Christ or World

Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually.
~ Psalm 52:1

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
~ 2 Corinthians 12:10-11

For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
~ 1 Corinthians 2:2

For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-16

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
~ John 18:36

And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
~ John 8:23

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
~ 1 John 2:17

For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
~ Philippians 1:23

The Condition of the World, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
~ Galatians 6:14

‘But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’

As we continue in our consideration of this text, let me remind you that there was a time when Paul used to boast of something very different from the cross of Christ. He used to boast of the fact that he was an Israelite, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day—a man who was an expert in his knowledge of the law, a highly religious man, and so on. Those things used to be his boast and he was very proud of them. He was an intense man, a passionate man always, this apostle Paul. And he always let it be known what it was that he really believed in and what he made his boast in. That is how he once used to be. But whathe is telling us here now is that all that has finished. ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

And so the most appropriate question for us to consider now is what are we boasting about, what are we proud of? That tells us exactly where we all stand. We have already been able to see that the differentiating mark of the Christian is that he is a man who centres his whole thinking and makes his boast about, and is moved most deeply by, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what tells us whether we are Christians or not.

Now, there are many people who think they are Christians when they are not. That is not my opinion, the Bible says it, and we know that it has been true throughout the centuries. There are people who think they are Christians simply because they are born in a particular country, or for other reasons of that kind. But this is the test—what is your boast? If you boast more in your country than in the cross of Christ, there is no need to argue about it, you are not a Christian. Does that sound drastic? That is Christian teaching. The apostle Paul used to boast of the fact that he was a Hebrew. He did not afterwards. He was still glad that he was. He does not derogate from his appreciation of being a member of the family of God’s children on earth, even in a physical sense. But he does not boast of it. It must not be the big thing, the thing that moves us most of all. It must not come first.

This, then, comes to us as a very thorough test. The Christian is a man who makes his boast, who glories in, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we have considered a number of reasons for this. He does so because he knows that it is by the cross that he is saved. By, or through whom, we read here, ‘the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world’. It is the death upon the cross that saves us. And we have considered what that meant. Then we have seen that even if we regard the cross merely as a spectacle, it is incomparable. Comparisons are odious, I quite agree. And yet we must make them. The world is very fond of spectacles, and of great events. There are great moments in the national history of practically every country in the world. All countries have great heroes, men who have done remarkable deeds, and so on. And people like to remember these and to read about them, to look at them and to think about them. And to rejoice in them, too, and to make their boast in them. All I am saying is that when one sees something of the real meaning of what happened when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, everything else loses significance. Indeed everything would pale into insignificance, if only we really did understand what it meant to the Son of God to die there in that terrible manner upon the cross. As Isaac Watts has reminded us, there is only one inevitable result: ‘My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.’

Again, we have seen how the cross is a revelation of the character of the eternal God, how it shows us and displays to us the attributes of God: God’s eternal wisdom; God’s plan for this world and the whole cosmos; God’s justice, righteousness, holiness. Yes, and thank God, his love, and mercy and compassion, his commiseration with us, and his long-suffering. But as we survey the wondrous cross, the moment we begin to see the perfection of the plan, and something of the way he devised the means whereby anyone could be saved; when we see all this, nothing can ever again stand before that in our estimation. It is a sheer impossibility.

But we must go further. The Apostle tells us also that he glories in the cross because of what it has done to him, and what it has done for him. ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.’ Now here is a new aspect of the matter. He glories in it, because of what it does to him, and this is the thing that he singles out particularly. He says, I am glorying in this cross because that is the thing that has crucified the world unto me. To crucify means to kill, to put to death, to render inoperative. It is like the crucifixion of our Lord himself. He expired upon the cross, he gave up the ghost, he died and his body was taken down and buried. Now, Paul says, that same cross crucifies the world and kills it as far as he is concerned; it removes it.

