A Prayer
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.

Listen to Him!(Mark 9:7)

They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

    Jesus, John 17:14

Chapter VI


Jesus addresses this topic as one who has a perfect grasp of the subject. He speaks, authoritatively and without equivocation, of the worlds beginning and end. He knows what was before it and what is to follow it and, although within it, he speaks as one who sees the whole from the perspective of eternity. He is accurate when speaking of both the future and the past. This is not at all surprising if we recall that his words are the words of the eternal Father and not the words of the man Jesus. This he also said (John 12:49).

Consider the biblical word for "world." In the New Testament Greek it is "cosmos." This word may have either of two general definitions. One is the total creation, the orderly arrangement of "stuff" that comprises the physical universe. It appears in the parables as a field or container of events (Matthew 13:38). It also may connote the world of men, the container of human events, as when he speaks of all the nations of the world (Luke 12:30). This is the primary and most frequent application of the word.

Jesus never dwells, like a scientist, on the mechanics of the world. He speaks instead as one who came into it to be a savior and redeemer of its content, which is men. As the world of men, it has not known God, and therefore is in darkness. Jesus has come as light into this darkness (John 8:12), and he commissioned his disciples to continue this function after him (Matthew 5:14). They are to do this by declaring the good news of the Kingdom of God to men. The darkened body of men, which is the world, is ignorant of God and thus is prone to sin. For this cause Jesus pronounces woe upon it. See how he pronounced woe upon the city of Jerusalem because it also was ignorant of God and thus "knew not the time of its visitation" (Luke 19:44).
Jesus manifested unsurpassed care, love, and concern for the world of men, which is not only dark, but also dead. He desires only to bring life to it, and to this end he says:

The bread which I give for the life of the world is my flesh (John 6:51).
By this he does not at all mean the yielding up of his body on the cross, as he proceeded to explain:  
 It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (John 6:63).

Here, he metaphorically identified the flesh with the words that the flesh uttered, or for which the flesh was but a vessel (of words). It is the words that give life to the world when they are cast seed-like into the field that is the world. Wherever men hear and believe, they receive the word and spring to life, and when they have root, they endure. It is thus that he gives his flesh for the life of the world.

The world always responds to him with hostility. It has an adverse relationship to Jesus and his followers that will never change. Jesus is "not of the world" (John 8:23). His disciples also are "not of the world" just as he is "not of the world" (John 17:14, 16). The world hates Jesus, his word, and his disciples (Mark 13:13). He identified Satan and his subserviency – that is, Caesar and his predecessors and successors – as "the prince of this world" but the kingship of Jesus "is not of this world" (John 18:36). Whenever he speaks of the world as hating both him and his followers (John 7:7; 15:19), he always means the world of men. The same is true whenever he speaks of "all the nations of the world" (Luke 12:30).

The single word "men" in the utterances of Jesus defines a category that includes all people of the world. The following utterances are examples of this usage of "men" in the word:

Beware of men . . . (Matthew 10:17).
But he turned and said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men (Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33).
The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day (Mark 9:31).

Blessed are when men hate and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man (Luke 6:22).

(To the Pharisees) You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15).

I do not receive glory from men (John 5:41).

His disciples are those who have heard and received his Word, and who are distinguished from others by being "not of the world." This distinction arises from an inner reckoning of the disciples, according to which they resolve to abide in his words. The disciples are to beware of men because God is on one side and men are on the other. Men oppose God – that is what they do. Whoever is justified before men does not receive glory from God. Whoever is justified before God does not receive glory from men, but is subject to being delivered into their hands to be killed by them. The disciples must therefore beware of men, but should consider themselves blessed when men hate them. This means that they have God's approval.

