in which devotion to Christ deteriorates, while attention to the world—its ways, attitudes, and conduct—intensifies. Perhaps we have been deceived into thinking that a Laodicean is lazy, or that a Laodicean is irreligious. But God never accuses them of being lazy.

Worldly people can be very religious. A Laodicean can appear to be very religious. The condition here is a matter of insipid devotion to the true God, His Christ, and His truth.

Christ reacts strongly to this because the indifference of Laodiceanism cannot be trusted. He does not know whether to believe their professions because He sees a great deal of insincerity and hypocrisy. He considers it essentially mean-spirited, as He is the object of their profession of faith, and what they claim is not backed by performance in their attitudes and works. The works are worldly even though they may appear religious.

Their high opinion of themselves—"I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing"—gives a good indication to whom they are really devoted, and so they profess to be what they are not. This, of course, is insincerity and hypocrisy, and it is a result of their indifference to Christ. They lack devotion to Him. So what Christ feels so strongly about is that honesty and a relationship with Him is weak or missing because their faith is so weak.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

Revelation 3:15-16

Christ admits the truth about them. "I know your works [obedience and service], that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot" (Revelation 3:15). Why does He wish this? Because if they were either cold or hot, they would be useful to Him. Lukewarm Christians send confusing messages. In this state, being useless to Him, He spews them out of His mouth. All the messages to these seven churches highlight works because they are evidence of how Christians conduct their relationships with God. Works reveal the heart. They are a gauge of one's witness and spiritual state.

Metaphorically, what does lukewarmness signify here? To define it to this point, a rough definition might be "that which gives no refreshment, or that which has neither the cleansing properties of hot water nor the refreshing properties of cold." Modern synonyms of the word "lukewarm" give illuminating insights into its use in this letter: lacking ardor, enthusiasm or conviction; moderate; mild; unemotional; halfhearted; hesitant; indecisive; irresolute; uncertain; uncommitted; unresponsive; indifferent; impassive; languid; phlegmatic; apathetic; nonchalant; lackadaisical.

Recall the hallmarks of Babylon: pride, self-glorification, reliance on wealth, satiety, complacency, avoidance of suffering. Although he has the abilities and resources to be a great witness, the Laodicean is complacent, self-satisfied, bored with or indifferent to the real issues of life. For a Christian, the real issues are faith in Christ and our Christian responsibility. And to do the work Christ has called us to, our loyalty and devotion must be to Him, first and foremost!

A problem arises, however, in "spotting" a Laodicean—these qualities do not necessarily show on the outside. Why? Remember Christ describes a spiritual condition. This is a matter of the heart. What does He want to see in him? He wants the Laodicean to get off the fence—to be one way or the other, cold or hot. Conversely, the Laodicean judges that he is balanced, right in the middle. But his concept of balance is skewed. Why will he not move off the middle? He feels he has it good there! If he moves left or right, he fears that he will suffer! Thus, he has no desire to move.

Then what happens? The Laodicean must compromise. This is interesting in light of what the history books record. Ancient Laodicea's main line of defense was conciliation and compromise! Why? Again, the answer lies in the city's inadequate water supply, making it very susceptible to the siege of an invading army. By having its tenuous water supply cut off, the city was at the mercy of its attacker. With no water, it could hold out for only a short while. The Laodicean solution? They became masters of appeasement, accommodation, conciliation, and diplomacy. Peace at any cost! How did they appease? They bought their enemies off! Laodicea used its wealth to conciliate and compromise.

Christ uses the attitude of the surrounding environment to illustrate that those in the church of Laodicea are affected by the attitudes of the world. Without even realizing it, they behave exactly like their unconverted neighbors. They are worldly. Though they are not out on the streets robbing banks, raping, looting, murdering, mugging old grandmothers, or abusing children, in their hearts they have the same general approach to life as Babylon has. Theologically, spiritually, they hold the same values as Babylon, proved by their works. Spiritually, they become very adept in avoiding the sacrifices that might be necessary to overcome and grow in character, wisdom, and understanding. In other words, they are skilled in appeasing Satan and their own consciences.

Christ says He will spew, or vomit, the Laodicean from His mouth! That is how He views this attitude of compromise with principles, ideals, standards, and truth!

Some may expect Laodiceans to be lazy, but on the contrary they are often workaholics. Satan has foisted this false concept of Laodiceanism onto the church. One cannot become "rich and increased with goods" by being lazy! Their problem is a faulty setting of priorities. They are very vigorous people, but they are vigorous in areas that fail miserably to impress their Judge, Christ. Vigorous in conducting business and other carnal affairs, they are lackadaisical in pursuing the beauty of holiness, which is their calling. They are not vigorous or zealous in maintaining their prayer life with God or in studying. They are not energetic in making the sacrifices necessary to love their brethren or in developing their relationships with others. Nor are they enthusiastic about guarding the standards and principles of God. By erring in the setting of priorities, they victimize themselves.

Over the last fifteen years of his life, Herbert Armstrong expressed deep concern about the church becoming Laodicean. Because of the plethora of activities this world offers, he saw that ultimately they distract us, cause us to set wrong priorities, and keep us from putting our time, energy, and vigor into godly things. He often cited Daniel 12:4 as a telltale sign of the last days: "Seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." Are we busy in this age? Satan is a slick strategist, and he really deceives anyone who allows himself to believe that busyness and prosperity are signs of righteousness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:17

A Laodicean deals with wealth on a scale few people have seen in the history of the world. Wealth has a power that produces an intriguing result. In a section of scripture Moses wrote in the last month before Israel crossed into the Promised Land, God warns us of it: "When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you" (Deuteronomy 8:10). God is definitely not against His people prospering or even getting rich. Many of his servants, like Abraham and David, were wealthy beyond imagination (Genesis 13:2; I Chronicles 29:1-5).

