We live in the world, and it’s hard to keep it from rubbing off on us. Sometimes it’s tempting just to escape it, isn’t it? Move to the proverbial deserted island or to a rural mountain in Tibet. Some believers in church history tried that route, retreating to caves, deserts, or monasteries, but it didn’t always work well. Tempting as it might be sometimes, God never called us to retreat from the world.

So here we are. We live and work and play in it, all the while seeing daily reminders that it’s a pretty messed-up place. Immorality, violence, deceit, corruption . . . it’s everywhere. And in the middle of all that we hear commands like this one from James:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27).

Keep yourself unstained from the world, he says. In the world, but not of the world, as it’s sometimes put (cf. John 15:19).

That’s fairly easy to say, but difficult to practice. What do we do?

An important part of the answer is awareness. We’ve got to recognize what’s going on.
We’ve got to be able to see the sinful aspects of our culture. We need to ask ourselves daily:

  • Are there any significant differences between me and my non-Christian friends?
  • How are my values different from the world’s?
  • Am I becoming more like Jesus and less like the world?

The thing that makes it so tough is that the world stains us slowly, gradually, subtly.
Perhaps you’ve heard the anecdote about boiling a frog. Put it in boiling water, and it’ll jump out. Put it in cold water and gradually heat it up, though, and the frog will be cooked to death.

I’m not sure if that’s true of frogs, but I’m pretty sure it’s true of us.

The world is all around us, and it affects us without our knowledge. We make small compromises, and over time they add up. Then one day we realize we’re changed.

Let’s pray about this today.

Ask the Lord to make you vigilant. Ask him to help you see the small changes the world is trying to make in your life.

Ask him to work in you through his Spirit to transform you into what he wants you to be, instead of allowing the world to conform you to its image.

Christ’s blood leads us away from the polluting influence of the world.—Chuck


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