But why does he glory in this particular fact? This is indeed a most vital matter for us. The world and all that it stands for is the main cause of the tragedies that have happened in the human history of the world. It is the world and everything that that represents that has produced the two world wars. It is the world that produces all our trials and troubles and tribulations. Now that is the essence of biblical teaching from the very beginning to the very end. It is the world itself that is responsible for its own condition, and Christian preaching must show us the cause of our troubles, because until we are clear about the cause we will not get a cure. The first thing we must do is to diagnose. All the talk and the writing come to nothing, because people never really understand why things are as they are. And the answer that is given here by the Apostle in this great statement is that he thanks God that the cross has delivered him from the world. Why? Because the world is the cause of all our troubles by nature. And that is the reason why any man should glory in anything that delivers him from it, and the only thing that does deliver him from it is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

According to the teaching of the Bible there are only two kinds of people in this world. There are the people who glory in the cross and those who do not. But let me put that in a different way. There are only two types of people in the world: there are those who belong to the world and who are men of the world, and who glory in that fact, and there are those who glory in the fact that they are no longer of the world. Though they are still in it, they glory that they are only strangers and pilgrims, travellers and journeymen, passing through this world of time.

Now that is the fundamental proposition of the whole of the Bible. There is this great division of mankind, and any other divisions are quite irrelevant. It does not matter what the colour of your skin is, or what your native country is, or what your nationality is. It does not matter whether you are wealthy or poor, learned or ignorant, nothing matters but just this. Are you a man of the world or are you a man of God? It is one or the other. There was a fundamental division in the whole of the human race way back at the beginning. You see it in Chapter 4 of Genesis. You are either like Abel or you are like Cain. Cain is the man of the world; Abel is the man of God. And ever since there has been that great division. The Bible goes even further and says that every one of us, by nature, is born into this world as belonging to the world, as a man of the world. None of us are born Christians, none of us are born without sin. We are all born in sin, we are all ‘shapen in iniquity’. We are all born the children of Adam, the fallen man, and therefore we are all born as children of the world.

Now there is a very striking statement of this in Psalm 17:14 where this term is actually used: ‘From men which are thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure, they are full of children’. He wants to be delivered from such men, from those men of the world, who have their portion in this life. Now by nature, we are all of that type and belong to that category. The whole of humanity fell in Adam, and so we are all born with this bias against God and towards the world. And what the Apostle tells us at this point is that he glories in the cross and he thanks God for it, because this is the thing that has taken him from the world where he was, and put him into an entirely new position. It has crucified the world unto him, and he in turn is crucified unto the world.

What then does the world mean? What does it mean to say that a man is a man of the world and not a man of God? This is the thing that you hear men boast of, is it not? They do not do it as much now, perhaps, as I remember them doing it years ago.

Then it was more popular and more usual for people to go to places of worship, and the really up-to-date man then was the man who said, ‘No, I never go near a place of worship now, I am a man of the world.’ And he was proud of it. There are as many of them today, but of course there is nothing to boast about. It is more of an exception not to be a man of the world by now.

But what is the meaning of ‘world’ in this context? Let me refer you to 1 John 2:15: ‘Love 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.’ Now, in order to explain this, let me put it in this way. It does not mean the material universe, of course, it means an outlook and a point of view. ‘The world’ in the Bible usually means that. Sometimes it does mean the actual physical universe round and about us, the material universe, and then the context makes it plain. But here it does not. The world means life, viewed and thought of and lived, apart from God, apart from the Father. ‘If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’ That gives us our definition. The world is that view of life and death, and of man and of time, and of everything else entirely apart from God and his revelation as given in the Bible. That is the world. The world is that collection of people who think about all these things entirely apart from God and without God.

You find that the Apostle included in this definition human thinking, so-called philosophy. It does not matter what form it takes. Whether it is abstract or whether it is scientific, it makes no difference. It includes all thinking about man and his problems, and about the world and the ultimate, and life and death and all these things—all thinking which does not include God and is not governed by God’s revelation. That is the world. The Apostle says ‘the world by wisdom knew not God’ (1 Cor 1:21), which means that man by searching cannot find God, and he has not, he has tried to, but he cannot, it is impossible. Paul says, ‘Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world?’ Let him come forward and speak. Here he is contrasting a thinking which excludes God and his revelation, with a thinking that is based solely and entirely upon God’s revelation, and supremely in our Lord Jesus Christ.

