By Mike Willis
When I was young enough to barely remember going to worship services, I distinctly remember attending a gospel meeting at a congregation located not far from my home at which the preacher condemned worldliness. He preached extensively about the sin of worldliness and condemned the very appearance of evil. Finally, he came to the application of his lesson and applied the passages pertaining to worldliness to playing dominoes. About 10-15 people responded to the invitation that night, primarily to confess unfaithfulness in the matter of worldliness. I specifically remember the young, local preacher personally confessing his worldliness in playing dominoes.
Things have indeed changed since those days. When I was a lad, the brethren discussed whether playing cards and dominoes were sinful in an effort to avoid any resemblance of interest in things worldly or doubtful. Even when some practices which did not violate a clear Bible principle were condemned (as in the case above), an earnest effort was made to oppose worldliness and to keep the church pure! Today the “clergy” is discussing whether or not homosexuality, prostitution, fornication, gambling, and any number of other sins are wrong and churches are filled with such filth. In fact, many of the things condemned in the Bible as being sinful have now been legalized and become respectable in American culture. In many cases no effort is made to oppose worldliness and to keep the church pure. I am reminded of Paul’s statement, “for the fashion (schema) of this world passeth away” (i.e., it is constantly in a state of flux and change).
I must frankly confess that I liked the old days better when the distinction between right and wrong was clearly admitted and acknowledged. Those were the days in which the majority of sinners practiced their sins undercover because society as a whole rejected them because of their immorality. Yet, I cannot find a time machine which enables me to be removed from this decade and placed in that of a few years ago. All things considered, I am not even sure that I would want to be. Yet, I do admit that I liked the aspect of the old society better than that which exists today.
Gospel Preachers and Worldliness
I have been disappointed in the stand which so-called “preachers” have taken on any number of issues relating to morality. I have seen denominational clergymen on television defending homosexuality and stating that the Bible teaches that we should love everyone and not condemn others simply because they have a different form of sexual expression than we have. I have heard radio programs in which preachers discussed the topic, “when is lying not lying?” I have participated in a talk-radio program in which a denominational preacher refused to “condemn” prostitutes for their sin in his special ministry to prostitutes. Indeed, the denominational world around us has capitulated on the subject of morality.
It appears to me that this period of time should be especially ripe for preaching what the Bible says about morality. I cannot help but believe that there are literally thousands of Americans who are sick and tired of clergymen pussyfooting with Satan and who would like to hear what the everlasting gospel has to say about morality. I think that they are tired of hearing discourses on nuclear power plants, supporting guerrillas in South America, communal living, and other such social topics. I think that they would appreciate good gospel preaching on such topics as clean, godly living.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of them hearing these kinds of sermons is diminishing. Not a few of those who purport to be gospel preachers are compromising on the subject of worldliness. In an age that is being threatened by evils of over-indulgence of alcoholic beverages, gospel preachers are defending social drinking. In an age that is crazed by sexual stimulation through immodest apparel, gospel preachers are participating in mixed bathing. In an age when divorce and remarriage for unscriptural reasons is becoming socially accepted and the American family is being unscripturally altered, gospel preachers are teaching that those guilty of destroying homes through fornication have the scriptural right to remarry. Uncertain sounds are coming from the trumpets of those who should be sounding clarion notes for repentance.
Some of the stories which I hear regarding gospel preachers scare me inasmuch as they indicate what is no longer being preached. I have talked with men who relate that they had a discussion with another preacher regarding whether or not social drinking was wrong. I have been told of preachers who were housed in motels during gospel meetings being found mixed bathing by the local evangelist. On some occasions, the local evangelist simply jumped in the pool with them. Others among us are heavy smokers. These things indicate at least this thing to me: these men are not preaching against social drinking, mixed bathing, and smoking!
I am saddened to hear of a preaching brother becoming involved in some gross act of immorality such as fornication. Usually, however, such a man humbly repents before God, tries to reconstruct his life on the basis of God’s word, and resolves to serve the Lord throughout the remainder of his life. I have compassion on such a brother and suffer with him through the agonies which his sin brings to him. However, I know that this man will continue to preach against worldliness, perhaps even holding himself up as an example of how it can cause any of us to fall.
Such does not happen among those involved in social drinking and mixed bathing. Most of them are unwilling to admit that what they are doing is sinful. They are persuaded that there is nothing wrong with it, except that some old fashioned brethren think that it is wrong. Hence, they must practice their sins undercover, lest these “old fogeys” detect them. Having reached these conclusions, such brethren will not repent of the immorality which they are practicing. Rather, they will continue to practice them in secret.
