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Friendship With The World (and other matters)
by Fred Pruitt

Dear _______,

My goodness, what a lot of questions! If I am my usual wordy self we'll be here til Christmas 2006 trying to answer them. But maybe I can approach them with a little brevity.

I think I'll just tackle them as I can. First you ask what is friendship with the world, which according to scripture produces enmity with God.

Ok, here goes. In a way this question has different answers in different stages of our spiritual life. It is often the case that when we first come to the Lord, He separates us in some way from our former lives, and sometimes in a very noticeable outer way. For me I painted my hippie VW converted camper van with a big red JESUS on the front and back, and plastered the rest of it all over with born-again bumper stickers. Everything in my life completely changed in an outer way as I moved from one environment to another, from the "world" to the "church," even taking my young family (2 month old son & wife) to California from Georgia in a 40 hp 1959 VW van that would not go over 45 mph without a tailwind (got stopped twice for going too slow on the Interstate).

I've said things changed in an outer way but that was only the visible sign that they had changed inwardly, because when Jesus came into my life He was pervasive in all things, outer and inner. In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, I walked into a new world and that new world spilled over into everything of life for me.

And I lived that way for a good many years -- walking away from and being separate from "the world." I wanted no part of it, its influences, its politics, its music, its thoughts and ideas -- everything about "the world" was suspect to me and to be avoided completely.

That is common also in our going from glory to glory. Many spend a good number of years "apart" from the world, unfamiliar with it, not being among the "with it" crowd anymore, with our attempts at relevance to the world always lame because we can't be relevant to something which we no longer are.

Likewise as we go along "separated" from the world through primarily an outer way (though it is really inner but we haven't fully caught onto that fact yet) we are unaware of the fact that this environment is a good breeding ground for Phariseeism. I'm pretty sure this touches all of us along the way. In fact if there was a spiritual path on a map that was common to all, this stop, Phariseeville, would be an unavoidable stop for everybody walking the road.

The reason why Phariseeville has to be a stop for everybody, is that this is where we get to prove we can live up to God's requirements, that we've got the stuff to do it. Hardly a one of us has failed to brag from time to time how we wouldn't act like so and so, and here's where we get the chance to prove it. Some call it the Romans 7 experience or the "Love God and Fail" syndrome.

Either way you label it, we get to prove how much we're not friends with the world by showing how much we're above it and don't act like it, don't think like it, because we're not that kind of folk (I speak facetiously) -- only, if we catch the lesson we're being taught -- eventually we are found completely lacking in our supposed self-ability to uphold ourselves (even though we claimed it was the Lord) and in that lack and "death" ("wilderness experience," "dark night of the soul") we discover all the "secrets" of life. We must all enter in by that door, because no flesh can come into his presence, and it is by that process that God reveals to us through His Spirit the full reality of "I live, yet not I ... and the life I live in the flesh" in us and many other things which we won't go into here.

From that death and our discoveries in those places of darkness and fear, we have found Christ risen in us, and when we come to wholeness in Him, then we discover that we are "in" the world, but not "of" it, and this means we are then safe and free to love and embrace the world, not for ourselves and not to take it into ourselves so that we take on its characteristics, but to infuse ourselves (Christ in us) into it -- that Christ might be manifest where we are. "For God so LOVED THE WORLD ..." says John 3:16. We now love the world because we bring Christ into it (and at the same time find Him there all along).

That is the general progression of our relationship with the world, but there is one more thing yet to say about "friendship with the world" and why it produces "enmity with God."

The ultimate sense of that friendship is what we have been continuously talking about -- the consciousness of separation, of "I, me, mine" and all its ramifications, but in this case at its heart it isn't the consciousness itself which is our concern, but our "friendship" with it. It was Eve's desire (to make one wise) to reach out and take the fruit, and by that "taking" she was "taken" as we know.

Now we've all been caught up in self-relying, self-acting, independent-self reality from Adam, and it is the most familiar thing in all the world to us. We snap to attention at its first beat; we're transfixed to the pictures and thoughts it puts into our minds everyday. It's all we've ever known, and we're very familiar with it.

And this is the "thing" which God destroys in us, this false image of ourselves as well as all things, which is from the devil, so that we arise in newness of life as now completely ourselves, but not just "ourselves," but Christ in us.