So that is what is meant by the world: the outlook, the thinking and then in turn, of course, the behaviour. That is entirely human, entirely earthly, and entirely belongs to time. The apostle Paul has a wonderful description of this in Ephesians 2 where he says ‘And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience’ (vv. 1–2). He says it is a life lived according to the course of this world. It is that out look upon everything that is bound entirely by human thinking and human ability, and you can see that it covers a very wide range. There are these learned infidel philosophers. Yes, but they are men of the world, who belong to it. Then you come to the other extreme, and you get the kind of thinking that is determined by the television and the radio, and the cinema. Well, that is not strange, it belongs to the same category, that is a philosophy of life. They do not use these magical scientific terms, and they do not talk about the absolute, and things like that. But it is a philosophy of life. It has got its teaching, and its point of view. It says this is the way to live. That is quite as much a philosophy as the other one. And it equally belongs to the world. God does not enter into either.

Well there is our definition of the world, and I can sum it up by putting it like this. It is that outlook which puts man at the centre, and makes man the ultimate authority. It is the view which says there is nothing but this world. What we have now is all that we will have. That is the worldly outlook, the mind of the world. That is the mind that is controlling the masses of the people, that controls all who are not Christians. The position is that man is the centre, man with his ability and understanding, and everything revolves around him. The supernatural is entirely discarded. They do not believe in it. There is nothing supernatural, nothing miraculous, nothing which is spiritual. There is nothing apart from what we know, what we can understand, what we can grasp, what we do, what we decide, what we determine. That is what is meant by the world. It makes man the centre of the universe, and he is the first and the last word upon everything. Man is his own authority; there is nothing above and beyond man. And man’s life is confined entirely and completely to this world of time. When a man dies that is the end, there is nothing beyond that.

But, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me ….’ Paul is proud of the fact that he has been delivered from that way of thinking, and we will see why when we consider, secondly, the characteristics of that world. There is no difficulty in defining them, we have our definition there, in 1 John 2:16. ‘For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.’ We must look at this. People often think, do they not of the two world wars, and the terrible loss of life, and all the blood and the lust and the carnage, the horror and the misery and the unhappiness. But what is the cause of it? The answer of the Bible is not in individual guilty personalities, like Hitler or Stalin, it is in nobody, except the world itself. It is this outlook, it is this non-Christian view of everything, that is the cause of it. And that is why this is so tremendously important. What is its characteristic? It is characterized by lust.

What is lust? Lust is a strong desire, and what the Bible says everywhere about this worldly life is that it is a life that is controlled by desire. Oh, I know the clever people will not have this, they say that they are governed only by their intellects. But let us be practical, let us be honest, let us be frank with one another. What the non-Christian says is, ‘It is one thing to talk, but what do you do?’ All right, let us apply that to them too. They say they are living a life purely in the intellect. Are they? Well I think the answer is to be seen in the newspapers. It does not matter how great their brains are, they are governed by desire and by lust just as much as everybody else.

But what does this mean? It means what the psychologists call urges or drives. Man is a creature with tremendous urges in him. He has been made like that, he has these primitive instincts in him, and they are powerful, so when a man is a man of the world they are more powerful than his mind. I cannot believe that a sane man would deliberately get drunk, but men do get drunk. I cannot believe that a man really controlled by his brain would deliberately smash another man’s marriage and cause intense misery to innocent little children. But people, even very clever people, do that sort of thing. That is lust. It is lust that makes them do it, it is passion, desire, it is these tremendous drives that are more powerful than all our reason. We know it is wrong and still we do it because we like these things—the lust, the inordinate affection. John classifies it as ‘the lust of the flesh’ and it means that this life of the world that is so opposite to the life of God, the life of the Father, is a life that lives mainly for the body. We need not stay with this. We all know all about it, and if we do not know about it in personal experience, we cannot evade it as we walk about the streets of our cities and look at the hoardings, and at the way people are living, and listen to what they are talking about.

