Worldliness–Is it in You?
John Stott, that great Scottish preacher asked a very sobering question to the church of Jesus Christ some time ago: You know what your own country is like. I'm a visitor, and I wouldn't presume to speak about America. But I know what Great Britain is like. I know something about the growing dishonesty, corruption, immorality, violence, pornography, the diminishing respect for human life, and the increase in abortion.
Whose fault is it? Let me put it like this: if the house is dark at night, there is no sense in blaming the house. That's what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is, "Where is the light?"
If meat goes bad, there is no sense in blaming the meat. That is what happens when the bacteria are allowed to breed unchecked. The question to ask is, "Where is the salt?"
If society becomes corrupt like a dark night or stinking fish, there's no sense in blaming society. That's what happens when fallen human society is left to itself and human evil is unrestrained and unchecked. The question to ask is "Where is the church?"
Indeed, where is the church? Some called Christian musician Keith Green a musical prophet. He wrote a song with a stinging message which in part goes like this: the world is sleeping in the dark, but the church just can’t fight cause it’s asleep in the light. Jesus rose from the grave but you can’t even get out of bed.
My dear friends, this message is for the faint of heart. Faint of heart in the sense that we who are part of the church of Jesus, are losing our influence on the world and the world is gaining a greater hold on the church. We who are born again are part of the kingdom that the Lord Jesus said would go on the offensive against the very gates of hell. But in these first years of the 21st century, have for the most part, not penetrated those gates, at least not in our culture.
\\ Today, I want to give a spiritual massage to those of us who claim to love Jesus but live as if we don’t. Let’s face the ugly truth. Many of us in the body of Christ have compromised our commitment to the Lord. We often live as if the Lord isn’t our Lord because we are guilty of worldliness.
Worldliness. That is a term we don’t hear much these days. We would much rather avoid this unpleasant subject because it hits too close to home. Worldliness is defined by that which is devoted to this world and its pursuits. It is closely akin to the phrase “worldly wise” where it means to have a refined knowledge in the ways of the world. Are you worldly wise this morning?
Worldliness means to have a devotion to the things of this life. And it is so easy to do that, isn’t it? I mean after all, there are things to do, places to go, and people to see. There’s a job to perform, groceries to buy, children at the child care to drop off and pick up. There’s PCS moves to make and bills to pay. How can one not be worldly? The problem is that our Lord told us to do away with worldliness in our lives. It is possible to be IN the world but not OF the world.
This problem with worldliness is as old as the church. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, wrote the Scripture passage we read today before the close of the first century. He told his readers to not love the world or the things in the world. Obviously, if he was inspired to command his readers to not love the world, then there was a problem with worldliness then. So the issue has been around for a long time.
But let’s set the context. John’s first letter is written to Christians who were of the everyday kind. They were not super saints. They were invited to join in fellowship with John, his friends, and the Lord. They were tempted to sin, and often yielded to it. They needed instruction as to just who the Lord is, namely that He is holy (expressed as light), and love personified. John gave his readers a literal gold mine of truth and wisdom of how to really experience eternal life–which was living in a grace and truth relationship with the Living God and with His people.
\\ And right before John admonished his readers to not love the world, the apostle of love reminded them of who they were. John said that they were dearly beloved people who knew the Father. They were strong and they overcame the evil one. They were completely forgiven of their sins (1 John 2:12-14). Before they met Jesus, they were God’s enemies; now they were reconciled to God.
At the same time, their relationship with the world changed. When they were enemies of God, they were at one with to the world. When they became reconciled with God, they became enemies of the world. Over and over again the Scriptures tell us of the great gulf that separates the world and God. Jesus Himself told His disciples that people of the world would hate them. As He prayed to the Father in John 17 He said, “I have given them Your word, Father, and the world has hated them. Why? Because “They are not of the world (John 17:14).” The world hates what doesn’t belong to it.
Now John tells his readers to not love the world. John gives them some great spiritual logic.
In 1 John 2:15, John challenges the believer’s allegiance. In this verse, John says that the person who loves the world proves that the love of the Father is not in him. The word for love here is agape, which involves priorities. Values. Choices. Commitment. When someone talks about loving the world he’s making a deeper statement than simply saying “I love gelato.” This person is saying, “I am committed to the world and its ways. This world is what gives my life meaning and purpose. I’m going to go get the best that this world has to offer.”
Over our years of marriage, I continue to marvel at what the Lord shows Kitty. Since we’ve been here in Europe, we’ve been able to visit places that we’ve read about or seen in the movies. Like many people here, we came by way of Osan. When we received word that we were coming here, we were very happy!
Last year, Kitty and ‘Becca were able to go to Paris for ‘Becca’s 16th birthday. And they were excited! They saw the Louve. They went to the Eiffel Tower. And when they came back, Kitty simply said, “the magic isn’t here.” The magic? She describes it as that “The awe and wonder of some great desire being completely fulfilled. It’s that sense that ‘this is IT.’” That THIS–whatever THIS is, is the epitome of what life is all about.
