If we want to take on this question, we must first understand what the term “not of this world” means, and how it applies to our lives as Christians. The phrase first comes from John 18:36 when Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus is talking to Pontius Pilate, explaining that His purpose is not for a political revolution but for a spiritual one. Unbeknownst to many people of His time, this movement would be revolutionary and change the hearts of millions. When we are baptized into Christ, and born into the family of God, we are told that we escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires, or sin. As we journey with Christ, we are taking on worldly influence and desires of the heart. So the question becomes can we as Christians truly escape corruption, especially when many of us participate in worldly things.
We live in a world where corruption is prevalent. In the first five minutes of turning on our television sets, we can see this. We also live in a world where temptation is so prevalent: sexual temptation, the desire for money and power, the need for bigger and better things so that we look better to others and feel better about ourselves. And on our journeys toward the cross, we will all fall short and fall victim to some form of the world. In order to be “not of the world” it requires us to break free from worldly influence. This doesn’t mean that we don’t participate socially, or that we can’t have things, even things that people enjoy in popular culture. It means that we don’t participate in things that will separate us from God.
You have to truly ask yourself where your heart lies. Many Christians are in the world and of it. While the common definition of God is the creator and ruler of the universe, and the source of all moral authority, the other definition of God is whoever or whatever we place our full trust in. Ask yourself: Do you place your trust in money? Do you place your trust in riches? Do you place your trust in man or in governments? Do you place your trust in your relationships? Do you place your trust in yourself? Many of us do. Scripture warns us of placing our trust in temporal objects such as money. Why? It gives us an illusion of security. We think that we are safe from the trials of the world when we’re financially secure. How many of us have fanaticized about winning the lottery and thinking that when we hit it big, we won’t have to deal with our problems anymore? For some reason, many of us, including Christians think that the only way to become secure is to accumulate a substantial amount of wealth and power and that having it makes us immune to the problems of this world, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The only place we can have full security is with God.
As Christians, we can be “in the world” but not of it. That doesn’t mean we have to be “of the world”. Our journey with Christ is about where our desires are. We are called not to place those desires in the world. If our desires are in God, our lives positively reflect that. If our desires are of the world, our lives will also reflect that. While we live in a world of darkness, we are called as Christians to turn the darkness around. The good news? Not only is there Grace with God. There is light. Matthew 5:13-16 reminds us that we are not of the world because we are in Christ; we have the light. While we are still in the world, we are called as Christians to set ourselves a part from the world. To answer the question simply: The choice is ours. We choose our God, whether it is our Heavenly Father, or the things of the world that make us feel secure. Even the strongest Christians fall short, but when we do, there is forgiveness.