While not a direct quote, quite a few verses in the Bible focus on what it means to be IN the world but not OF the world.
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19)
“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:14-16)
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” (1 John 2:15)
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)
IN the world but not OF the word means…
- Being chosen by Christ
- Being hated by the world
- Being protected by God
- Not being attached to the things of the world
- Not associating with those who call themselves Christian but who live like the world
Essentially, IN not OF the world means pursuing God’s will and not conforming to the world’s patterns or ways of doing things.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
Two definitions at this point are helpful.
- The world = the world system and philosophy headed by Satan.
- Conform = act in accordance or harmony; comply; act in agreement with the prevailing standards, attitudes, practices, etc.
These definitions help bring an even deeper understanding of what being IN not OF the world means for Christians.
Conforming to the world makes you an enemy of God.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
Being transformed to God’s will, however, puts you in a place of victory over Satan and the world.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Being transformed puts you in a place where you can receive that which the world cannot give.
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)
No Middle Ground
How do we open ourselves up to the transformation that involves mind renewal and being on the path to God’s will?
- Recognize the enemy. (Ephesians 6:12)
- Rely on God’s power. (Romans 8:37)
- Overcome by the blood. (Revelation 12:11)
- Choose to be separate. (2 Corinthians 6:17)
We must choose to step out of the “course of the world” (Ephesians 2:25). To not do so, to take no action either way, is to choose conformity to the world. There is no middle ground.