\\ And to those who love the world, the magic IS here. Those who love the world go after the finest material things, the best experiences. Many have adopted the bumper sticker theology that you may have seen at one time or another: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Of course, toys could be simply material things. Or it could be continual exciting experiences. Or seeking to advance one’s own cause, one’s own agenda. To leave a legacy. Or to blow it all on having one good time after another.
You know, the world frequently calls out for our allegience, even as believers. Our old enemy keeps calling us back to the kingdom of darkness. It keeps screaming to us–“Hey you know that you need more ____________–because it’s the one who dies with the most toys, wins!” The world continues to entice us back to the old life that we have been delivered from. Let me ask you a question this morning: On a scale of 1-10, to what degree have you bought into the idea that the “magic” is in the world and its ways? Where does your true allegiance lie?
We were challenged in v15 as to just where our allegiance is. Do we place the highest value of life on the world and its ways–or on knowing and serving the Lord? Now let’s take a brief look at 1 John 2:16 where we will discover the truth of the world’s ways.
John says there are three things which make up the ways of the world. Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. What does that mean? One commentator describes it this way: Lust of the flesh consists of the cravings of sinful man. This points to the gratification of our fleshly desires. The lust of his eyes is the strong desire for what is seen, for the outward form of things; it is the lust after the superficial. The pride of life “the boasting of what he has and does” It’s the empty haughtiness of the worldly-minded.
\\ Gratification of our fleshly desires. Strong desire to look good and emphasize the outward form of things. The boasting of what we have and do. What a description of our culture! And I believe the most powerful tool in our society to exploit our lusts and pride is our marketing industry. Ad executive Jerry Della Femina tells the secret of his craft: Advertising deals in open sores‑‑. Fear. Greed. Anger. Hostility. You name the dwarfs and we play on every one. We play on all the emotions and on all the problems, from not getting ahead ‑‑ to the desire to be one of the crowd. Everyone has a button. If enough people have the same button, you have a successful ad and a successful product.
Obviously, marketing is not evil in and of itself. But how much of it delivers the ways of the world right to our doorstep and into our living rooms through the things we see in the media and the entertainment we allow ourselves access to?
These things, lust and pride, John says, are not from the Father. When someone loves the world, this person goes from one desire to another and boasts about what he has or has had or has done. Heavenly things don’t really matter to him. Because all he has is what he has in this life.
In 1 John 2:17, John speaks about the destiny of the world. John here gives a simple statement about the world–it will pass away. That is a euphemism –a nice way to say that the world will die. The world and its ways will one day fade away. A person who loves the world will ultimately lose regardless of how much he may gain temporarily. I don’t know Bill Gates’ spiritual condition, but I wonder if it seems to him that the world and its ways are going to pass away. It doesn’t seem to those who love the world and have the best of everything this world has to offer that the world and its lusts will pass away. Because they experience their finery for, say, 40, 50, or even more years. And when they get to the end of their days, what can they take with them from the world that they love so well?
But on the other hand, “the one who does the will of God lives forever”. The person who does not love the world, the who does not live for the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, will then be free to live for the Lord. And to live for the Lord means to do the will of God. It means to follow the example of the Lord Jesus. When He was in the Garden of Gethsemene He said, “Father, not as my will but as You will" (Matthew 26:39). To do the will of God simply means to live under the Lordship of the one who loves us and gave us His Son. It’s submitting to whatever the Father wishes of me.
OK, so what? We know that when someone loves the world, that shows the love of the Father is not in him, and that the only things in the world are lust and pride and that the world is passing away.
If all this is true, how can we put this into practice? Let me give you a few pointers to help you turn your back on worldliness. When the going gets tough and the world turns on its charm, live out these things in your life.
First, remember who you are. If you are born again, then you are a new creation. God has given you a new life. You are a child of God. You have Holy Spirit power. Live according to your new life. Second, pledge allegiance to the Father. Renew your commitment to value the things of the Kingdom of God as more important than the things of the world. Third, be convinced of the truth of what the world really offers: lust and pride. Be honest with yourself. Do you really want to go back to what you escaped from? Fourth, recommit yourself to doing the will of God. Whatever the will of God is for you at the time, employ Nike theology. With the help of God, just do it.
I think it’s high time we as believers began to exert some godly influence in our society. Jesus said we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). The sun of godliness in our culture is setting. Let’s light up the house! Jesus said we are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). Let’s allow God to use us to preserve what little is left of our heritage. Do you smell the stench of cultural decay?
The story is told of a little boy playing hide‑and‑seek with his friends. For some unknown reason they stopped playing while he was hiding. He began to cry. His old grandfather came out of the house to see what was troubling him. After learning what had happened, the grandfather said, "Do not weep, my child, because the boys did not come to find you. Perhaps you can learn a lesson from this disappointment. All of life is like a game between God and us. Only it is God who is weeping, for we are not playing the game fairly. God is waiting to be found, but many have gone in search of other things."
Worldliness means that we as believers have stopped playing the game of life fairly. Let me close by asking you a question asked by the writer of the famous oldie, “The Monster Mash–Gary Paxton” after he became born again and the Lord began to really live in him: I wonder if God cries, when we do the things we do. Do love drops fill his eyes, cause He loves O so true? Worldliness: it is in you? Is it is me? Does He weep for you? For me? May God rejoice over us and not weep as we repent of worldliness.