Escape From the World’s Ways
Although Satan failed with Jesus, he has succeeded with everyone else. He will continue to do so unless we fight in the armor and power of God, who alone offers us the freedom from the lure of the world.
Thus, we must focus our attention on our heavenly Provider. David realized true value in this life when he wrote, “The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Ps. 34:10, NIV). Solomon recognized that wisdom and understanding were more valuable than silver and gold (Prov. 3:13, 14). True happiness and right living come from turning our eyes from the possessions we own and looking to the living Christ, who owns us.
Our only hope to escape the allure of the world is a vital and successful relationship with Jesus. This week, we will study the elements of that relationship and how crucial it is for our own spiritual success to recognize the power behind the mask of the world and see the importance of Christ as the real reason for living.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 27.
Love of worldly possessions, even by those who don’t have much, can be a powerful chain that binds the soul to the world instead of to Christ. Even if we don’t have much in terms of earthly possessions, the passionate desire to attain material goods can become a terrible curse that will, if not brought under the control of the Lord, lead a soul away from salvation. Satan knows this, which is why he uses the love of material possessions to ensnare as many as he possibly can.
What is our only protection?
The only cure for worldliness, in whatever form it comes, is a continual devotion to Christ (Ps. 34:1) through the ups and downs of life. Moses “regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26, NIV). Before any other relationship, Christ must be our first priority. Christ is looking for a commitment based on conviction, not on preference; that is, we must be devoted to Christ because of who He is and what He has done for us, not because of any immediate advantages our faith and commitment to Him might bring.
Our lives are to be hidden in Jesus, and His plans are to be our plans. True commitment is putting our hand to the plow without “ ‘looking back’ ” (Luke 9:62, NKJV). When we make that kind of commitment, Jesus elevates us to our full potential. When we surrender to Him, He will break the world’s hold upon our souls. We must become Christ-centered instead of stuff-centered; that alone will fill the void in our lives.
More than six billion Bibles have been distributed worldwide, but how many are viewed as the Word of the living God? How many are read with a sincere heart open to know truth?
Proper Bible study directs our spiritual compass and enables us to navigate a world of falsehood and confusion. The Bible is a living document of divine origin (Heb. 4:12), and as such it points us to truths that we cannot get anywhere else. The Bible is Christ’s road map for daily living, and it educates us by expanding our intellect and refining our characters.
We study the Bible because it’s the ultimate source of the Truth. Jesus is the Truth, and in the Bible we find Jesus as we can know Him because of how He has been revealed to us there. Here, in God’s Word, the Old and New Testaments, we learn about who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for us. We then fall in love with Him and commit our lives and souls to His eternal safekeeping. By following Jesus and obeying His words, as revealed in His Word, we can become free from the bonds of sin and of the world. “ ‘Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed’ ” (John 8:36, NKJV).
The love of the world, especially the love of worldly possessions, can easily draw us away from God if we are not careful. That’s why we must keep ourselves in the Word, which points us to the eternal and spiritual realities that are so crucial for the Christian life.
Love of worldly things never elevates the mind to spiritual morality; instead, it replaces biblical principles with greed, selfishness, and lust. Love, as revealed in the Bible, builds relationships by teaching us the importance of the giving of ourselves to others. In contrast, worldliness is all about getting things for ourselves, which is the opposite of everything Jesus represents.
“ ‘And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’ ” (John 17:3, NKJV). It is no wonder that Christians often say that their faith is about a relationship with God. If knowing God is “ ‘eternal life,’ ” then we can find that life through a relationship with Him. And, of course, central to that relationship is communication. We saw yesterday that God communicates to us through His divine Word. We, in turn, commune with Him through prayer.
If, as we have seen, we are to set our minds and hearts upon heavenly things as opposed to things of this world, then prayer is essential. This is because, by its very nature, prayer points us to a higher realm than that of the world itself.
Yet even here, we must be careful, because sometimes our prayers can be merely an expression of our own selfish nature. That’s why we need to pray in submission to the will of God.
Years ago, a woman sang these words, “Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?” It was, in her own way, an attack on the materialism of those who profess faith in God. We, too, must be sure that when we pray—which is in itself an act of submission to God and death to the world—we are seeking God’s will, not just our own.
If there is no faith attached to our prayers, there will be presumption, Satan’s counterfeit faith. “Prayer and faith are closely allied, and they need to be studied together. In the prayer of faith there is a divine science; it is a science that everyone who would make his lifework a success must understand. Christ says, ‘What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.’ Mark 11:24. He makes it plain that our asking must be according to God’s will; we must ask for the things that He has promised, and whatever we receive must be used in doing His will. The conditions met, the promise is unequivocal.”—Ellen G. White, Prayer, p. 57.
One of the most beautiful stories in the Bible is found in the story of Solomon’s request to God to give him above all things “ ‘an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?’ ” (1 Kings 3:9, NKJV).
Solomon had great wisdom, but wisdom in and of itself, if not acted upon and lived out, becomes nothing more than good information. In the biblical sense of the word, wisdom not acted upon is not truly wisdom.
Many will be lost who will have had plenty of correct information about God and His requirements. But Solomon’s lack of obedience caused him to stray from the paths to which the Lord had called him. Only later in life did he truly come to his senses, writing in humility: “For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her” (Prov. 8:11, NKJV).
Wisdom is the application of knowledge and understanding.
Knowledge represents the facts; understanding represents discernment; and wisdom comes in the process of applying our understanding and knowledge to our lives. A wise steward needs not only knowledge and understanding, but also the experience that comes from living out that knowledge and understanding.
Solomon’s example shows us how easily even the wisest and most understanding of people can get swept up in the emptiness of a materialistic lifestyle if that person doesn’t live out the knowledge that he or she has been given.
The great controversy is real; two sides are battling for our souls. One is drawing us to Christ (John 6:44) and one to the world (1 John 2:16).
The power of the Holy Spirit in our lives can and will draw us in the right direction if we only will submit to Him.
“ ‘However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth’ ” (John 16:13, NKJV; see also John 14:16). The Holy Spirit empowers us to live by principle and by faith, not by whims or emotions that so dominate the world. Successful preparation for living in heaven comes by living faithfully in this world under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Paul counsels: “Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5, NKJV). The lure of the world, often through material possessions, draws us away from the Lord. In contrast, if we do not resist, the power of the Holy Spirit will pull us toward Jesus.
“It is through false theories and traditions that Satan gains his power over the mind. By directing men to false standards, he misshapes the character. Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks to the mind, and impresses truth upon the heart. Thus He exposes error, and expels it from the soul. It is by the Spirit of truth, working through the word of God, that Christ subdues His chosen people to Himself.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 671.
The Holy Spirit is the reporter of truth and is the ultimate gift that Jesus could give to represent the deity on earth after His ascension. The Holy Spirit strives to give us power to overcome the powerful lure of the world and its “charms.”
Further Thought: A steward operates from the twin principles of duty and love. “Remember that duty has a twin sister, Love; these united can accomplish almost everything, but separated, neither is capable of good.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 62. Duty is love in action. We need only to dwell on Christ’s sacrifice in order for love to awaken our duty.
In contrast are the principles of the world: hate and its twin, rebellion. Rebellion can be hate in action. Lucifer rebelled against God (Ezek. 28:16, 17) and will never stop doing so until he is destroyed. He turned the authority of love into the love of authority. The religious leaders of Israel hated the authority and power Jesus possessed (Matt. 22:29).
Even when they fled the temple or withdrew from His piercing gaze, they did not change their ways.