What are people living for? They live to eat, and to drink. ‘You are no man,’ they say, ‘if you do not drink.’ And the television tells you that repeatedly. But does drinking make a man a man? To them, this is life. Drink, alcohol, stimulus, lust of the flesh, the body, eating and drinking. The fuss and the attention that is paid to all this. And then, of course, sex. This is a sex-ridden generation. It is a sex-ridden world. You cannot get away from it. It is everywhere, it is an obsession, and is governing people. It is everything. This is the great interest. Any lurid details in books or papers about people’s personal lives, with all that they suggest—everybody buys them. This is the thing that sells. That is lust—lust of the flesh. This is the way of the world.

John wrote his letter 1,900 years ago, but he might very well have written it yesterday. It is such a perfect description of the world still. This is life apart from God. We, of course, are twentieth century people, we are very clever, we have advanced a great deal compared with people who lived in the first century. But, if we are living exactly as they did, and think as they did, where is the difference. There is none. Man remains exactly what he has always been.

But then he speaks of the lust of the eyes also. What is this? Here we have a very subtle bit of analysis. This is very profound psychology—lust of the flesh—lust of the eyes. What is this? Ah, this is the worship of appearance, the show, the pomp. It is everything external as opposed to the heart. Our Lord turned on the Pharisees one afternoon and he said, ‘Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your heart: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God’ (Lk 16:15). The eyes, that which can be seen, the external, and of course the whole world, is living along this very line at the present time. What it really means is that it is sham, it is pretence, it is dishonest. Is this not one of the great characteristics of the whole of life today? There was a time when there was some meaning or sense in the term ‘good looking’. There is not any more. What you see is the paint and the powder, the makeup. That is the lust of the eyes. It is not true, it is not honest. You do not see the natural colour of the hair, it has turned to something else. It is an appearance. It sounds trivial, does it not? But it is very profound, for this is the view of life. Everything to give an appearance. It does not correspond to the facts and to the reality. It is the paint and the powder, not the broken heart that is behind it: the appearance of your reality. It is dishonest. It is the lie that is being enacted.

Again, our Lord put it in terms of the Pharisees. He says, You keep clean and wash the outside of the cup and the platter, but inside—what do you find there? There you will see everything that is foul. The outside looks so wonderful, but you do not look inside. There you will see the dirt and the filth. It has not been cleaned. As long as it looks marvellous, that is all that matters. These are the things, the lust of the flesh, and the eyes. And then, to cap it all, the pride of life, and they all go together—cutting a great figure in this world, that is what matters. Ambition and pride, the desire to get on that is the pride of life. These are the things in which people boast, and for which they live, and in which they glory; the desire for applause, the desire to get on, the desire to see your name in the papers, or on posters outside some building. This is lust. This is pride of life, wanting to be great and important. And the whole world pursues it.

This is the biblical analysis of the worldly man and his life, this life which is lived apart from God, the kind of life which people today think is so clever. This is the thing for which they have left Christianity —the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. I am working through this analysis to bring you to this point. This is what makes it so terrible. It is not only that of itself it is unworthy, it is what it leads to. It is bad enough in and of itself, but it leads to lack of order, to lack of discipline. It leads to lawlessness, and to licence. That was the whole sin of Cain at the very beginning. He took the law into his own hands. He was annoyed with God. His brother had kept God’s law which decreed that an offering to God must be a blood sacrifice. Cain had not done so. God pointed it out to him. He could have been forgiven, restored, if he could only have found a sin offering, but he did not, and he was annoyed. He rebelled. He took the law into his own hands, and murdered his brother.

And that is what the worldly outlook always leads to. Every man becomes his own authority and his defence is, Why shouldn’t I? Is that not our great problem in this country today? Is that not why morality is breaking down round and about us? Why not, says the world, why shouldn’t I? I couldn’t care less. What does it matter what the Bible says? What does it matter what the mid Victorian says? What does it matter what the philosopher says? What does it matter what anybody says? I want to, so why shouldn’t I? Taking the law into your own hands, that is lust. That is desire in control, that is complete lawlessness and utter indiscipline.

