Weighing Worldliness

Weldon E. Warnock
Lawrenceburg, Tenn.

One of the most devastating things to the cause of Christ is worldliness. It is sapping the spiritual strength and life from the church and killing its influence for good in many places. Worldliness is no new problem by any means. It has confronted God's people in every generation. This malady is not confined to any certain age group either. The young as well as the old are afflicted.

The term "worldliness" is not to be found in the Bible, but the terms "world" and "worldly" are found. The word "world" has variations of meanings and is so used in the scriptures. We use it in this article to mean "worldly affairs; the aggregate of things earthly; the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments, riches, advantages, pleasures, etc., which, although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ" (Thayer) .

In the great intercessory prayer to the Father, Jesus said, "I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (John 17:14-15). Though Jesus was speaking about his apostles, the language would be applicable to all Christians. If we go to the same places, talk the same way and do the same things, the world will like us. It is only when we have "no fellowship with the unfruitful works or darkness, but rather reprove them" that we are hated by the world.

Love not the World

The Bible says that we are not to love the world. "Love no the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever, (I John 2:15-17). In this passage the writer tells us that the "world" consists of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Lust of the flesh is "the sinful desire springing from the flesh or depraved nature which seeks sinful gratification." (Lenski). In this category we can list such things as adultery, uncleanness, lasciviousness (which would cover dancing, salacious literature, filthy speech, obscene movies, etc.), drunkenness, revelling, etc. Lust of the eyes, says Lenski, "includes the lust that reaches out beyond what a person can actually get a hold of in his sinning. The lustful eyes rove afar for sinful pleasures." This involves a lust for money, power, prestige and popularity. Pride of life expresses the idea of "Hollow arrogance which presumes that it can decide and direct the course of life without God, determine what it will do, gain, achieve, enjoy" (Lenski). I am persuaded that pride is playing a big part in our trouble over current issues in the church today. Brethren are wanting something big, colossal and gigantic instead of the simplicity that is in Christ.

Notice that John says that these three things are all that there is in the world. Thus, every sin can be played under one of these headings. I might not know the exact classification of all sins, but I do know that they come within these three categories.

The vanity and fraility of worldliness is seen in I Jno. 2:17. "The world passeth away" John says. Man can only enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season and then cometh the end, and the damnation of his soul. But if we do the will of God and "love not the world", we will abide forever.

Not to Befriend the World

James writes, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4). As is clearly shown, if we are friends to the world we are the enemies of God as well as being spiritual adulterers and adulteresses. The Christian must draw the line of demarcation deep and wide between himself and the world to be acceptable with God.

Observe that this verse in James 4:4 is used in connection with their fighting, warring, and being envious and jealous of one another. Some fail to realize that sins of this nature are just as despicable in God's sight as are adultery, drunkenness, murder, etc. They will condemn as quickly as the others. Paul classifies enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties and envying as work of the flesh and stated that those who practice such shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21-22).

These types of sins are the respectable sins among people. Even brethren can be filled with hatred toward others, envious of others' good fortune, contentious, and still occupy the "Amen corner" as though they are the finest of Christians. But let a brother get drunk and watch what takes place. He is talked about, shunned and rejected. He has committed a ''terrible sin", so it is said. It is true that he has sinned by getting drunk, but his sin is no more terrible than the brother who is full of enmity, strife, jealousy, etc. Both stand condemned because of their sins.

Be Not Conformed to the World

Another scripture that we examine in regard to worldliness is Rom. 12:2. It reads in part, "And be not conformed to this world...." The A.S.V. reads, "And be not fashioned according to this world...." The meaning is that Christians are not to behave like the world behaves. Children of God are to be different. They are not to run to the same excess of riot (Pet. 4:4). Rather, they are to glorify God in their bodies and spirits (I Cor. 6:20). Paul says that we are to put off the old man, which is corrupt, and put on the new man which is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4: 22-24).

Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). A Christian cannot do this and be fashioned according to this world. He must be transformed before the light will shine. There are too many members of the church that could never be recognized as Christians (?) unless they were asked. Then the inquirers might be shocked that some even professed Christianity, considering the way they live. People of the world should be able to know that we are Christians by our behavior and manner of life. We must be diligent that we be "found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless" (2 Pet. 3:4).

God says, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:17-18). What a glorious promise to those who will crucify the world unto themselves. May we, therefore, abstain from every form or sort of evil (I Thess. 5:21).

Truth Magazine VII: 5, pp. 7-8
February 1963