Freedom in Christ Lesson 4: The World’s View of the Truth
Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
2 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.
Objective: To understand that Christians need to make a definite decision to turn away from believing what the world teaches and choose instead to believe what God says is true.
Focus Truth: The world we grew up in influenced us to look at life in a particular way and to see that way as “true”. However, if it doesn’t stack up with what God says is true, we need to reject it and bring our beliefs into line with what is really true.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Do you think that the way you look at the world and what you believe would be very different if you had been brought up in a different culture?
John 14:6 (NKJV)
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
1 Corinthians 1:30 (NKJV) 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God--and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
What is “The World”?
We’ve looked at some fundamental truths: who we are in Christ and the fact that faith is simply a choice to believe what God tells us is already true. In the next three sessions we’re going to turn our attention to the things that try to deflect us from the truth. We have three distinct enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
First, in this session, we’ll look at the world and how it tries to make us look at reality in a way that is opposed to how God says it actually is.
The world is the system or culture we grew up in and live in. That will vary greatly according to where you are from and when you were born. I’m going to talk about it almost as if it were a person with its own thoughts and deeds. It isn’t. However, there is someone behind it, Satan, whom Jesus called (John 12:31) “the ruler of this world.” To a significant extent, he is the one who pulls the strings behind the world and works through it.
Let’s look at the three main tactics the world uses to try to divert us from the truth.
Tactic 1: Promising To Meet Our Deepest Needs
Its first tactic is promising to meet those deep needs we all have. We were created to have the kind of life Adam had: 100% acceptance, the highest significance, perfect security. But that wasn’t the life we were born into. From our first breath we didn’t have the spiritual connection to God that we were meant to have. Yet we were created with those in-built needs for acceptance, significance, and security that our connection with God would have fulfilled.
When we were growing up and instinctively started looking to fulfill those deep needs for acceptance, significance, and security, up popped the world and said, “No problem! I’ll show you how to get those.”
It feeds us false formulas:
Performance + accomplishments = significance
Status + recognition = security
Appearance + admiration = acceptance
Those are lies. But in the absence of a spiritual connection to God, we naturally fell for them. Or as Paul put it, we naturally “followed the ways of this world” (Eph 2:2).
1 John 2:15–17 is a key passage in understanding how the world tries to suck us in:
1 John 2:15-17 (NKJV)
15 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. 16 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. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
According to the passage, there are three channels through which the world works:
The Lust of The Flesh
The more we buy into the world’s lies and act on them, the more unhelpful patterns of thinking become established in our minds, which then become default ways of behaving.
The Lust of The Eyes
The world shows me things that it claims will meet my needs for acceptance, significance, and security that God created me to have.
The Pride of Life
This is simply the temptation the world throws at us to boast about our life, based on the lie that it’s possessions or achievements or connections that make us significant.
Pause for Thought 1
To help people understand their vulnerability to the world’s promises to meet our God-given needs for significance, security, and acceptance.
In what ways has the world tried to make you feel insignificant, insecure, and unloved?
In what ways has the world promised you significance, security, and acceptance?
Do you recognize these “false formulas”?
Performance + accomplishments = significance
Status + recognition = security
Appearance + admiration = acceptance
How can you counteract “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15–17)?
Tactic 2: Painting A Complete But False Picture Of Reality
Essentially the second tactic of the world is to give you a distorted view of reality but feed it to you as the real thing. How we see the world is called your “worldview.”
Just as we pick up things like language from our environment, we also pick up beliefs, values, and ways of behaving. We are influenced by our family, our schooling, our friends, the media.
So without even realizing it we all develop a way of looking at reality that we believe is true. But if your worldview is faulty, it will lead to faulty judgments about what happens in your life.
1. A Non-Western Worldview
If you were brought up in Africa or Eastern cultures you may well have absorbed the belief that the universe is controlled by a kind of universal power that runs through everything and by spirits of many types.
If something bad happened to you, you would probably begin to suspect that someone might be manipulating this universal power or the spirits against you by cursing you or doing some kind of magic.
You would probably turn to a shaman or witch doctor to sort out the problems with this universal power.
