Hindrances to Discipleship: The World - page 2

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From the Fall 2012 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Hindrances to Discipleship: The World

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
Director of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute


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   Underlying the many and varied expressions of this godless world system is a profound idolatry that blinds the minds and enslaves the wills of fallen people. It is first of all an “idolatry of self,” because we are curved in on ourselves and seek our own desires above the will of God and the good of others. However, this takes tangible form in a manner suited to the tastes, inclinations, and passions of the individual and may range from the crude to the highly sophisticated. As with Adam, pride and covetousness feed this idolatry:

The two dominant characteristics of “this world” are pride, born of man’s failure to accept his creaturely estate and his dependence on the Creator, which leads him to act as though he were the lord and giver of life; and covetousness, which causes him to desire and possess all that is attractive to his physical senses (1 Jn. 2:16). And, as man tends in effect to worship what he covets, such covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5).4

   It is this pride and covetousness and the idolatry it generates that the devil exploits (along with the flesh) to keep people blind to “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). And it is precisely because of this blindness that they worship what is created instead of the One who created it. The result is that the world, in spite of its original goodness and great natural beauty, has become a grim place, “red in tooth and claw,”5 where, as Thomas Hobbes said, life for most people who have ever lived has been “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish
and short.”6
   The world is therefore a battleground in which a war rages between God and the devil, seen in the struggle between good and evil, truth and error, life and death. And the devil and his forces work relentlessly and skillfully to seduce and ensnare people with the godless values of this fallen world. We cannot escape being in this world, but we can and must avoid being of it.

Good News

  Although the people of the world are spiritually blind, enslaved to sin and hostile to God, He still loves them. Indeed, so deeply does He love them that He sent His only Son to atone for their sins and reconcile them and the entire creation to Himself. This began unfolding with the coming of Jesus into the world. He proclaimed, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Signs of the kingdom’s arrival abounded through Him: the sick were healed; the blind received sight; the crippled were made whole; the dead were raised to life; those who were possessed by demons were set free; and good news was preached to the poor. This signaled that God’s long-awaited invasion of this world had begun; the darkness was being rolled back, and the liberation of the devil’s captives was now in progress. It was a time of crisis and decision. People must forsake their sins and turn to Jesus in confident trust of rescue. What would it profit someone to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul? Let people come under the reign of Christ and become soldiers in the army of their rightful King. Denying self-centeredness, taking up their cross and following Jesus in their homes, workplaces, and communities, they would help liberate others and spread His kingdom far and wide.
    Jesus began with twelve disciples, and from there the numbers grew. When the Spirit came upon the church at Pentecost, multitudes were swept into the kingdom, as the church spread from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to Rome and to the ends of the earth. As long as the followers of Jesus continued to give themselves to Him in wholehearted devotion and obedience, they gained increasing freedom from the worldly beliefs, values, and behaviors that characterized their former life. And they became salt and light to the world around them.

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