Posted by: Joe Palmer | June 30, 2009

Not of This World

Not of This World

By Joe Palmer

You can’t legislate morality. The 18th amendment to the United States which was passed in to law in 1919 and repelled in 1933, proved this. Prohibition didn’t rid us of alcohol. We had abortions when it was illegal, and we will have them if we ban abortions. Despite all our efforts, we are defenseless in our war on drugs.

While we can’t legislate morality that doesn’t mean laws are bad. I am not arguing that laws do not, or should not reflect moral values. I am saying that a law simply states the standards held by those who wrote the law. What we do in a law is to officially declare something to be wrong. We also create a way to prosecute bad behavior. However, we can’t create laws that legislate away every bad behavior.

There is no way for a church to legislate morality. God reveals morality. He declares his standards. He even declares the consequences and punishment for sin. Regardless of what our God, the Bible, churches, or our nation declares, morality is something that needs to come from within us, not just from an obligation, or fear of punishment.

I think religion becomes cumbersome, vain, and hypocritical when we approach it like a law. When I pay my taxes I attempt to pay the least amount. I often drive at the maximum allowable speed, plus the additional five miles usually overlooked by police officers. I do as much as I can, or as little as I have to do. I seek what benefits me the most, and what restricts me the least.

We must determine to live by a higher standard in regards to our faith. We need to decide that we want to do right, not simply obey the Bible as a law book. We shouldn’t be looking to simply find the lowest acceptable standard.

Let me share an example. Everyone agrees adultery is wrong. That is the letter of the law. Does that mean, holding hands, romantic dates, and kissing someone you are not married to is okay? That is a ridiculous question isn’t it? We understand that there is a higher standard than simply adultery.

It seems that the discussion or study of sin has become unpopular, perhaps offensive. I am glad that today we preach on love, grace, forgiveness, and the gospel. However, there is a danger in avoiding the topic of sin. Paul says in Romans 12:2, “Don’t be conformed to the world.” Sometimes we use the term worldliness. What is Worldliness? How does God define it? If we never look at how God defines sin then we will end up defining it by the standards of the world we live in.

The church must strive for purity. Horatius Bonar said over 200 years ago: “I looked for the Church and I found it in the world, and I looked for the world and I found it in the Church.”

We have a problem with pollution. Not chemical, or litter, but the mind. Our mind is polluted. Sometimes we as Christians don’t recognize sin because we live in a polluted world. Keith Daniel said: “If we try to win the world by being like the world the world will win you!” Many a Christian has been won over by the world.

James warns us about to closely associating ourselves with the world. “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” James 4:4

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” I John 2:15

The danger is the reality that people will be lost. Paul said, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” I Cor. 6:9,10 Here we read first that the wicked will not be part of God’s kingdom, and second a description of who are the wicked.

You may be thinking but I am a Christian. I am not of the world. Paul warns, “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” I Cor 5:9-10 Evidently some Christians had gone back to the world and Paul says they are not to be included in fellowship.

Sadly sometimes we don’t even recognize the fact that we have fallen back into sin. “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” Eph 4:17-19

Paul uses three terms that I hope you will especially note: darkened, hardening of their heart, lost all sensitivity. That is what happens when the world is in control of our mind.

Leonard Ravenhill gives a litmus test for a man walking with God: “The true man of God is heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the Church…grieved at the toleration of sin in the Church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church. He is disturbed that the corporate prayer of the Church no longer pulls down the strongholds of the devil.”

In the old law God had legislated morality. He had clearly defined right from wrong. The law was perfect from this perspective. However, it was insufficient to legislate morality. Men were always looking for a loop hole in the law. It is still good for Christians today to discuss what God says about sin. However I hope we will do so from a perspective of grace not law. Paul said, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, Titus 2:11-13

It is not law, but grace which is to become our motivator to do more than obey. It motivates to say no to ungodliness, and worldly passions. It motivates us to live a surrendered life.



  1. Thank you so much Joe for being who you are. As I look at the world of sin, I get just a dab of how Christ felt when He was dying for all the sin and His heart breaking.

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