Biblical Paradoxes: In the World, But Not of the World

Text: John 17:6-16


I.         A paradox is a true statement that either is contrary to conventional wisdom or is seemingly absurd

            A.        Paradoxes can be a useful tool in teaching because it requires you to think more carefully about what is being said.

                        1.         Most people, when they first hear a paradox, immediately decide it cannot be true.

                        2.         But as they chew on the thought they realize that assumptions they held are not necessarily correct.

            B.        For example, “From death comes life”

                        1.         At first this will strike people as absurd because death is the end of life.

                        2.         Yet we see this in the world around us all the time. In order for a seed to germinate, it must first “die” being a seed - I Corinthians 15:36-38

                                    a.         Paul uses that paradox so that we might understand that in order to gain eternal life, our mortal bodies must die.

                                    b.         The same concept is used to describe the conversion of a Christian - Romans 6:3-7

                        3.         There is another way to look at this as well, from the death of a plant or animal comes food to sustain the life of other plants or animals. From one death comes many lives.

                                    a.         This illustrates the principle of Christ’s death - Romans 5:18

            C.        The Bible contains many paradoxes, not to cause confusion, but to make us think and, thereby, learn - Proverbs 1:5-6

II.        In the world, but not of the world - John 17:14-16

            A.        Jesus’ prayer was that his followers would not be a part of the world

                        1.         We are not to love the world or the things in it - I John 2:15-17

                        2.         Friendship with this world separates us from God - James 4:4

                        3.         We do not conform our lives to the ways of the world - Romans 12:2

            B.        But at the same time we must live in the world

                        1.         Jesus, our great example, came into the world of men - John 1:10

                        2.         But Jesus was not of the world - John 17:14

                        3.         While we reject sin, we still must associate with sinners - I Corinthians 5:9-10

                        4.         The point is that while we live in this world, we cannot let the world influence us.

III.       In the world and of the world

            A.        There is a strong trend in the religious community to exist in the world and be accepted by the world

                        1.         Denominations are changing their doctrines to be more acceptable to the worldly

                        2.         Tolerance of sin has become a virtue

            B.        On an individual scale, people fall due to temptation and cease to strive to remain distinct from the world

                        1.         Sin deceives them into leaving God for the world - Hebrews 3:12-14

                        2.         If we live in the world, and follow the sins of the world, then the world owns us - John 8:34

                        3.         But a Christian must cease sins - I Peter 4:1-3

            C.        If we select friends of the world, and allow them to influence our choices, then we become like them – of the world - I Corinthians 15:33

            D.        Have you ever walked through a large crowd that is moving one way, while you are attempting to go in the opposite direction?

                        1.         It is hard to do; yet, that is what God is expecting of us

                        2.         The world is running headlong to hell and we are going the opposite direction - Matthew 7:13-14

IV.      Trying to avoid the world while in it

            A.        Many well-meaning people try to fight the influence of the world by quarantining themselves

                        1.         Some religious groups, such as the monks and nuns of the Catholic church, withdraw from contact with the world in monasteries.

                        2.         In the 1800s religious communes became popular as groups, such as the Shakers, attempted to keep the world out of their lives

            B.        The problem is that doing so shirks our duty as followers of Christ

                        1.         Jesus came into the world to heal it - Matthew 9:10-13

                        2.         Remember Zacchaeus? Jesus spent time with him because he was lost - Luke 19:1-10

            C.        Jesus sent us into the world - Matthew 28:18-20

                        1.         Not to become a part of it, but to teach it

                        2.         We are to be an example to the world - I Peter 2:11-12

            D.        Avoidance often sounds good, but doesn’t work - Colossians 2:20-23

                        1.         Think about it, does not eating help a person avoid over-eating?

                        2.         Does the celibate lives of the Catholic priest help them avoid sexual sins?

                        3.         In other words, avoiding the world doesn’t make avoiding temptation easier

                        4.         The world has been catching on to this concept

                                    a.         We have made great strides in reducing the number of bacteria to which we are exposed

                                    b.         That should lead to longer and better quality lives

                                    c.         But we are finding people getting sicker because their immune systems are not challenged to fight bacteria so body begins turning on itself.

            E.        We see this in God’s dealing with us

                        1.         He does not isolate us from sin. But rather controls our exposure so we are not overwhelmed - I Corinthians 10:13

                        2.         He does not keep bad things from happening to us, but uses those times to strengthen us - James 1:2-4; Hebrews 12:4-11

                        3.         Romans 8:28 - Even evil things can ultimately lead to our good

V.        Striking the balance of being in the world without being a part of it

            A.        Again, we turn to Jesus as our example

                        1.         He was in the world, working with sinners

                        2.         But he also took time to separate himself for prayer - John 6:15

                        3.         He faced temptation, but did not give in to sin - Hebrews 4:15

            B.        While we cannot obtain the perfection of Jesus, we still strive to follow him - I Corinthians 11:1

            C.        Matthew 5:13-16

                        1.         Salt is worthless if it is no longer distinctive. If we become like the world, we cannot save it or ourselves.

                        2.         Light is worthless if it is not seen. We cannot influence the world for good if we remain hidden – and a hidden flame is eventually snuffed out.

            D.        If you are not a Christian, it is past time for you to come out of the world

            E.        If you are a Christian and the world has control of your life, the brethren here want to pray with you and for you for strength.

Based on a lesson by Ethan Longhenry

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