The Christian vs. The World

by Frank Viola author

The ascension demonstrates that we are part of another world, another realm, another kingdom. As Christians, therefore, we shouldn’t identify ourselves with the present age – whether country, culture, or race. We are part of a new humanity where Jesus is head. As partakers of the divine nature, we have a source of continuing transformation that empowers us to transcend nationalism, racism, and culture wars – to be a people of reconciliation who stand in the gap between the petty conflicts that often rule this present age.

The ascension shows us that the church ought not to be captive to the partisan spirit of this present world. We are not home in this old world, which is passing away. Rather, we are part of the new heavens and the new earth.

The ascension is God’s “no” to the principalities and powers, and God’s “yes” to His Son –  Jesus has triumphed and there is no other Lord but Him (Acts 2:36).

Historically, Christians have made three main errors when it comes to their relationship to the world. Properly understood, the ascension of Jesus corrects each error.

They are …

Problem 1: Withdrawal from the World

Solution: In His ascension, the body of Christ is Jesus acting in and for the world. Christians are light and salt in a dark world. Recall that when Jesus was on earth in His human body, His main task was to see what His Father was doing and join Himself to it.

Today, our main task is to see what Jesus Christ is doing and join ourselves to it. Thus we don’t draw away from the world; we enter into it and follow Jesus wherever He is moving there.

Problem 2: Trying to Bring the Kingdom on Earth

Solution: In His ascension, Jesus brings part of His kingdom on earth now through His ekklesia, but He will bring it in its fullness only at His second coming. The kingdom is here already, but also not yet. We cannot bring the kingdom into being in our own power. And we cannot bring the kingdom ahead of the King.

Problem 3: Conformity to the World

Solution: In His ascension, Christ lives in His people by the power of His indwelling life. That life keeps us distinct from the world and its values as we answer a higher, more compassionate call. The Lord’s ascension also proves that Jesus is Lord. As such, His followers are part of a different kingdom with a different core trajectory.

Looking at all three problems and their solutions, we encounter a paradox in Scripture. And that paradox can be put this way: for God so loved the world versus love not the world. [1]

We live on earth with the life of eternity in our spirits. The ekklesia is a colony of heaven on earth (Eph. 2:18–22; Phil. 3:20–21; 1 Pet. 2:9–12; Heb. 11:13–16).

The Holy Spirit is the reality of Christ’s presence and dispenses to us the very life that Jesus lived.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came as the Spirit of the glorified Jesus, the Spirit of the incarnate, crucified, and exalted Christ. The Spirit came to take the life that had interwoven humanity and divinity in the person of Jesus and dispense it to God’s people. And He, Christ, promised to be present with us until the consummation of the age (Matt. 28:20).

Knowing that Jesus is ascended and enthroned in heaven, we have assurance of final victory. If we take the time to pay attention and rest in these promises, this knowledge delivers us from fear, depression, and insecurity during the trials and tests of life.

Whatever happens, Christ is still on the throne and in control. The Jesus of yesterday is the Jesus of today and will one day become the Jesus of tomorrow.

Our representative Man has reached the goal; the forerunner blazes the path for us all.

We are partners of the heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), pioneers of the heavenly way.

He has dominion over heaven and earth.

He secured the eternal purpose of God and ascended on high to bring forth “many sons until glory” (Heb. 2:10; Eph. 4:8). And for reasons hidden in His infinite love and mercy, God has allowed us to participate in Christ’s present-day ministry of sanctification and redemption.

We can lay hold of these realities only with the eyes of faith.

I’ll close with a statement from a friend of mine named Barbey Meyers. In 2004, I delivered a series of messages on the present-day ministry of Jesus Christ to a local fellowship in southern California. Barbey was one of the members of this fellowship, and after I traveled back home, she began emailing me the group’s reflections on the messages I had delivered while there. Here’s a statement from Barbey that was part of those emails:

In Jesus, the Son of Man, all of the Godhead was contained in a single physical body. The cross broke Jesus open, and through the opening, God’s life was subject to reproduction into prepared vessels in which His role as high priest would be expressed to the world. Jesus took to His Father the experience as the Son of Man and left that experience in His Spirit to be part of the life He impregnated into those called to be sons and daughters of God. I’m a needy human being, but my weaknesses do not plague me like they used to. They’re simply who I am outside of Christ. While my sins may trouble me, God has made provision. I have only to say my high priest’s name, and His ever-flowing blood touches the tarnished thread in the fabric of my life and restores its luster. Faithful is He as advocate, intercessor, and heavenly lawyer!

This is Jesus today!

[1] For details, you can freely listen to my conference message “For God So Loved the World vs. Love Not the World” at frankviola.org/lovenottheworld.

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