Counterintelligence, part 1 - The World System
We’re beginning a new series called Counterintelligence this week at The Surge. Having spent 10 weeks digging into Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and hearing him invite us into his kingdom, we’re now going to check out that other kingdom that Jesus is looking to draw us from. It’s the kingdom we’re all born into, and because of that, we’ve probably not spent a lot of time thinking about it. It’s similar to how those of us born and raised in the US may have just a little more difficulty passing a US citizenship naturalization test than folks from other countries who have had to study up to pass the thing. So, we’ll spend five weeks doing a little spy work, a little investigation, to see how that kingdom, the world system, functions so that we can navigate through it wisely.
Let’s start with 1 John, chapter 2, verses 15-17.
1 John 2:15-17 - Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
We see several words in Hebrew—in the Old Testament—and Greek—in the New Testament—translated into English as “world.” And those words can refer to the physical planet, the people on the planet, a particular country or land, even an age or era or period of time. Context can help you figure out which it is. However, one particular word, the word in this text in 1 John that is translated “world”, is unique. It’s the Greek word “kosmos,” and it refers to an orderly, arranged system. Kosmos is actually the opposite of chaos—the lack of order. We get our word “cosmetics” from “kosmos,” suggesting that our lady friends are using those products to take faces in chaos and bring order to them.
So, the "world" here is not random or chaotic. There is a system at work here. And if you track the word “kosmos” through the New Testament using a concordance, here’s what you’ll find, and it might surprise you.
Definition of the world system: Kosmos, or the world system, is an orderly, attractive, and influential system headed up by Satan himself for the purpose of blinding the minds of those who do not believe in Jesus Christ and luring those who do away from their calling to serve Christ in the advancement of His Kingdom.
I won’t provide all the references for this conclusion, but I will give you enough to get the gist because this might be totally new to you.
Galatians 1:3-4 - Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.
John 12:31-32 - Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
John 14:29-31 - And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.
Ephesians 2:1-3 - And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
1 John 5:19 - We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
Just to summarize quickly, we are living in what is described as a present evil age; Satan is described in scripture as the prince and power of the air, and Jesus describes him as the ruler of this world system and an enemy He intends to depose; this system is not God neutral, but it wars against God and the people of God; we were once, before we came to Christ, vassals of this world system, whether we knew it or not.
This raises the question: How do we live as Christians in this world system, since we are basically behind enemy lines? We’ll be covering all that over these five weeks, ok, so just hang in there. I think we will have answered most of the questions you might have by the time we wrap the series up.
The 1 John passage we started with mentions 3 things on display in this world system, and we’ll take a look at each of them.
1. The desires of the flesh. This is essentially our natural bent to want to do things that are against the will of God. And sometimes, we’ll think we’re doing the right things, but our natural bent and the world system will have tricked us. This is what Proverbs 13:12 is getting at: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end is the way to death.” We can find out God’s will and truth in scripture, but our own natural bents, when the Spirit of God is not in charge, and the world system will lure us into traps set for us.
2. The desires of the eyes. This is essentially our natural bent, encouraged by the world system, to want to have, or own, or possess something that is against the will of God. We see example of this all throughout scripture. The nation of Israel has a tremendous victory against the city of Jericho, but God told them not to take any spoils from the city. One man, Achan, saw some things he just had to have—desires of the eyes. Bad things ensue. In 2 Kings, the prophet Elisha heals a Syrian commander, Naaman, of leprosy. Naaman wants to pay Elisha for this miraculous healing, but Elisha refuses. Naaman departs, but Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, overheard the offer. So, he sneaks out and catches up to Naaman and accepts gifts from him. Bad things ensue. King David saw something he wanted—Bathsheba, another man’s wife. He took her. Bad things ensue. See any commonalities in the results? Yeah, bad things!!
3. The pride of life. This is essentially our natural bent, encouraged by the world system, to want to be something that is against the will of God. If you reread the account of the fall of man in the first three chapters of Genesis, you will see all three of these elements of the world system on display. We’re told that Eve saw the fruit on the forbidden tree and wanted it—the desires of the eyes; she determined that this fruit was going to be very yummy and wanted to experience the taste—the desires of the flesh; and, finally, she saw that this fruit would make her wise and be like God, knowing good and evil—pride of life.
Now, one thing we have to realize is that the world system is on the move. It is not stagnant. It seeks to move every element of society away from the things of God and away from glorifying God. You listening to music lately? Used to be the lyrics of songs praised God. Now they often praise his enemy. You can’t drive down the road with your window open and not hear profanity-laced music booming from the car next to you. Yeah, we’ve made real strides in music, and there are some incredibly talented people out there. But is music headed toward the things of God, or away from Him?