The enmity of men toward God is so basic and strong, the hatred of men for the word so inevitable and bitter, that there can be no neutrals, so that:

He that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward (Mark 9:40,41).
He was, for emphasis, prone to express this teaching from the opposite perspective, saying elsewhere:
He who is not with me is against me and he who does not gather with me scatters (Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23).
Therefore, anyone who aids, abets or ministers to a disciple must have crossed the line of hostility from the side of the men of the world to the side of Christ. Such a one is the same as a disciple, for he will surely be hated by the world as such. He will be received as such by Jesus. There will be some happy surprises at the last judgment when they say to the Lord: "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" Then the king will answer them:
Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40).
Those who "did it not" will have an unhappy surprise:
Truly I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me (Matthew 25:45).
These latter ones will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Jesus is not speaking here of general works of charity but of works directed specifically to those whom the world persecutes because of their identification with him. Those who minister to the disciples should expect to share in the persecution of the disciples because they will be identified with them by the persecutors.

To illustrate, a prison ministry to persons imprisoned for their crimes of larceny or violence is not included here. It is to the shame of Christendom that one can hardly find in the world today an example of what is included. This reminds us of yet another utterance of the Lord:

Yet shall the Son of Man find faith on the earth when he comes (Luke 18:8)?
The line is so sharply drawn, the hostility so intense, the hatred so unwavering, that anyone who goes to the aid of a disciple who genuinely bears the name of Christ identifies with that disciple and receives both the persecutions and the rewards of a disciple. Such a person has crossed over and, like the disciples, is no longer of the world and can expect to share with the disciples in the hostility of the world. As one who thus identifies with the disciples, such a one counts as a disciple.

How do you dispose yourself toward men? This is a crucial question in this day when the line between Christians and the world is so faintly drawn that it seems not to exist. In reality the line is always bold and unmistakable, and one's disposition toward men boldly defines it because of the intrinsic hostility. Jesus said on this point:

You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15).
From Luke's Gospel, this utterance is in the same context as the one on the two masters that focuses on money. In Matthew the context is different. One might conclude that Luke's sources did not agree with Matthew, therefore the two gospels do not agree on the time of this utterance. One also might conclude that the abomination utterance represents a fundamental truth that Jesus applied repeatedly to different situations. This is my conclusion because, although the saying is definitely applicable to men's love of money, it also applies to many other things. A different application is specified – that is, the desire to be exalted among men. Besides, the plain application is to anything whatsoever that is exalted among men. Whoever receives praise and glory from men surely fits the application, and this applies to the Pharisees to whom he immediately addressed the utterance. These persons are an abomination in the sight of God; and if the thing exalted is an abomination, how great an abomination is that in men that draws people to seek exaltation among their fellows! So, elsewhere addressing his disciples, he instructed them saying:
Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 6:1).
Jesus himself was among his contemporaries as one who serves and, therefore, was not exalted. Fulfilling prophecy, he was despised and rejected of men (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus addressed this theme repeatedly; In Luke's version of the Beatitudes, he presented it both coming and going, as follows:
Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. . . . but . . . woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets (Luke 6:21-26).
I conclude from this that God, through Jesus, assigned an absolutely inverse relationship to the estimate of either a thing or a person. If the estimation of men (in general) is high, God's estimation is low; if the estimation of God is high, that of men will be low. There is no provision at all for the remotest possibility that God's estimate will agree with man's when the estimate of man is high. Still, there is a provision for agreement when the estimate is low, for it is only when the estimate of men is low "on account of the Son of Man" that God's estimate is inevitably high.

Although Jesus does not address the point, he leaves open the possibility that the two estimates agree when they do not involve the Son of Man, and when they are low. Consider these examples: criminals, murderers, and tyrants may at once be abominations to both God and men. But I must repeat, for emphasis, that if the estimate of men is high, God's is low. Since it is God's word that Jesus announced, the nature of things must be such that God despises anything or anyone exalted among men.

Is this arbitrary? No, although it might as well be so since the result is the same. It is because of the fundamental nature of things. Anyone or anything that men exalt also will be, without regard to the estimate of men, an abomination to God. For example, any person who is of a character such that he or she seeks the exaltation of men, is also of a character that is abominable to God. Also, the character of Jesus and the nature of men are such that he is always and inevitably despised and rejected by men. Everyone who follows him in Truth is always approved and exalted by God.