This erosion of moral conviction among preachers is sometimes seen in secret lasciviousness followed by secret fornication followed by a cover-up. They refuse to repent, run from their error by moving to a new area, and either explicitly lie when questioned or else implicitly lie by maintaining a “righteous” silence. Those who refuse to repent of worldliness and who “get away with it” are likely to repeat and increase their sins.
How long has it been since you heard a good sermon on such things as dancing, mixed bathing,, social drinking, and other forms of worldliness? Are we no longer hearing these kinds of sermons because these sins no longer pose a threat to the spiritual development of Christians? Have they quit being practiced by the society around us and no longer are in vogue? We all know the answers to these questions! The reason that some brethren are no longer preaching on these subjects is that they have become convinced that they are not sinful!
The Unchangeable Word
Yet, my brethren, God’s word has not changed in this generation. It is the same today as it was in the first century. What it teaches about worldliness is still true, regardless of who teaches otherwise. Read its condemnation of ungodly behavior:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21).
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate, affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which thing sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: in the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, 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. 3:5-10).
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them (Rom. 1:28-32).
The Scriptures speak just as certainly today regarding the condemnation of these acts of wickedness as they ever did at any time in the past. Though time has changed, societies have changed their laws, denominational preachers have changed their beliefs, and American culture has treated as respectable things which God has condemned, God’s word remains the same.
In a time when denominational clergymen and, unfortunately, some “gospel preachers” (I use the term accomodatively; when these men quit preaching what the gospel has to say about these subjects, they ceased to be worthy of the description “gospel preacher”) have quit preaching on such topics as worldliness and some among them have actually begun to defend what the Bible specifically condemns as sinful, we need to pay special attention to Paul’s warning, “Be not deceived!” He wrote,
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
Let us be careful that we are not deceived on these matters. What God has said shall not be changed by the presumptuous words of twentieth century clergymen!
A Corrupted Society
Ours is indeed a corrupted society. It reminds me of that society which existed during the days of Isaiah. He mentioned a group of men that had blurred the distinction between right and wrong. Condemningly he wrote, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20). If you think that this has not happened in America, look around you. Witness what has happened with reference to homosexuality. Talkmasters, television hosts, news commentators, justices, and practically everyone else have defended homosexuals; similarly, they have hurled every kind of disparaging remark imaginable at those who have done what they could to condemn homosexuality as sinful.
Tax dollars have been used to pay for abortions. Those who have defended the rights of the unborn baby have been stereotyped as a bunch of narrow-minded, bigoted idiots. Indeed, our society has blurred the distinction between good and evil, right and wrong.
There is always the danger that the society around us will determine what we preach rather than God’s word. Even preachers can be conformed to the world in the message which they preach rather than being solely guided by God’s word. None of us are above falling into conformity with the world around us. Yet, God’s word is quite clear in revealing that what God has spoken is the criterion for determining right and wrong rather than what society around us is saying. Hence, we need to especially be careful in this moment of time and space to “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2).
Is there yet a clarion voice calling the wicked to repentance? Is there a voice crying in the wilderness, “Repent ye”?
I think that there is yet a host of voices crying in the wilderness of immorality, shouting for men to repent of their wickedness and turn in humble obedience to the Lord. It is true, indeed, that a number have muffled their trumpet by compromising in such respects as smoking, social drinking, mixed bathing, and other aspects. However, I am convinced that the greater number of gospel preachers are still preaching what God’s word has revealed on these and a number of other topics.
Brethren, let us hold forth God’s word as a light in the midst of this crooked generation. As the lights of denominations become progressively dimmer as they compromise point after point of God’s revelation, the world around us will see the pure message of God as we clearly preach it. Those with honest and good hearts will be drawn to this message. Let us not compromise with worldliness but rather reprove it (Eph. 5:11).
- How has society changed in recent decades with respect to its practice of an attitude toward worldliness?
- Relate anything which you have seen as evidence that denominational clergymen have capitulated on the subject of worldliness. Do you think that the members of these denominations appreciate the stand which their clergymen have taken?
- How long has it been since you heard a sermon on mixed bathing, dancing, social drinking and smoking?
- Has society’s acceptance of these forms of worldliness changed God’s condemnation of them?
- Can a man be a faithful gospel preacher while refusing to preach on such subjects?
- How do you think the world around us will receive strict teaching against worldliness?
Truth Magazine XXIII: 22, pp. 354-356
May 31, 1979