Medicine. Man, I’m glad I live in a time when medicine is making great strides, but within those strides, there are trends that are evil. We can do heart transplants, but we also perfected the ability to insert implements into a uterus and tear a child limb from limb—and in the vast majority of cases, it’s simply for convenience, not to save the life of the mother. Because of cost, the medical community and insurance companies denied the existence of Lyme Disease for years and allowed victims to suffer, even die, needlessly. Only now that Lyme is reaching epidemic levels are things starting to change. But we’re making progress, aren’t we? Yeah, California, which often leads the way in America’s syncing up with the world system, is making sure you have drugs to kill yourself if you determine the quality of your life is less than you want. Keep watching over the next decade. You ain't seen nothing yet.
How about education? I purchased a copy of the New England first-grade primer, dated 1777. Do you know that back then, children were taught deep things about God in public education? Today, when kids learn the alphabet, it’s A is for apple, B is for Bee, C is for Cat. In 1777, A was for Adam, B was for Bible, C was for Christ. Yeah, education is moving like crazy, but in what direction? Towards God, or away from Him?
If you’ve kept up with The Surge, you know i love reading advice columns. They are a great window into the wisdom of the world system, and I laugh and cry at the same time at what I hear there. A gal writes in that she and her live-in boyfriend are having a huge fight. The topic: He’s not doing his fair share of the dishes. The advice: Well, you two just need to sit down and discuss this. Sounds good. Here’s what you won’t hear in The Washington Post: You ought to break off this relationship. After all, you are living with a guy who is using you for sex without making any kind of commitment to you for life. Why in the world do you think he would be remotely interested in committing to doing your dishes? Another gal writes in, “My parents invite all their children over once a month for dinner.” That sounds pretty nice, right? No, it’s not. “The problem is that my siblings have kids, and the kids are always interrupting the conversations, so I can’t talk about what I want to talk about.” The advice? (I’m not making this up.) “You could just decide not to go these functions.” Oh, that makes sense, because who needs family, and surely no child could benefit from a loving relationship with an aunt or uncle. Seriously, what this gal needed to hear she’ll never hear in The Washington Post: “You know, people who are total narcissists will often be offended that the world does not constantly revolve around them. You are one of those people. How about you try accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior? He’ll help you learn to be generous, and that will make you far happier than you are right now.”
In conclusion, the world system is not neutral. It opposes God, and it opposes Christians, and it will try to lure us into tracking with it rather than tracking with God. And it’s on the move, and it seeks to move every part of society and culture away from glorifying God. You know, don’t you, that movies that would have earned an “R” rating a decade ago, are now “PG-13” or “PG.” And if we’re not careful, we can find that we’ve drifted, sometimes into things that we never thought we’d do, or read, or watch, or listen to just 10 years ago. It might be a good time, as we’re marching through this series, to step back a bit and take stock.
For the complete message, with additional content, pop onto www.thesurge.cc, click on the Media page, current message series, and take in part 1.
Sermon on the Mount, part 10 - Love Your Enemies
Up to this point in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus has bent our minds in describing what to expect as citizens of his kingdom. He amps it in this passage, however. Rather than tell you, let’s just read it.
Matthew 5:38-48 - You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, "Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
If you’re like me, the normal response would be to throw up your hands and go, “No way in the world I can pull this off. This is crazy town stuff.” And I think Jesus would agree. No way we are going to pull this off on our own. But what is impossible for us is not impossible with Him. And with His Spirit occupying a place in our lives, this is what Jesus intends to see develop in us. Genuine love that is actively expressed towards those wishing us harm.
To help with this, I’m going to encourage you to put a face or faces on this. Who do you see as your enemy? It could be a family member, a coworker, a boss, someone in class at school. A bully, a snob, someone hard to for you to like. Someone very different from you. Maybe it’s a critic, someone always finding fault with you, someone on your case. Maybe it’s someone who’s cheated you. But get a face and name, because you’ve got to allow Jesus to start with you on this somewhere. Might as well be that first person that comes to mind. And if you’re honest, it will be the last person you’d ever want to love this way.
Ready? Good. Let’s see what’s up.
The "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth" statement Jesus uses is in the bible—in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy--but it’s not a command. It’s part of the civil code God gave the Israelites, and it was intended by God to limit retribution for wrongs. Why would God to this? Well, because he knew our natural bent—to not only pay back wrongs done to us, but to pay back far greater than the original offense. You see this on US roads. Someone cuts us off, we have no choice but to pull out a tire iron and beat them to within an inch of their lives. That’ll teach them a lesson they’ll never forget, right? To prevent this, God put limits on punishment. By the time Jesus shows up, however, people had turned this into a right—someone hurts me, I have permission to go after them with equal measure.
Jesus basically says that his kingdom has a different ethic—one of not just restraint and moderation, but of love. Then Jesus gives four examples. These are not comprehensive, but mere illustrations of how we’re to be led by the Spirit to respond when wronged or taken advantage of. Jesus talks about insults (slapped in the face); taking what was yours (suing your for your clothes); forcing you to do something against your will (carrying a Roman soldiers pack for a mile); and taking advantage of you (begging from you).