If this is how you see reality, chances are that you will be living in constant fear that someone else might have a better control of the powers or that you might somehow unwittingly upset a spirit that would then turn against you.
2. The Western Worldview
Most people brought up in the West don’t turn to a witch doctor if things start to go wrong. Instead we tend to look for logical reasons and try to fix the problem.
The Western worldview tells us that what is real can only be known through scientific methods. If we’re ill we’ll turn to a doctor who will use scientific methods to try to make us better.
3. The Postmodern Worldview
The “Postmodern” worldview — has been emerging in the West in recent decades, which is something of a reaction against past generations’ reliance on scientists and experts.
The younger you are, the more likely you are to be suspicious of experts in general but particularly suspicious of those who make strong claims to certainty. In fact you may well have come to see anyone who has strong convictions as being on a dangerous line that ends with extreme, fanatical terrorists.
Whereas previous generations saw truth as something revealed by God or discovered by science, increasingly we test whether an idea is valid or not purely on the basis of our own personal experience. If it feels good to me, it’s OK. Each person is free to make up their own version of truth based on their own experience.
So politicians can say what people want to hear even if it flies in the face of facts and get a strong following. Groups on social media promote even the most outlandish views and members reinforce each other’s beliefs.
That is why Christians are under pressure to agree that all religions are equally true. Saying that we respect the right of other people to different beliefs and that we are happy to dialogue with them is no longer enough. There is a pressure to agree that their beliefs are just as “true” as our own.
Younger Christians are happy to say that Jesus is their truth but hesitate to go further and talk about Him as the truth.
This has led to what you might call “extreme tolerance” where practically any behavior is acceptable. People in previous generations used pornography, indulged in binge drinking, used drugs, or had multiple sexual partners, but would usually have acknowledged that those things were wrong. Increasingly, people don’t see these things as inherently wrong as long as they make them feel good. In fact the only thing that is seen as wrong is saying that what someone else is doing is wrong!
The bottom line is that people are increasingly absorbing into their worldview a belief that there is no real, solid, undergirding truth.
The Biblical Worldview: Truth Does Exist
So, what is true? That there is a spiritual power flowing through the universe that we can manipulate? Something that only science can uncover? Whatever feels good to you?
Which worldview is right?
None of them!
If we were to take that virtual reality headset off, get rid of the values and beliefs that our own particular culture instilled in us, what would the world actually look like?
The Bible claims to be God’s revelation of reality to the people He created. If that is right, then taking off that headset would mean that what we would see would correspond exactly to what the Bible tells us. That what the Bible says is “how it really is.”
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
What! Are we saying that only one view of reality can be right? Isn’t that a bit, well, intolerant?
Consider the most important question facing everybody in the world: What happens when you die?
Hinduism teaches that when a soul dies it is reincarnated in another form.
Christianity teaches that souls spend eternity in either heaven or hell.
Spiritists think we float around as ghosts.
Atheists believe that we have no soul and that when we die our existence simply ends.
Can all those things be true at the same time? To put it another way, does what you believe will happen to you when you die make any difference to what will actually happen? Or will the same thing happen to everyone when they die regardless of what they believed before the event?
Surely, if Hindus are right, we will all be reincarnated. If Christians are right, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. If atheists are right, all of our existences will come to an end. If spiritists are right we’ll all float around as ghosts. But they simply can’t all be true at the same time.
So it’s clear that there is such a thing as real truth that exists whatever individuals may choose to believe.
We are not proposing a version of truth that we have made up ourselves. The Bible has been tested and found reliable by millions of people over thousands of years.
In fact many of those ordinary people have found that, by choosing to believe it, they have been able to accomplish, or be a catalyst for, extraordinary things.
We may find it difficult to advance an unfashionable
argument. But are we really being helpful if we encourage people in their view
that there is no truth when Jesus has said very clearly that He is the truth?
Pause for Thought 2
Objective: To reinforce the concept that we have all been heavily influenced by a non-biblical way of looking at reality.
How different would your worldview be if you had grown up in another part of the world or at a different time?
In what ways do you identify with one of the three worldviews discussed here?
