An often used, if not overly used, Christianese phrase is "In the world but not of the world." When I say it's possibly over used, I'm not saying it's not a useful or good phrase. What I am asking is: Do you know what it means?
Let's look at Jesus' final recorded prayer in John chapter 17:
"I (Jesus) have given them (the twelve) your (the Father's) word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." John 17:14-16
In Jesus' prayer He institutes, or at least reiterates, the idea of 'in the world but not of the world'. But still left asking "What does it mean?"
Let's look at the word 'world'. What does this word mean in this context?
I believe 'world' does not mean planet earth. Obviously, Jesus' is not from planet earth originally; but I don't believe that is what He is referring to, because Jesus made planet earth. I believe, Jesus is referring to the culture of the world, the way of the world, when He says the word 'world' here.
So, we are in the culture of the world, but not of the culture of the world. What in the world (excuse the pun) does that mean?
In the world but not of the world means that we are called to be in the world influencing it. We are called to not be influenced by the world.
Let me steal a metaphor from my friend Harold that he stole, or should I say borrowed, from a chaplain:
A ship in the ocean is a good thing. In fact, the purpose of a ship is to be in the ocean. But when the ocean starts getting into the ship disaster ensues.
We are commissioned by Christ to go into the world.
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20
We are also commissioned to be set apart or in other words sanctified.
"Sanctify them by the truth; your Word is truth." John 17:17
So be in the world but not of the world. In fact, use this Christianese phrase, as long as you use it correctly. Be ships in the ocean spreading the Gospel, but keep the ocean out of your ship today.