Then Jesus tells us that this love thing applies not just to people we like or who are like us, but to our enemies, people who have it out for us. Instead, pray for them and love on them. And then Jesus tells us why. It’s so we might actually look like sons of God, like God’s own children, because God loves people like that. He sends sun and rain on both good people and rotten people. God is kind to his enemies. Yeah, he’s hoping that by loving everyone, some won’t stay enemies. Some, just like we did, will become God’s children, too. Jesus is going to use us to love on people just like he did in hopes of expanding his kingdom. Jesus says that we need to be perfect in this area, just like God is. It’s funny how we Christians sometimes measure our maturity by what we don’t do, where we don’t go, what we object to. But Jesus in this passage says, “Hey, maturity, perfection. . .well, those are terms reserved for those loving their enemies.”
It was that kind of love that drew Jesus to pray for his enemies even as they were killing him. And it was that kind of love that made a Roman soldier who helped crucify Jesus to declare, as he watched that dying, praying man. to declare of Jesus, “Surely this man was the Son of God.” That kind of love changes things. That’s why God wants us to be like that.
A love like that we see in Stephen, the first martyr, who shares the gospel. It makes people so angry that they drag him out of the city and stone him. As he is dying, he prays, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Where did he get this? Yeah, from Jesus. A man named Saul witnesses Stephen’s murder. A short time later, Saul becomes a Christian, and Saul becomes the Apostle Paul. He starts churches all over the known world. In a city named Lystra, Paul is stoned for sharing the gospel and left for dead. Most commentators think he was dead and came back. Regardless, what does Paul do? Run for his life? No. He heads back to Lystra to love on those people. We’re told that Paul’s love resulted in many of them becoming Christians. Love like that changes things. That’s our legacy.
The question we all have is this: How in the world can we do this? This is so beyond our natural capabilities, we don’t even see how this could happen in us. Well, in the message online, I have a personal example of God moved supernaturally to make this a reality that I think might help ya. Take that in if you’re interested. I’m not going to put that example in this note, partly because I don’t want anyone thinking that I have this down totally. But if God can move in my life, he can move in yours.
Here are the ingredients: You quit trying to get back at the person. In my case, I was put in a situation where I could not do anything. So, I was powerless, and I knew it. Our problem most of the time is that we think we are not powerless, so we try to take action, to defend ourselves, to get back at the person, to build our case for how wronged we are. How about we just stop and say, “Wait, Jesus wants to use me to love this person, so I’m going to be willing to be hurt or wronged and respond differently, knowing that there’s a heart that Jesus wants to love into his kingdom?” Second, pray. For me, prayer was the only thing I could do, given I was powerless to do anything else. And that prayer for God to move turned into a prayer that God might allow me to see the enemy through His eyes. And God answered that prayer. And when he answers that prayer, you find that He softens your heart toward that person. And, third, once your heart is softened toward that person, once you see that person like God sees them, then God can use you. So, be attentive to the Spirit’s leading. And it’ll probably be something you don’t expect. So, when He leads, you follow. Prepare to be amazed is all I’m saying!!
You want to live a life of adventure and excitement? Ok, bungee jumping and climbing rocks and marathons and mountain biking and extreme sports and whatever—that’ll get your heart racing, but none of it changes the world. Heck, it doesn’t change a human heart. You haven’t experienced extreme exhilaration until God’s used you to do that.
Check out our current message series here!
The Kingdom of Heaven is not just being more moral, it isn’t just being your best self, it is renouncing our own kingdom and acknowledging God is on the throne and freely giving Him dominion on the throne of our lives. In the Sermon the Mount Jesus is pointing us away from the process of the Pharisees and legalistic morality - away from the semblance of holiness... and leading us to the real thing.
The whole idea is to contrast the transformational power of the gospel, with the emptiness of our own striving and morality. The character we exhibit is supernatural, it is not simply a list of 100 rules. The whole message of the SOTM is highlighting the difference. And we’re covering some amazing ground… character, sexuality… and now He is approaching speech and the foundation of truth and integrity.
Matthew 5:33-37 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
With this text in mind, we're looking for four ideas around words and integrity:
One: See the importance of words
From creation, to the 10 commandments coming through words, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God comes speaking to them, we see that God uses words. He used words to call Moses at the burning bush… and in the life of Christ, He could have chosen any human endeavor. But He came as one who uses words to bring change and healing – God’s investment in us came through words.
Further, our deepest relationships are bound to us through words, I DO take this woman to be my wife… I accept the offer to purchase this home. Even the transmission of the gospel, comes through hearing words. For God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to be one of the main vehicles that He uses to speak to us. Life changing things happen through language, expressed through words.
