The Bible tells us "not to love the world", and yet in John 3:16 we are told that "God so loved the world". This might seem, at first take, to be inconsistent. What is God up to in "loving the world"? In what sense should we be like Him in this respect?
In John 3:16, Jesus is not suggesting universalism: that all will be saved, or that God "loves the world" in the sense of the world under condemnation. In fact, this verse is suggesting a way NOT to be included in the condemnation that we know from elsewhere will fall on "the world".
Gen 6:3 (NAS) Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever..."The parable, I think, that expands on HOW God loves "the world" and WHY is:
Mat 13:44 (NIV) "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."Did He at this point want the field, or the treasure in it? He may burn the field, and in fact will, but only after retrieving the treasure out of it.
And Jesus told us:
Mat 13:38 (NIV) "The field is the world..."So God has told us His secret of why He SO loves the world. His motive for doing so is to temporarily "strive with man". Thus, the Scripture is not inconsistent when using the exact same image as in...
1 John 2:15-17 (NIV) Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-- comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives for ever.In this sense, "the world" is condemned, will soon be judged, and God does not love "the world" in the sense of sin. But for now, a treasure (us!) remains to be stolen by the "thief of hearts" in this very "field".
As to mingling with sinners, Jesus did this and so should we. As the saying goes, we should be "in the world but not of the world".
We have found in actual experience, however, that as the Holy Spirit purifies us for holiness and shows us the dynamics of the snares and pitfalls of Satan all the more, this is an exceedingly painful process.
As a younger, carnal Christian, I actually used "mingling with sinners" as an excuse to indulge my sinful nature, but now I do it as a cross bearing.
Gal 6:1-2 (NIV) Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.The key point of difference is in the motive (with enjoyment or pain as the major experiential clue), and we dare not try to fool God in this.
Where before, the motive was the thing itself and ministry was the excuse to flirt with disaster and compromise, now the motive is ministry and the jaws of Satan must be painfully endured.
"Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat" I think would be a good paraphrase for the verse:
Jude 1:23 (Wey) others you must try to save, as brands plucked from the flames; and on others look with pity mingled with fear, while you hate every trace of their sin.Jesus paid the price of enduring the pain of bear-traps of sin snapping among those He "hung-out" with, and the stench of the burning lust of passion for sin among his companions, all of which He saw all to clearly. And as we grow in the Lord, we find this an incredibly heavy cross to bear, and like Jesus we will not enjoy it one bit. If we are enjoying the superficialities of bondage and sin, can we really claim to house the HOLY Spirit?
We need be filled in the inner man with God's presence for such front-line work. And with our dedication to obedience "unto death", we must realize that this ministry pushed even the very Son of God to exasperation at points.
Mat 17:17 (NIV) "O unbelieving and perverse generation, "Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?.."And He then retreated to be with His father, alone, to get "re-charged" to endure yet another day. This painful tension of being a vessel of holiness in a wicked world is part of the "cost" of having the life of Christ in us.
We dare not throw down our cross, either in self-indulgence or avoidance of those so captured by sin.
God does not give us the fruit of "long-suffering" for nothing. Let us make sure we are doing it and not indulging the flesh under false pretenses.
Ga 5:13 (NIV) You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.