The Spirit of the Age
“This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”
-1 John 4:3
The spirit of the age is the wind at the back of all heresy, false religion and idolatry. It is the ever present power that pulls mankind under the sway of deception and tills the ground for the planting of spiritual weeds in the hearts of men. It is the yeast which is mixed throughout every man, to which only a little heat need be applied, and apostasy rises within.
As for specific definitions, I have found no better than what is written in Kenneth Wuest's Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, where he skillfully writes about the spirit of the world system:
“[It is] all that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations, at any time current in the world, which it may be impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitutes a most real and effective power, being the moral or immoral atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale, again inevitably to exhale.”
“[It is] the subtle informing spirit of the Kosmos, or world of men, who are living alienated and apart from God. To summarize, the word is used to refer to the world system, wicked and alienated from God, yet cultured, educated, powerful, outwardly moral at times, the system which Satan is head, the fallen angels and his demons are his servants, and all mankind other than the saved are his subjects.”
And the above described is the spirit which the apostle John described as already being in the world. It is the very thing Jesus spoke of when He said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).
It is the tangible representation of why living boldly as a Christian is to walk upstream against the current, no matter what age, epoch or decade a person lives.
Its influence is not passive, nor is it insignificant. When the apostle Paul says in Romans 12:2, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” the word in the Greek for 'conformed,' is a word denoting a pressure from all sides to fit something into a particular shape or mold.
The only escape from this seems to be the second counsel of the verse, which is to be 'transformed.' This word for this in the Greek is 'metamorfoo,' from which we derive our English word 'metamorphosis.' The prescription is to have a change from the inside out, like a caterpillar, whose very innards turn to liquid in the chrysalis, and reshape it into a creature quite unlike itself, the transcendent butterfly.
For one who would try to be uninfluenced by the course of this world simply by sheer will power alone is on a fool's errand. The natural mind has no means to resist it, but rather, is automatically tuned in to a figurative preset radio station of the flesh and of the mind, each dancing to the song of their culture or intellectual sub-genre. Many seem to feel control by switching up the station, but they are still only fixed upon the preset selection, of flesh and mind, as each one wears the badge of a 'free-thinker,' believing they have drawn their own conclusions. Most think that if you are listening to one of the preset stations, all must be well with you, after all, we are all listening to the radio, all paths lead to God, whatever makes one happy.
This is the mold and conformity we are called to resist, and not only that, but to overcome. We are called not just to hold our present form against the shaping force of the worldly spirit, but to break it backward, and free the minds and souls who are shackled to dance to its deceitful tune.
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5)
We overcome by faith and conformity to Christ. Only when we are born of the Spirit of God by faith do we gain access to a radio station which is not on the dial of the natural man. No longer are we bound by the confines of stations listening to cultures and social thinking, subliminal marching orders to serve the flesh and the mind. But we are made alive to tune into the Spirit, to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, for “his sheep know his voice.” (John 10:27)
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Eph. 2:1-3)
Idols of the Heart
For those of the world who may have some religious or devotional inclinations, a concession is given to them. Men have always been allowed to have a god, so long as it was not the True God.
For the modern civilized man, being in a materialistic and plural society, his options are few. He may atheistically serve his own goods, achievements or intellect. Of this the Bible says, “his god is his belly.” Or else he crafts an image of God in his own heart, which is fashioned after his own religious preferences. Rather than man being made in the image of God, his god is made in his own paltry image.
This is a god he may serve while even being a churchman, doing good deeds, overall being a very charitable and responsible citizen, and yet it is a god of his own making. Perhaps not as crude as one fashioned from gold or silver, but manufactured by man nonetheless.
This can happen a myriad of ways, but consider the many things a person might hear about God. One many cherry-pick ideas from differing belief systems, forming a strange amalgamation of ill-fitting dogma. They create a patchwork god with two dozen descendants.
Even within the Christian sphere, one may hear, “God is Love,” and they like it. But then they hear some time later, “If you do not repent and believe, you will go to Hell.” They say to themselves, "My God is a loving and forgiving God and would not send anyone to such a horrible place as Hell." Yet the Bible affirms both truths side by side.
Consider what was just done. In saying “My God would never...” to a thing in which God says He will do, that person is now serving a god that they have set up in their own heart that they believe will not send anyone to Hell. Now, it is true, God is loving and forgiving, but he is also just and holy, and the love and forgiveness He gives is not without cost, indeed even the cost of His own Son! Christ's death satisfied the call for justice demanded by the Father's holiness, allowing His love to rest upon us.