And, of course, this desire to gratify ourselves brings in its train ugly things like jealousy. We become jealous of somebody whose pride of life looks a bit better than ours, or who gets more admiration that we do. We feel the same of somebody who does better than we do in the same profession or in the same business, or who has a better car. It is the pride of life again. And people cannot sleep at night for jealousy and envy. This is life, this is the world. Did anyone think that Christianity and its preaching was just a little bit of soft stuff, and that preaching was to tell pleasant little stories and that Christians sang nice hymns and did not face life? I am asking you to face life at this moment in a way that nothing else in the world asks you to do. Jealousy and envy, malice and spite and hatred; it does not stop at that. It leads to theft and robbery. This lust of the flesh, the desire for another man’s wife—it is robbery. We punish people who steal property, we do not punish a man who steals another man’s wife, or a wife who steals another woman’s husband. That is the madness of our legal system. Of course, when Hitler marched into Austria in 1938, and annexed it to Germany, we held up our hands in horror. The rape of Austria, we called it. We walked in and he took it. We say nothing when a man does that in private, perhaps we even admire him. The world certainly seems to admire him. It regards that as entertainment. It seems that it is a form of entertainment to depict a drunken man, or to depict an adulterous man, a man who flirts with another man’s wife, or who does anything he should not. God have mercy upon us!

But, you see, finally it leads to strife, and in the end it leads to war. When nations do this sort of thing —as they do—it leads to war. All wars are ultimately a strife between the haves and the have nots. Some big bully wants to take another piece of land. Other people say, It is ours, we do not want you to take it. And there is a war. And so it goes on. One big bully has got what he wants, but another big bully says, I want some of it, and there is a fight between the two big bullies. And there you have the whole of human history. The strong against the weak, and the strong against the strong. It is nothing but lust. It is this desire, this lawlessness, this greed, this aggression. This is the outcome of the worldly life, that is characterized by the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The apostle James in his epistle put the question which we should do well to ponder: ‘From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: Ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not’ (Jas 4:1). There is the verdict of the Bible, and the whole of human history. And that is why the world is as it is today.

Now that is the world. That is what it is, that is what it leads to, that is how it expresses itself. But Paul says, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’ I have got nothing more to do with it. How does the cross crucify the world unto us? Let me give you some answers to the question. It does it first and foremost by showing us the world for what it really is. There is nothing that shows us the real nature and character of the world except this book which I am expounding to you. And you find this supremely in the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, but he came into this world. Why did he ever come into it? Have you ever pondered that question? There is only one answer. Because the world is as I have been describing it to you. That is the only answer. The world is so violent, so rotten, that nothing can save it but the coming of
the Son of God. That is why he came, and his very coming opens our eyes to the state of the world. Apart from him people say: ‘Oh no! Look here, this is too black a picture, you are a pessimist. My dear sir,’ they say, ‘things are not as bad as that, you know. No, these things can be put right.’

‘How can they be put right?’ I ask. ‘Well,’ they answer, ‘the real trouble is that people are not sufficiently educated.’

And so they debate and dispute about how education can be improved. But however well-educated people become, the problem will still be there. We have been doing that throughout the centuries, and it does not make the slightest difference. No, the very fact that the Son of God ever came into the world is a pronouncement that the world is hopeless. If anything could have saved this world, the law that God gave to the nation of Israel through Moses would have done it. But it did not. It completely failed. That is why the Son of God had to come. The law is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. It was never meant to save. It was not big enough to do so. ‘What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh’ (Rom 8:3). It is the only way. But listen, look at him when he did come into this world, look how different he was. The description of him in Isaiah 53 is ‘he hath no form nor comeliness … that we should desire him’. His visage is marred. There was nothing of the pride of life about his appearance, nothing to appeal to the lust of the eyes. And then he was meek and he was lowly. He was pure, he was clean, he was holy. He sacrificed himself. He gave himself, he served. Lord of Glory though he was, he washed people’s feet. He rendered an utter and a perfect obedience to the holy law of God. And it says here, look at him. You see what the world is. You take your great men of the world, so called, in whom we all glory, and in whom we boast. Put them by him and there is nothing. He condemns them all. What puny creatures they are side by side with him.

