Archive for the ‘worldliness’ Tag

All That Is In This World   2 comments

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1 John 2:12-19

Although all Scripture is from God, some writers emphasized different aspects of faith than did other writers. John emphasized God’s love and how that should motivate Christians as the interacted with God and the world.

I’m not surprised by that. Peter concentrated on action because Peter was clearly a man of action. John was Jesus’ best friend, so of course, he knew something about the love of Jesus and therefore, the love of God.

There is a huge difference between love and lust. I know that gets short shrift in our world today, but God and His scribes were careful to mark the distinction for our benefit.


Remember in my last post, I showed how John taught that you cannot love the Father and the world at the same time.

“Lust” refers to a strong desire or impulse and the New Testament almost always casts it in a negative connotation. “Flesh” refers to our fallen nature, which is not eradicated at salvation (see Romans 7). “The lust of the flesh” includes any strong desire or inclination of our fallen nature, including sexual sins, but also all activities that stem from the self-seeking, Godless nature we are born with.

Many natural desires are legitimate if they are kept under control and used in the sphere for which God designed them. The desires for food, companionship, sex, and security are all legitimate when we keep them within God’s limits and when we do not allow them to usurp His rightful place in our hearts. They become sinful when we seek to fulfill them in selfish, unGodly ways.


This term points to the sinful desires of greed and covetousness, which is when you want what you do not have which others possess. It also refers to the desires that stem from false, superficial values. The world appeals to us to find satisfaction in superficial “stuff” which never can satisfy:

  • Buy this bigger, newer home and you will be happy!
  • Find a beautiful woman or a handsome man and you will be satisfied.
  • Get the perfect job and have plenty of money and your inner longings will be quenched.

The rich and famous provide plenty of evidence through their lives that none of these things deliver what they promise.


While the lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes refer to the desire to have what you do not have, the boastful pride of life is all about the sinful pride you feel over what you do have. It is the desire to be better than others so that you can glory in yourself and your accomplishments.

Yeah, doing your best in school, athletics, or at work in order to be a good steward of God’s gifts and to bring glory to Him is a good thing, but it’s easy to forget that He gave you everything that you have (1 Corinthians 4:7) and to start boasting in your achievements and possessions as if you attained these things by your own intelligence or hard work. Nebuchadnezzar did that when he said (Daniel 4:30), “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” God immediately drove him out into the fields to live as a wild beast until his heart was humbled!

We all battle these temptations daily, and many of us fail regularly. John’s point is that if you go on yielding to the lust of the flesh and eyes, and the boastful pride of life as your way of life, you are not maintaining love for the Father. That is a clear example that you are maintaining love for the world. Worldly people wallow in these things while God’s children fight them continually. How do we maintain our love for the Father?

1 John 2:17

To obey the Father is to maintain your love for Him. The opposite of loving the world is not only loving the Father, but also obeying Him—“doing the will of God.” “The will of God” here does not refer to following His direction in your life. That’s actually pretty easily faked by both Satan and your own ego. Instead, verse 17 refers to obeying God’s commandments as revealed in His Word. As Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10).

A key reason to obey God’s commandments is the transitory nature of this world and its lusts in contrast to the eternal promise of heaven.

And the world is passing away with all its desires, but the person who does the will of God remains forever. 1 John 2:17

The world is perishing, dying from its own corruption. If you love the world or the things in the world, you will lose them all at death. All that the worldly person lives for is gone in an instant and means nothing in light of eternity. Even if you have attained your worldly desires, what good are they at death? If you do God’s will, you will abide with Him in heaven throughout all eternity!

Think about This!

In 1989, Tom Sine wrote some insightful words that apply just as much now, as then (Christianity Today [3/17/89], p. 52):

Whatever commands our time, energy, and resources commands us. And if we are honest, we will admit that our lives really aren’t that different from those of our secular counterparts. I suspect that one of the reasons we are so ineffective in evangelism is that we are so much like the people around us that we have very little to which we can call them. We hang around church buildings a little more. We abstain from a few things. But we simply aren’t that different. We don’t even do hedonism as well as the folks around us … but we keep on trying.

As a result of this unfortunate accommodation, Christianity is reduced to little more than a spiritual crutch to help us through the minefields of the upwardly mobile life. God is there to help us get our promotions, our house in the suburbs, and our bills paid. Somehow God has become a co-conspirator in our agendas instead of our becoming a co-conspirator in His. Something is seriously amiss. Tom Sine, Christianity Today, March 17, 1989, page 52

Recognizing the World   2 comments

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Any discussion of worldliness and its affect on the Christian life has got to define some terms and that requires a look at Scripture. I can’t think of a better Biblical writer to turn to than Jesus’ best friend, John, to answer the question of what is “the world”, in the Biblical sense.

