15 Aug Are We Getting Too Comfortable With Worldliness?
As Christians living in a sinful world, are you feeling more and more comfortable with the culture, values and happenings that emerge in our world? Or are you sensing more and more tension as you see the increasing godlessness? The devil likes to take us captive little by little. If we do not pay attention to what we are loving or pursuing in our heart, we will be totally entrapped before we realise it.
What is the “world” which we should not love?
Now, some people may misunderstand God to be a heartless God, when He tells Christians not to love the world. That’s why we need to understand what the Bible really means when it says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” <1 John 2:15> The next verse may give us a better idea, “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.” <1 John 2:16>
1) What God is not telling us…
When the Bible tells us not to love the world, it does not mean that we should not love the people of the world, in fact they are souls whom we should love and try to save by pointing them to God. Neither is it saying that we cannot appreciate the good things that God has placed in the world – the good food, fun, scenery, necessities of life, human relationships, etc. We need not become legalistic to condemn everything in the world and feel guilty about enjoying the good things in the world. Often, it is not the object in the world which is good or evil, but our attitude toward it. If anything in the world becomes our lust or pride, then it is sinful. However, the world is God’s creation and we can love it for the glory of God it reveals <cf. Romans 1:20>. Yet, ever since the fall of man, the world is under the bondage and curse of sin. This fallen world and its sinful ways, are what the Bible warns us of. Nonetheless, not loving and not being entrapped by the world does not mean that we have to withdraw from the world. For God still has His mission and purpose for us in the world.
2) What God is actually saying…
Do not love the sin of the world and its irreverence of God. We should be on our guard against anything in the world that may arouse our lust, pride and sin. The world promotes the idea that humans can live independently of God, get the fullest out of this present life and need not be concerned about God and life after death. The world always says to us, “Follow me, I can satisfy the desires of your heart.” If we buy that lie, then love for the world becomes worship of the creation rather than the Creator God. When we love the world in that sense, we will not seek satisfaction from God; instead, we believe that the world can satisfy us in ways which God cannot. Thus, loving the world can make the love for God fade from our heart. That is why we need to guard against letting the world possess our heart.
Are we unknowingly growing too comfortable with worldliness?
The longer and the more the exposure we have toward something, the higher is the likelihood we will get used to or be influenced by that thing. For example, we may find it uncomfortable to be in a room full of barbecue smoke, worried that the smell may stink our clothes and hair, but after a while, we just get used to it, and the smoky smell does not bother us anymore. Or we may find a certain fashion unstylish initially, but when everyone started wearing that fashion piece, we tend to accept it in different light. Likewise, this may be our reaction toward sin and worldliness. At first, worldliness or ungodliness may make us feel uneasy. Yet, with more exposure and increasing affirmation from people around us, we start to feel at ease with it. As what A. W. Tozer says, “We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing.”
However, the Bible warns us against getting too close to ungodliness. <Psalm 1:1> says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked; or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.” Notice the progression from “walk” to “stand” to “sit”? Initially, a person may be just walking by, then he got interested and pause and stand with wicked sinners, perhaps to observe what they are doing, and eventually he sits down with them, being personally involved in what they are doing. Sometimes, this may be the case for us too. We get so interested and influenced by the world around us that we become just like the world without us realising it.
Thus, we need to examine our heart. Do we find the world more relevant while God feels more impractical? Do we enjoy the world more than delighting in God? Do we find the world more tolerant and kind with all its loose principles than God whose commands seem unreasonable and unloving? Do we love sermons or pastors who made us feel at ease with our sinful self, including our love for the world, telling us that it is alright to love the world, yet are repulsive toward those who expose our idolatrous love for the world? Do we hate it when people speak the truth in love to us because they make us feel guilty? Do we tend to avoid holy people because they make us feel accused? Now, if our heart is moving toward those directions, then we really need to go back to God. For the truth is, “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” <1 John 2:17>
What do we do when we are getting too friendly with the world?
1) Beware of the slippery slope of compromise.
Spiritual compromise has its price. When believers become so similar with the world, people will not take our faith seriously, and we cannot really bring our loved ones to God. In other words, we will lose our effectiveness as a child of God. Now, believers may feel the urge to compromise not just in the face of appealing temptations, but also when confronted with worldly pressure. When they receive backlash for sticking to Christian principles, they may give in to the world. Most believers love godliness only when it does not cost them anything. They thought that by compromising with the world, they will not suffer rejection by the world. However, if we compromise spiritually, we will lose more than we gain. For God will discipline His children who love the world more than Him. If we keep compromising with the world, God may finally hand us over to the world, to its disappointments, suffering, weariness and emptiness, though our souls can still be saved if we are true believers. Thus, we need to resist the urge to compromise, whether it is to sweet temptations or hostile pressure.
Now if we realise it is slippery, and how easy it is for us to compromise with the world, then we should hold on tightly to some support to secure our steps.
2) Tighten our grip on godly things and loosen our hold on worldly things.
Our faith may easily slip due to worldly influences. Thus, we need the word of God to stabilize our heart to keep it from wandering. Whenever our heart is about to be deceived, God’s word can redirect us back to the right and blessed path. And if our hands are full holding on tightly to God and His word, then we have to loosen our grip on other things. Although we may possess and even enjoy the things of the world, we should hold them loosely, meaning, we should be prepared to lose them for the sake of the gospel, or if the sovereign God chooses to take them away. Especially, when we realise certain things of the world have diverted our devotion away from God, then we should be willing to give up that particular worldly enjoyment.
Brothers and sisters, I recognize it is not easy to live set apart lives in a tempting world. But may the good God help us when we seek to please Him sincerely.