Finally, consider how we are again dealing with the same absolute either/or. Men are on earth, while God is in heaven, and in consequence heaven clearly disapproves of whatever earth approves, and earth inevitably disapproves of Christ. The earth despises the one heaven approves, and heaven holds as abominable the one earth approves.

John's Gospel presents this same dichotomy, except that the term "world" replaces "men" or "earth." He said:

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you (John 15:18).
The world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world (John 17:14).
What is the appropriate response of disciples when they face the hostility of the world? Like everything else in the Word, Jesus presents this response in a simple, concise manner.
  Do not resist one who is evil (Matthew 5:39).

Can any word be clearer than that? Only by the addition of specific examples, which Jesus proceeded immediately to provide: when one strikes you on the cheek, when one sues you, and when one forces your service. This is all compatible with love for your enemies, which Jesus also specifically enjoined. There is a great mystery here that we will probe more deeply as we proceed, but the result of this response is that whoever practices it has overcome the world, just as Jesus declared that he himself had done:

"Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).


The Father called the world into being by his Word (John 1:1-3). By the same word we see that the world has only a hostile, adverse relationship to the Father, to his Son, and to the disciples. Now it is hardly reasonable to suppose that the Father did not know before hand that he was creating an adversary, so I conclude that this feature of the world is essential to his purpose.

The Word also reveals this: he wants but one thing from the world – a harvest. This he defined in the Parable of the Weeds:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So, when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the (farmer) came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the weeds, you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’ (Matthew 13:24-30).
Later, seated in the house with his disciples, they asked him to explain and he responded,
He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear (Matthew 13:37-43).
So! The field is the world! Also, the single and precise purpose of the world is to serve as a field for the production of a harvest. Like the farmer in the midst of his struggles against the vicissitudes of weather and soil and pests, there is but one object: the day of harvest! To this day the Father similarly looks expectantly for the gathering of the sons of the kingdom into his glory. But an enemy has been at work sowing weeds that are springing up everywhere in great numbers and making the field inhospitable to the few who are sons of the Kingdom. Now, in the normal vocation of farming, the farmer would send out his servants with hoes and plows to root out the weeds; but here the analogy breaks down. In this field, the world, the roots of the weeds and the wheat are so mingled that the sons of the evil one cannot be rooted out without also rooting out the sons of the Kingdom, and so both continue to grow together to this day. While the good seed means the sons of the Kingdom, the latter are those that the good seed produces. Like wheat, they produce more good seed from generation to generation. So there is an intimate identification and interdependence of the seed and the plant, which produces more seed. Yet there also is a distinction, because the seed obviously precedes the fruit bearing plants. Furthermore, it is the Son of Man, Jesus, who first sows the seed in the field, which is the world. The seed itself he defined as the word of the Kingdom, which he announced in the world. This one learns from the Parable of the Sower, the other of the two parables which Jesus expressly interpreted for the disciples (Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23).

In this latter parable, the evil one (Satan, or the devil) snatches away the word, or seed, which was sown in the heart of the hearer. This is like seed sown on the path. Some seed falls on rocky ground, and springs up only to die when tribulation arises because it lacks depth. Other seed, sown among thorns, also springs up but the thorns choke it, and it is unfruitful. It is only that seed that falls on good soil that is fruitful, and multiplies thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold. In this latter parable, the field is not the material world itself; it is the hearts of the people in the world. The sowing of the seed in the field, which is the world, is the broadcasting of the seed, which is the word, into the hearts of men through the medium of hearing. It is the response of individuals to the word of Jesus that reveals the nature of the soil (or hearts) of men. The Pharisees specifically exemplify poor soil:

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father, the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires . . . He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason that you do not hear them is that you are not of God (John 8:43-47).
Finally, we see how everything contributes to a single end, which is the harvest. So also with the Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly. The sower sows the seed, then retires. The seeds sprout and grow up and the earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. Then when the grain is ripe, the sower rises and puts in the sickle, for the harvest has come. Here again, the sole objective is the harvest.

