(This series of writings was prompted by listening to an excellent sermon from Dr. John MacArthur entitled “Thanks, No Matter What” on 1 Thessalonians 5:18. The sermon was from 1995, I believe.)
“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
My last post was mostly about the definition of worldliness. It tried to answer the question, “What are some ways that we can identify if we are being drawn into the world’s ways and into the world’s system?” In this post I want to talk more about worldliness with the emphasis on what the Bible has to say about this subject. Are there biblical examples and warnings that we can heed to help us in our wrestling with this beast?
It turns out that the Bible has much to say about the danger of becoming rooted in the world. In 1 John 2:15-17, the apostle John warns us not to love the world or the things in the world. Desiring the things of the world will ruin us, because all that is in the world (the evil system of this age ruled by the devil) is opposed to God and to godliness. In a similar vein, James 4:4 tells us that friendship with the world is enmity toward God. It is worth noting that there are only two positions: you are either a friend of God or you are a friend of the world. There is no neutral ground. There are only two poles. Thus many of the things of this world order have been put here by the enemy to draw us away from Christ. Avoid friendship with the world.
The Lord Jesus gives a sobering command in Matthew 6:19-21 when He tells His disciples that they should not store up for themselves things on the earth. All these things are subject to moth and rust and are able to be stolen. But if you store up things in heaven, they will be forever safe because they cannot be lost and they cannot be stolen, they cannot rust and no moth can eat them. Our Lord then states the principle He is teaching to them: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” It can also be said that where your heart is, there your treasure will be also. The point is that the things of this world may appeal to our senses, but they cannot fill the hole in our soul. “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8) Worldly desires can never be satisfied (Ecclesiastes 5:10) and can never satisfy (Mick Jagger still can’t get no satisfaction), but the Lord fulfills all the deepest longings of the human heart. Flee the temptation to be attracted to the baubles of this passing life.
Jesus teaches a similar lesson in Luke 12:15-21, where the rich farmer wants to build bigger barns for himself. He does not need any more, but his pride and his greed demand that he build bigger barns until he has enough to eat, drink and be merry. The farmer ignores the fact that it is not true that he who dies with the most toys wins, but the truth is that it is appointed unto man once to die and after this comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Don’t be caught building bigger barns while your eternal destiny is still to live forever with the demons. It is not wise to build a grand earthly dwelling before you are certain you have a building from God, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1).
From the Old Testament comes the example of the children of Israel as they get ready to enter the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy, after telling them of all the blessings of obedience and of all that the Lord will do for them if they obey Him, in 8:11-20 Moses gives them a stern warning about the chief danger of worldliness, which is to forsake and to forget the Lord who gave them all these things. “When you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and your herds and your flocks multiply and your silver and your gold multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God . . . Then you may say in your heart, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” Can you see in all these warnings from the Old Testament the temptations to worldliness and greed in our own day? Substitute a few words and the text reads like a very modern warning. Beware of that worldliness that allows you to love the blessings of God more than the One who blessed you with them. Be aware that there are few people who can manage the temptation of wealth and of too many possessions. This is worldliness and will lead you away from the Lord who bought you and who blesses you.
One final warning against worldliness comes from Jesus’ parable of the sower in Matthew 13. In this parable Jesus speaks of four kinds of soil into which the seed of the word of God can fall. The third type of soil is the soil that is full of thorns. When the word of the gospel fell into that soil, the thorns came up and choked out the seed (13:7). When Jesus explains the meaning of this part of the parable, He says that this represents “the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke out the word, and it becomes unfruitful (13:22).” Again, this is the very real danger of being in love with the luxuries and the beauty of things here below, and being distracted by the worries of this world system. Little by little you may find yourself bound by a love of the things of this world and you may find God to be very distant.
So we have seen biblical warnings against worldliness. What are some specific strategies and tactics that we can employ to defeat this temptation to love the world? that will be the subject of the next post. RMB 4/26/2015