And the order and progression Jesus uses to highlight this is really interesting.
First is heaven, the idea of finished perfection and the realm of the theoretical. This is the plan on the chalkboard that (for us) hasn't happened yet. It's what many of us use as the basis for truth and the foundation for keeping promises.
Or maybe earth, in the real, in the things we touch and see, creation, but also the place of reality where the rubber meets the road in sense of practicality. The modern world loves to swear by the earth, by created things, by things we can see and verify and use the scientific method on.
Perhaps we bind our oaths to Jerusalem and systems of political and religious power, and their reflecting organizations… like the government and the local church. These aren't bad, but apart from God they are limited and incomplete at best - and self-serving and myopically corrupt at worst.
Do we follow the ancients, doing what is right in our own eyes with no thought or trust to morality beyond our own personal reason?
Jesus says, "no" to all of these - and points us back to God in every case. He is the basis for truth and promises... for integrity and right relationships. Everything gives way to God as our foundation here.
But see the importance of words – we NEED to speak and be spoken to – someone in solitary confinement with no contact – will literally go mad. Words are important.
TWO: See the danger of words – consider the example of the couple getting a divorce. If the basis is Heaven – I had a marriage in mind and this isn’t it... and the promise is in danger. If our foundation is Earth, then our words day to day in practical living are cutting more and more - this isn't working in the real world! If we look to 'Jerusalem', our government and courts say that we can dissolve this relationship, with no fault, so there you go. Or if the highest truth is based on ourselves – it's all too easy to see that you’re not meeting my needs, and if that is the highest truth here, the relationship is at risk.
We say as children that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Only one problem here, that saying isn't true. Words can wound and and words can tear a family apart.
Proverbs 12:18 says, "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."
The way we use language can be dangerous and devestating... but God can also use our words for good.
THREE: See the healing of words – Look to two principles here: truth and love.
Ephesians 4:15 says, "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ..."
Two principles: truth and love. Speak the truth in love… for truth without love is coldness, self-righteous and it’s rigid… and love without truth is cowardice, self-indulgent, and weak. We musn't say, "I love them too much to tell them the truth" for sometimes the truth can save us.
And this cuts both ways… often someone comes to us with a criticism… but they come aggressively, in the wrong way, they exaggerate, they mix the true part in with a lot of false parts to make it seem worse… and how do we respond? Badly.
Yet if there is something there that is true, and we know they have a point, can we say something else instead? “There’s really something to what you’ve said, will you give me time to think about it and consider your words to me?” Could those words bring healing? Could they help us grow?
And we know this: words can build up. You can encourage someone with what you say and how you say it – so look for those opportunities! Words are important, dangerous, healing, and the last thing is this:
FOUR: See that words come from the heart.
Luke 6:45 says, "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."
We need to focus on what we can do… be accurate, be fair, live with integrity… don’t exaggerate to make yourself look better, or to make others look bad. The problem is that the Sermon on the Mount is telling us that God doesn’t just want us to say, "we’re sorry." He actually wants us to mean it. You have to MEAN it. And to mean it, always goes deeper than just saying the words. We can’t get there on our own, Benjamin Franklin. We have to go to God and let Him be the King of the Hill – we turn away from our ideas about how things ought to be and our own works and our own organizations and even from our own opinions and we ask God to speak through us.
If you want new words, ask God for a new heart. And out of that heart good things can flow, things that are true and loving, and beautiful.
And don’t forget that God speaks to us from His heart as well. The Holy Spirit tells us the truth and it cuts… but it’s not reckless, it’s more like surgery.
The truth is that good exists and that the perfect intent and the perfect actions are available but we fall short. Here on earth, we say and do horrible things to each other… we see them on the news every week. In Jerusalem, so to speak, our organizations are incomplete at best, self-serving and corrupt at worst. And when we really focus and concentrate and put all of our resources in play, we find that we’re helpless. We can’t actually change one hair on our head. We think we can… but it’s actually still a white hair, just with ink on it now. Those things are true.
But God doesn’t just speak the truth, He also speaks with love and His plans and strategy are higher than our plans and in Heaven He foresaw the redeemed to come. His heart towards you is amazing and filled with good things. On earth, He walked around as a man, breathing our air and speaking words we could understand and write down for later. And if you want to vote for someone, vote for Jesus… because He is the King of the New Jerusalem and He is able to see the truth and all of it… and He is powerful enough to do something about it.
Even when we are lost and fallen, He gives us back to ourselves… literally making us His children, adopting us into His family and giving us true identity. And with that identity comes power.
In seeing God’s word to us, we can accept it as true and loving. More than that, the promises we find can become weapons for war and weapons for real change… as God’s truth and His love begin to flow through us and our words become beautiful. So Surgeons, let your yes be yes to the fullness of His calling and let your no be no and filled with righteousness that no evil can stand against.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.