I am writing to you, little children, that your sins have been forgiven because of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, that you have known him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, that you have conquered the evil oneI have written to you, children, that you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, that you have known him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young people, that you are strong, and the word of God resides in you, and you have conquered the evil one.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, because all that is in the world (the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance produced by material possessions) is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away with all its desires, but the person who does the will of God remains forever

Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. We know from this that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us, because if they had belonged to us,they would have remained with us. But they went out from us to demonstrate that all of them do not belong to us. 1 John 2:12:19

The Greek word for “world,” cosmos, occurs 185 times in the New Testament. John used it 105 of those times (78 in his Gospel, 24 in his epistles, and 3 in Revelation). It originally meant “order,” and it came to refer to the universe as the well-ordered creation of God. It may refer to the physical world (John 1:10) or to the people of the world collectively (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). In those senses, there is nothing wrong with loving the world. God created the earth for us and we should enjoy God’s creation. We should also love sinful people who need to know the Savior.

John also used the exact same word to refer to the evil, organized system under Satan, which operates through unbelieving people who are God’s enemies. He wrote (1 John 5:19):

“We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Jesus spoke of the world hating both Him and those who follow Him (John 15:18-19).

This world (or we might say “society”) operates on the basis of ungodly thoughts, attitudes, motives, values, and goals (Isaiah 55:8-9). It does not seek to promote God’s glory or to submit to His sovereign authority. It is in this sense that we must not love the world.

When John added that we are not to love “the things of the world,” he did not mean that you must hate your house and your car, although I am personally not speaking to my washing machine at the moment. This is why I advocate reading passages of the Bible instead of verses. John elaborated on those “things” in 2:16 as, “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.” In other words, worldliness is primarily an attitude that is motivated by wrong desires and the wrongful promotion of self. A poor man who does not have many possessions may be very worldly because he desires those things as the key to happiness. A wealthy man may not be worldly, using his possessions as a steward of God and as a means of promoting God’s purpose and glory. I offer RG LaTourneau as an example.

Worldly Christians operate on the same principles as unregenerate people — non-Christians. A worldly Christian thinks and acts out of selfishness, greed, pride, and personal ambition, motivated by a selfish desire for the things that you do not have and a sinful pride in the things that you possess. Rather than living to please God, Who examines the heart, the worldly person tries to impress people, who look on things outwardly.

An example? Drinking alcohol can have far ranging negative impacts on people, so many Christians choose not to drink. Many of us do it because we recognize that we cannot fully represent God in a positive light if we’re drinking. However, if you refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages because you want to impress others with how spiritual you are or you take pride in not drinking and look with contempt on those who do, you are actually being worldly by not drinking.

I’m not trying to encourage Christians to drink alcohol. I’m pointing out that worldliness is not a matter of keeping some list of dos and don’ts. It is a matter of your heart’s motives before God.

John made two main points:

You have to choose your love. Either the world or the Father. You have to pick on. You can’t choose both (1 John 2:15).

John stated the main command: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.” Then, he gave the implication: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” This is an either/or proposition. The person who loves the world does not love God. Of course, every sane human being loves something that is not God. I love my family, I love Alaska, and to a great extent, I love my home, but what John wrote calls me as a Christian to task if I put those people and things ahead of God. Our love for God should be the ruling principle of our lives. It should be the ruling guidance for everything we do in our lives. John understood, because he was human, that the only way that we can overcome the strong desires of the flesh and the world is to be consumed with loving God.

John used “Father” to describe God in 2:15 & 16, as he did in 2:13, where he said that the children had come to know the Father. It focuses us on God’s tender love for us as His children (3:1). It is the Father’s first love for us that motivates us to love Him in response (1 John 4:19). Let’s not get that mixed up. God loved us first and choose to come down into our existence to die on our behalf. We then respond by loving Him in return. In light of the Father’s great love in stepping down from heaven as the propitiation for our sins and adopting us as His children, loving Him should be our great delight.

The Bible directs its commandments to our hearts or affections. The greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Solomon wrote (Proverbs 4:23), “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” As Jonathan Edwards argued in his Treatise on Religious Affections: “True religion, in great part, consists in holy affections.” If your heart is cold toward the Father and captivated by the glitz of the world, you need to ask yourself:

“Do I belong to the Father or to the world?”

So John’s commandment (2:15) challenges us to choose our love. Either we love the world or we love the Father. We cannot straddle the line. Like a jealous lover, the Father demands total allegiance. He’s earned it. Loving the Father begins at the cross when you receive His supreme gift of love, Lord Jesus Christ, as the substitute for your sins.

You must maintain your love. Either the world or the Father, but not both (1 John 2:16-17).

Any love relationship must be maintained, including your relationship with God. The enemy is trying to lure you from God’s love with all of the temptations of the world, as John showed in 2:16. If you yield to them, you will maintain love for the world.