Consider, a just and righteous judge in court would not let a man go simply because he said “sorry,” or he felt bad, or he didn't mean to. They may mitigate the price of justice, but justice would be served all the same. If he did release them on such a basis, such a judge would be considered corrupt and immoral.
In the case of God, every man has an opportunity to accept the plea bargain for his sins by having Jesus pay his fine through the sacrifice of his death. The death penalty proclaimed on us because of our sin, fell upon Him, for those who will receive the exchange. For those who reject that bargain, the full weight of the sentence comes upon them by their own choice. The decision God sets before men to receive Jesus satisfies both the love and the justice of God's character.
This is but a single example of how one may craft a god for oneself. For the one who rejects what God says about Himself in His Word, that man sets up an idol for himself in his own heart, worshiping a god of his preference, rather than the God who has revealed himself.
And these idols are no less dangerous than any other false god, for they make a man happy with his religion, leaving him complacent about his own soul, and the souls of others. Indeed, the spirit of the age yearns for men to craft a god of their own preference.
Furthermore, the spirit of the age presses men not to become too committed or extreme in their religious doctrine, perchance their zeal may offend someone. It whispers, “you can avoid all this discomfort,” or “you do not want to appear fanatical.” Men are tempted to look upon their reputation and public persona to prevent becoming too extreme in regard to right religion. Tempered by comparisons to others of their ilk, men are subdued into moderation regarding the matters of most consequence in life, namely, the things of the Spirit.
The spirit of the age crafts and molds the thoughts and ideas of men more than we may ever know, but its presence and work are truly obvious to those who observe. There is no trend, fad, meme or more that is not the result of the informing influence of the worldly spirit.
Upon closing, I think it best to have a better idea of what falls into the subtleties of this spirit's influence in our day. Though its focus and emphasis may ebb and flow over time, there is a poem written by a journalist named Steve Turner, called The Modern Thinker's Creed, which deftly describes a summation of this informing spirit in the present day.
The Modern Thinker's Creed
“We believe in Marx, Freud, and Darwin,
We believe everything is OK.
as long as you don't hurt anyone,
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.
We believe in sex before, during, and after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy is OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.
We believe that everything is getting better,
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated,
And you can prove anything with evidence.
We believe there's something in,
horoscopes, UFO's and bent spoons;
Jesus was a good man,
just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher,
although we think His good morals,
were basically really bad.
We believe that all religions are basically the same -
at least the ones that we read about were.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of
creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.
We believe that after death comes the Nothing,
Because when you ask the dead what happens they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
then it's compulsory heaven for all,
excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Khan.
We believe in Masters and Johnson. [a research group]
What's selected is average.
What's average is normal.
What's normal is good.
We believe that man is essentially good.
It's only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions,
Conditions are the fault of society.
We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will re-adjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth,
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.
We believe in the rejection of creeds,
and the flowering of individual thought.
"Chance" – A Post-Script.
If chance be the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
and when you hear:
“State of Emergency!”
“Sniper Kills Ten!”
“Troops on Rampage!”
“Whites go Looting!”
“Bomb Blasts School!”
It is but the sound of man, worshiping his maker.
And this is the challenging environment we find ourselves in. For many, religiously minded or otherwise, in order to have any meaningful discussion, we first must break down the barriers and blinders that are put before others by the spirit of the age. This is the culture that is chosen for you, if you do not choose one yourself.
We must make it our endeavor, regardless of the error we are confronting, to treat all we encounter with a true love, and a desire for the care and well-being of the individual. Mankind is deceived, but we must not lay that to their charge, as there are many forces at work to hinder salvation.
Armed with the truth, and information of diverse kinds that work to our favor, we must be careful not to use these weapons as means to harm people and harden them to the gospel through a misguided sense of holy indignation. It is 'the goodness of God that leads men to repentance,' and it is the love of God that works the conversion of man. So if we seek to work with God rather than against Him in saving the souls of men, we must do all things out of love. It is a fact, one cannot be argued into the Kingdom of Heaven. However, a proper word, at the proper time, can bring down the walls of deception and bring light to the conscience of men.
It would be folly to aimlessly and indiscriminately anger people by calling their religious beliefs into question, proclaiming that they worship demons. These things are true, yet we must use wisdom and discretion in how we apply these truths, for you may win a battle, yet lose the war.
I pray with a sincere heart that this work has equipped and delighted the reader, and that you may use its contents wisely to bring light and truth to a dark and deceived world.