Worldliness (IX): Preventives and Remedies

Harry Ozment
Nashville, Tennessee

Before any discussion of worldliness could be considered complete, some positive steps should be given which will remedy the evil situation. Of course, these suggestions will not in any way interest the person who is determined to pursue his present course, regardless of its evil. To the person who is genuinely trying to please God, however, these suggestions should provide some practical guidelines to pure living.

(1) Realize responsibilities. No man can be a good father without realizing his responsibilities. Likewise, no man can be a good Christian without realizing his responsibilities in such a capacity. Jesus himself taught the importance of individual responsibility. In fact, this was the central theme in the parable of the fig tree: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?" (Lk. 13:6-7; cf. Matt. 25:14-30) This fig tree was condemned because it did not fulfill its responsibilities. The Christian's responsibility is three-fold. Paul describes it in Tit. 2:11-12: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world."

(a) Live soberly. This has reference to our duty toward ourselves. As Christians, we have certain things which must be cared for and protected {e.g., our bodies, our influence, etc.}. This is a responsibility which no one else can fulfill for us. Paul said, "But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden." (Gal. 6:4-5)

(b) Live righteously. This refers to our duty toward our fellow-man. It is hard for some professed Christians to see that we cannot live our lives entirely for ourselves. When we were made priests in the spiritual kingdom of God, all such selfish thoughts should have been left behind. A person who has not done this is no better than Cain, when he asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:9) This responsibility toward others which we possess will prevent us from doing anything which would offend another. Paul said, "Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man on the things of others." (Phil. 2:2-4)

(c) Live godly. This has reference to our duty toward God. In obeying the gospel, our master changes. Therefore, our service changes. Before obedience, man is servant to Satan. After obedience, man has a duty to God and therefore serves righteousness. Paul explained, "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." (Rom. 6:17-18) Men who are not living godly, therefore, can be doing nothing except serving Satan. No man serves himself in this life--he is either serving Satan or serving God. The choice is left to each individual (Deut. 30:15-20).

(2) Renew mind. As has already been said, this is the basic cure for worldliness. If there is not a conversion of the mind, no real change has taken place. Paul said, "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, arid acceptable, and perfect will of God." (Rom. 12:1-2) This "renewal of the mind" encompasses two ideas:

(a) Sorrow for past. No one will have a change of heart as long as he remains proud of his past life of sin. The worldling should look at his worthless life and then consider the undeserved sacrifice made by Christ for him. If this does not bring him to his knees in humble sorrow, nothing will. James said, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble .... Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." (Jas. 4:6, 9-10) Moreover, not just any sorrow will accomplish the true renewal of the mind. A person can be sorry for a crime because he is caught. Godly sorrow is not prompted in such a way--it is motivated by the love of God for man and the love of that man for God.

(b) Determination for future. A determination to do right is also necessary for "renewing the mind." It has been said, "Where there is a will, there is a way." If a person has determined to do so, he can live a godly life. This has been promised by God: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (I Cor. 10:13) Because of Christ's power over Satan, God is able to do this. Therefore, we have the following equation:

When sin is committed, it is not due to a failure on God's part. Therefore, if our determination is strong enough, we will find the means of escape provided by God and overcome the world. Paul sums up what our determination should be in Col. 3:1-2: "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."

(3) Mortify earthly members. When the mind has been renewed, abstinence the works of the flesh will automatically follow. Paul said, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:.., seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." (Col. 3:5, 9-10} The word "mortify" means "to destroy the strength, vitality, or functioning of: to subdue or deaden." (Webster) When we are in Christ, sufficient strength is made available to enable us to subdue our fleshly appetites. We cannot prevent temptation ----we can prevent succumbing to temptation and thereby sinning. In fact, God expects us to utilize the spiritual strength in Christ and mortify our earthly members. And, as John said, "His commandments are not grievous." (I Jn. 5:3) It is not overly difficult to do that which God expects of us. Hence, if a person loves God to the proper degree, he will not allow the world to adulterate his mind or body. And, just as surely as you see a "professed Christian" engage in a work of this world, you are seeing a person who does not love God--all claims to the contrary notwithstanding! Paul commanded. "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Tim. 2: 22)

In conclusion, may God help us all to realize the nature of worldliness so as to comprehend its severity. May God grant unto us the wisdom to seek out the causes of worldliness so that we may purge these "seeds of destruction" from our hearts. May God give us the strength to overcome the temptations to engage in symptoms and manifestations of worldliness. May God grant unto us the determination not to see the results of worldliness in our own lives. And, finally, may He give us the courage to apply those preventives for worldliness as prescribed in God's word. This is our earnest plea.


August 20, 1970