Where Worldliness Lives - part 3

The Apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, defines worldliness as something that exists within us.  Often times we try to focus on what is going on around us instead of within us, in our inner being.  Worldliness is not just behavior, its belief.

We understand this from 1 John 2:16.  “For everything in the world, the cravings of sinful man, the lust of the eyes and boasting of what he has and does, comes not from the Father but from the world.”  The essence of worldliness is in the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does. The root of the problem is within us.  So we must learn to discern worldliness where it lives, in our inner being.        

David Powlison, paraphrasing John Calvin, wrote, “The evil in our desires often lies not in what we want, but in the fact that we want it too much.”  Whatever drives you owns you.  When you must have what you crave, you have lost the battle of idolatry and worldliness.

            Our hearts may generate sinful cravings, but they can also be aroused by what we see.  The eyes are the window of our soul, giving opportunity to observe but also to covet. The world understands this and Madison Avenue pitches its products to the eye gate.  

            So what are you captivated by?  What do you think about the most?  What images stir your interest? Ask yourself, what real value does it have?  If you’re more excited about the latest movie or the next big game than serving in your church, if you’re impressed with athletes and movie stars, despite their lack of morality, then you have been seduced by this fallen world.

            What about “the boasting of what he has and does.”?   How much of your time and effort is spent on trying to convince yourself and others of how good you are?  How do you go about boasting in your accomplishments and assets?  What’s the real motive behind those posts and pictures on Facebook?  The boastful pride of life does not come from God and there is no future in it.

            “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).  Please don’t waste your life pursuing things that won’t last.  John Owens described them as “living affections to dying things.” 

            There is no future in worldliness.  It doesn’t last and it doesn’t satisfy. But doing the will of God brings eternal satisfaction.  Which type of life will you choose?  Resisting the temptations of the world that is opposed to the things of Christ requires strenuous effort and being diligent. It’s a life long battle to keep the world out of your heart.

            The good news is, “God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him” (2 Peter 1:3).  Resist the world by looking to the cross of Christ.  For it is “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). 

     “When someone sets his affections upon the cross and the love of Christ, he crucifies the world as a dead and undesirable thing. The baits of sin lose their attraction and disappear. Fill your affections with the cross of Christ and you will find no room for sin.”  John Owen

Are You Different?

   "Do not love the world or anything in the world." 1 John 2:15 

   "Many of the distinctions separating Christian conduct from worldly conduct have been challenged if not altogether undermined.  Even the words worldly and worldliness have, within a generation, lost most of their traditional meaning." (James Hunter) The distinctions that were once very clear to previous generations have been blurred and altered to the point that Christians are in crisis. 

    "Today, the greatest challenge facing American evangelicals is not persecution from the world, but seduction by the world."  (C.J. Mahaney)  The church and individual Christians are decaying from within because we've dropped our guard against worldliness.

    Are the lines between Christian conduct and worldly conduct blurry in your mind?  Let me put it another way.  Is your lifestyle different from that of the non-Christian?  Question - If someone were given two reports detailing your conversations, Internet activity, manner of dress, music on your iPod, TV and movie habits, hobbies, leisure time, finances, thoughts, language, attitudes, plans for the future and a non-Christians, would they be able to tell them apart.  If the difference is hard to detect, you might be in danger of drifting down the deserter's path with Demas (See previous post - 2 Timothy 4:10)

    God has given you a warning sign in 1 John 2:15, "Do not love the world or anything in the world."  Warnings are not legalistic restrictions from a God who doesn't want what is best for us.  Warnings are His expressions of His love for us.  He gives them for our good, to protect us from sin and its consequences.

    What is this world that we are not to love?  It's not the world that God created and called 'very good' in Genesis 1:31.  It's the organized system of human civilization that is actively hostile to God and alienated from God.  The world God forbids us to love is the fallen world that is diametrically opposed to Him and His Son Jesus Christ.  Every day we make choices whether we realize it or not, between love for a world that opposes God and love for Jesus Christ.

    Worldliness is choosing the values and pursuits of the world that stand opposed to God.  Worldliness is choosing to gratify and exalt yourself over finding your pleasure in Him.  It rejects His good and right rule and replaces it with our own. It exalts our opinions above God's truth.  "Worldliness is human nature without God." (Joel Beeke)

   Questions for you to ponder: What dominates your mind and stirs your heart?  Is it discontentment with you life? Wanting something you don't have?  Do you long for more power, pleasure or prosperity?  Do you covet the esteem and crave the approval of others? Are you afraid of being rejected for your Christian faith?  Or, do you deeply want to grow in godliness, becoming more like Jesus Christ and bring honor and glory the Lord through your life?

    These are tough questions, but necessary if you're going to discover whether you have been infected with the spiritual disease of worldliness.  More to come...

Cut and Paste Living

Have you ever heard of the Jefferson Bible?  Thomas Jefferson, or second president literally cut and pasted his own personal Bible, taking only those verses that he liked.  It was a book he was comfortable with. 

            Hell didn’t make it.  Anything supernatural, no.  God’s wrath against sin, absolutely not.  As a Christian I am appalled by the thought of someone creating their own Bible by omitting whatever they don’t like.

            And then I thought about how often I have ignored portions of God’s Word.  Guilty!  Here’s a verse that was brought to my attention recently that I think many of us try to ignore in one way or another.  Simple yet piercing if you really try to apply it.  “Do not love the world or anything in the world”  (1 John 2:15). 

            This verse is pointed, “Do not love the world”.  It’s also broad, “or anything in the world.”  It’s aimed at many of my desires, yet I’ve never memorized it or felt like I needed it in my battle against sin.  I’ve read it many times yet many more times I’ve lived like it wasn’t in my Bible.

            How does a Christian know if they are worldly?  Are you immune to worldliness?  If we ignore this command, we are not just guilty of making our own Bible; we’re in peril of being seduced by a fallen world that is diametrically opposed to God.  We are all at risk!

            The Apostle Paul described someone who was in love with the world and what happened to him.  He was a companion of Paul’s and helped him spread the gospel.  He stood by Paul during his first imprisonment.  Yet, listen to what said about him in 2 Timothy 4:10, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me.”

            What happened? I’m sure he didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to bail out. Before he deserted, he drifted away from his first love, Christ. You know someone like Demas, don’t you, someone who burned brightly for a time and then slowly turned away from the faith.

            So often we’re ignorant of the signs and symptoms of worldliness because a person can carry on looking on the outside like everything is great while slowly eroding away on the inside. Maybe he or she is still in church but on the inside not really excited to be there.  Maybe they sing worship song but without any real affection.  Listen to the sermon but without any conviction.  Spiritual growth wanes as they hear the truth but don’t apply it to themselves. 

            A love for the things of the world crowds out the love for Christ. A love for the world begins in your soul and it causes a subtle shift from the things of Christ to the things of the world.  In this way, the person who was once captivated by Christ, over time is taken captive by sin.  A slippery slope.

            So, are you on the downward slide? Sadly, many Christians are unaware of the peril they are in because they have ignored verses like 1 John 2:15, and become desensitized to the clear and present danger of worldliness.

            More reflections on this to come from my reading: Worldliness – Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World,  Edited by C.J. Mahaney