The temptation continuously from beginning to end is twofold: first, to believe the temporal only and to live as if the temporal is all there is and there is no help except in our own hand or mind or some other human agency. And secondly, that we are alone as ourselves, when in fact we live and move and have our being in God, and our "fortress of solitude" in which we are all encaged is really a false house of the devil, in which he dwells in us and infects us with his own enmity with God, and this is our own enmity as well. And this is friendship with the world, and is the realm of the devil ultimately, though all this is only temptation and for us only becomes his "realm" when it is no more temptation in us and we have bitten the bait and gone the whole way with it. Sometimes that does happen, and if so the Spirit lets us know, and we pick ourselves up and move on. But another thing we must realize, is also it is by this process of perhaps a stumble or two and a picking up and going on or two that we are more and more seasoned -- bruised and broken -- and real. We are all "taught of God" as the scriptures say, and whatever I can tell you in words you have to find out for yourself in your own being from God Himself.

I think that covers the first several of your questions, and now let's move on to this one: "If we know we are redeemed why are we warned not to walk after the flesh, as if we had the innate ability to do so?"

There are several reasons for this. First of all, it's a daily "walk." Step by step. Along the way, there is always going to be this and that to challenge us and thereby move us to new works of God. And it's not a stacked deck, in that you are just going through the motions but you already know the outcome. No, this is real life, and the stakes are life and death. We're not kidding here. God is not kidding. The reason why we are warned is that sometimes we do walk on some dangerous cliffs, and because we walk on those cliffs, we can fall off the cliffs, too.

We face the same temptations every day pretty much and the reason for this is that it exercises us. By the exercise of our faith our life grows, and all sorts of issues of life happen. Every day we are exercised unto faith and every day God walks us through. But every day it's also a tightrope and sometimes very precarious, and the scary thing about a life of faith is that it is never clear outwardly what the outcome of the "whatever" is going to be. And that is its glory also, because in that exercising through experiencing all the ups and downs of life and the continuously appearing opportunity in all that to daily believe in the Living God over and above all appearances, we ourselves are fixed steadfastly in Him and increase in wisdom and knowledge and love.

Ok, on now to "Satan as an angel of light" and the attitudes of your brothers and sisters. Yes, Satan does appear as an angel of light and deceives the whole world. But we trust God to walk us through everything as Himself in us, and to be in us whatever wisdom and knowledge we need on a moment by moment basis, which is abundantly promised in the scripture, so what need is there to fear a vanquished enemy who can only hold us by getting us to believe again in the spell which he had over us formerly in our old days? We're not his anymore, and owe him no more allegiance, nor fear. Perfect love casts out fear, does it not?

I pray, for the day, when all God's children will hear this word of who we are, and we will all rejoice in Him together, but that Day isn't here in the flesh quite yet, so we are still the few and often the persecuted and, as Norman used to say, are "out where the human cold winds blow."

But so what? They killed the Lord of glory. Nailed him to a cross. So what then if they talk bad about us? Here is where "friendship with the world" often shows up, because people don't like to be persecuted, ostracized, made fools of. Yet the deeper we go in Christ, the more that happens to us, and at every juncture we get to choose whether we want to go on -- or not. Some stay behind, some keep on going. Paul said very few stood by him at the end, that all "served their own belly." Pretty harsh words at the end of his ministry, supposedly just before his death. But if anything by that we can see that going all the way is selling all you have and being nothing in ourselves, but only a sacrifice bound to an altar whereby God's will is accomplished, and we only vessels to effect that as God wills by us, and we have no other meat but to "do His will and finish His work."

So it's a total thing. And so one should not be surprised at disagreement and persecution. If we trust in the Lord, then that trust is total. It means in everything. In life or death, in loneliness or in blessed fellowship. "I go before thee" He says. "Thou hast enlarged my steps under me," says the Psalmist. He has prepared the way of our coming (His coming in us). There is nothing whatsoever to fear.

So that's where you stand, safe in Christ in you living as you. He has prepared the way of your life from the foundations of the earth, and it is not your responsibility to bear. "Take my yoke upon you, and ye shall find rest unto your souls," He says, and His yoke is borne by Himself in us, as is the whole of our lives. In Jesus Christ are found the resolutions to all things and the answers to all questions, and it is He who has by His Spirit in us come to be one person with us. There is nothing more astounding and full of infinite meaning and implications than the truth of this realization -- as its reality begins to dawn fully upon us.