When we talk to people about Jesus’ claim to be the only way to God, how can we not come across as arrogant?
Tactic 3: Not Replacing Core Beliefs
The third tactic of the world is to get us to add our Christian beliefs to our existing worldview rather than replace it, so that our core beliefs remain the same.
For example, in an African country, the leadership of a missionary organization was ready to hand the church they planted over to African leadership. Two men were candidates for the position. Now what I’m about to say might sound silly to you, if you were not brought up with an African worldview, but one of them went to a witch doctor to get a charm to enhance his chances of being chosen as the church leader. Why did he do that? He was simply reverting back to his core beliefs, because they were deeper than his newer Christian beliefs.
How are those brought up in the West affected by the Western worldview which in effect denies the reality of the spiritual world? Some parts of the Church have tried to get rid of what they consider to be unnecessary supernatural “baggage.” They deny the miraculous and the existence of angels and demons.
Most of us recognize the reality of the spiritual world, at least intellectually. However, the Western worldview encourages us to live our lives and exercise our ministries as if the spiritual world didn’t exist.
When something goes horribly wrong in our lives, many Christians blame God. Why? Influenced by the Western worldview, they leave Satan out of the equation who, the Bible says, is a thief who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).
What about when someone has a mental or psychological problem? The medical profession, influenced by the Western worldview, tends to ignore the reality of the spiritual world.
We say we believe the Bible, but isn’t it true that many of our decisions are made on the basis of what we think rather than on what God is saying? We say we believe in the power of prayer but do we spend time praying, or do our actions really demonstrate that we believe that we can sort out our lives on our own and use prayer only as a last resort?
Holding on to our core beliefs leads to a shaky foundation for our faith.
Os Guinness says: “The Christian faith is not true because it works; it works because it is true. . . It is not simply “true for us”; it is true for any who seek in order to find, because truth is true even if nobody believes it and falsehood is false even if everybody believes it. That is why truth does not yield to opinion, fashion, numbers, office, or sincerity — it is simply true and that is the end of it.” Time For Truth, Os Guinness (Baker Books 2000), pp. 79–80
Each of us needs to come to a point where we realize that what the world has caused us to believe is so contrary to what is really true that we make a conscious decision to throw it away. We need to make a conscious choice to believe what the Bible says, to make the Word of God our core belief system.
If we don’t, it will lead us to compromise and we’ll be “double-minded” and “unstable in all our ways” (James 1:8).
I’m going to say a prayer that you can pray with me if you want to make a firm decision to base the rest of your life on what God says is true.
No matter what the world throws at me, I am making a decision today to believe only what You say is true in Your Word, the Bible. I choose not to be double-minded any longer but to trust You and make the Bible the core of what I believe. I renounce and turn away from my previous worldview and make a new commitment today to base my life on the truth in Your Word. I trust that You will be faithful to me. In Jesus’ name.
Objective: To give people an opportunity to reject aspects of their original worldview and embrace the truth in god’s word.
The concept of “renouncing” and “announcing” is fundamental to the freedom in Christ course and participants will become well used to it. To renounce something is to reject it or turn away from it.
Spend some time in prayer throwing out your old worldview and choosing to see the world as God says it actually is.
You might find it helpful to say “I renounce the lie that [my old false belief], and I announce the truth that [truth from God’s Word].” For example: “I renounce the lie that the unseen spiritual world is not real, and I announce the truth that it is just as real as the physical world we can see.”
“I renounce the lie that financial success brings real security, and I announce the truth that I am already perfectly secure because no one can snatch me out of God’s hand.”
How will understanding that we all grow up with a particular way of looking at the world help you as you talk to people who are not yet Christians?
IN THE COMING WEEK:
At the end of each day take five minutes to review how your old worldview has reared its head during the day to try to persuade you to compromise the truth of the Bible. When you identify it happening, take time to renounce the false belief from your previous worldview and make a commitment to base your life on the truth of the Bible.
Anderson, Neil T.; Goss, Steve. Freedom in Christ Leader's Guide: A 10-Week Life-Changing Discipleship Course, Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.