News From This Week
We held our annual Feast of Tabernacles Coordinator Conference this past Tuesday and Wednesday online. About 39 people were connected at one time or other through this two-day conference. Charles Melear summarizes the high points of the meetings in his article also posted today.
We held a farewell party for Tom Disher, our Senior Web Developer, on Monday. We have appreciated his high level of expertise in the development of our UCG and Beyond Today websites. Our website holds a huge amount of text, video and audio that serves as a resource not only for the United Church of God, but for many others who come to visit and download material. We will sincerely miss Tom and his wife, Heather, as well as their three children whom we have enjoyed seeing grow over the past ten years. I thank Tom not only for his skills but for his faithfulness to our mission.
As usual, at this time of year we in the administration work to develop the budget for the next fiscal year. It is an arduous and sometimes painful job to prioritize our needs in order to advance the mission of the Church. It is not easy, as we weigh all the requests with our limited resources. Special attention has been placed on our international subsidies, which continue to grow faster than our income. We are striving to move towards more self-sufficiency in international areas. Our budget will be examined by the Council of Elders in their upcoming meetings here at the home office.
Do Not Love the World; Love the World
“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” (1 John 2:15 1 John 2:15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
American King James Version×). The same author, John, also stated that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that all who believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life. How do we reconcile this?
The answer lies in verses 16 and 17: “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
It’s the lust of the eyes and flesh as well as pride and its subsequent evil that we are not to love. God loves the people in the world and has a plan to redeem them, but he does not love the sin.
What Christ said through John is both sobering and thought-provoking. Lust and pride are not compatible with the presence of God.
We are in a world which is so immersed in broadcasting pride and lust that we can become unaware of how fully it affects us. In Greek, the word for world is kosmos, of which one meaning is “society.” The dark side of our society can become invisible to us. It’s like the illustration about someone asking a fish “How’s the water?” only to have the fish reply “Water? What water?” The fish was not aware that it was entirely engulfed by water and didn’t even know it was there. This is how the world can seem to us.
The radiation of these broadcasts from the world’s media into our society has been relentless. Even “redeeming” movies and television don’t miss an opportunity to include a tinge of profanity and compromising sinful messages. We just get used to them.
I remember going to see the movie “Patton” in 1970 where the S-word was first used. Theater goers gasped! How could one say such a word in public? Now, the F-word has become a standard and shameless part of vocabulary for both men and women.
The producers of mass entertainment know well that people increasingly crave realistic violence and explicit sex to season whatever subject is depicted. Otherwise, people won’t be drawn to watch it. We have come to a point where we can unknowingly but willingly adapt to the spirit of the world. What we used to watch on television and movies long ago is considered puerile by today’s jaded “mature” audiences. Even what I write here may be taken by some as naïve.
There is yet another destructive factor in what the world radiates. This radiation bombards our society with corrupt values that is geared to dislodge God and His truth from us. Sin begins to look normal while righteousness looks abnormal when people are hostile to and alienated from God. An almost irreversible consciousness-seared sense of right and wrong grows.
I could describe in greater detail many examples of this worldliness from entertainment, academia, business, politics and the arts. A recent example of this worldliness is the recent 2020 Super Bowl half-time entertainment. The show was viewed by a huge television audience of all ages—from little children to the aged. Merely a generation ago it would have been illegal to show publicly all that was shown. This was televised for the entire family to view in their living rooms. Impressionable children watched vulgar body movements and sexual suggestions that left little to the imagination. There was some outcry from what’s becoming a moral minority, but it is becoming a muffled voice as creators of this kind of content only look for how to take things to the next shocking level. Those who produced and acted in this family “entertainment” felt no shame when questioned after the show.
In John 17, Jesus Christ prayed earnestly for His disciples on the last evening before His horrific and painful death. He was going to leave His disciples behind in the environment of the world and asked for God’s protection on them. He mentioned the word “world” 18 times in this chapter and many more times in other chapters. He prayed for His disciples of that time and for those who would believe through them—which includes us. Notice this heartfelt prayer in which you can sense Jesus’ earnestness and pain:
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:14-21 John 17:14-21  I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
 I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil.
 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
 Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.
 As you have sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
 That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me.
American King James Version×).
Understanding what the world is, and consequently identifying worldliness is crucial. If you are a friend of the world, you have a competing loyalty and are not a friend of God. That is how profound your choice is. One more reason not to love the world is because the world does not love you back. You may be drawn to the glitter, materialism and excitement of the world, but the world hates you. It tempts, tantalizes and attempts to trap you into its pleasures. But once it has your loyalty, it has no regard for you when you fall through addiction, disease, financial demise and all other types of failure. Loving the world is the ultimate in unrequited love. This is a good time of the year to examine how much of the world we allow into our homes and to what we may be exposing ourselves and our innocence.
We are called to love the people in the world, but not the sin of the world.