Infiltrating the World

Posted: November 11, 2022 in Discipleship

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

When John tells us that God loved the world, he does not mean that God loved the earth (although that is true as well). In John’s writings the world is created by God (Jn. 1:10) but is under the control of the evil one (1 Jn. 5:19). The works of the world are evil (Jn. 7:7). This explains why the world hates Jesus (Jn. 15:18). It also explains why the world did not recognize Jesus when he came (Jn. 1:10). When John speaks of the world what he means is the corrupted system of all things, which includes the earth.

Sin has thoroughly corrupted God’s good work. We might think of it as a virus that has not simply corrupted certain files but has corrupted everything within your computer. Thus, it does no good to go to certain files and try to fix them. They will only be corrupted again. What is needed is a whole new system.

In the case of God’s good work, the new system is the old system. It is the old system redeemed. It is the old system restored. It is a massive reboot. And this reboot is accomplished by the work of Christ at the cross and the resurrection.

This reboot goes by various descriptions in the Bible. The apostle Paul refers to it as God reconciling all things to himself (Col. 1:20). In another place he speaks of it as God bringing unity to all things (Eph. 1:10). Jesus spoke of it as a renewal (Matt. 19:28). Peter simply calls this renewal the new heaven and new earth (2 Pet. 3:13). Given that the earth was also corrupted by sin, the earth is also going to be redeemed (Rom. 8:22-25).

The final renewal will come when the Lord returns. But the Lord is not waiting for that time to begin the renewal. Jesus calls his disciples to live on earth as it is in heaven. In other words, we are called to live as if the renewal has already taken place. This is the point of the sermon on the mount. By living as if the renewal has already taken place, we are providing salt and light to the world (Matt. 5:13-16). Dallas Willard spoke of our work as infiltrators working behind enemy lines. He called God’s plan The Divine Conspiracy.

Part of this Divine Conspiracy is for the people of God to live in relationships with one another as if the renewal has already come. This is why Jesus prayed for the unity of the disciples (Jn. 17) and why the apostles spoke so much about loving, accepting, and bearing with one another. If we imagine how relationships in the great reboot are going to be, then we can see how we are to live with one another right now.

This is why the church is not an option. I get that a lot of folks do not like the institutional church. I’m a part of it and I don’t like many aspects of it. But the notion of God’s people living in unity is central to the Gospel message. Because as God’s people try and work out disagreements in love and patience, they are sending a message to the world. It is a message about the great renewal.

Church is messy. But by the power of the Spirit, we can work through that mess if we are willing to listen and love. And as messy as it is, the Bible tells us that Jesus gave himself up for it (Eph.5:25).