1. WHO PUT THE WORLD INTO THE CHURCH?
"The Lord put the church into the world, and the devil put the world into the church" cried a preacher some years ago. In one way he was absolutely right but in another way he was absolutely wrong.
There can be no doubt that back in the wings the devil has been pulling some strings, but up in the center of the stage, it's the church herself which has been making love to the world. It's sheer folly to say that the world has been making inroads in the church. The inroads have long since become cultivated fields, seeded with the devil's doctrines and the devil's practices! The church has been squeezed in the mold of the world so long that it has largely lost the image of its maker.
But wait a moment - it will do us no good to speak about the "church" as if it were an abstraction.
2. TALK ABOUT OURSELVES AS INDIVIDUALS
We must talk about ourselves individually; otherwise, what God has to say about worldliness will never touch us. So, from this point onward let us look at ourselves. What do we see? Well, the usual picture is something like this: an ordinary professing Christian with a set of standards drawn largely from his environment. 1) I don't dance (we don't believe in that in our church); 2) I don't smoke (we have always been told not to); 3) I would never go into a movie theater (the preacher says that's worldly); 4) I never drink (I never could stand the smell of the stuff); 5) I live a "separated" life (I'm proud of it!). If you happen to be a woman, you'll add to this list of standards, "I don't wear excessive make-up because that is a mark of the world."
Now wait a minute. All of the rules mentioned above are fine. But the fact of the matter is that you can keep them all and still be a worldly as the devil himself. Wait now, reader. Hear me out, please. I know it's worldly to dance, and go to shows, and all the rest; but those things are not the essence of worldliness. At the bottom, worldliness is something far beyond (or should I say beneath?) all such practices. I've been in homes where the occupants would rather die than be seen in a theater, and yet they are up to their nostrils in the suffocating sin of worldliness. What do I mean? Well, let's look together in the Bible and get heaven's point of view.
3. GOD'S DEFINITION OF WORLD
The first thing to grasp is God's definition of the "world." "World" is mentioned about two hundred times in the New Testament, and it simply means "this age, or present arrangement of things." The next thing to note is God's description of the nature of this world. If we put the most important New Testament Scriptures on the subject together, we come up with a compact description. The world is an arrangement of things that are evil, antagonistic to God and His saints, defiling, presently ruled by Satan, and destined for judgment (Gal. 1:4; John 7:7; Jas. 1:27; John 14:30; Eph. 2:2; John 16:8).
4. OUR RELATIONSHIP TO SUCH A TWISTED THING
Now we must find out what God says about our relationship to such a twisted thing. Again, compressing many Scripture passages into one sentence, we discover the plain will of God about the matter. Notice: We have been delivered from the world, and hence are to deny it, refuse to conform to it, keep unspotted from it, be crucified to it, and be positively antagonistic to it (Gal. 1:4; Titus 2:12; Rom. 12:2; James 1:27; Gal. 6:14; Heb. 11:7; John 12:25). God uses very potent words at this point because He anticipates the working of a potent force against Him. Read through those phrases again. Is that a description of your relationship to this present order of things?
5. WHAT IS WORLDLINESS?
Finally, what then, according to the Bible, is worldliness? Resorting once again to brevity, we can state it this way. Worldliness is a wrong relationship to this present order of things-the "world." Notice, please-a wrong relationship. That means it's essentially a matter of the heart. Worldliness resides in the heart. We are inclined to describe it in terms of nouns-movies, make-up, money, etc. But God describes it in terms of verbs. He says, "If any man love the world …"; "will be a friend of the
World. …" These are verbs of attitude. They eventually produce verbs of actions, it is true, but the attitude precedes the action.
If a woman abstains from liquor, but would be delighted to have a drink if her social circumstances permitted, then she is as worldly as the alcoholic in the gutter. The essential difference between the two is that she is hypocritical about the matter and he is not. If a "saintly" girl gasps at the sight of lipstick but craves new clothes, she may be a thousand fold worldlier than the painted lady that has so jarred her sense of propriety. The young man who piously frowns at his schoolfellows' beer drinking but can not tear his mind away from the car in his own garage may be worldlier than they. If the gentleman who is so shocked at the apparent worldliness of modern fashions cannot stop overeating, his problem is probably more acute than that of the folks who wear the clothes he detests.
6. LOVE NOT THE WORLD
You see, God does not say, "Love not the beer, or the lipstick, or the clothes." He says, "Love not the world." We are the ones who have decided which things are to be loved and which things are to be shunned. But God has been much more inclusive. He plunges to the core of the thing and insists; "Fix your heart on nothing but Me!" Anything less than that is worldliness, because anything less than that is wrong relationship to the world.
7. NO WORLDLY CHRISTIAN!
Two more things need to be said. The first thing to face squarely and frankly is this: As far as God is concerned, there is no such thing as a "worldly Christian." If a Christian becomes worldly, he ceases being a Christian. Hold it! Don't say what you're thinking. You may search every verse in all the New Testament and you will find much said about the world and the worldly sinner, but you will find nothing about a worldly saint. John said, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (I John 2:15).
Finally we must ask, "How can a Christian ever become worldly?" The brief and simple answer to this is suggested to us by James when he wrote, "Pure religion … is this … to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (Jas. 1:27). A Christian can become a worldling by contact with the world. Spots always come by contact. We are in a world that is defiling. The keeping power of God extends to the perimeter of our necessary contact with the world, but it does not extend one inch beyond. The moment a Christian steps beyond that borderline, he has no promise of God's preserving presence. He loses cleansing contact with God and establishes corrupting contact with the world.
8. HOW DO WE BECOME WORLDLY?
What begins as contact from without is soon transformed to content within . . . and he has become worldly. The Christian who argues that what he toys with externally cannot damage him internally is a complete fool. The reason is that he has lost sight of the fact that with every "thing" of the world is the "spirit" of the world (I Cor. 2:12; Eph. 2:2). You may dawdle with some "thing of the world" (I John 2:15b) and then throw it aside. But throwing the thing aside does not mean you have cast the spirit of the world aside. The thing cannot move into your heart, but the spirit can, and that is the very crux of worldliness.
A church service was once delayed because the preacher was late. It was decided that the interim should be taken up with testimonies. One of those who stood to his feet to bear witness was a Jewish lad who had been thrown out of his home because of his declaration for Christ. While everyone listened, he recited, among other things, the verse,
"Tempt not my soul away: Jesus is mine!
Here would I ever stay: Jesus is mine!
Perishing things of clay, born but for one brief day,
Pass from my heart away: Jesus is mine."
The world may continue crashing through the church, but it will never pierce you if you determine in your heart what that boy determined in his!