Thursday, December 29, 2011

Where does Worldliness Reside?

Over the last few days I've been reading a book that was edited by C. J. Mahaney entitled Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway, Wheaton: 2008). C. J. wrote the opening chapter on the nature, root, and defeat of worldliness, and I've found it to be very helpful and edifying.

He defines worldliness as "loving the values and pursuits of the world that stand opposed to God. More specifically, it is to gratify and exalt oneself to the exclusion of God" (27, emphasis original). From here he goes on to discuss the root of worldliness and points out that some Christians define worldliness as existing outside of us which leads them to construct lists of rules or conservative standards by which to live. But the problem with such lists is that they miss the point. They sometimes rightly identify fruits of worldliness but they fail to get to the root of the problem.

Other Christians, reacting against rule making, throw caution to the wind and, under the guise of freedom in Christ, make room for things that bend our affections away from the glory of him who saved us out of the world.

The common mistake of both of these approaches, Mahaney argues, is that they look outside of the person and focus on behavior rather than looking inside of the person and focusing on motives. "[The Apostle] John--inspired by the Holy Spirit--takes the debate to a whole other level.

"He takes it inside.

"For that's where worldliness is. It exists in our hearts. Worldliness does not consist in outward behavior, though our actions can certainly be an evidence of worldliness within. But the real location of worldliness is internal. It resides in our hearts" (29).

What, then, is the antidote to worldliness? Training our minds and affections to fix themselves on Christ. Meditating on the cross and the glory of what he displayed and accomplished there. Filling our lives with the bright sunshine of the Almighty until the moonlight of the world fades away.

This brings to mind Paul's well-known counsel: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8). Amen, Lord, help us to be doers of this Word today.

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