God has been doing an amazing thing in my life—unlike anything I have experience before. I have been granted an inner sense (spiritual perceptiveness) of the actual spiritual divide between God’s Kingdom, as manifested on earth by the Holy Spirit’s Presence, and the “spirit” of the age. The sharpness of this inner sense has been remarkable in that I have begun to see the thread of falsehood that unites worldlings’ together and sets them against God’s own people. That is, lawlessness.
Those who are lawless are simply those persons, regardless of whether or not they participate in religious or devotional practices of one sort or another, who believe that they have the right to determine what is true and false, right and wrong, good and bad. The Lord spoke of those who would not heed and obey his message as lawless. (I will let the reader go look that up—challenge to use a concordance!) What a remarkable characterization of a profoundly religious society! Yet this is how he characterized the Jewish world of that time.
The message of the New Testament is certainly one of God’s love and grace and mercy. Yet God’s purpose of giving and our receiving that love, grace and mercy is so we can become holy. The apostle Peter affirmed this in his exhortation to believers to lead lives marked by holiness (1 Peter 1:13-16). Contrary to what so many modern people think that Christianity teaches (especially those who emphasize the grace of God) the biblical vision of redeemed humans is of a truly holy people.
Peter’s instruction is helpful here. He elaborates on how we must cooperate with God to enter into and remain in the dynamic progressive process of becoming holy. “If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.” (1 Peter 1:17, NRSV)
Do we know who we are worshiping? Do we consciously think of God as holy when we pray or sing songs of worship? Do we consciously remember that the Holy One is present everywhere and perceives all that we do? Does this truth instill in me deep-seated reverence for God the Father? Do we approach God as Father knowing and fully embracing him as the One who has the right to give us commands and to enforce the consequences of our choices upon us?
Many people attend worship services or have at times done “religious” activities; but this in no way means that they know the true God—that they have an actual relationship with the living God. For “God” can be a kind of back up plan for us just in case our plans do not work out or we find that we need help. For example, I cannot count the number of times I have heard Christians state something like this: God’s grace and help is there when we cannot make it on our own. This is heresy! Under what circumstance can any of us “make it on our own”? We are only fooling ourselves if we think this is genuine faith as Peter is describing it.
I have come to perceive another insight about myself that is crucial. Namely, that I can always tell if I am exercising genuine faith in the Holy One, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when I am willing to heed the admonitions of others. And when I am willing to listen to the advice and warnings from other believers (and sometimes unbelievers who are speaking truth to me) this demonstrates humility.
The essential characteristic of being “of the world” is the assertion of self-will over and against God and the revealed knowledge about how to relate to God. I can talk all I want to about phenomenal experiences but these are merely the boasting of a self-deceived soul. The way I know that my experience of faith and knowledge of God is authentic is if I have a growing hunger for holiness and am willing to do whatever is necessary to become thoroughly holy like my Lord Jesus. Worldlings will turn in terror at the prospect of true holiness. Those who belong to God through the Lord Jesus are willing to embrace the hardships of obedience required for holiness because they know true joy is found in this way.