So also with the Parable of the Net (Matthew 13:47-50), in which the world is the sea and the harvest is the harvest of the sea with its two differing kinds of produce, the good and the bad. The angels gather both and separate them for judgment, precisely as Jesus described in his portrayal of the final judgment in Matthew (Matthew 25:31-33).

So also with the Parable of the Wicked Tenants that Jesus told against the chief priests and Pharisees. The point is that "When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit" (Mark 12:2; Luke 20:10).

So also with the Parable of the Vine, in which the Lord says:

I am the true vine, and my father is the vine dresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15:1, 2).
In these parables, whether a field, the sea, a vineyard, or a vine, there is but one purpose manifest for the world and that is the harvest. This is the only purpose for the existence of the world; if we search the word for another, we search in vain. So, the world is not an end within itself and is therefore expendable. It does not justify itself, but finds its sole justification in a purpose beyond itself.

At an early point in his earthly sojourn Jesus expected a rich harvest from the Jewish nation. It was this expectation that prompted the following words:

Do you not say, there are yet four months, then comes the harvest? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true: one sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor (John 4:35-38).
The patriarchs, kings and prophets had labored and the vineyard was let out to tenants. These were the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees and the Jews in general. Those whom he had sent out into the nation to reap became with him the sowers of the seed in the wider field of the world and the harvest of that field is to come at the end of the world as he described it in Matthew's Gospel.

First, though, it is necessary that:

This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).
Therefore absolutely everything looks to the harvest; but that is also the final judgment and the end of the world. Since the world does not remain after the harvest, it will have fulfilled its only purpose – that of producing the fruit that the Father desires.

In the Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly (Mark 4:27), the man who has sown the seed then retires and sleeps and rises "night and day" while the seeds sprout and grow without any further attention. "The earth produces of itself," first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear – all with absolutely no further activity, or even presence, of the sower. Only after the grain has ripened, at the harvest, does he again visit the field.

It is the same in the Parable of the Weeds of the Field, in which the field is the world. After the sowing, we find that the men have retired and are sleeping while the enemy is at work sowing the weeds. Now when all come up and the weeds appear, the servants want to return to the field and gather them. The farmer would not permit this and instead issued this instruction:

No, lest in gathering the weeds, you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest (Matthew 13:29,30).
Obviously, the earth is producing of itself as the weeds and the wheat grow together without any attention from the sower or any other attendant. It is the same in the world. Jesus came and sowed the word of the Kingdom, then he left. He will not return until the harvest is ripe. In the interval, today, both are growing together and the earth is producing of itself, with absolutely no interference from the Christ.

What is he then doing in the interval? Why, I do believe he said that he would be preparing a place for his harvest (John 14:2). Make no mistake. He has gone, and he flatly stated:

The world will see me no more (John 14:19).
But to the disciples he said:
I will not leave you desolate . . . but you will see me. Because I live, you will live also (John 14:19).
Then the disciple Judas (not Iscariot) asked, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us and not to the world?"

That is, perhaps, your question also? Let us then allow Jesus himself to answer:

If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me (John 14:23-24).
Then he added:
The counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (John 14:26).
Thus he sets before us yet again the extreme importance of the words that the Father gave him to deliver in the world. He and the Father, as the Holy Spirit, come only to those who keep his Word, for that is the test of their spiritual genealogy. Others who do not keep his Word are not like him but are like the Pharisees of whom he said:
Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires . . . he who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God (John 8:43-47).
It is thus that the men of the world go on their way neither knowing nor seeing him, and hating him and his words. His sheep, however, listen to his voice and have his words abiding in their hearts, and so he lives in them, and they in him (John 10:3-4, 16, 27; 15:1-7).

Everything, yes, absolutely everything, depends on our hearing and keeping his Word – the words uttered by Jesus himself. It is impossible to overemphasize this point. If I hear his words but do not take them seriously, I do not receive them into my heart. If I do not receive his words into my heart, neither do I receive him or the Father into my heart.