But come, let us look at this further. If you want to know what this world is like, look what it did to him. There was the Son of God. He had left the throne of heaven, he had come and humbled himself, and he gave himself to healing people, and to instructing them. He never did anyone any harm. He went about doing good. What was the response of the world? It hated him, it persecuted him, it rejected him. It chose a murderer before him. It crucified him, it killed him. And there on the cross he exposed the world for what it is. And the clever men of the world today are laughing at the cross, they are mocking it, they are jeering at it, they are making fun of the blood of Christ, and they are trying to ridicule it. They are only doing what their prototypes did in the first century. That is what the world has always done to him.

But there is another aspect. His entire emphasis was the exact opposite of the emphasis of the world. The world emphasizes, as we have seen, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. What did he emphasize? He emphasized something that the world never speaks about at all. He emphasized the soul.

‘For what shall it profit a man,’ he said, ‘if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ What if you are the most handsome man or woman the world has ever known, and are always dressed in a most gorgeous manner and what if you have the greatest palace to live in, and have the greatest collection of motor cars and everything else? What if you have the whole world, and lose your own soul? That is what he says about the world, and he says it supremely there upon the cross. ‘Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’ (Mk 8:36, 37). Why did he die? He died for the souls of men, not for our material welfare, not to reform this world, but to save our souls. ‘The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Lk 19:10). And it is the soul that is lost. The thing that the world knows nothing about, but it is in you, and in all of us—this imperishable thing in us that goes on beyond death and the end. No, he exposed the lie of this world for what it really is. He spoke a parable about Dives and Lazarus. The rich man in his palace, dressed gorgeously, in wonderful robes, eating with all his boon companions until he had his fill, while the poor beggar sat at the gate with the dogs licking his sores. Oh, the Lord says in effect, do not judge superficially, that is not the end of the story. He gives us a picture of Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, and Dives in the torment of hell. You can see the difference between the mind and the outlook of the world, and the mind and the outlook of the Father, and the Son of God. He exposes the world for what it is. The moment you meet Christ, you see the world as something that is your enemy, something tawdry. You see that it has got the principle of death in it. And you no longer live for it and you no longer boast of it.

The boast of heraldry,
the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty,
all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour,
The paths of glory lead
but to the grave.
— Thomas Gray

But wait a minute that is not the end. It is the end as the man of the world sees it, but it is not so, for our Lord on his cross shows us the fate of the world. Not only does he show us the character of the world, he also shows us the fate that is awaiting it. And that is why the Apostle glories in the cross. John says, ‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world …. the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life ….’ ‘The world passeth away,’ he says, ‘and the lust thereof’ (1 Jn 2:15–17). And it is passing away. Many things are passing away in this generation to which you and I belong. What a change any one of us who is over fifty years of age has seen during his or her lifetime. The world, and its glory, is dying as we look at it. ‘Change and decay in all around I see.’ But that is as nothing compared with what is finally going to happen to this world. For its end will be the judgement. ‘The whole world lieth in wickedness’ (1 Jn 5:19). Our Lord, just before the cross, said, ‘Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out’ (Jn 12:31). This is the judgement of the world, he says, I am dying and as I die I am going to judge the world.

From beginning to end the message of the Bible, this revelation of God, is that there is to be an end to the world, and that the end is judgement. The Christ of God will come back into this world and he will return to judge it. Listen to what we are told is the favourite verse of most people: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ If you believe in him you will not perish, if you do not believe in him you will perish. That is the statement of John 3:16. The world is under judgement. And it is going to perish. All that is opposed to God is going to be judged and it is going to be destroyed. There is a day coming when this whole universe will be judged by the return of the Son of God. And all that does not belong to him, but to the world, is going to be destroyed everlastingly. There is a day coming when astonished humanity is going to hear this cry: ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen’ (Rev 14:8). What is Babylon? It is the world without Christ. It is London without Christ. It is New York without Christ. It is all these modern infernos without Christ. Babylon the great, Babylon is fallen, is fallen. This Babylon which seemed so great and wonderful, with its palaces and its great businesses, transacted with all the kings and the princes, and the great of the earth, who all brought their merchandise to it. They boasted of it. How great, they said, is Babylon. That is the world without Christ. But the day is coming when he will judge it, and this Babylon will fall, it will be crushed to rubble and to nothing.

