We are to be in the world but not of it – that is basic Christian thinking about our time here on earth. We are to be salt and light, and making a very real difference, yet we are not to absorb and imbibe of much of the world’s values, beliefs, practices and lifestyles.
Throughout the Bible the people of God are exhorted – indeed, commanded – to be a distinct and set apart people, not contaminated by the surrounding secular culture. How can we point people to God if we are more world-like than Godlike?
There are of course many warnings against worldliness in Scripture. Let me offer just a few from the New Testament:
-John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
-Rom. 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
-James 4:4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
-1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
-Revelation 18:4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.”
Worldliness in the churches is abundant and easy to spot: when churches are full of people who divorce as much as non-Christians, who watch porn as much, who abort their own children as much, who get drunk as much, who think and act like the surrounding culture, who prefer the praise of men to the fear of God, then we have worldliness big time.
One of the most obvious and devastating examples of worldliness in the churches today has to do with the issue of homosexuality. Plenty of “Christians” have jettisoned the clear biblical teachings on this issue, and have instead fully embraced the deceitful, radical agenda of the militant homosexualists.
They have traded in their biblical faith for the latest secular assault. They actually side with the militants against genuine believers, condemning them as “intolerant” or “judgmental” or “unloving”. They war against those who are true to the word of God. Thus such worldly Christians soon enough become non-Christians, even anti-Christians. Of course Jesus and the disciples warned about this very thing quite often.
But here I don’t wish to focus on individual acts of worldliness, or particular examples. Instead I want to point out a much greater concern. That is, the church as a whole, not just individual Christians can also be greatly impacted by the world around it.
As the world system gets more and more corrupt, sinful, and debased, the church is not immune from such things. When the whole culture veers ever more away from God and godliness, it is all too easy for the entire church to be caught up in that shift.
And the troubling thing is, the church – or many therein – may not even notice the move. The world gets more ugly and more demonic, and the church collectively can easily move along with the drift and not be aware of the downward move.
If it simply looks to the surrounding culture as it moves along with it, it will of course not even notice the slide. Only by having a fixed gaze on absolutes – God and his word – will the church notice when it is getting out of position and away from where God wants it to be.
So individual believers as well as the church as a whole need to always have the unmovable rock of Christ before them if they are to avoid becoming part of the surrounding culture shift. Ron Hutchcraft has just recently penned a short piece on this very matter entitled “Drawing a Line.”
In it he discusses 2 Timothy 3:14: “But as for you, you continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of because you know those from whom you have learned it. All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
He comments, “Now, Paul is saying if you live in a world that is racing away from God’s standards, you can’t afford to become like your environment even a little. See, there’s always a noticeable difference between lost people and God’s people. It’s kind of my equal distance theory. There’s always an equal distance between the standards and lifestyles of the people of God and the people of the world.
“Let’s say (figuratively speaking) that the church, or the people of God, are always ten miles closer to God than the world is. The problem is that as the world moves to the left, away from God, so does the church. Now, we’re still ten miles away from the marriages of the world, and from the sexual standards of the world, and their hardness, and their love of material things. But as the world moves faster and faster away from God’s standards, so do we. We’re still the same distance from our culture. So, in a matter of like five or ten years, we Christians are where lost people were only a few years ago, accepting what we thought we would never accept, doing what we never thought we’d do, watching, listening to. But we can feel pretty good about it, because we’re better than the folks around us.
“But see, the rate of speeding away from God is accelerating right now, and God says, ‘Hey, you continue where you are! Don’t move! Stand still! Don’t move any further into your culture.’ He’s not saying detach yourself from people who need Him. No, you live in the world, but you don’t live as part of it. You don’t march to that drumbeat. You know, you feel like you’re pretty good if you compare yourself to what the world is doing, or maybe even what most Christians are doing, and saying and accepting. But that’s not the measure.
“We’re to measure ourselves by the God-breathed scriptures of the Lord himself. If you turn the light of God’s Word on your lifestyle, maybe you’ll see how far you’ve drifted. You just can’t move any more. We’ve got to get back to God’s standards for love, for marriage, for honesty, for family, our relationships. Our environment is terminally polluted. We can’t be like our environment. It’s time to draw the line.”
Yes quite so. We need to have those lines clearly drawn and clearly observed. Otherwise we just drift with the rest of the world right over the cliff. Christ expects something better of us. We dare not let him down.