Finally, in Christendom one hears on every hand the thought that one has a Christian responsibility to change the world – to make it a better place. To most people it will seem ungodly of me to raise the question whether this is a proper goal of Christian living. Yet I must do it, for the open mind is essential to the perception of truth. The multitudes accept this as a given axiom – a truth so obvious that it needs no proof. This, however, is an attitude symptomatic of the darkness that is in the world. I am reminded here of the apostles' admonition to "prove all things." The problem is that we have a strong aversion to the questioning of entrenched ideas that are also dear and long nurtured, for to do so seems somehow disloyal, even traitorous. Besides, "My pastor said all God's people should work to bring the Kingdom of God on earth, and he should know." But is it true?

We will not know until we have examined the idea with great care, with open minds, and in the light of Truth – that is, of the utterances of Jesus. What is his position on the matter?

First it is necessary to define the subject more specifically. I am not speaking here of superficial changes. I am speaking of bedrock transformations that endure. We all know that the world is changing rapidly because of the knowledge explosion of the past five hundred years. These changes are continuing daily and we all contribute to them just by working and paying taxes, if not in other ways. These may seem to you to be very fundamental changes, but no – I consider them highly superficial. They seem so significant precisely because they are superficial and therefore highly visible. A little rouge and lipstick can work wonders with a person's face – yet the inner character remains untouched. The whole world of humanity is like this. We are continually applying cosmetics and cosmetic surgery to the face of civilization, which feeds the beloved delusion that . . . we are changing the world, but we are not. If you will hear me out, I hope you will agree.

Now to be very basic and specific, what is it that we are all seeking from life? Happiness! Whatever you may think it takes to make you happy – that is not the point. The point is happiness itself, and on that, at least, we should agree, just as the framers of the American Constitution recognized our common devotion to its pursuit. Now, do you really think that people are happier today that they were five hundred years ago? Or fifty? Or five?

You may at first say "Yes," for you will think of the demise of once fearful superstitions, the defeat of once deadly maladies, and the overthrow of once oppressive monarchies. But, quickly call to mind also the despair of today's urban ghettos and the failure of marriage and family. Think next of the disillusioned youth committing suicide with drugs. Then go on to consider the recent "iron curtain," the threat of doomsday war and nuclear accidents, and the new malady called AIDS.

I could go on, but surely you get the point. No one can make a sure judgment on this question because happiness meters were not available five hundred years ago and they still are not available. Apart from firm data, any opinion must be a guess. There is plenty of evidence both pro and con, but . . . that we cannot give a reliable answer either way is significant, for it suggests very strongly that there has been no real change in the happiness quotient of the world. If there has been a significant change, there ought to be strong evidence to confirm it.

Because we can point to major sources of massive unhappiness in today's world, many of recent origin, without having any ready solutions, we must conclude that if things have changed at all, they cannot have changed much for the better. Therefore I maintain that my view, which is that the world hasn't changed in a significant degree in its ability to produce happiness, is well supported by the available evidence.

Why is this so important?

Because happiness is the one universal goal of all people, and its pursuit is the most worthy of occupations. A "better world," therefore, is by definition a happier world. I see therefore that the world cannot have been made better and that the many efforts to that end have been futile. They probably have been counterproductive. Yet happiness continues to be our goal. It is a worthy goal, one that Jesus assumed without question, as he does in the beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11). Each of these begins with the Greek word, makarios, which defines a state of extreme happiness. Let us examine these verses briefly to see what, in Jesus' view, is the key to true happiness:

"Happy are the poor in spirit . . ."

"Happy are they that mourn . . ."

"Happy are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness . . ."

"Happy are the merciful . . ."

"Happy are the pure in heart. . ."

"Happy are the peacemakers . . ."

"Happy are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake . . ."

"Happy are you when men revile you . . ."