1 John 2:16-17

Verse 16 is explanatory of verse 15 (“For”), showing how love for the things in the world does not come from the Father. The three aspects of temptation listed here parallel the way that Satan tempted Eve. Recognizing that the forbidden fruit was good for food, she desired it (Genesis 3:6), which was an appeal to the lust of the flesh. She saw “that it was a delight to the eyes.” This appealed to the lust of the eyes. She also came to understand “that the tree was desirable to make one wise.” This appealed to the boastful pride of life.

The same pattern occurred in Satan’s temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-12). Satan urged Jesus to turn the stones into bread (the lust of the flesh). He showed Him all the kingdoms of the earth, offering to give them to Him (the lust of the eyes). He encouraged Him to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, which could have been a source of pride in this miraculous accomplishment.

Next we will examine John’s three aspects of “all that is in the world”.

Posted January 14, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Make A Choice   2 comments

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Few problems have troubled the Christian churches more through the centuries than worldliness. In fact, I would go so far as to say that worldliness has been our number one problem for about 2000 years. In an effort to be “relevant” and reach our culture, there is the very real danger that we will become just like the culture and lose our distinctiveness. We’ve done it many times, in fact.

No, worldliness is not a new problem. The apostle Paul warned of the danger in Romans 12:2:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….”

A quick translation of that is – don’t let the world mold you to its image, but allow the Holy Spirit to transform you into the image of God.

Toward the end of his life, Paul sadly wrote to Timothy:

“For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” 2 Timothy 4:10

Even though he had once been a fellow-worker with the great apostle Paul (Philemon 24), Demas succumbed to the lure of the world.

The pervasive influence of modern media assures the tug of the world is greater now than it ever has been. We are bombarded with attractive people telling us that we can’t be happy unless we own the product that they are selling or adopt the lifestyle that they are pursuing. We thumb through magazines that lure us with beautiful homes, new cars, luxury items, or expensive vacations, promising that all can be ours if we just get enough money or go into enough debt. It is lust for the things of the world that prompts Americans to spend billions on casino gambling and lottery tickets. Just one lucky hit and you will have it all!

Christians have often swung hard in the opposite direction in attempts to counter worldliness. Sects have withdrawn from the world and/or imposed extra rules to rein in the flesh. The monastic movement and isolationist groups like the Amish as examples of this. In the 4th-5th centuries Simon the Stylite (c. 390-459) lived in extreme austerity for 36 years on top of a platform on a 60-foot pillar. Thousands of people flocked to see this “unworldly” man and listen to his preaching. I doubt that Simon is a model of what John had in mind when he warned us not to love the world!

My father grew up in a Wesleyan Methodist home where you weren’t supposed to smoke, drink, attend movies, play cards, or dance. Some older friends of mine attended a Bible institute where he couldn’t hold hands with his wife on campus. Yes, they were married at the time. While they were on campus, a fellow student was expelled for hugging his wife in public. The expulsion charge was “worldly behavior”.

Concerning such man-made rules, Paul wrote:

“These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” (Colossians 2:23)

The rules approach to the problem of worldliness doesn’t work because worldliness is, at base, a matter of the heart. If the world has captured your heart, you will love the things of the world. If the love of God has captured your heart, you will be drawn to Jesus and to the things of God. The only way that our hearts can be transformed so that we love God is by the supernatural new birth.

The early churches were being infected and confused by certain heretics who claimed to have enlightenment, but John the apostle wrote that they were still in darkness. They tried to draw people into their inner circle of knowledge, but their doctrine and their practice revealed that they did not truly know God. John gave three tests by which his readers could evaluate these teachers and by which they could tell whether their own faith was sound. These three tests are:

  • moral (or obedience to God)
  • relational (love for others)
  • doctrinal (believing the truth about Jesus Christ).

In 1 John 2:3-6, John applied the first test: authentic faith obeys God’s commandments. In 2:7-11, he applied the second test: authentic faith loves God’s people. He paused (2:12-14) to give an assuring clarification –he was confident that his readers had authentic faith. He then resumed his application of the tests by showing that authentic faith is not of the world (2:15-17), but rather it knows and believes the truth about Jesus Christ (2:18-27). John characteristically drew a sharp line, with no middle ground:

You either love the world and do not love the Father or you love the Father and hate the world. You cannot do both.

John echoed Jesus’ own words:

“You cannot serve God and Mammon.” Luke 16:13

Jesus did not say, “You should not serve God and Mammon,” but, “you cannot” serve them both. Jesus did not teach a cafeteria faith.

Once you’ve made the basic decision to love the Father, you must fight to maintain your choice against the strong current of the world. “Do not love” is a present imperative, indicating that it is an ongoing battle. “Love” is the Greek agape, indicating that it is a commitment, not a feeling, that John is commanding. The only way that you can fight the love of the world is to maintain and grow in your love for the Father.

But what is the world?

Posted January 12, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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