Instead, He describes a general principle, a natural trend, which happens to most when they begin to accumulate wealth. Most people cannot handle prosperity, and though God wants us to have good things, He desires us to have them in a way that will not damage us spiritually. His concern for the Laodicean is that, as the world reaches a pinnacle of luxury and wealth, he will be distracted by the magnetic appeal of all those beautiful things. He says in effect, "Don't forget your first priority!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:17

From the beginning to the end of its history, Israel's great sin was trying to get the best of both worlds. They professed that God was their god, but they proved their insincerity by not honoring Him with their attention, their time, their energy. He was low on their list of priorities. God was always on the back burner, so to speak. This is idolatry.

In regard to Laodiceanism, we have to be concerned about the same sin. Laodiceanism is the most subtle form of idolatry. A Laodicean is a Christian who has turned inward. Though he is a part of the church of God, his worship is self-centered. He worships himself and his interests in God's name, while going through the motions of worshipping God. Such is idolatry. What sin is the most distasteful to God? Undoubtedly, it is idolatry! And seeing that sin so skillfully embedded in the Laodicean, He spews them out of His mouth!

Laodiceanism is also the most refined form of worldliness. That worries God. Beginning with an attraction to the world, and building through self-concern that overpowers spiritual concerns, the Laodicean unwittingly worships himself in the place of God. The Laodicean has misjudged what is important in life, and therefore he prioritizes wrongly. He gives his attention to pursuits that are not intrinsically evil, things God desires to bless His people with, but because his priorities are wrong, he merits God's scathing condemnation.

Probably all of us have slumped into Laodiceanism somewhat. Because it is so prevalent in the world, it is almost impossible to avoid. But it can be resisted! We still have time for repentance. Each of us can make a greater effort to study, pray, fast, grow in love for each other, unselfishly help our neighbors, and follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit while we have the time and opportunity. We must not allow this opportunity to slip away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:17-19

God is willing to go to great lengths to get our attention and get us to turn so that we will buy gold refined in the fire, get proper white garments, and anoint our eyes with eye salve. He is trying to get us to repent, which is what chastening is all about.

The Laodicean has the same problem. He is blind to God at work in his life and in the lives of others. Why? Because he is busy doing something else. The Laodicean is not lazy; he is instead distracted with busyness, with this world, with getting ahead in life, with everything else rather than what he should be involved in—the things of God.

God wants him to be zealous, but not at making money, not at building his house, not at flitting off to various vacations, not at filling his social calendar. No, God wants him to be zealous for Him!

However, a Laodicean pretends to be righteous. Like Balaam, he has built a façade. Externally, he looks like a good guy, and righteous too, but all the while, inside he is something else: He is totally hypocritical. This is one of the Laodicean's problems. He is so focused on other things—usually his own well-being—that he cannot see God. Since he has everything all figured out, and all his needs and many of his desires are met, he in his heart of hearts believes that he really does not need God!

Christ's advice to the Laodicean is to get eye salve so he can see. It is not so that he can see other people or other things, but so he can specifically see God! He also wants him to produce righteousness, so he can put on that white clothing representing pure character—so he can "purchase" the spiritual riches that actually mean something, the heavenly treasure Jesus speaks about in Matthew 6:20.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 2)


 

Revelation 18:4

Babylon, as an enemy of God, is used in several ways in the Bible. One is a literal city. A second is a worldwide system of government, trade, entertainment, and so on. A third symbolizes a spiritual entity. All three have to be considered together to understand Babylon. In Revelation 18:4, it is a city representing the worldwide way of life at the end time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 18:4

Revelation 18:4 is God's exhortation to the churches to shun the treacherous beauty and charm of this theological and political prostitute, Babylon. God uses very specific wording in His description of her in Revelation 17, calling her a harlot or prostitute. A prostitute can have beauty and charm. Any number of a harlot's attributes can snare a man's attention and divert him from his purpose. Because the world had already ensnared him before conversion, a Christian must be spiritually watchful that he does not return to it. Unfortunately, the world too easily reclaims the unwary, so the apostle counsels God's people to flee from it—to avoid the edge of the cliff.

But what must we flee? In Nebuchadnezzar's vision in Daniel 2, Babylon is the head of gold. Gold is attractive. People give their lives to the power and attractiveness of gold. The head of gold has a beauty that stimulates the eyes, the feelings, the desire for the good things of life. In addition, gold represents quality. In the prophetic image, the quality of metal degenerates or declines as time moves toward the end. Babylon represents a tolerable system, but through the ages, the system degenerates from gold to silver to brass to iron to a final mixture of iron and miry clay.

At its beginning, the system, represented by the whole image, is attractive. As in Paul's analogy of the body in I Corinthians 12, the head guides and directs the other parts of the body. In effect, this means that Babylon, the head of gold, has impressed its system, its ideas, its style, its qualities on all of civilization. Though the system is not acceptable to God, it nevertheless has stamped its mark on the whole world.

Everyone has participated in it. American culture is an Israelite adaptation of the head of gold. All other nations have absorbed its qualities, putting their own particular twists on them. The same basic system pervades the world—and as it is practiced, it is anti-Christ. Because of its attractiveness, its magnetism, and because all are defenseless before conversion, it has impressed itself upon God's people. Babylon is the world Christians must flee.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Find more Bible verses about Worldliness:
Worldliness {Nave's}
 




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