You are thinking that something must be wrong here? Peace, mercy, and purity of heart make sense – but how on earth are we to find happiness through mourning and weeping? Or through poverty, hunger, persecution, and false accusation? Ah! There, exactly, is the rub . . . we do not find this happiness on earth.

The context is perfectly clear about this. These things render those who experience them happy because they result in great rewards "in heaven." The poverty is now; likewise, all the other things that result in happiness: the persecution, the mourning, the meekness . . . all are in the present tense. Yet Jesus tells us to rejoice and leap for joy – not because of what we experience now, but because of the promise of eternal rewards in heaven. In the strength of this faith, we are happy even now, on the earth!

Now examine the other side of this coin, which is the woe (Luke 6:24-26).

"Woe to you that are rich . . ."

"Woe to you that are full now . . ."

"Woe to you that laugh now . . ."

"Woe to you when all men speak well of you . . ."

Now do you see it? In truth . . . that is, in the words of Jesus, which are the words of the Father, there is an inverse relationship between happiness here and happiness hereafter. Those who experience happy things here and now will experience woeful things hereafter. Therefore, their happiness is not true happiness because it is very tenuous and temporary, and ends in eternal woe.

On the other hand, all who are subject to temporal woe (for righteousness sake) are eternally happy. Therefore, according to their faith, their happiness begins here, in the midst of the woes, such that they should "rejoice" and "leap for joy." Clearly Jesus here assumes that any testimony to truth and righteousness will inevitably result in persecution, vilification, poverty, false accusation and the like, for that is the nature of things. Therefore he has told us:

I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (John 15:19).
I draw the following conclusions from this:

Now focus on the kinds of changes in the world that people think they require to make them happy. Consider the following list:

I stop the list here to leave room for some imperfections. Many more "eliminations" could be added: Ignorance, crime, fraud, accidents, deadly diseases, bankruptcies, addictions – so, when we have realized the first five changes, something will be left for our descendants to work on. Of course, there is always death and aging; wouldn't their elimination make a marvelous contribution to our happiness!

A brief scrutiny of the items listed suggests that none of them, except the last, can be realized without first changing the character of man. Surely our hearts must undergo a transformation. Can poverty go while greed remains? Can peace prevail while violence, pride, arrogance, suspicion, fear, and the will to power survive? Can divorce go while infidelity and brutality abide? Can oppression go while prejudice and fear linger?

Looking at it in this way, whenever we set out to change the world, what we are really attempting to do, what we must do to realize success, is to change people! But here we collide with the immovable object, for the people we are trying to change is them, and the people they are trying to change is us, and the consequence of this is . . . war, domestic strife, personal conflict, oppression, and poverty.

Consequently, all efforts calculated to change the world are self defeating. This desire in man to change his world is one of the primary maladies of the world. Perhaps it is the most fundamental, for it vigorously fuels the others. The problem of the world can be distilled to one in which everyone seeks to change the world, but the various factions militantly disagree on what changes to make. It also follows that I, who believe that all attempts to change the world spring from evil, do not make any effort to stop others in their drives to that end, lest I come to excel them in guilt. To be consistent regarding this evil, I must and do accept the world exactly as it is, including the drive of its constituents to change it – that is, to change one another. More specifically, I must accept you just as you are, and this, dear neighbor, lies at the root of obedience to our Lord's second commandment:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31).

Is it possible to effect changes within oneself? Whenever one has come to understand the essence of the world, one sees that these things that I have listed as objectives of the world changers, including the desire to change the world, lie within the scope of the world essence. If one were to succeed in thus changing the world, the world would be the world no longer, but something else entirely. So, correspondingly, I cannot even effect such changes within myself and continue as a constituent of the world. Yet I can do it because Jesus has shown the way, and he said:

You are not of the world, even as I am not of the world (John 15:19; 17:14).

It is therefore possible for me to accept the world just as it is, and to accept you just as you are, because I do not to accept myself as a part of it. Jesus has set me free from it as he promised:

  If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8:31,32).

