Being in the World, But not of the World: Abraham's Story

August 5, 2015

We live in a sinful world. We are sinful people. But God calls us to “be holy, for I am holy”. (I Peter 1:16)

How can we be in the world but not of it?

Last week we saw how easy it was for Lot to become of the world.

This week we will look at Abraham, called the friend of God.

Separate from the world

God called Abraham from his family in Haran to a land that He would show him (Genesis 12:1-9). Abraham separated himself from what he knew.

How separate are you from the world? Are you living so close to the world, “snatched out of the fire” (Jude 1:22-23), that no one can tell that you are a Christian?

Know the world

When Abraham went to Egypt, he feared Pharaoh would want his wife. (Genesis 12:10-20) That’s what happened. Abraham knew the world.

We should not be of the world, but we should not be ignorant of what the world does. Jesus warned his disciples, “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) We are with them, but should not act like them.

Do not fear the world

Abraham knew what the world would do, but he feared the world. He responded like the world. He lied. When in Egypt, he told his wife, “Say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me.” (Genesis 12:11-13).

Abraham feared the world and it cost him.

He did not want to be of the world, but he wanted to be safe in the world.

Sometimes I fear what the world will do to my boys. Can they live in such an evil world?

The world will not treat them nicely. In fact, Jesus said, “They will hate (them).” (John 15:18)

Fear hinders trust. Tell your fears to God. Does God take away the evil? No, but He helps teach you to trust Him, because of the evil. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (I John 5:4)

I don’t have to fear the world. I need to trust Him more.

Don’t hold to the world’s things

Abraham knew the world, but he didn’t depend upon it.

When Abraham and Lot’s shepherds disagreed over land, Abraham trusted God’s promise. Instead of fighting (the world’s way of solving the problem), Abraham said, “Let there be no strife between you and me...separate from me: if to the left, then I will go to the right…” (Genesis 13:7-9)

He did not cling to what God gave him. He offered it as a gift to his nephew. He didn’t choose what he wanted, he accepted what God gave. He saw the green pastures that Lot took. His own appeared barren, rocky and mountainous. How could he fatten his flocks on that? He did not trust the world’s things. He put his trust in God.

When Abraham chose God’s way, God said, “Lift up your eyes…for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth…” (Genesis 13:14-18).

Abraham trusted.

Sharing God’s gifts, he was blessed.

God gives us gifts of the world: possessions, talents, money. Do we cling to or fight for them? Do they consume us? Or are they gifts from God to be used for Him?

Be a stranger

“Abraham…obeyed…lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land…for he was looking for the city which has foundations whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10)

This is not all of life. We are strangers, not yet home.

Being in this world, but not of it required Abraham to be separated unto God. He knew what he left, yet trusted God with where he was going. He focused not on what he missed, but on Him Who gave it all. He couldn’t wait until he lived with Him. Being in the world, but not of it.

Abraham, not perfect, yet friend with God. Living in the world but not of it, but struggling while he did. We have an example. 

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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