"And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. " - 1 John 2:17
In light of that scripture consider a penetrating question from Charles Spurgeon: “If I had a brother who had been murdered, what would you think of me if I daily consorted with the assassin who drove the dagger into my brother’s heart; surely I too must be an accomplice in the crime. Sin murdered Christ; will you be a friend to it? Sin pierced the heart of the Incarnate God; can you love it?”
How suspicious and cruel to be found around town with the assassin, laughing with him at clubs, taking gifts from him, enjoying his company, delighting in his wit and longing to hear about his ambitions.
This is to remind us that one of the basic calls on our lives as Christians is resistance, resistance to being conformed to the desires of the world. Why? Because in Christ we have overcome the world and are now forever citizens with Him in the destiny of His resurrection glory.
The call to live here and now out of the sure hope of our eternal abiding is found in many scriptures. Here are just a few:
1 PETER 1:14 “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”
COLOSSIANS 3:1-2 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
TITUS 2:11-13 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
ROMANS 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, [age] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Noticeable in most scriptures of this sort is how the negative ("do not") often precedes the positive ("but rather"). This not only proves the Holy Spirit uses both denials and affirmations in the care of souls, it also proves that loathing sin is an important step of its own in living for Christ. In other words, there is no progress in holiness without a lively commitment to resist worldliness. A spirit of resistance is essential.
What are we resisting? The desires of the world. We consciously resist conforming our lives to the thoughts, habits and ambitions which unbelieving people declare normal thoughts, normal habits and normal ambitions.
American unbelievers have declared certain goals, ambitions and priorities normal because they wish to have their earth-bound desires regarded as legitimate by as many people as possible so they feel no pressure to part with them. We must both resist and know we are called to be among the resistance.
But resistance is not the end of the matter. There is no good place to go with our resistance without faith in Christ. This is why John also adds: "but whoever does the will of God abides forever." Not only does that positive statement perfectly describe Jesus Christ and all united to Him by faith, it also reveals the presence of two ages. The age of this world is passing away, the age of abiding forever with God is now open to men. The first age will soon end, the abiding age will be unending.
What explains the existence of these two ages and the dividing line between them?
Paul says in Galatians 1:3 - "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Gal. 1:3-5). Jesus Christ is the dividing line between the age of death and sin and the age of life and righteousness. He is not only the dividing line in world history but the dividing in the personal history of all who believe.
So we cannot simply study the world and catalog all its corruptions thinking this mastery will help us overcome the world's desires. It will not. The Pharisees, the worldliest people in the Bible, thought themselves experts in identifying worldly corruption. They were spectacular failures. In their self-righteous pride they were consumed by the world because they rejected the righteousness that comes only by faith through Jesus Christ.
Here then is the prescription for the Christian pilgrim in the world - consciously resist the desires of this passing age by faith in the righteous Lord of the eternal age.
As John Murray prudently said: “If all our calculations, plans, ambitions are determined by what falls within life here, then we are children of this age.... We do well to examine ourselves by this criterion: are we calculating in those terms which the interests and hopes of the age to come demand?”