What I have not said here is also very important: I have not said that I do not want you to change, or that I do not care. On the contrary, if I were to come to know you as a person of the world, I would very much want you to change. Yet I can make no effort to change you, but must accept you just as you are. The change that I want in you is a change only you can make. Yet you cannot make it until after you learn to want it, just as I want it for you. Now hear again what I have not said. In saying that I may want to see a change in you, I have not said that I want to change the world, for that I do not want. And how is that? Because the change I want to see in you is that of changing from "of the world" to "not of the world" while the world itself remains unchanged. I do not want to change the world because it is precisely as my Father made it. The same principle that Jesus applied to marriage also applies here:

  What God has joined together, let not man put asunder (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9).

Applied to the present subject, the principle reads: "What God has put together (that is, the world), let not man change."

Jesus on the World's Future

Now, recalling that Jesus uttered words of God, absolute Truth, let us examine them to see if he said either that the world will change, or that he had come to change the world. Look again at the items previously listed:

1. Poverty:

The poor you have always with you (Matthew 26:11; Mark 14:7; John 12:8).

2. War:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34).
  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom  . . . (Matthew 24:6-7; Mark 13:7-8)

3. Broken homes:

For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in -law against her mother -in -law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household (Matthew 10:35-36).


Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death . . . (Matthew 10:21; Mark 13:12).

4. Oppression:

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. . . (Matthew 24:7-9).

5. Major disasters:

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences, and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven (Luke 21:10-11).

Add to these utterances others such as the parable in which Jesus makes it known that both the weeds and the good seed are to grow together until the harvest, and we see that there is no expectation of change for the world. Instead, there is only the bittersweet mix of good and evil that is to continue until the end.

What is clearer still is that Jesus knows that the injection of the Gospel into the world is not going to change the world one whit. It will only cause more war, more oppression, and more broken homes. The world is as it is because man is as he is, and man is as God made him. The world does not change because man does not change, except cosmetically. At heart he remains the same forever. Only individuals are changed by the Lord, by the word that makes them clean. This is repentance, which is central to the call of the Gospel. It does not change the world, it only delivers individuals from the world while the world itself goes on unchanged. They become "not of the world," wherefore their change of status in no way changes the world. It can be expected to retain its intrinsic character and to show this by turning on them with hatred and violence.

This is not all. There is yet something else amiss with Christendom's perpetual busying of itself with changing the world. Consider these words of the Father as uttered by Jesus:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

If a young man invests most of his time and money in fixing, polishing, and proudly driving his old clunker about among his peers, then he definitely values, or treasures, it. Also a householder, who spends all his or her time and resources repairing, remodeling, enlarging, and otherwise changing it for the better, treasures his house. Such persons "treasure" the objects of their devotion. They testify to this by all the attention they heap upon them and by all the resources they invest in them. As we often say more truly than we realize, "He has put his heart and soul into it."

In his words on treasure quoted above, the Father has by the word "treasure" given the broadest possible definition. It may be on earth or in heaven; it may be tangible or intangible. It is definitely out of our reach when it is in heaven, and therefore intangible. It also may be an intangible treasure on the earth. It can be and is absolutely anything that has a claim on our hearts, for that precisely is our treasure. The Father thus makes it plain that the only characteristic of our treasure that interests him is its location, whether it is in heaven, or on the earth. He wants our hearts, and he has them only when they are attached to treasure in heaven.

So, therefore, the setting of one's heart on heaven is one way of expressing the only righteousness. All else is evil, and this alone is righteous. Seeing that the earthly treasure is not
acceptable -- he says first, "Do not lay up treasure on the earth." So, in a manner consistent with this, Jesus also uttered these words of the Father:

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8).

Just as one's living body cannot simultaneously be in both Washington and Moscow, so also one's living heart and soul cannot simultaneously be on earth and in heaven. God has spoken, through Jesus, and that establishes the facts of the reality with which we have to deal.

