By Robert Henson
Getting the World in Proper Perspective
What do the world and the Christian have in common? Two Bible quotations provide the answer. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I John 2:15-17). “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? \ whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
In these passages, the “world” refers to the ungodly system that holds the earth in its sway. When Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness, he paraded before Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. In his clever attempt to thwart the plan of God, he insidiously associated with the world two powerful forces that are especially attractive to people: power and glory (Luke 4:6). Further, he intimated slyly that these forces were at his disposal and dispensable at his will.
If Satan possesses such ability, certainly it is reasonable to suggest that a new convert needs to be on constant alert. Satan is sure to dangle these two alluring attractions before him in an attempt to frustrate his life and hinder his progress in the Lord.
Christians often refer to certain things one says, wears, or does as being “worldly,” meaning that it belongs to the world’s values or system, which is influenced and controlled by satanic forces. The new convert should be reticent to partake of or participate in anything that threatens to involve him with, or make him a slave to, this system. Of necessity, we must live in this world, yet we must be as pilgrims and strangers to it (Hebrews 11:13).
The apostle Paul instructed, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22). We are to shun everything that could be construed as evil and disassociate ourselves from questionable practices that Satan could take advantage of. He longs for this type of influence in our lives (II Corinthians 2:11). Courting doubtful practices may well cause us to become entangled in the things of the world.
Paul commanded Timothy, “Flee also youthful lusts” (II Timothy 2:22). The Living Bible paraphrases, “Run from anything that gives you the evil thoughts that young men often have, but stay close to anything that makes you want to do right.”
These passages of Scripture indicate that the individual Christian has power to refrain or to participate, to run or to stay. Too often, people expect God to keep them from questionable or dangerous things, but this thinking is erroneous. The power to do or refrain from doing is within our own will, given by the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of the Word of God.
Paul stated this truth clearly in instructing the church at Rome. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. . . . Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. . . . Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:12, 13, 16).
To put it bluntly, you are at the controls, holding your destiny in your own hands. You must come to grips with the world and recognize it for the evil system that it is! `And the world passeth away, and the lusts thereof” (I John 2:17). Therefore, in any association you have with it, you must keep this perspective in mind.
Participation in Questionable Activities
In many areas, a thin line separates right from wrong. Separation from the world is not always easy and is sometimes difficult to explain to someone who has had little or no spiritual background. Some things we will address on this subject could be controversial. Since the Bible does not deal with every specific contingency of evil, especially involving modern innovations, we must ascertain the general principles of the Word of God and then make practical applications to our own time, place, and circumstances.
Let us take, for instance, the practice of smoking. There are no obvious references to smoking in the Bible, but is it right for a Christian to indulge in it? There are scriptural principles from which we can obtain guidance and draw a reasonable conclusion.
- Drinking, Smoking, and Drug Use
The Scriptures are not silent on the practice of drinking. It is wrong because it leads to drunkenness and addiction, both of which the Bible condemns. This habit leads many to despair, disgrace, and destruction. In one study of 882 criminal arrests, 72.7 percent of the crimes involved alcohol in some measure.
The following passages of Scripture will reveal God’s viewpoint on the subject: Deuteronomy 21:20; Proverbs 20:1; 23:20, 29-35; Isaiah 5:11, 28:1; Habakkuk 2:15; Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13; I Corinthians 6:10; Ephesians 5:18.
Certainly no genuine Christian should indulge in such a questionable, addictive habit that has destroyed so many homes and ruined so many lives. It should be one of the first things to go when one obeys the Scriptures and gives his life to God!
Should a Christian smoke? Almost immediately, the adherents to this addictive habit loudly proclaim, “There is no direct Scripture that prohibits it.” Granted, that is true. There is no direct reference to smoking anywhere in the Bible. However, the practice is entirely contradictory to the spirit of the Scripture, which teaches, ‘All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (I Corinthians 6:12). The use of tobacco in any form is addictive. It is a filthy habit and intrudes into the privacy of others who do not indulge. It holds one tenaciously in its grip. Many loudly proclaim that they can stop whenever they desire, but few of them ever do.
It is a health hazard—so much of one, in fact, that the government severly restricts its advertising and every pack of cigarettes carries a sober warning of danger printed on it. Should a Christian partake of something so flagrantly destructive and injurious? The answer is obviously no.
The twentieth century added another treacherous scourge to the already overcrowded scene: drugs! As if the other prevalent addictive substances were not enough, Satan has added this curse against the sanctity of human life, the authority of God, and the decency of society.
This scourge has even invaded the religious scene. Some have claimed that using drugs has spiritual value. Some have supposedly gained new insights into both self and God while high on drugs. However, no one under the influence of such an intoxicating force could possibly see things correctly. It is an illusion, and the experiences are merely hallucinations. Such practices are foreign to the Word of God and should be avoided as evil by every convert.
