Living a Counter-World Life

Ryan Guilfoy

We often declare that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we the church, are to live counter-culturally.  It seems we’ve taken the sentiments of the last few church generations that “the world” is the enemy.  Then we’ve continued that thinking in our interaction with culture.  The ideology is that we don’t belong to the curse-corrupt world if we’ve trusted in Jesus.  True.  An identity shift has taken place and a sudden yet progressive transformation has begun.  But “the world” is not the enemy.  Jesus came for, died for and was resurrected for “the world.”  That includes me, you and, as far as we can tell, everyone we meet.  Jesus came to His world out of love.  Jesus’ church, His disciples, also reach out to the world with love in the hope that people are drawn to Jesus too.  We are not anti-world.  We are counter-world.  So it follows that we are not anti-culture, we are counter-culture.  We don’t conform any longer to this world; we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).  So, when the world or our culture suggests a comfortable, popular idea that is not true (and they come in a flurry) we offer a transformed, Truth-filled counter idea.  I’m not suggesting a fighting stance, but I am suggesting action; humble, loving, persistent and patient action.  The world is not our opponent, it is broken and mis-led.  Jesus engaged the world of His time and continues to engage ours; to lead it into Truth.  His teaching, miracles and relationships countered worldly assumptions and challenged them.  His disciples followed His example, engaging the world and culture in order to counter it with actual Truth and Life.

The word culture is neutral and multi-layered and since I’m not picking out one layer out in this entry, from here on I will follow the Bible’s lead in using “world”.  By “world” I mean any perspective we encounter that isn’t solely guided by God’s biblical Truth.  The “world” is broken, yet loved by God.  His love for the “world” counters curse, lies and death with grace, truth and life.  Master Jesus began a movement that instilled a counter-world mentality, guided by the Spirit of God, to advance on the “world” in an ever expanding way.  That Spirit transformed mentality is the basic DNA of a disciple of Christ.  This is a vital point because we have a large demographic that calls itself the Christian church, yet they have never been taught about the counter-world mentality.  They do not walk around with it, yet they have been led to believe they have arrived at Christianity.  Many are learning about Jesus and attempting to adapt Him to the life they already live.  In these cases, spiritual transformation isn’t happening.  I’m not interested in pointing at certain groups or churches because God has true disciples scattered even throughout the so-called churches that lack a transformed counter-world perspective.  When I became a disciple of Jesus I realized everything about my life and perspective was changed and changing.  I am still transforming.  It was other disciples of Jesus who spent life with me and exuded perspective to me that caused my understanding of this.  No life, other than a continuous counter-world life is one of a disciple of Jesus.  This isn’t something we can compartmentalize and pursue with part of our life for now and maybe more later because God doesn’t work with part of us.  He has our whole life.  So, a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, is always being drawn deeper into God and living in more of His Truth as a result.    

The movement our Master began has always multiplied through life on life relationships that instill a counter-world perspective.  Apart from this, people are confronted with sterile information or isolated issues, but not a living holistic perspective.  I find help staying encouraged and focused on discipling relationships through friendship itself.  Friendships that have pointed me to simple truth and not other worldly distractions, even seemingly good ones, are grace from God.  Intentional counter-worldly living is central.  This is a vital subject because I can see even true disciples of Jesus progressively shrink away from countering the world.  It is magnified when life on life discipling isn’t happening consistently among our churches.  It is this steady disengagement from the uncomfortable, hard, relentless ideas from the world that lulls the church to sleep and renders it nearly imperceptible to the world around us.  Honestly, I’ve felt myself withdraw too.  This is the true battle: staying engaged without discouragement in order to counter broken thinking and living with Truth and Life.  How?  Get with those believers’ who have encouraged you toward the counter-world perspective as a disciple.  Just as critical, keep making friendships with new people.  Keep talking with and engaging people.  Pursue friendship and tell the Truth.  I keep coming back to this over and over again.  

Our Master’s church is and always has been grown one relationship at a time.  The first relationship I had as a Christian with another discipling believer was the first time I had my worldly ideas of commitment to people and marriage countered with Truth.  As a new believer, my perspective was transforming, but I lacked application.  Without realizing it, I was avoiding the harder, deeper ideologies of mine that needed to be countered and transformed.  Fortunately, the Lord has continued to put people in my path that care about discipling a counter-world perspective into my life.  Through His Word and their friendship I have become passionate about offering friendship and Truth too.  Friendship is the only context where ongoing transformation can happen.  Right now, I am honored with a friendship where I can counter and challenge the world’s concept of “gifts” and “giving” with a biblical understanding.  I am sharpened as much as my friend is.  The growth goes on and on, if we don’t stifle it by disengaging.  Where are you in all of this?  Do you lean into relationships ready to lovingly counter worldly assumptions with Truth?  Are you making friends with new people; people different from yourself?  Be encouraged!  It is always the right time to refresh your focus.  Ask someone who has discipled you to talk through this with you.  Seek the Lord’s encouragement and correction.  Love God, make friends, tell the Truth.  

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)