The other night just a phrase from the Bible was really speaking to me, where it talks about “the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2). Sometimes God’s Word is like a flash of lightning, illuminating the darkness of the night.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “In times past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:2)
Paul was telling the Ephesians that, in their past, they walked according to the ways of this world and the ways of Satan. But he was reiterating something Jesus Himself repeatedly spoke of when He was on the earth: the subject of “the world” and our relation to it. And for most Christians, our relationship to the world is not always something we’re clear about.
But the best and first way to find answers is in the Word of God, especially in the Words of Jesus. Jesus told His own brothers in John 7, “The world cannot hate you, but Me it hates, because I testify of it that the works of it are evil.” (John 7:7) And He even said to His disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love his own. But because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)
This all resonates with me because it was those clear distinctions, light in the darkness, absolutes and moral choices, that made the difference between life and death that first brought me to faith in God and later in Jesus.
We’re called out of the course of this world; we’re not supposed to be a part of that. That’s what happened to me and I’m so thankful for it because I never would have gone along with some kind of namby-pamby, milk-and-water Christianity; I’d seen plenty of that when I was growing up and it just wasn’t inspiring. It was weak and easy to defeat. I was an atheist and I could defeat those kinds of Christians all the time.
But the Christianity I finally found was completely different, a stronger spirit that fulfilled my heart’s desires and my needs. Real Christianity gave me the power to blast off from the gravity and evil of this world, to really break free and break out of the ways of man that are so accepted and exalted in the godless, secular society we all live in, the ways of the devil, the ways of tradition, the ways of defeat, the ways of the system worldly way of looking at things and to break into the beauty, freedom and liberty of God’s Spirit.
But so many Christians are still following the course of this world because they’re taught milk-and-water, compromised, worldly, ungodly Christianity. Their discipleship is weak; their knowledge is weak; their witness is weak and they’re not prepared for the future to come. Jesus said, “The world cannot hate you but me it hates, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil”. That’s not taught in church. They sort of, kind of, get a little close to that. Maybe they dip their toe in that but not much more.
Christianity is supposed to make a difference, being a “new creature”, being a disciple. Jesus didn’t tell Peter, “Meet me next Sunday for a little sermon.” He said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). And He did. He called Matthew out of his tax job; He called them out of the course of this world.
That’s what Christian discipleship is; it’s a break with the traditions, the ceremonies and the whole paraphernalia that goes on with the course of this world. The course of this world is not what we are supposed to be a part of. We are supposed to be “transformed” (Romans 12:2), we are supposed to be “delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God”. (Colossians 1:13) It even says of Moses, “By faith he forsook Egypt [the worldly system of his day], for he endured as seeing Him who was invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27)
If anyone in the Bible epitomized discipleship, it was Paul the apostle. Even though he wasn’t with Jesus when He was alive on earth, he seemed to understand it all better than the rest. He was the embodiment of discipleship, went further, did more and seemingly was more of a real sample than even the ones who followed Jesus in His lifetime. It seems from the book of Acts that those ones had a difficult time breaking out of their nationalism, traditions and teachings that they grew up with.
But Paul, he just let it go; he just did it. Once he was knocked off his horse and saw “The Light”, he really stayed true to “the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19) and followed the Lord, rather than the ways of the world. And so many missionaries in the centuries to come modeled their discipleship, service and lives after the Apostle Paul . “You are not of the world but I have called you out of this world, therefore the world hates you.” That sure was true of Paul.
So if you’re still walking the course of this world, if you have one foot with God and one foot with the course of this world, then you’re “double minded” (James 1:8), you’re a “half baked cake.” (Hosea 7:8)
I am thankful the Lord delivered me out of that, out of the course of this world and into Christian discipleship, a wonderful, wonderful new life of spiritual reality, love and faith, completeness and “a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7), all the things that God can give.
But if you try to straddle the fence and stay somewhere in between, you may find yourself in some kind of compromiser’s limbo. That’s what most people think they’re supposed to do. They are still people of this world, people of these times, people of the culture and society they live in and then they still say they’re Christians. And when things get really rough, then they find out that this world crumbles and only the things of the Lord remain. So the goal is to not be part of the course of this world but to be a part of the eternal world and the world to come.
That’s what the Lord wants us to have, that’s discipleship, not just Sunday believers, still following the course of this world, still identifying with the beliefs, culture and motivations of this world. But to be delivered, to be disciples, to be prepared for the world to come: that’s real Christianity, not just “Church-ianity” but Christianity.