The individual who needs such an artificial means of inducing a “spiritual” experience is certainly unaware of the biblical teaching of the mighty power of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. Jesus Christ, living within one through the infusion of the Holy Spirit, adequately meets the need of penitent, sincere individuals without any artificial inducement.
- Dancing, Parties, and Mixed Swimming
The modern dance was not designed to glorify God. Regardless of the form it takes, its appeal is to the lower nature of humanity. Its lure is to the lust of the flesh and is purely physical in its excitement. The music is usually suggestive and the atmosphere conducive to wrong motives.
No Christian belongs on the worldly dance floor. The body of the Christian belongs to the Lord, is His temple, and should never be made a party to the evil associated with the dance. We were bought with a very dear price, the blood of Jesus Christ, and are therefore admonished to glorify God in our bodies (I Corinthians 6:19-20).
A party can be either good or bad. It depends on the purpose, people, and place. Where will it be held? Who will be there? What will go on? Will it be supervised? It is certainly not wrong to have good, wholesome fun, and everyone can stand a little humor to compensate for some of the tensions experienced in the rush of this hour. Before we participate in a social activity, however, we must be sure that the purpose, place, and people are conducive to an atmosphere of Christian conduct required by the Word of God.
The Bible has never changed. Neither has the Lord. Modesty is a virtue acquired with the infusion of the Holy Spirit and required by the Word of God. It should never be compromised anytime, anywhere, or under any circumstances. The body belongs to the Lord and should not be up for auction to the lustful eyes of the world. We cannot control what goes on in the mind of the lustful, but it is entirely unnecessary for the Christian to add insult to God and humans by nudity, seminudity, or immodest exposure by improper dress.
Deep within the heart of all Pentecostal Christians should be a desire to attire themselves so that they never need be ashamed or embarrassed under any circumstances. Swimming in scanty attire at a public beach, or in private parties where there are people of the opposite sex outside the immediate family, would not fit into these circumstances. We also need to consider others who may be embarrassed because of our attire. The modern bathing suit is neither modest nor godly.
Recreation is a refreshing of oneself by means of relaxation and enjoyment. Wholesome recreation is beneficial for anyone. Not all recreations are wholesome, however. The new convert should seek the advice of the pastor before participating in anything that could be questionable. There are dozens of wholesome activities that add zest and fun to life, and it is sheer delight to participate in them. No Christian need partake of questionable recreational practices when there are so many excellent things of a beneficial nature that one can participate in.
However, even right activities can become wrong when overindulged in, or when a wrong attitude develops. As an example, it was the custom in one church to have a lively, spirited softball game between the married and unmarried fellows on the day of the Sunday school picnic. The married fellows had won most of the games, so the unmarrieds set out to change the course of things. They vowed to beat the “old men” this particular year and practiced secretly to prepare themselves. Meanwhile they carried on a roasting and ribbing of the marrieds, declaring what they meant to do to them.
Finally the day of the picnic came, and the friendly game of ball turned into a heated affair when the unmar-rieds, despite all their practice, were badly beaten. They became sullen and argumentative and breathed out some unkind verbiage that spoiled the game. The right turned into wrong because of the attitudes. The wise pastor discontinued the game until the proper attitudes could be regained.
- Organized Sports
It has long been the general practice for members of United Pentecostal churches to refrain from participation in high school and college varsity competition and professional athletics. The reason is that participation in organized sports has serious pitfalls. Few athletes are able to keep up with the whirl of competitive sports and maintain their integrity with God. The demands on the time and talent of the individual can become pernicious, and the atmosphere of the competitions is often quite worldly. The lure of the limelight, the billboards, and the headlines can unbalance an otherwise sane and sensible youth. Often the influence of ungodly companions and roommates have a deteriorating effect on one’s spiritual life. The overall results of those who have participated leaves much to be desired.
- Hair Length
The Bible speaks clearly concerning the length of hair, for both men and women. I Corinthians 11 teaches definite guidelines in this area that the Christian can easily apply to his life.
This passage teaches that a woman should have long hair and not cut it. For a woman to cut her hair is a shame, as though she were shaven. Her long hair is a glory to her; it honors God and her husband and displays her obedience to the Lord.
A man’s hair should be cut short. It is a dishonor to him and to his position under God and as head of his home to allow his hair to grow long. Though some paintings show Christ with long hair, we must remember that these are not photographs but the product of human imagination and do not show the facts. Long hair on a man is a shame to him.
Though fashions change from season to season, we must remain consistent with the Scripture. How a woman fixes her long hair is a matter of personal preference, but it should always be consistent with the teachings of the Bible.
- Modest and Immodest Appearance
I Timothy 2:8-10 tells us, “I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”
Being modest means “having or showing a humble estimate of one’s merits, importance, etc.; free from ostentation; moderate; and decent.” If people have a modest appearance, (a) they will not exalt themselves or brag on themselves; (b) they will shrink from pretentious or ostentatious display; (c) they will follow a moderate course, that is, avoiding extremes; and (d) they will seek to maintain decency in walk, talk, and dress.