Christ on the cross says, ‘Now is the judgment of this world.’ He prophesies what is going to happen. He is to be the judge. ‘… he will judge the world in righteousness,’ says the apostle Paul to the Athenians, ‘by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.’ And Revelation 20:12–13 tells us that the books will be opened, and every man will have to stand before him, those who died at sea, those who died on land, those who were blown to nothing in the air, all will come back and stand before him in the final judgement.

And the simple message of the whole of the Bible is that the world, everything that is opposed to God and trusts in man and in his own power, is all going to be judged and condemned to everlasting misery and destruction. Now you see why Paul glories in the cross. It is the cross alone that saves any one of us from the destruction which is coming to the world. The whole world lieth guilty before God, ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness’ (Rom 1:18). The whole world is going to be judged, and going to be destroyed. We are all born in the world and of it. And unless we can be separated from that world, we will share its fate. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me, and I separated from it. How? Let me make it clear. On that cross, the Lord Jesus Christ took upon himself the punishment that is coming to all who belong to the world. That is why he died, he was receiving the punishment of the sins of men.

If then you believe in him, if you have seen all these things, and realize that there is only one way whereby you can be separated from the punishment of that world, that is by believing that Christ has borne the punishment for you, that he bore your sins in his own body on the tree, and that he has received your punishment, if you see all this, you are separated out of that world, so that when the destruction of the world comes, you are saved, and will not be involved in it. The cross of Christ separates all of us from the doom that is awaiting this evil world. It is the only thing that does. T h e punishment, as we have seen, must descend, and the punishment has descended upon him, and if I believe in him it will not descend on me. I no longer belong to the world, I belong to Christ, because he not only separates us from the world, he separates us unto himself and into his own kingdom.

What is a Christian? Paul tells the Colossians that a Christian is a man who has been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. I no longer belong to the world, I belong to the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of light, the kingdom of glory, the kingdom of God. Here I am and the world has nothing to do with me. I am not of it. I am in this other kingdom. Oh, I am still existing in this world, but I no longer belong to it. I have been translated. And my citizenship is now in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, and we know that we shall ever go on and be with the Lord. He, by dying on the cross, separates me from the world, puts me into his own kingdom, introduces me to God, and makes me a child of God, and an heir of eternal bliss.

So I come back and I look at the world, the world that used to fascinate me and entrance me, and make me think it was so wonderful, with its glittering prizes. I vied with others for them. I wanted them, and I thought how marvellous to be this or that. But, oh now, having seen him and this truth that he brings out, I look at them again, and I say,

My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
— I. Watts

He delivers me from the world. He died that, ‘Whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ He does more, he gives me a power that is greater than the world. Listen to John again: ‘… greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world’, and, ‘This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith’, our faith in him (1 Jn 4:4, 5:4).

And, thank God, he does something else. He gives us occasional glimpses of that other world, that real world, that pure, that holy world, that is yet going to be. This old world can never be improved and reformed. The whole of history proves this. But when Christ comes back again to judge and to destroy his enemies—all who belong to the world and who have not got the love of the Father in them—he will set up this new world: ‘New heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness’ (2 Pet 3:13). A renovated cosmos, a perfected universe, with glory everywhere. The glory of the Lord shall cover everything as the waters cover the seas. And if you believe in him and in his message, if you believe that that person dying on that cross on Calvary’s hill was the Lord of Glory, and that he was dying in order to save you and to separate you from the world, and to prepare you for that glory, you will be in it and you will be glorying in it, and spending your eternity with him in the glory.

And once a man sees this, as the apostle Paul had come to see it, and as by the grace of God even I have come to see it, this is what he says:

Saviour, if of Sion’s city
I, through grace, a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy name:
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Sion’s children know.
What are you glorying in?
Are you glorying in this world still?
There are only two possibilities.
— J. Newton

You either glory in the world in some shape or form, or else you glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified unto you, and by which you are delivered from it in time, in order that you may share that everlasting glory with him.