Recently, on a Sunday morning, we listened in to hear what John (that is, 1 John 2:15-17) had to say about worldliness. Something all of us are dying to talk about!
He bluntly says, "Do not love the world or the things in the world" (v.15a). Pretty straightforward.
Why does the idea of worldliness unnerve us a little? I think, in part, because we all live in the world. And sometimes it’s hard to live in this world and not be worldly. Most of us have cell phones, houses, money (a little anyway), hobbies and eat donuts . . . just like the world does! Does that make us worldly.
I think there’s another reason we get a little restless when the topic of worldliness rolls around: because we are worldly in a lot of ways and we don’t want to admit it.
But does a topic like worldliness really even matter? Don’t we have bigger spiritual fish to fry? Don't things like discipleship, building projects, spiritual disciplines, marriage, parenting, lust, getting along with one another command more of my attention than worldliness? According to John, the stakes are pretty high: "…if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (v.15b).
Yeah, that's serious.
So what is worldliness anyway? What does it mean to "love the world." David Wells says worldliness is that "which makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange."
John Wesley said it was anything that cooled his love for Christ.
John helps explain it for us further when he says:
"For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world" (v.16). Worldliness involves sinful longings that come from within (cravings), the temptations the world offers us (coveting), and our default preoccupation with ourselves (conceit).
Worldliness is not always easy to spot in our lives, but that's often because we don't want to look. It cuts to the heart of our affections. When something tugs on my heart, it's usually something that will give me, at least, some sort of temporal enjoyment. But when it pulls on my heart, it draws me away from Jesus.
You know, worldliness is starting to sound a bit like idolatry. Hmmm.
So how do we spot it in our lives? Does this mean we need to stop enjoying, watching, eating, playing, or driving anything that is not explicitly "Christian" (whatever that is)? I don't think so.
Here are some questions to identify if I might be in love with the world:
But those things might just be exactly what you need to do.