Have you agreed with me that the youngster improving his car, and the man improving his house, have both treasured the objects of their respective devotion? Then you also should agree that their hearts are on the earth, since that is the location of their treasure. Good; now you also must agree with me in this: whoever dedicates himself or herself to the task of changing the world through efforts to improve it – that is, this world of humanity that is on the earth – also must treasure what is upon the earth because "his heart is in it." You also must agree with me in this: to the extent that such a person also caters to heaven, that catering is rejected because the heart is divided, and therefore impure. There is only one purgative for this impurity, and this also the Father uttered from heaven through the lips of Jesus:

You are made clean by the word which I have spoken to you (John 15:3).

Not only does the world never change, according to Jesus' utterances, but also the Word never inspires the disciples to attempt to change the world. In the present interval between the sowing and the harvest, both kinds of produce are growing together and will continue to do so until the end. Don't change it. "Let both grow together" (Matthew 13:30).

Think again for a moment of that precious, intangible treasure, peace. The word of God never brings outward peace; Jesus was very specific in instructing us not even to think that he came to do that. It brings division instead and results in the disciples bearing the full force of the hostility of the world. The people of the world cannot bear to hear the Word of Truth. Instead, the spirit of evil that is in the world compels them to react to it violently.

Were you expecting the operation of the Gospel in the world to purge it of evil? Did you think it would result in the establishment of a worldwide reign of righteousness on the earth? No; the very opposite is happening, and will continue to do so until the end. The world is even more sinful than ever it was before the appearance in it of the Christ, and this is perfectly consistent with his utterances. Consider this:

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father (John 15:14).


Soren Kierkegaard rightly said, "Purity of heart is to will one thing."

This is what we are really speaking of, for if one's heart is divided between heaven and earth, it wills two contrary things and is thus impure. So Jesus announced:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8).

He expressed this principle in many ways, but all arise ultimately from the world/heaven either/or. In one case he said:

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13).

Keep in mind that these are words that Jesus has heard from the Father; so therefore they are the words of God. It is God himself then who says, "You cannot serve God and mammon." The reason is clear: God will not accept the service of one who also seeks to serve another master – Mammon. The utterance comprehends all, for "No one can serve two masters" and therefore no one is accepted who offers divided service.

The principle is universal. It makes no difference what the identification of the masters may be. That is, it applies to all masters without exception. Yet the example given to illustrate the point suggests that the Word is only concerned with two masters in particular – God and Mammon. We see that, just as with fathers and treasures, so also with masters – we are dealing with the mutual exclusiveness and absolute antipathy of the world and heaven. God is in heaven, and the world of men is on this earth, as is Mammon. God is the only master to be considered in heaven, because his will prevails there. In contrast, many wills are active on earth, for every person has a will and exercises it freely. Jesus might just as accurately have said, "You cannot serve God and country," or "You cannot serve God and family." He chose the term "Mammon" because the service of money and material wealth is comprehensive in that earthly wills all push in that direction. This utterance gives another reason one cannot lay up treasure at once on earth and in heaven: from heaven's point of view that would be the service of two masters having contrary wills. So heaven says "No."

The world has as many wills as there are persons in it, but some are dominant and have more than an individual influence. Besides the will to wealth, there is the will to power, and all serve a common interest. The will of the state expresses itself through corporate bodies and elected or militarily imposed officials. The will of a great corporation expresses itself through its directors. One person may at once serve two or more of these masters because their common goals result in the conformity and cooperation of their wills. The will to secure domestic tranquility motivates the officials of the state, but this also motivates the corporate board, being a necessary condition for profitable operation. The will to profit motivates the corporate board. It also motivates the officials of the state because it results in job security, in the wealth essential to domestic tranquility, and in taxes that become salaries of the officials. So, though the people involved in the two differing entities on earth may at times seem to will different things, they really do not. The differing things are so compatible that they are one in essence. In these particular examples, money is a point of mutual concern. So Jesus, knowing that this holds for most earth-bound wills, choose mammon as the common denominator of earthly servitude.

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