Enemies of Thankfulness – Part 3c – Worldliness: Its Opposition

(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 Thess. 5:18

My last post was mostly about biblical warnings against worldliness. The post presented some of what the Bible had to say about the danger of being attracted and enamored by the things of this world. The beautiful and glittering things of this life appeal to the flesh and so cause us to strengthen our roots in this world. Thus we weaken and risk the loss of our hunger for heaven and our delight in the spiritual pleasures of holiness. What, then, are some specific strategies and tactics that we can employ to oppose this temptation to love the world? That will be the subject of this post.

We must acknowledge that worldliness is a sin and that it is dangerous to our sanctification. This is perhaps the first step for the believer, to see that being entangled in the things of this world is a sin and that overcoming this is an important part of sanctification. The attitude of loving the things of the world is sinful and this sinful attitude must be consciously recognized and admitted to be sinful so that the defenses against that sin can be raised.

It should at least be kept in mind that the Lord Jesus did not have a place to lay His head and that He was a very poor Man from every earthly standpoint. If Jesus was poor, that must say something to His followers. It is easier to escape the temptations of worldliness when one has modest means than when one has extravagant means.

Be fully aware of your own personal vulnerability to loving the world and lusting after the things of the world. Just as not everyone that takes a drink becomes an alcoholic, so not everyone is equally vulnerable to the temptations of worldliness. Every believer should have a good handle on how much they love money or to what degree they want the things of this world. For example, because of my background and upbringing, I am prone to hoard money and to try to accumulate more money than I need. I don’t want what money can buy; rather I want the money itself. I am vulnerable to the love of money. Therefore from time to time I must spend money just to fight my tendency to hoard and I must be aware of my tendency to be a miser and to love money. The same can be true of a believer who likes the things that money can buy, whether they are cars or houses or clothes or vacations or gold watches. What I am saying is be aware of your own personal weaknesses and then build strong defenses against those weaknesses. This will prevent worldliness and will encourage thankfulness for the things that God does provide.

Give extravagantly of your money to kingdom causes. One of the best defenses against the love of things and the love of money is to give away money to others. Give extravagantly to causes that advance the gospel and be very frugal with spending on yourself and on your pleasures. Starve worldliness and feast on generosity. Consider Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:21; Psalm 37:21, 26.

Prioritize the things of Christ and the pursuits of the Spirit. Always value the things of Christ of greater value than all the world’s riches. (Hebrews 11:26) Remember that the world is passing away and also its lusts. The things of this world are passing and fleeting, and accumulating many goods in this life dulls your thankfulness. Paradoxically, having an abundance actually tends to make us less grateful, rather than more grateful.

When making a decision about material things, ask yourself questions like, “Does this draw me closer to Christ or does this ensnare me more in the world?” Realize that all decisions ultimately do one or the other.

If you have an excessive love of the finer things of the world or you have a tendency to become entangled in the world’s allurements, then consciously choose to travel as lean and as light as possible. A runner gets rid of everything that is going to hinder his running (Hebrews 12:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) and travels as light as possible so that he can accomplish his goal. He is, after all, a runner and his goal is running to win.

“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:4) A soldier is trained and equipped to wage war and to wield his weapons well so that he can defeat his king’s enemies. He therefore has no need for rich foods or fine wines or luxurious clothing or many pleasures and distractions. These distractions can cost him his life if he is careless and his enemy catches him by surprise, and they can cause him to fail at his mission of serving his king on the battlefield. The analogy for the Christian is obvious. We are here to serve our King, the Lord Jesus, and not to indulge ourselves on the world’s pleasures and entertainments. “Which choice equips me to be a better soldier?” Our flesh will always urge us to choose the way of excess and comfort and ease, and thus ruin our usefulness to the King. The flesh hates pain and loathes delayed gratification; therefore, the disciplines of enduring hardship (2 Timothy 2:3, 9; 4:5) and of delaying gratification (Philippians 1:21) silence the flesh and spur thanksgiving.

So worldliness is defeated when we recognize our tendency to this enemy of thankfulness and take aggressive action to defeat that enemy. Thankfulness will flourish as worldliness is crushed.

Enemies of Thankfulness – Part 3a – Worldliness: Definition

(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

I have been prompted to pen a series of writings on the enemies of thankfulness. One of the ironic features of American Christianity is that despite living in the most affluent society in the history of the world, there is a general lack of thankfulness among believers in America. I find this glaring flaw present in my own life, as well, and am very convicted by it. Living in great abundance and with every need supplied, there is little evidence of thanks in the prayers and the conversations of even committed, genuine believers. Listen to the prayers of American Christians and you may hear some token thanks given for general things, but sincere and heart-felt thanks for the amazing spiritual and material blessings that the Lord has showered on them is usually absent. Again, I know that I am guilty of this and so I may be projecting this on others, but I don’t think so. I think it may be a trait of fallen humanity that the more that we have materially, the less thankful we are.

So I have made a commitment to be more thankful and to have vital, deep thanksgiving become a regular part of my prayers and my conversations. To help me in this endeavor, and hopefully to help you also, I wanted to discuss five enemies of thankfulness, which, if present and prominent in my life and in your life, will smother thankfulness. Again I am grateful to Dr. MacArthur for identifying these enemies. I am taking his ideas and developing them a little further.

The Enemies of Thankfulness – Worldliness:

The third enemy of thankfulness is “WORLDLINESS.” Like the other enemies, worldliness will rob you of the joy of thanking the Lord for His blessings, will remove the taste from the salt of your witness and will dull the brightness of your light for Christ. What is this worldliness? What does it look like? I tried to come up with a concise definition and did not succeed, but here are some ideas.

What is worldliness?
Worldliness is being enamored and obsessed by trivia and by the pretty trinkets of this world. It is wasting my life, which has great value, by chasing things that have little value. Worldliness is marked by striving to achieve things or obtain things which don’t matter to God. It is indulging myself on things that are temporary and that dull my spiritual hunger. It is becoming very entrenched in the possessions and the experiences of this life and forgetting that I have a heavenly home and a heavenly King. Worldliness is stimulating the senses and starving the spirit. It is spending extravagantly for things that will break and rust and burn. Worldliness manifests itself in my need to be entertained and amused rather than to be trained and disciplined. It is a growing attachment to this life and to this world and a lack of longing for the next.

Yes, there is certainly a balance in the stewardship of money and in the owning of nice things and there is nothing wrong with owning nice things and even expensive things. Nevertheless the believer must be very aware of the constant temptation to become overly fascinated with beautiful homes and fine automobiles and fancy gadgets and to lose sight of the Lord Jesus and of the believer’s heavenly home. The flesh tempts us to neglect the work that the Lord has clearly given us to do and to lay down the cross that Jesus demands that we bear. The believer must listen very carefully to the Spirit in these things. If we are careless, the flesh will encroach on our sanctification and will insinuate itself into our life and will draw us toward the world.

In the next post I will consider what the Bible has to say about this and we will look at biblical examples and specific passages that deal with this subject of worldliness. RMB 4/20/2015