Being immodest is just the opposite. The meaning of “immodest” is “indecent, shameless; forward, impudent.” “Impudent” means “characterized by a shameless boldness, effrontery.”
The apostle Paul confronted both male and female with the proper attitude and appearance, which sets the standard for all to follow. In the passage just quoted, he had three things to say to each sex. To the men he exhorted: (a) pray everywhere, (b) lift up holy hands, and (c) have no wrath or doubt. To the women he exhorted: (a) adorn yourselves with modest apparel, (b) adorn yourselves with shamefacedness and sobriety, and (c) do not make a display of yourselves by your appearance, with such things as ornamental jewelry, extravagant hairdos, or extravagant dress.
These exhortations reach the problem area of both sexes. Men have a tendency to be independent, therefore neglecting prayer and becoming skeptical about spiritual things. Since they are typically involved with business dealings, their hands can become a little sticky with unholy things, figuratively speaking, and by nature they have a tendency to be wrathful if opposed or denied.
By the same token, women have a tendency to vanity, especially in their appearance, and this impulse must be controlled. Too, a woman is out of place if she is forward or brazen; she must learn to assume the God-given position that is hers.
Actually, the apostle simply appealed to the better judgment of each sex to steer a moderate course, both inwardly and outwardly, and to avoid extremes. The failure to do so is the cause of much trouble, breeding much confusion in the home, church, and society.
Other passages of Scripture that teach the same principles are Isaiah 3:16-24; Jeremiah 4:30; Ezekiel 23:4044; and I Peter 3:1-5. Some of them also cite the wearing of makeup as an example of immodesty and ornamentation.
Another admonition regarding modest and appropriate dress is found in Deuteronomy 22:5, which teaches that the distinction between male and female in outward attire is very important to God. “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”
Fashions, in both men and women’s apparel, fluctuate from one extreme to another. The wise convert will soon learn to follow the in-between course as safest.
Some time ago, a denominational church member was dining in St. Louis not far from our World Evangelism Center. Across from the booth where she and her husband were sitting were two young ladies. Unaware that they were the objects of scrutiny, they acted and looked the part of Pentecostals. As the lady later related to a Pentecostal friend, she told her husband, “Those are Pentecostal girls. You can tell by the way they look and act.” What a testimony! The lady was impressed by both girls and immediately identified them with the actions and appearance of her Pentecostal acquaintance. We should always appear in public so that any Christian would never need be ashamed of us!
Should a Christian become involved in the political world? When we read the Old Testament, we find many leading characters who were involved in the political world of that time. Many of them were statesmen, and not a few were kings and governors. David, Solomon, and Hezekiah were kings. Nehemiah was a cupbearer for a king, and Joseph was a governor.
In the New Testament, however, we do not find such examples. Instead of Christians being leaders in society, Paul said they were the offscouring of the world (I Corinthians 4:13). He told the Corinthians, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called” (I Corinthians 1:26).
It certainly would be a welcome relief to have government offices manned by genuine Christians. The wheeling and dealing would soon cease. Honesty and virtue would replace corrupt practices. Very few people can, however, stand the tremendous pressure to compromise their Christian testimony by the questionable activities typically associated with political office. If they can, they need to be there!
In any case, every Christian should be a good citizen of the country where they reside. They should not allow their testimony to be hindered by an unconcern for law and order, education, justice, and social needs.
Our Debt to Society
The moment one becomes a member of the church, he becomes indebted. He owes something to every living person! Paul declared that he was in debt to everyone, regardless of his social status. Rich or poor, wise or unwise, civilized or barbarian, everyone has a right to hear the gospel.
We pay that debt by several means. Some may be called to preach, others to be missionaries. Still others will be used of God mightily in personal work. But all of us can labor in prayer, fasting, and sacrificial giving so that others might fulfill their calling.
Each of us must be involved to the limit of the gift that God bestowed upon us! We can do no less. We are all part of a great building, established upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). Each of us has a particular part, a given ability, a certain strength, so that when we are effectively united and participate as planned by God, the whole structure of the church grows and extends itself into the world of the unsaved and unreached (Ephesians 4:16).
It should be the earnest endeavor of every born-again New Testament Christian to seek the Lord diligently for divine direction, to find the will of God for his life, and to pursue His will with spiritual determination and enthusiasm, knowing that his contribution to the church, though it may be small, is vital to its overall growth.
Many other things could be written relative to the new Christian’s relationship to the world. Your pastor will touch on these things often; thus it is important to be in services at your home church every time possible. You need the church to survive the onslaughts of Satan and to build yourself up in God. Be in church every service, and when it is necessary that you miss, be sure you were not looking for a convenient excuse.
The above article, “The World and You” was written by Fred Kinzie, Robert Henson, and Wayne Mitchell. The article was excerpted from Chapter five in the book, Victorious Living.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.